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Book ChapterDOI

A Comparative Analysis of the Migration and Integration of Indian and Chinese Immigrants in the United States

01 Jan 2017-pp 211-231

AbstractIndian and Chinese nationals comprise two of the largest foreign-born nationality groups in the United States, and are growing rapidly. Indian and Chinese immigrants tend to enter the United States through skilled migration channels—either pursuing further education or entering on temporary work visas for specialty occupations—and go on to enjoy higher employment rates and higher median household incomes than the US-born population. Despite these successes, these groups still face some integration challenges, such as cultural integration and English language proficiency. Immigrant integration services in the United States are relatively decentralised, with crucial services provided by a wide array of actors. Federal funds are usually directed and supplemented by state and local government actors, who then work closely with civil society organisations, including Indian and Chinese diaspora groups, to provide support in areas such as social services, language training, credential recognition and naturalization assistance. Meanwhile, India and China are starting to expand their diaspora engagement activities to include integration services at destination.

Topics: Population (55%), Diaspora (55%), Immigration (54%), China (52%), Temporary work (51%)

Summary (4 min read)

1. Introduction

  • The United States has the largest immigrant 1 population of any country in the world, hosting 20 percent of the world’s immigrants despite having only 5 percent of the world’s population (Nwosu, Batalova, and Auclair 2014).
  • Indian and Chinese immigrants constitute a significant share of the relatively new, but fast-growing Asian immigrant community in the United States.
  • During the 1880s, the US Congress passed a series of laws collectively referred to as the Chinese Exclusion Acts, which marked a turning point in US immigration laws.
  • Unless otherwise noted, data in this section come from MPI analysis of data obtained from DHS 2013.

3.1 Migration Channels for Indian Nationals Entering the United States

  • Since most Indian nationals enter the United States through temporary admissions programs for skilled workers and students, this population is disproportionately highly skilled relative to India’s national population, the US foreign-born population, and the US general public.
  • Approximately 100,000 Indian nationals studied in the United States during the 2012-13 academic year, comprising 12 percent of all international students in the United States, with 75 percent enrolled in a science, technology, medical, or mathematics degree program.
  • Indian nationals most commonly acquire LPR status (or a “Green Card”) through employment: just over half of the 68,000 Indian nationals granted LPR status in FY 2013 applied through this channel.
  • As of 2012, 42 percent of Indian immigrants had naturalized, closely following the overall foreign-born population (of which, 44 percent have naturalized).

3.2 Migration Channels for Chinese Nationals Entering the United States

  • Temporary admissions programs for students and skilled workers are also the most significant migration channels for Chinese nationals entering the United States.
  • A significant number of Chinese nationals also come to the United States as asylum seekers and as adopted children – but while they actually make up the greatest share of both of these migration channels in the United States, the absolute numbers are small relative to the number of Chinese-born students and skilled workers.
  • Chinese immigrants in the United States are a comparatively old population, with a median age that exceeds both the US foreign-born and the US national populations.
  • Nevertheless, the vast majority of 17 These figures are taken from the CPS data.
  • Keith Hooper with Susanna Groves 14 INTERACT RR2014/32 © 2014 EUI, RSCAS Chinese immigrants (76 percent) were of working age, a far higher proportion than the US national average of 63 percent.

I. Chinese nationals on student visas

  • Most Chinese migrants enter the United States on student visas, in contrast to migrants from India, who principally enter as beneficiaries of temporary worker programs .
  • MPI analysis of data from Institute of International Education 2014a and 2014b.
  • Though a significant portion of US asylum petitions are awarded to Chinese nationals, few enter as refugees: only around 100 Chinese refugees, or 0.1 percent of the total number of refugees, were admitted to the United States in fiscal year 2013.
  • Chinese immigrants in legal permanent resident (LPR) status.

5. Institutional Framework for Integration in the United States

  • Integration policy in the United States is very decentralized, enabling a number of state, local, and civil society actors to play a role in providing services to new arrivals.
  • Additionally, the Hong Kong population had, on average, been living in the United States for longer (with more time to build up their US earning power): 80 percent of immigrants from Hong Kong arrived before 2000, compared with 57 percent of immigrants from mainland China.
  • MOIA tries to build links with India’s diaspora; though its efforts often center on encouraging diaspora members to invest in and contribute to the homeland, rather than promoting integration at destination.
  • China Shifts in China’s policy towards emigration have made it much easier for Chinese nationals to migrate, and to maintain ties with their country of origin after migrating.

5.2 US Integration Policy Framework

  • The United States is home to more international migrants than any other country in the world, and the vast majority of people in the United States have immigrant roots.
  • These services are underfunded, particularly in destination cities like New York and Los Angeles that struggle to meet demand for English language tuition (McHugh, Gelatt, and Fix 2007: 16).
  • The latter option may include welfare for families (like New York’s Safety Net Assistance program), seniors and people with disabilities (like California’s Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants); health coverage (like Illinois’ reduced-cost health insurance coverage for all children from low-income families); and food stamps (like California’s CalFresh Food Assistance Program) .
  • Keith Hooper with Susanna Groves 22 INTERACT RR2014/32 © 2014 EUI, RSCAS connecting them with services, providing language training and social services, helping them find jobs and develop networks, and representing their interests at the state or federal level.
  • 41 Newcomers to the United States can access a wide array of integration assistance; but must rely on a diffuse network of stateand non-state actors to meet their needs, as demonstrated by the types of assistance detailed below.

