By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There are 45 million immigrants living in the United States, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Pew Research estimates about 11 million of them are undocumented.

“It’s very hard,” said Jennifer Bouta Mojica, an immigration employment attorney with Myers Thompson. “I’ve been practicing for 12 years, there’s always been a challenge. There are very strict laws in place to be able to come here.”

Immigrants can come to the U.S. on temporary visas for students, tourist and skilled workers. In 2016, the U.S. gave out slightly more than 10 million.

naturalization How Hard Is It To Come To The U.S. Legally?

A naturalization ceremony (credit: CBS)

But, to stay, live and work in the U.S., immigrants need a “green card,” which is the only way to ultimately become a U.S. citizen.

In 2016, the U.S. issued 1 million green cards. In almost all cases, they are given to employees sponsored by a U.S. employer or are very close family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

There are also quotas by country. For example, only 26,000 people from Mexico can come to the U.S. legally each year. But, there are 1.3 million Mexicans on the wait list. That means the State Department is processing applications that go as far back as 1997.

People can also come to the U.S. seeking asylum, but not everyone gets it. In 2016, the U.S. granted asylum to 20,000 people. The top countries they fled were China, El Salvador and Guatemala.