I was travelling in the US and saw a lot of foreign people from countries like Mexico, Israel, China and India who don't have any specific academic degree and don't speak English properly. They have ordinary jobs, nothing that another American citizen couldn't do. Why were they allowed to move to and live in the US, while the path to immigration can seem so difficult or strict for other, more academically qualified, foreigners, for example those from Europe?

EDIT: I traveled back to USA and again noticed even more the same phenomenon... tons of people that barely speak English from same countries mentioned above plus Africa. And they were not tourists.

  • 1
    Sounds like it could be migrated to Politics SE
    – Bregalad
    May 23, 2015 at 9:47
  • I don't see where is the opinion... what i saw it's a fact not fruit of my imagination... it's a question based on experience Sep 10, 2018 at 14:27
  • 1
    @FedericoGentile why were they allowed to move to the US? Either they weren't, but they did so anyway, or they qualified under some provision of immigration law that doesn't require academic degrees, of which there are many, including family sponsorship and the green card lottery. A question about why US immigration law is what it is would indeed be better suited to Politics.
    – phoog
    Sep 10, 2018 at 15:53
  • 1
    You realize marriage visas have no education requirement? I'm married to a woman from China--the first years she had little English and was working an ordinary job. Sep 12, 2018 at 3:21
  • yep, i realize that there is something else going on... you can tell from miles away there plenty of people from all over the places and they totally have no connection with the place they live... and i've been travelling for many years and US is the only place where i see this Sep 12, 2018 at 7:59

2 Answers 2


How do you know they don't have any post-secondary academic degrees? I've known several immigrants in America who can't work in their field (medical/engineering/law) because they don't meet the regulatory requirements.

Besides that, someone could have gotten a diversity visa ("green card lottery") or been sponsored by a family member, or he or she could have overstayed a visa or managed to enter the country illegally.

There are also TN visas for Canadians and Mexicans who meet NAFTA professionals guidelines.

There are also several categories of visas for temporary, non-immigrant work or exchange.

I've heard similar questions complaints from colleagues at work who've struggled to get H-1B visas and then to convert, or not, to green cards and citizenship. Most are not sympathetic to illegal immigrants getting new paths to permanent residency or citizenship. Similarly, pleas by US companies to raise the yearly number of H-1B visas is controversial because unemployment isn't at a record low--surely, there are Americans who could fill these positions? the reasoning goes.

  • is there perhaps some sort of privilege for some countries that allow their citizens to move more easily? May 21, 2015 at 20:24
  • Yes, the diversity visa program is designed to encourage immigration from countries not otherwise represented (doesn't include Mexico, India, China, etc.). Both Canada and Mexico have TN visas...hmmm, I should edit that in. There are a few other programs for special purposes...
    – mkennedy
    May 21, 2015 at 20:30

It is definitely not "easier", and in fact, often much harder, for the people from the countries you mention to immigrate to the U.S.

Aside from illegal immigrants, most of the people you see who don't speak English well and don't have education (if that is actually true) immigrated from family-based immigration petitioned by a relative who's a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. There is no requirement that they speak English or have an education; only that the family relationship is true. There is no difference in this type of immigration between countries (except for people born in Mexico and Philippines whose wait is much longer because the large number of petitions far exceeds the per-country cap). People from the countries you mention just have large immigrant communities in the U.S. compared to European countries, and whose relatives are more desperate to immigrate to the U.S. than people in many European countries (and thus will immigrate even if they may not have a high standard of living in the U.S.).

A small fraction of immigrants from the countries you mention immigrate through asylum, because e.g. China, Mexico are more prone to political persecution or violence than European countries. Again, this does not depend on knowledge of English or education.

  • 1
    It surely is like you say but i went back last week and i saw plenty of Africans (real ones and not african americans) selling they watches and sunglasses in NY as in the beaches of Italy... i really wonder how it is possible Sep 10, 2018 at 14:31
  • 1
    @FedericoGentile there are also refugees from Africa. But family-based migration is powerful. It's also easy to overstay a tourist visa. I don't know what proportion of the Africans in NY have what immigration status, but I do know that many of them are legal immigrants. The US admits around 50,000 Africans a year through the green card lottery and closer to 60,000 immigrant visas altogether (pdf).
    – phoog
    Sep 10, 2018 at 17:57

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.