The second largest immigrant group after Mexicans, Indians receive the majority of employer-sponsored H-1B visas
The Indian diaspora comprising 4.9 million US residents, making it the tenth largest in the country, sent more than $20.5 in remittances to India via formal channels in 2021, according to a new study. It amounts to 23 percent of the $89.4 billion received by India in remittance last year.
Remittances to India by people either born in India or reported Indian ancestry or origin, have increased by 46% since 2011 and represented nearly 3% of Indiaâ€™s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021, the study noted citing World Bank figures.
The study on â€œIndian Immigrants in the United Statesâ€ by The Migration Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, noted the pace of arrivals from India increased following the move by Congress in 1965 to abolish national-origin quotas that largely limited immigration to Europeans.
Today, Indians represent the second largest US immigrant group, after Mexicans and ahead of Chinese and Filipinos.
The 2.7 million Indian immigrants living in the United States as of 2021 made up 6% of the total foreign-born population, and their numbers continue to grow, study authors Ari Hoffman and Jeanne Batalova, note.
Unlike predominately low-skilled migrant workers who arrived from India during the 19th century and the early 20th century, most post-World War II Indian migrants came to work in professional jobs or study in US colleges and universities, the study noted.
â€œToday, most Indians arrive through employment- and family-based pathways. India is the source of the second largest number of international students enrolled in US higher education and its nationals receive the majority of employer-sponsored H-1B temporary visas for high-skilled workers.â€
Indian nationals are the main beneficiaries of H-1B temporary visas for highly skilled foreign workers, accounting for 74% of all H-1Bs approved in fiscal year (FY) 2021, followed by Chinese and Canadians (12% and 1%, respectively). They also represent a significant share of international students studying in the United States.
According to the Institute of International Education, about 199,200 students from India were enrolled in US higher education institutions in the 2021-22 school year, accounting for 21% of the 948,500 enrolled international students. This represented the second largest country of origin for international students, following mainland China (31%).
â€œThese pathways are reflected in characteristics that set Indians apart: four-fifths of Indian immigrant adults have at least a bachelorâ€™s degree and their median household incomes are more than double those of all immigrants and the US born,â€ the study noted.
A lesser-known trend in Indian immigration is the rise in unauthorized arrivals at the US-Mexico border, it said noting between October 2021 and September 2022, border authorities encountered Indian migrants 18,300 times at the US southern border, a spike from 2,600 in the same period a year earlier.
â€œThis increase may be due to growing religious and political persecution in India against non-Hindus, the lack of domestic economic opportunities, waning of pandemic restrictions on travel, and extended US backlogs that have created long queues for legal immigration,â€ the study suggested.
Globally, the United States is the second most popular destination for Indians living abroad, after the United Arab Emirates (3.5 million). Other top destinations include Saudi Arabia (2.5 million), Pakistan (1.6 million), Oman (1.4 million), and Kuwait (1.2 million), it said citing the most recent, mid-2020 United Nations Population Division estimates.
The largest share of immigrants from India lived in California (20%), followed by Texas (11%), and New Jersey (10%) as of the 2015-19 period, it said citing the most recent pooled data file available from the US Census Bureau. The next most populous statesâ€”New York and Illinoisâ€”combined accounted for an additional 13% of the Indian-born population.
The top five counties for Indian immigrants were Santa Clara in California, Middlesex in New Jersey, Alameda in California, Cook in Illinois, and Los Angeles in California. Together, these counties were home to 17% of Indian immigrants.
The US cities with the largest number of Indian immigrants were the greater New York, Chicago, San Francisco, San Jose, and Dallas metropolitan areas, as of 2015-19. These five metro areas accounted for about 35% of Indians in the United States.
Indian immigrants are much more likely to be proficient in English than the overall foreign-born population. In 2021, about 22% of Indians ages 5 and over reported limited English proficiency, compared to 46% of all immigrants. Approximately 12% of Indian immigrants spoke only English at home, versus 17% of all immigrants.
Besides English, immigrants from India spoke a variety of languages at home in 2021, including Hindi (24%), Telugu (14%), Gujarati (11%), Tamil (10%), and Punjabi (7%).
In 2021, Indian immigrants tended to be younger than the overall foreign-born population but older than the US born. Their median age was 41 years old, compared to 47 for all immigrants and 37 for the native-born population, the study noted.
This is largely due to the high number of working-age adults: 80% of all Indian immigrants were ages 18 to 64, versus 77% of the overall foreign-born population and 59% of the native born, it said.
Meanwhile, Indians were less likely than both the native- and foreign-born populations to be 65 or older.
Indian adults have much higher education levels than both the native- and overall foreign-born populations. In 2021, 80% of Indian immigrants ages 25 and older reported having at least a bachelorâ€™s degree, compared to approximately one-third of all foreign-born and US-born adults.
The share with advanced degrees stands out: 49% of Indian immigrant adults held a graduate or professional degree in 2021, compared to 15% of foreign-born and 13% of US-born adults.
Indians participate in the labor force at higher rates than all immigrants and the US born. About 72% of Indian immigrants ages 16 and older were in the civilian labor force in 2021, compared to 66% and 62% for the foreign- and US-born populations, respectively, according to the MPI study.
Compared to those two groups, Indians were much more likely to be employed in the management, business, science, and arts occupations.
On average, Indians have much higher incomes than the total foreign- and native-born populations. In 2021, households headed by an Indian immigrant had a median annual income of $150,000, compared to $70,000 for all immigrant- and native-led households.
In 2021, Indian immigrants were less likely to be in poverty (5%) than immigrants overall (14%) or the US born (13%).
Indians were less likely to be naturalized US citizens than immigrants overall, which may reflect the large numbers arriving on temporary visas and the relative recency of arrival. In 2021, 48% of Indian immigrants were US citizens, compared to 53% of all immigrants.
Compared to all immigrants, Indians are much more likely to have arrived since 2000. The largest share of Indians (approximately 44%) arrived in 2010 or later, compared to 28% of the overall foreign-born population
In FY 2021, India was the second largest country of origin for lawful permanent residents (LPRs, also known as green-card holders) after Mexico. Of the 740,000 people receiving a green card that year, 93,400 (13%) were from India.
In FY 2021, 81% of Indians who received a green card did so through employment-based preferences, a share more than three times higher than all new LPRs (26%).
As of mid-2022, 1,930 Indian immigrants participated in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, accounting for less than 1% of the 594,120 DACA recipients.
Indians have high health insurance coverage rates compared to both the overall immigrant and native-born populations. In 2021, just 5% of immigrants from India were uninsured, compared to 7% of the native born and 19% of the overall foreign-born population.
Indian immigrants were more likely to be covered by private health insurance than the foreign-born and US-born populations.
(Editor’s note: A previous version of this story erroneously mentioned that Indian diaspora in the United States sent $89.4 billion in remittance last year. That figure corresponds to remittances by the global Indian diaspora. The U.S. diaspora’s share was 23 percent.)