11 billionaires who made their fortunes after immigrating to the US

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk immigrated to the United States from South Africa. REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare

The United States is home to more billionaires than any other nation, according to research firm Wealth-X – but not all of them were born here.

Several billionaires – including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, real-estate developer Jorge Perez, Panda Express founder Andrew Cherng, and Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya – first came to the United States for college. Others immigrated to the United States with their families as children.

Read more: 13 billionaires who dropped out of college before making their fortunes

Keep reading to learn more about some of the most prominent immigrant billionaires in the country.

Sergey Brin’s family emigrated from the Soviet Union when he was 6.


Net worth: $US57.5 billion

Source of wealth: Alphabet

The 46-year-old billionaire founded the search engine now known as Google with Larry Page in a garage in Menlo Park, California,Business Insider previously reported. Brin currently serves as the president of Alphabet, the parent company that owns Google, per Forbes.

Read more: Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are worth more than $US100 billion – see how they spend it, from trapeze lessons to a 600-foot ‘air yacht’

Hamdi Ulukaya founded the yogurt brand Chobani after emigrating from Turkey to attend college in New York.

Net worth: $US2.1 billion

Source of wealth: Chobani

Ulukaya, 46, received a $US3,000 loan from the Small Business Administration in 2007 and used it to buy an old yogurt plant in Norwich, New York. Chobani now sells over $US1 billion of yogurt annually and is America’s most popular brand of Greek yogurt, Forbes reports.

Ulukaya now advocates for companies to get involved in the ongoing refugee crisis, Bloomberg reported in August. Chobani recruits refugees for jobs at its plants and encourages other companies to do the same.

Read more


The Chobani billionaire who turned a $US3,000 loan into a yogurt empire calls himself an ‘anti-CEO’ and thinks other CEOs should do the same

Financier George Soros fled Soviet occupation in his native Hungary in 1947.


Net worth: $US8.3 billion

Source of wealth: Quantum Fund

Soros, 88, attended the London School of Economics before moving to New York and getting a job as a stock trader, Business Insider previously reported. Soros went on to found what would later become the world’s largest hedge fund, Quantum Fund.

Read more: What George Soros’ life is really like: How the former hedge-fund manager built his $US8.3 billion fortune, purchased a sprawling network of New York homes, and became the topic of international conspiracy theories

Eren Ozmen, the president of aerospace company Sierra Nevada Corp., immigrated to the United States from Turkey.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets the Chairwoman and President of the Sierra Nevada Corporation, Eren Ozmen, at the aviation conference in Schkeuditz, Germany. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Net worth: $US1.4 billion

Source of wealth: Sierra Nevada Corp.

Ozmen, 61, and her husband used their house as collateral to purchase Sierra Nevada Corp. in 1994, Forbes reported. Ozmen grew the 20-person company into one of the federal government’s largest contractors, having sold billions of dollars of planes, navigation gear, and communications systems to the U.S. Department of Defence.

Miami real estate developer Jorge Perez was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Net worth: $US1.9 billion

Source of wealth: The Related Group of Florida

Perez, 69, moved to the United States for college, according to Forbes. Perez worked as an urban planner before partnering with Stephen Ross to launch Miami-based luxury real estate developer The Related Group.

Read more: People are threatening to quit Equinox and SoulCycle following a report that the chairman of the trendy fitness brands plans to host a Trump fundraiser

Bharat Desai, the founder of IT consulting firm Syntel, was born in Kenya and raised in India.


Net worth: $US1.4 billion

Source of wealth: Syntel Inc.

Desai, 66, came to the US to work for Tata Consultancy Services, according to Forbes. He and his wife, Neerja Sethi, then started their own consulting company, Syntel, in their suburban Detroit apartment with just $US2,000.

Early Google investor Kavitark Ram Shriram was born and raised in India.


Net worth: $US2.2 billion

Source of wealth: Venture capital

Shriram, 62, serves on Alphabet’s board and holds stakes in numerous tech startups (including Paperless Post) through his venture capital firm Sherpalo Ventures, according to Forbes.

Panda Express founders Peggy and Andrew Cherng immigrated to the US from Myanmar and China respectively, before meeting as students at Baker University.


Collective net worth: $US3.1 billion

Source of wealth: Panda Express

Andrew Cherng opened a sit-down Chinese restaurant called Panda Inn in 1973 that was so successful he decided to open an outpost in a nearby mall called Panda Express, Business Insider previously reported. The couple still owns and operates virtually all 2,000 Panda Express locations themselves – they don’t franchise them out to other owners, making Panda Express a rarity among restaurant chains of its size.

Read more: Meet the billionaire couple behind Panda Express, who run nearly 2,000 restaurants and sell 90 million pounds of orange chicken a year

WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum immigrated to California from Ukraine with his mother when he was 16.


Net worth: $US10.9 billion

Source of wealth: WhatsApp

Koum, 43, founded the messaging service with seed money he raised from his former colleagues at Yahoo, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The majority of Koum’s fortune comes from Facebook’s $US22 billion acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014.

Pierre Omidyar moved to the US from France with his family long before he founded eBay.

EBay founder and chairman Pierre Omidyar in Delaware, December 7, 2009. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer

Net worth: $US12.6 billion

Source of wealth: eBay

Omidyar, 52, founded eBay in 1995 and wrote the code for the website himself, according to Forbes. Omidyar still serves on the board of the online auction house.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk grew up in South Africa and worked in Canada before coming to the US.


Net worth: $US20.7 billion

Source of wealth: PayPal, Tesla

Musk, 48, first moved to the United States to attend the University of Pennsylvania, Business Insider previously reported. The CEO founded a city guide service for newspapers called Zip2 and an online banking named X.com that got acquired by PayPal before taking the top job at Tesla.

Read more: Elon Musk is worth about $US22 billion and has never taken a paycheck from Tesla – here’s how the notorious workaholic and father of 5 makes and spends his fortune