Sweden ranked best country to be an immigrant

Maria Gonzalez almost lost faith in the American Dream she was chasing when she moved to the U.S. with her husband about a year and a half ago.

She spoke very little English, didn't understand the culture and at 40 years old, felt that she had lost track of a successful career path in information technology that she had built in her home country of Venezuela.

"I came here and started from zero," she says. "But the U.S. is a country for opportunity, and people that want to come here don't need to feel afraid because this country still has doors open for anybody that wants to grow here."

With the help of language courses and career workshops through the Welcoming Center for New Pensylvanians, Gonzalez landed the first job she interviewed for. And last week, she got a raise – particularly good news for her mother and brother back in Venezuela, whom she supports with her salary.

The support that Gonzalez received, from cultural integration to stable work opportunities, are key to successful immigration.

The World Bank estimates that the world's nearly 250 million international migrants – at least three for every 100 people – sent $582 billion home to relatives in 2015.

Those funds are often lifelines for the family members receiving them; remittances power as much as 10 percent of the economy in home countries like the Philippines and Guatemala and nearly 20 percent in El Salvador and Jamaica.

The economic case for immigration is a strong one. A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that weighed the costs and benefits found that immigration is a strong positive influence on long-term economic growth in the U.S.

And the public largely supports it, too. In a recent international poll, nearly 60 percent of global respondents said that their country should be more open to immigration. More than 40 percent agree that immigration is the most important issue for our world to solve, beating out other global concerns such as gender inequality.

But the rise of nationalist and protectionist movements put the future of immigration in question. The U.K.'s vote last year to leave the European Union will remove the country from the organization's open borders. Support for Germany's Angela Merkel dropped after she pledged to keep the country's borders open to migrants.

President Donald Trump's travel ban and plans to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border seem to rebut the promise the Statue of Liberty symbolizes since the late 19th century to protect the tired, poor and huddled masses.

Despite hosting the most migrants in the world and serving as the source of the largest remittances, the U.S. ranks No. 7 in the U.S. News ranking of the Best Countries to Be an Immigrant.

Sweden, a strong social welfare state that has long been considered a haven for migrants, ranks No. 1. Canada is No. 2, while Switzerland, Australia and Germany round out the top five.

To determine the Best Countries to Be an Immigrant, U.S. News assessed international perceptions of a country, as well as immigration policy and economic data.

More than 21,000 people from all regions of the world participated in the Best Countries survey, in which they assessed how closely they associated 80 countries with specific characteristics. Four of these – "economically stable," "good job market," "income equality" and "is a place I would live" – were included in the Best Countries to Be an Immigrant ranking.

Countries also were scored in relation to others on the share of migrants in their population; the amount of remittances the migrants they host sent home; and graded on a United Nations assessment of integration measures provided for immigrants, such as language training and transfers of job certifications, and the rationale behind current integration policies.

Scores for these eight factors on a 100-point scale were averaged together for an overall score.

The U.K. is one of six countries ranked – along with Saudi Arabia and Myanmar – that has immigration policies in place purely to protect the interests of nationals, according to the U.N. analysis. A score of zero in this factor brought the U.K. and its otherwise strong economy down to No. 17 in the ranking.

National policy doesn't always align with public priorities, though. More than half of survey respondents from the U.K. agreed that their country should be more open to immigration. Despite ranks in the bottom half, more than 80 percent of survey respondents in Egypt and 90 percent in Colombia said the same.

India and Pakistan, two of the most prominent source countries for migrants, rank in the bottom 10. Kenya ranks last.

See the full list of the Best Countries to Be an Immigrant here.

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report