App review by Chad Sansing, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2013
Immigration Nation

Immigration Nation

Enjoyable packaging of immigration facts floats on the surface

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Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Social Studies, Character & SEL, Critical Thinking, Communication & Collaboration

Pros: Quick pacing and lots of support help students master the game's content without much frustration.

Cons: On its own, the game doesn't quite connect to the people and politics of our current immigration debate.

Bottom Line: It's a snappy, colorful replacement for traditional immigration law study, but more complex and interesting issues remain hidden.

While teachers can use Immigration Nation as a pre-assessment of students' assumptions about citizenship and immigration, it works best as a practice activity to reinforce learning about how people become citizens of the US. Paired with current events discussion, student inquiry into civics issues, or with guiding questions such as, "Why do people move to new countries?", or, "How should we decide who gets to become a citizen?", Immigration Nation works as a solid and fun activity for students who like games and thrive on frequent, detailed feedback about their mastery of new learning. Teachers can use the game along with iCivics' other free and standards-aligned activities and lessons.

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Immigration Nation, part of the iCivics family of online educational civics games, teaches students about the requirements for citizenship and immigration in the US. Players control Liberty Belle, a fairy who helps the Statue of Liberty evaluate incoming immigration requests and guide them to the appropriate ports, each representing a reason someone can enter the country. For example, returning American travelers might go to the "Born in the USA" port while a foreign born scientist coming to work for NASA might go to the "Right to Work" port. Players must also refuse to admit immigrants who do not have a right to enter the country such as criminals fleeing justice. Kids work through multiple waves of citizens and immigrants and receive feedback on their decisions at the end of each turn. At the end of the game, players get a printable performance certificate that evaluates their overall performance.

Full Disclosure: iCivics and Common Sense Education share a funder; however, that relationship does not impact Common Sense Education's editorial independence and this learning rating.

Immigration Nation is best for reinforcing citizenship, immigration, and repatriation requirements. It's cartoony style and relatively quick pace make it good practice for upper elementary and middle school students, but older students might see it as too simplistic or childish. The amount of text that pops up for each boat is manageable, but struggling readers may want to work with a buddy who can read aloud. The evidence in each pop-up helps students make inferences without being too obvious. However, students are doing little more than learning facts, and not wrestling with the deeper complexities of immigration. It's easy to pair Immigration Nation with any of the other iCivics games, and points earned in Immigration Nation can be used to unlock achievements, avatar accessories, and Impact points for kids with registered accounts.

Overall Rating


Attractive art, quick rounds, and responsive feedback keep things peppy, but the simple matching mechanic isn't inventive.


Kids learn immigration law facts as they decide whether to let someone into the country or not. Difficulty increases as the game adds more laws and guidelines to consider, but it's still a very limited experience.


Frequent feedback, a printable score sheet, and an iCivics curriculum make this easy to implement in a classroom.

Common Sense reviewer
Chad Sansing Classroom teacher

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Featured review by
David L. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw, United States
Makes a Good Point, but game play can get old fast
I think this is an average game. I like the fact it focuses on who can/can not immigrate as you choose where to send them, but I think the game play gets old fast as it is very repetitive. You are doing the same task by sending immigrants to ports the whole game. I think it would help if there were some overall goals to win other than adding Icivics points. I do like the fact the Icivics points are there though because it at least gives it some incentive My personal preference is for games to move aw ...
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