Jamaica's net loss from emigration totaled 145,800 between 1891 and 1921; after a net gain of 25,800 during 1921–43, losses of 195,200 were recorded from 1943 to 1960, and 265,500 from 1960 through 1970. Until the UK's introduction of restrictions on immigration from Commonwealth countries in 1962, a large number of Jamaican workers emigrated to Great Britain. In 1964, in an effort to curb increasing migration, Jamaica passed the Foreign Nationals and Commonwealth Citizens (Employment) Act, providing Jamaicans with easier access to the island's employment market; however, domestic unemployment continued to plague Jamaica through the 1970s. During this period, Jamaica suffered from a "brain drain," losing perhaps as much as 40% of its middle class. From 1971 through 1980, 276,200 Jamaicans left the island, 142,000 for the US. In the mid-1990s, there were 350,000 Jamaican-born people in the US.
The great disparity between rural and urban income levels has contributed to the exodus of rural dwellers to the cities, where many of these migrants remain unemployed for lack of necessary skills. In 2000, the net migration rate was -7.4 migrants per 1,000 population, amounting to a loss of 19,000 people.
Jamaica is a transit point for migrants, including asylum-seekers, trying to reach the US. As of 1999, Jamaica was hosting 25 recognized refugees, most from Cuba, and had granted humanitarian status to a number of others, notably five nationals of Sierra Leone. Asylum-seekers continue to arrive from Cuba, Haiti, and other parts of the world. The total number of migrants living in Jamaica in 2000 was 13,000.