Although the majority of people who left the Islamic Republic of Iran in recent years were refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq returning to their country or further migrating to other countries of destination, a number of Iranian citizens also left the country in search of better educational and employment opportunities.
Two periods of out-migration were in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution and during the war with Iraq in the 1980s. Overall, the Islamic Republic of Iran has a large diaspora abroad. The largest numbers of Iranians live in the United States of America, estimated to be more than 302,000 in 2005. According to various country population registers, there are also sizeable Iranian populations in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (about 67,000), Sweden (about 58,000) and Germany (54,000) (United Nations no date).
Some Iranians continue to leave the country, including a number of highly educated citizens who move to the United States of America, and Canada. Between 2004 and 2008, about 12,500 Iranians migrated to the United States of America and about 6,300 migrated to Canada, annually (OECD International Migration Database no date).
Many Iranians still seek refugee status abroad, but the number of recognized refugees from the country has gone down in the past few years. Main destinations for those seeking refugee status remain Germany, Iraq, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America. Iraq also serves as a country of transit for onward migration to Europe or North America.
Due to limited migration opportunities, especially for lower-skilled workers, migrants from the Islamic Republic of Iran sometimes resort to using irregular channels.