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37 American Icons Who You Might Not Know Were Immigrants

Just a few of the people that have made America great, presented by Getty Images.

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1. Albert Einstein, Germany

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The the Nobel Prize–winning theoretical physicist who developed the general theory of relativity immigrated to the United States as a German Jew, just a few years before the Holocaust and the height of World War II. He was granted permanent residency in the US in 1935 and citizenship in 1940.


5. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austria

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After serving a year in the Austrian Army, Schwarzenegger traveled to the United States in 1968 where he found success as a professional bodybuilder, actor, and politician. He was granted citizenship in 1983.

7. Gloria Estefan, Cuba

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Born in Havana in 1957, Estefan immigrated with her family to Miami as a toddler during the Cuban Revolution. She became a United States citizen in 1974.


10. Irving Berlin, Russia

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Before Irving Berlin made a name for himself as a songwriter and composer, he and his family escaped Jewish persecution in Russia in 1893 and eventually settled in New York City.


15. Yo-Yo Ma, France

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The son of Chinese parents, Ma was born in Paris in 1955. In 1962, when he was 7, the music prodigy moved with his family to New York City. He performed at Barack Obama's presidential inauguration ceremony in 2009.

16. Kumail Nanjiani, Pakistan

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The comedian and actor was born in Karachi in 1978 and traveled to the United States in 1996 to study at Grinnell College in Iowa, where he completed a double major in computer science and philosophy.


17. Fareed Zakaria, India

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The journalist and author was born in Mumbai in 1964 and journeyed to the United States to receive his Bachelor of Arts from Yale University in 1986.

18. Andrew Carnegie, Scotland

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Before establishing himself as a pillar of American industry, Carnegie emigrated with his parents in 1848 from Dunfermline, Scotland, to Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

20. Jerry Yang, Taiwan

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Before co-founding Yahoo! in 1994, Yang immigrated to San Jose, California, from Taipei in 1978. The only word of English Yang knew at the time was "shoe."


24. Charlize Theron, South Africa

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Born in Benoni, the actress traveled to the United States in 1994 to pursue a career in entertainment. She was granted US citizenship in 2007.


27. Sofía Vergara, Colombia

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The actress and model was born in Colombia in 1972 and moved to Miami in 1994. She was granted her American citizenship after receiving a perfect score on her citizenship test.


29. John Muir, Scotland

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Before becoming an influential advocate for the preservation of US wilderness, including Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park, the Sierra Club founder made the journey from Scotland to the United States in 1849.

30. Khaled Hosseini, Afghanistan

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The author and physician published his first book, The Kite Runner, in 2003, which draws inspiration from his childhood experience in Afghanistan. He and his family formally immigrated to the United States in 1980 when he was 15.

32. Mariano Rivera, Panama

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The 13-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion first traveled to the United States in 1990 after he signed a deal with the New York Yankees. At the time, Rivera had never left his home of Panama before and spoke no English.


35. Carlos Santana, Mexico

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The guitar player and songwriter was born in Autlán de Navarro in 1947 and traveled to San Francisco in the early 1960s. He became an American citizen in 1965.