Fewer Israelis Immigrate to U.S.

Driven by Economy, Ex-Patriates Also Return to Israel

By Nathan Guttman

Published April 19, 2012, issue of April 27, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page
kurt hoffman

The various laws of return seem to be working. Fewer Israelis are moving to the United States while a growing number of American Jews are immigrating to the Jewish state and more Israelis living abroad are making their way back home, new immigration statistics show.

The numbers seem to herald a victory for Israel, which has taken bold steps to keep its citizens from moving away. But the immigration data may be more indicative of America’s economic woes than of Israel’s growing attractiveness.

“Israelis respond mainly to pull factors from abroad, not to push factors from home,” said Lilach Lev Ari, a sociologist from Israel’s Oranim Academic College and Bar-Ilan University.

Immigration statistics published in April by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, indicate that the number of Israeli natives seeking to resettle in the United States has been falling. Last year the number of Israelis obtaining legal permanent residence in America was at a record low of 3,826 — down from a peak of nearly 6,000 in 2006.

A closer look at the data reveals a correlation between Israeli immigration to America and the state of America’s job market. The number of Israelis immigrating to America has been steadily declining since 2008, just as the recession set in, bringing massive layoffs and skyrocketing unemployment figures.

The economic downturn has taken its toll on immigration to America from around the world. After reaching a high of more than 1.2 million new permanent residents in 2006, the numbers have since fallen. In 2011 the United States issued 1.02 million Green Cards to new immigrants.

The past decade’s high-tech boom brought with it thousands of highly skilled workers from abroad, sponsored by Silicon Valley firms in need of professional help. These workers, including those from Israel, obtained temporary work visas, which many later used to establish a case for permanent residency and immigration. In recent years, demand for foreign workers has dropped and the quota for qualified professional visas, once filled within days, remained unmet for months.

These days, employment reasons count for only one-third of new permanent residence permits. And most Israelis moving to the United States either are married to an American citizen or have a close relative stateside, according to official U.S. statistics.

Studies conducted in Israel suggest that the United States is a preferred destination for more than 60% of Israelis wishing to leave their country. Canada, known for its welcoming immigration policies, has seen little fluctuation in the number of Israelis arriving in the past decade. Western European countries, mainly France, Germany and the United Kingdom also attract Israeli émigrés but detailed data does not exist.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.