Amnesty for illegal aliens could dramatically increase remittance flows

Article subtitle: 
Migration and Development Brief 20 Migration and Remittances Unit, Development Prospects Group
Article publisher: 
World Bank
Article date: 
18 May 2013
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 


  • Officially recorded remittance flows to developing countries reached an estimated $401 billion in 2012, growing by 5.3 percent compared with 2011. Remittance flows are expected to grow at an average of 8.8 percent annual rate during 2013-2015 to about $515 billion in 2015.
  • Employment conditions in the US, including for migrants are improving, as also reflected in the quota for H-1B visas being rapidly filled for fiscal year 2014. Political momentum behind immigration reform in the US is growing.
  • Average remittance prices were broadly unchanged at just above 9 percent over the last year, while the weighted average dropped in the first quarter of 2013 to an all-time low of 6.9 percent. While this suggests progress in reducing prices in high volume remittance corridors, prices continue to remain high in smaller corridors, affecting countries that have greater dependence on remittances.
  • Migration and remittances are being featured in ongoing discussions on the Millennium Development

Developing countries received about $401 billion in remittances during 2012

Officially recorded remittances to developing countries are estimated at $401 billion in 2012, and remain a key resource flow far exceeding official development assistance as well as private debt and portfolio equity (Figure 1). Growth in remittances to developing countries decelerated to 5.3 percent in 2012, but is expected to accelerate to 8.8 percent during 2013-15 (see Table 1 at the end of this brief).

Growth in remittances to low income countries is projected to be even faster at 12.3 percent during this period, as economic conditions strengthen in remittance sending countries. Remittance flows to developing countries could reach $515 billion in 2015, sustaining growth and development in emerging markets, and serving as a lifeline to the poor.

India, China, the Philippines and Mexico remain the largest recipients of migrant remittances...

Proposed immigration reforms in the US could increase remittance flows to developing countries, especially Latin America and the Caribbean

The US Congress and the Obama administration are pushing for an overhaul [via amnesty for illegal aliens] of the US immigration system... the general discussion has revolved around:

  1. Establishing a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million [to 40 million] undocumented migrants [illegal aliens].
  2. Improving the process for admitting workers that helps meet workforce needs, especially skilled migrants, to boost key sectors of the US economy.
  3. Strengthening border controls and verification of employers hiring migrant workers. 

Regularizing the status [via amnesty] of the large stock of illegal migrants in the US may not have much impact on remittance flows initially, as migrants [illegal aliens] may have to pay fines, back taxes, and/or application fees, which will reduce migrants’ capacity to make remittances. Over time, however, the regularization of undocumented migrants [illegal aliens] could dramatically increase remittance flows from the US, as migrants gain access to better job opportunities as well as formal means of remitting money...


CAIRCO Research:

Remittances - a Massive Transfer of Wealth, by Fred Elbel, The Social Contract, Spring, 2012.