I. Language access and training

  • Under US law, all programs that receive federal funding must make their services accessible to Limited English Proficiency LEP individuals by translating vital documents and employing speakers of these languages to assist with providing information and services.
  • Public schools in the United States play a critical role in providing English language training to immigrant children and the children of immigrants.
  • 45 Chinese diaspora organizations like the Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC) in Seattle also provide services for LEP members of their community.
  • Asylees and refugees are eligible for cash and medical assistance from the ORR for eight months and may qualify for other ORR programs (implemented by state and private actors) for up to five years.

V. Political and civic integration

  • Unlike some European states, noncitizens are barred from all US elections at the federal, state, and local levels.
  • Noncitizens are barred from school board elections in most parts of the United States – a significant exclusion, given that curricular and funding decisions can particularly affect first- and secondgeneration immigrant children, who often require additional assistance like English language tuition (ibidem: 243).
  • Some Chinese Americans lobby on behalf of improved US-China relations; and there are number of US-China business organizations and chambers like the manned by Chinese diaspora members that promote cooperation and provide information on conducting business in the two countries.
  • There are now bipartisan caucuses in both houses of the US Congress that are dedicated to India and Indian diaspora affairs.

6. Conclusions

  • A century ago, most Asian immigrants were low-skilled, low-wage laborers crowded into ethnic enclaves, but today Asian Americans are the country’s highest-income, best-educated, and fastestgrowing minority group who are also most likely to live in mixed neighborhoods and marry across racial lines (Pew Research Center 2013).
  • Nevertheless, there are vulnerable communities like asylees who are in great need of assistance upon arrival, and other groups that can benefit from integration assistance in its different forms.
  • The establishment of an Overseas Indian Center in India’s Washington DC embassy, which will engage the US Indian population and offer employment and welfare resources to its overseas nationals, indicates a diaspora policy that is starting to include integration outcomes at destination.
  • A Comparative Analysis of the Migration and Integration of Indian and Chinese Immigrants in the United States INTERACT RR2014/32 © 2014 EUI, RSCAS 29 Annex III.

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As A ThREE-wAy PRoCEss - ImmIgRANTs, CouNTRIEs of
Co-nanced by the European Union
A Comparative Analysis
of the Migration and Integration
of Indian and Chinese Immigrants
in the United States
Kate Hooper
with Susanna Groves
INTERACT Research Report 2014/32
© 2014. All rights reserved.
No part of this paper may be distributed, quoted
or reproduced in any form without permission from
the INTERACT Project.

Researching Third Country Nationals’ Integration as a Three-way Process -
Immigrants, Countries of Emigration and Countries of Immigration as Actors of
Research Report
Corridor Report
A Comparative Analysis of the Migration and Integration
of Indian and Chinese Immigrants in the United States
Kate Hooper *
Susanna Groves *
* Migration Policy Institute

© 2014, European University Institute
Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies
This text may be downloaded only for personal research purposes. Any additional reproduction for
other purposes, whether in hard copies or electronically, requires the consent of the Robert Schuman
Centre for Advanced Studies.
Requests should be addressed to
If cited or quoted, reference should be made as follows:
Kate Hooper, with Susanna Groves, A Comparative Analysis of the Migration and Integration of
Indian and Chinese Immigrants in the United States, INTERACT RR 2014/32, Robert Schuman
Centre for Advanced Studies, San Domenico di Fiesole (FI): European University Institute, 2014.
European University Institute
Badia Fiesolana
I 50014 San Domenico di Fiesole (FI)

INTERACT - Researching Third Country Nationals’ Integration as a Three-way Process -
Immigrants, Countries of Emigration and Countries of Immigration as Actors of Integration
Around 25 million persons born in a third country (TCNs) are currently living in the European Union
(EU), representing 5% of its total population. Integrating immigrants, i.e. allowing them to participate
in the host society at the same level as natives, is an active, not a passive, process that involves two
parties, the host society and the immigrants, working together to build a cohesive society.
Policy-making on integration is commonly regarded as primarily a matter of concern for the receiving
state, with general disregard for the role of the sending state. However, migrants belong to two places:
first, where they come and second, where they now live. While integration takes place in the latter,
migrants maintain a variety of links with the former. New means of communication facilitating contact
between migrants and their homes, globalisation bringing greater cultural diversity to host countries,
and nation-building in source countries seeing expatriate nationals as a strategic resource have all
transformed the way migrants interact with their home country.
INTERACT project looks at the ways governments and non-governmental institutions in origin
countries, including the media, make transnational bonds a reality, and have developed tools that
operate economically (to boost financial transfers and investments); culturally (to maintain or revive
cultural heritage); politically (to expand the constituency); legally (to support their rights).
INTERACT project explores several important questions: To what extent do policies pursued by EU
member states to integrate immigrants, and policies pursued by governments and non-state actors in
origin countries regarding expatriates, complement or contradict each other? What effective
contribution do they make to the successful integration of migrants and what obstacles do they put in
their way?
A considerable amount of high-quality research on the integration of migrants has been produced in
the EU. Building on existing research to investigate the impact of origin countries on the integration of
migrants in the host country remains to be done.
INTERACT is co-financed by the European Union and is implemented by a consortium built by
CEDEM, UPF and MPI Europe.
For more information:
Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (EUI)
Villa Malafrasca
Via Boccaccio 151
50133 Florence
Tel: +39 055 46 85 817/892
Fax: + 39 055 46 85 755
Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies

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Immigrant integration services in the United States are relatively decentralized, with crucial services provided by a wide array of actors.