US is home to most overseas Filipinos

CHICAGO – The United States is home to the largest number of Filipinos abroad, reported the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a Washington, D.C.-based independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit “think tank” analyzing the movement of people worldwide.

In an article published on March 14 and co-written by MPI’s  Jie Zong and Jeanne Batalova, citing mid-2017 United Nations Population Division estimates, MPI Spotlight claims that aside from the U.S., the next top destinations for Filipinos include Saudi Arabia (584,000), the United Arab Emirates (539,000), Canada (528,000), Japan (239,000) and Australia (233,000).

Nowadays, most Filipinos in the United States who have obtained lawful permanent residence (LPR status, also known as green card) migrated through family reunification channels, either as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or through other family-sponsored channels. Many also get green cards through employment preferences.

Meanwhile, Filipinos are more likely than other immigrants to have strong English skills, and have a much higher college education than the overall foreign- and U.S.-born populations. They are also more likely to be naturalized U.S. citizens than other immigrant groups, have higher incomes and lower poverty rates, and are less likely to be uninsured.

Analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau (the most recent 2016 American Community Survey [ACS] as well as pooled 2012-16 ACS data) and data from the Department of Homeland Security’s Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, the Spotlight provides information on the Filipino immigrant population, focusing on its size, geographic distribution and socioeconomic characteristics.

In the 2012-16 period, immigrants from the Philippines were highly concentrated in California (44 percent), with Hawaii far behind (at six percent). The next four most populous states —Texas, New York, Illinois and New Jersey—are home to 19 percent of the Filipino population collectively. The top four counties in terms of Filipino concentration were Los Angeles and San Diego counties, California; Honolulu County, Hawaii; and Clark County, Nevada. Together, these counties account for 26 percent of Filipinos in the United States.

Although most of the Filipino immigrants in the United States are legally present, approximately 188,000 were unauthorized (TNT’s or tago nang tago) or undocumented in 2010-2014, according to Migration Policy Institute estimates, comprising less than two percent of the 11 million unauthorized population.

MPI also estimated that in 2017, approximately 18,000 Filipino unauthorized immigrants were immediately eligible for the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. However, as of January 31, 2018, only 3,800 Filipinos were active participants, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data. Overall, about 683,000 unauthorized youth were participating in the DACA program.

Filipinos have relatively high health insurance coverage rates compared to other groups. In 2016, seven percent of Filipinos were uninsured, the same as for the native-born, compared to 20 percent of all foreign-born. Filipino immigrants were also more likely to be covered by private health insurance than the overall foreign- and U.S.-born populations.

The Filipino Diaspora in the United States was comprised of nearly 4.1 million individuals who were either born in the Philippines or have Filipino ancestry or race, according to tabulations by the U.S. Census Bureau 2016.

In 2017, Filipinos living abroad sent nearly $33 billion in remittances to the Philippines via formal channels, according to World Bank data. Remittances more than doubled in the past decade, and represented about 11 percent of the Philippines’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016.

In a previous separate MPI article (, it was stated that as of December 2013, the number of overseas Filipinos totaled slightly more than 10 million, including some 4.9 million permanent settlers (64 percent of whom are in the United States), about 4.2 million temporary migrants (mostly labor migrants, or OFWs with Saudi Arabia hosting close to 1 million), and an estimated 1.2 million unauthorized migrants worldwide (primarily in Malaysia and the United States).

Filipinos are present in the far reaches of the globe, mostly because of work. Although the destinations of OFWs have diversified, to this day, the Middle East still receives the largest share, with 64 percent heading to the region in 2015, followed by Asia with 28 percent. In 2015, six of the top ten destinations for both new hires and rehires were in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain), and the remainder were in Asia (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Malaysia).