Ever since its ancestors set foot on Plymouth Rock, America has long been the land of opportunity and adventure. As the world’s undoubted center of business and commerce, the U.S. attracts thousands of global citizens each year, and, as of 2015, has a immigrant population of 43 million.
But while immigration has become a controversial subject, it’s easy to forget just how many naturalized citizens generate the nation’s wealth. In fact, last year Forbes magazine estimated that 10 percent of the States’ wealthiest individuals originated overseas. Indeed, these 20 entrepreneurs are sheer proof of the American Dream.
20. Patrick Soon-Shiong
With a net worth estimated at $8.3 billion, Patrick Soon-Shiong can not only claim to being America’s wealthiest doctor, but one of its wealthiest immigrants as well. Originating from South Africa, Soon-Shiong headed to America to train as a surgeon before forming the profitable drug companies APP and Abraxis in the 2000s.
19. Sergey Brin
Few people can claim to have changed the world, but Sergey Brin is among them. As the co-founder of Google, which he created with Larry Page in 1998, Brin revolutionized technological communication and amassed an estimated fortune of $40 billion in the process. Impressively, he accomplished this feat after fleeing the Soviet Union as a child in 1979.
18. Thomas Peterffy
Another migrant from the former Eastern Bloc, Thomas Peterffy grew up in a hostile and politically unstable post-war Hungary. Despite speaking no English at the time, Peterffy escaped to New York in 1965 where he gained an interest in computers and brokerage. His embrace of technology made him a stock market wunderkind who would eventually amass $16 billion in earnings.
17. Do Won and Jin Sook Chang
Hailing from South Korea, married couple Do Won and Jin Sook Chang moved to America in 1981 aiming for careers in the coffee business. After a few years spent working menial jobs, the pair took an interest in fashion and opened a clothes store in 1984. Within a year, their boutique was a success and helped spawn the phenomenal franchise Forever 21. Success in fashion has helped the pair rake in around $3 billion.
16. Isaac Perlmutter
While he’s infamous for keeping a low profile, Isaac Perlmutter, a.k.a Marvel’s shadowy CEO, is a model for any aspiring entrepreneur. Emigrating from Israel in 1966 with just $250 in his pocket, the businessman started reciting funeral prayers for tips before breaking into the toy market. He has since risen up the ranks to become one of entertainment’s most powerful and richest figures, with a bank balance of $4.2 billion.
15. Jan Koum
Growing up in his native Ukraine, Jan Koum lived in a house with no running water. But, thanks to co-creating WhatsApp with friend Brian Acton, the software developer can now afford to fill his bathtub with Dom Pérignon if he so wishes. Since selling his product to Facebook in 2014, Koum resides over a $9 billion estate.
14. George Soros
His investment work may have made him one of the world’s richest men, but George Soros’ life was fraught with unbelievable odds. Born into a Jewish family, the trader miraculously survived the Nazi occupation of his native Hungary before fleeing to America in 1956. Perhaps inspired by his tragic upbringing, Soros has given $8 billion to charity throughout his life. Still, that hasn’t even put a big dent in his $25 billion fortune.
13. Pierre Omidyar
Originally from France, Pierre Omidyar moved with his family to America at the age of six. Here, the young entrepreneur gained an interest in computer science which would lead him to establish eBay in 1995. Now blessed with an estimated $8 billion fortune, Omidyar also directs PayPal and venture capital company Omidyar Technology Ventures.
12. John Tu
Though born in China, hardware developer John Tu spent his youth in Taiwan before moving to America in 1971. Stateside, the magnate created his first computer company with friend David Sun in 1982 which eventually blossomed into their firm Kingston Technology. Despite setbacks along the way, including the 1987 Wall Street Crash, Tu now has $5.5 billion in the bank.
11. Kieu Hoang
Made a refugee by the Vietnam War, Kieu Hoang left his native land after the conflict’s 1975 end. After settling in Los Angeles, he got an entry-level position with Abbott Laboratories before hustling his way to the top of big pharma. Currently Hoang presides over antigen company RAAS and has a net worth close to $3 billion.
10. Shahid Khan
As the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shahid Khan is intrinsically linked with American culture. However, the multi-billionaire was actually born in Pakistan and emigrated to the U.S. aged 16. With just $500 to his name, Khan would go on to own car parts supplier Flex-N-Gate, which has helped the businessman earn an estimated $8.6 billion.
9. Steven Udvar-Hazy
Like many of the people on this list, Steven Udvar-Hazy emigrated to the U.S. to escape the tyrannical Soviet Union. Perhaps inspired by his experience in transit, the Hungarian expat developed an interest in air travel. As a result, he co-created the aircraft leasing agency International Lease Finance Corporation while still in college. He’s currently worth $3.8 billion.
8. Jorge Pérez
While Jorge Pérez attained a Green Card in 1976, the property magnate spent years before that in citizenship limbo. Born to Cuban exile parents, Pérez continually moved between Argentina and Colombia in his youth. Since gaining residence in the U.S., though, the entrepreneur has made a killing on the Miami real estate circuit and is currently worth $2.8 billion.
7. Haim Saban
Anyone who grew up in the 1990s probably has Haim Saban to thank for their childhood memories. Indeed, as the man behind Saban Entertainment, the businessman brought the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to U.S. soil. But the series wouldn’t have been possible without America’s fluid borders, Saban having emigrated from Israel in 1983.
6. John Kapoor
Though his company Insys Therapeutics has been the source of recent controversy, following the arrests of six executives on bribery charges, founder John Kapoor can still be seen as a model of success. Born in India, Kapoor moved to the U.S. back in the early ’60s and has made an estimated $1.8 billion from pharmaceuticals.
5. Bharat Desai and Neerja Sethi
Although Bharat Desai and Neerja Sethi both grew up in India, the pair actually first met on U.S. soil. Sharing a strong entrepreneurial spirit, the business and eventual life partners created computer consulting agency Syntel in 1980. Today, the company has branches throughout the world and made $1 billion in revenue in 2016 alone. The pair together are worth over $2 billion.
4. John Catsimatidis
Many workers have dreamed of beating their bosses to the top, and John Catsimatidis was no exception. In fact, the tycoon, who migrated to New York from Greece as a child, lived out his fantasy by buying stakes in the shop where he worked as a clerk in the 1960s. From 1969, Catsimatidis expanded his roster of grocery stores and now manages a $3.3 billion empire.
3. Andrew and Peggy Cherng
Originating from China and Myanmar, respectively, Andrew and Peggy Cherng have made a fortune packaging Asian delicacies for American palates. Meeting at Kansas’ Baker University, the married couple launched their stir-fry outlet Panda Express in 1983, a company that now takes in 1,800 outlets. In addition, the pair have amassed an estimated $3.2 billion fortune as a result.
2. Romesh Wadhwani
Born in Pakistan during the British Partition of India, Romesh Wadhwani spent his youth in Mumbai, India. In 1969 the budding businessman arrived in America to study and soon became involved in the fledgling electronics industry. Presently presiding over technology firm Symphony Technology Group, Wadhwani remains one of the most powerful figures in the sector and has a $3 billion fortune.
1. Elon Musk
Since leaving his native South Africa aged 17, Elon Musk has owed much of his success to immigration. And, somewhat fittingly, his plans for commercial space flight are expanding the paths through which humans can travel in the future. Besides his pioneering company SpaceX, Musk, who’s amassed a colossal $14.7 billion, also co-founded PayPal and Tesla Motors.