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EghtesadOnline: Over 271 million people in the world do not live in the country in which they were born. These people, called international migrants, represented 3.52% of the world’s population in 2019. There were 1.9 million migrants worldwide originally from Iran in 2019. Iranians accounted for 0.7% of the total population of migrants. Iran’s population was 82.9 million in 2019 and 2.29% didn’t live in their homeland, the United Nations says

According to 'Iran Migration Outlook 2020', recently published by Iran’s Vice-Presidency for Science and Technology, the population of Iranian migrants has increased from 819,936 in 1990 to 1,937,048 in 2019. 

Over the same period, the world migrant population rose from 153.01 million to 271.64 million. The share of Iranians from the total population was 1.45% in 1990 compared with 2.29% in 2019. Over the same period, the share of migrants from the total population of the world increased from 2.86% to 3.52%. 

Countries hosting the highest number of Iranian migrants included the UAE, the US, Canada, Germany, the UK, Turkey, Sweden, Australia, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Qatar, France, Norway, Austria, Denmark, Italy, Iraq, Switzerland and Belgium. 

As per the Database on Migrants in OECD Countries (DIOC), between 45-56% of the Iranians aged above 25 years in these countries held university degrees over the years under review compared with the average 36.9% of people in OECD member countries. 

The top group of Iranian migrants to OECD member states was specialists; around 30% of Iranians working in these countries in 2015 were specialists. From 2000 to 2015, the share of Iranian specialists increased from 25% to 29.6%. 

Career-wise, the top second group of Iranian migrants in OECD member countries was those providing services, sales people and those working in marketing. Skilled workers in agriculture and fishery accounted for the lowest percentage of migrants in the labor market of OECD countries.



North America, Europe

The population of Iranians based on their place of birth in the US stood at 395,000 in 2017; the number increases to 477,000 if you account the second generation of Iranian migrants in the US. More than 74% of Iranian-Americans hold university degrees and 72% are between 18-64 years old i.e. the legal working age. The percentage of Iranian migrants in the US with higher education is on the rise; 29% of Iranians older than 25 have graduate degrees. 

The number of Iranians who have American citizenship decreased after Donald Trump came to power; from 2010 to 2018 between 8,000 and 10,000 Iranians became US citizens annually. Over these years, the number of Iranians who got permanent residency, work or student visas has been on the decline, particularly since 2015.

The number of Iranian students in the US declined more than 600 in 2018 compared to 2017. Iran is the 10th source of international students to the US; China, India and South Korea hold the top three places. 

Over 56% of Iranians have management jobs, businesses and art and about 22% are in sales and administrative jobs. Self-employment of Iranians in the US has decreased over the years. 

Conversely, the population of Iranians in Canada rose from 29,467 in 1990 to 164,463 in 2019—close to 10,000 Iranians moved to Canada from 2015 to 2019 compared with 30,000 from 2010 to 2015. 

Student visas have been the most popular type of visa granted to Iranians in Canada. The number of Iranian students in Canada increased from 381 in 2000 to 4,000 in 2017. 

Germany, the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and France host the highest number of Iranian migrants in Europe. There were 127,177 Iranians (born in Iran) in Germany in 2019; 89,794 in the UK; 79,308 in Sweden; 33,819 in the Netherlands and 25,091 in France in the year. 



Neighboring Countries

In recent years, Turkey has turned into one of the main destinations of Iranian migrants. UN statistics put the number of Iranians (migrants and asylum-seekers) in Turkey at 83,000 in 2019. World Bank data pertaining to 2017 put the number of Iranians in Turkey excluding asylum-seekers at 36,000. 

Iranian migrants in Turkey reduced by 45% from 1990 to 1995, and then increased slightly up until 2010; from 2010 to 2015, the number of Iranians in Turkey jumped 167%; a 111% rise from 2015 to 2019. Iran has been the fourth source of migrants to Turkey following Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria in 2016.

The number of Iranian students in Turkey increased from 499 in 2000 to 1,488 in 2012 and then surged to 6,099 in 2017. 

Out of all homes purchased by foreign nationals in Turkey in 2019, Iranians accounted for 12% compared to Iraqis with 17% and Russians six percent. 

This comes as Iranians were the eighth foreign buyers of homes in Turkey in 2015, 2016 and 2017. This rising trend has continued into 2020. In the first quarter of 2020, Iranians overtook Iraqis in purchasing homes in Turkey; they bought 1,864 homes to become the top foreign buyers of home there. 

The top 10 Asian countries with the highest population of Iranian migrants (using 2017 data) include the UAE with 454,000; Kuwait 46,419; Israel 45,170; Qatar 30,000; Iraq  15,611; Malaysia 9,817; Armenia 8,929; Japan 6,077; Turkmenistan 3,182 and Pakistan 2,154. 

The number of Iranians in Australia has been on the rise over the past decade, registering a 100% increase from 36,480 in 2010 to 73,002 in 2019. The highest number of Temporary Skill Shortage visa issued for Iranians was registered in 2011 with 518, compared to 262 in 2017 and 300 in 2018. By September 2019, only 74 TSS visas were issued for Iranians by Australia. 

From 2001 to 2018, the number of Iranian students in Australia increased from 236 to around 2,500. 



Desire to Migrate

A Gallup analysis in 2017 shows that 15% or more than 750 million people of the world’s adults desired to migrate in 2015-17 compared with 14% in 2013-16 and 13% in 2010-12. Out of 157 countries, Iran ranked 87th in desire-to-migrate index in 2017. 

According to findings of Iran Migration Observatory, Iranians’ desire to migrate was 29.8% in the year ending March 2017.  

The desire to migrate among Iranian university students and graduates was 42% in the years ending March 2019 and March 2020, the percentage taking practical steps to move out was 11% and their desire to return to Iran 16%. 

Disappointment in improvement of the country’s affairs,  interest in education and work in foreign lands and gaining new experience were the main reasons behind the students’ migration.    

Desire to migrate among Iranian start-ups and SMEs operators stood at 27% and 46%, respectively in the third quarter of the Iranian year ending March 19, 2020. Their desire to return to Iran was 20%.

Ability to plan for the future, psychological security and the possibility of meeting their needs and having a decent life were the main motivations behind the migration of those active in start-up and SME businesses. 

The desire to migrate among start-up and SME operators has increased significantly due to the economic difficulties in the Iranian year ending March 2019, i.e. the re-imposition of US sanctions and unprecedented decline in the value of the local currency.


United Nations migration migrants Iranians Population Worldwide homeland