Nepalese American: Facts and Statistics

Nepalese are the people who are originally from Nepal, the country which lies in between India and China, in the Himalayas. Thousands of Nepalese are living in the USA since the 20th Century. Nepalese in America have been able to identify themselves as a distinct ethnic group. However, the first Nepalese who entered in the USA were classified as “Other Asian”. Here in this article, Nepalese American means those people who are living in the US with a green card, or the US-born Nepalese ethnic people, or students with scholarships, etc. In short, we have provided the data of all Nepalese currently living in the US with an immigrant or non-immigrant visa.

Why Nepalese move to the USA?

We all know the word phrase “American Dream”. This is the term used by people of almost all countries of the world. Those who want to live like an American wants to go to America to fulfill their dreams.

There are various factors and reasons for people to move to the USA. Here are various reasons to which people of the world are attracted and wants to live in the US:

  • The US is one of the world’s most powerful countries, so who would not want to be a citizen of a powerful nation.
  • There are lots of job opportunities in the US, lots of industries, factories, companies are US based and world top companies are in and from the US.
  • The social security and protection to US citizens by the US government.
  • Better quality education, world top universities are in the US.
  • The better quality of life in the US and Human Development Index of the US is high.
  • The per capita income of average Americans is higher.
  • Equality and freedom are available in the US.
  • Freedom from Orthodox customs and tradition.

Freedom from everything that people feel uncomfortable to do it in their own country, etc are the reasons for most of people to move to the USA to settle down. But mostly, Nepalese people move to the USA through Diversity Visa lottery and Student Visa. Various Universities in the USA provide scholarships for higher education to Nepalese students who are willing to study in the US.

Diversity Visa lottery is annually provided by the US government to various nations among which Nepal is also one of the nations. Hundreds of Nepalese move to the USA through this Diversity Visa (DV) lottery.

Nepal is a developing country, so for a better life of children, for their better education, and good quality of life many Nepalese moves to the USA.

How Nepalese move to the USA?

Nepalese move to the USA in various ways. The most popular visa for Nepalese people is the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery. Randomly people who applied for Diversity Visa (DV) lottery are selected and people meeting requirements are allowed to settle down in the USA. Every year thousands of Nepalese fill the DV lottery form and only a few of them are selected. Generally, visas in the USA are classified as immigrant visas and non-immigrant visas.

Another popular way to move to the USA for Nepalese people is through American Universities Scholarships. Many Nepali students move to the USA with the Student Visa.

Other than these visas, there are working visas available to Nepalis, which are broadly classified as H, L, P, Q, O visas. These visas are provided for different purposes by the US government to people who want to come to the US for various work purposes. And there are other different visas like Tourist Visa, Visitor Visa, Journalist Visa, Treatment Visa, etc to travel to the USA for a short period.

Many Nepalese were brought to the USA after the devastating earthquake in 2015 with a temporary visa. The visa was extended 18 months more and it ended in 2018 June 24.

History of Nepalese in America

First Nepalese who migrated to the US was in between 1881 and 1890 as “Other Asians”. And until 1950, Nepal didn’t open its border to migrate Nepalese to the USA and most Nepalese who migrated to the USA during that period were the students who primarily went to India to study. In 1974, the first time the Nepalese Americans got recognized as a separate ethnic group in the USA. This was when 56 Nepalese people had immigrated to the United States. Till 1992, the number of immigrants from Nepal was below 100 per year.

In the 1990 U.S. Census, Americans with Nepalese ancestry were 2,616. And each year less than 100 Nepalese immigrants become U.S. citizens. But from 1987 to 1996, there was a drastic change in the number of Nepalese who become legal residents. The number of Nepalis who became US citizens grown steadily from 78 to 431 per year from 1987 to 1996. The Nepalese community had significant growth in population during the Nepalese Civil War which increased the rate of immigrants from Nepal to the US.

Nepali Speaking Bhutanese

The Bhutanese in Nepal was “one of the protracted and neglected refugee crises in the world” stated Amnesty International.

More than 108,000 Nepali speaking Bhutanese were exiled from the country between 1990 and 1993. The “One Nation, One People” policy of Bhutan in the 1980s, exiled almost one-sixth of the total population of the country.

The devastating situation caused by the Government of the Kingdom of Bhutan for those Nepali speaking Bhutanese. The whole generation was stateless after that act and the exiled Bhutanese lived into the refugee camps in Nepal.

With the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Bhutanese from Nepal were relocated to different nations. Among those nations, the United States of America provided resettlement to the largest number of refugees. Bhutanese were forced to leave Bhutan and their children born in camps were taken to different countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States of America for their resettlement.

The Bhutanese are from Nepal estimates about 71,000 to 84,000 in the USA. They speak Nepali language and share common culture and tradition with Nepalese people. Most of the Bhutanese live under low income in the USA and have the highest suicide rates in the US. Nepalese origin Bhutanese are also one of the main reasons for the increase in the Nepalese speaking community in the US.

The population of Nepalese in US cities:

Nepalese are in almost all cities of the US. According to the data from the Pew research center, the highest number of population of Nepalese in US cities are in New York and Dallas. Here is the number of Nepalese Population in different US metro areas:

Metro Area Nepalese Population
New York 9,000
Dallas-Fort Worth 9,000
Washington, DC 8,000
San Francisco 5,000
Baltimore 4,000
Boston 4,000
Atlanta 3,000
Houston 3,000
Pittsburgh 3,000
Columbus, OH 3,000
Source: Pew Research Center analysis of the 2013-2015 American Community Survey (IPUMS).

The population of Nepalese in the USA:

The Nepalese Population in 2017 was estimated to be 182,384 in the US which is grown by 206.6% since 2010. Here is a table showing the population of Nepalese in the United States of America up to 2017 A.D.

Year Nepalese Population
2000 9,000
2010 59,000
2015 1,40,000
2017 182,384
Source: US Census Bureau visa SAALT

It is estimated that the population of Nepalese in the United States of America in 2019 is about more than 200,000.

The age group residing in the US is mostly adult Nepalese youths. The population of all Nepalese between the age group 18-39 in the USA is about 49% of the total population of Nepalese. Whereas, the highest number of the US-born Nepalese is of the age group up to  5, which is about 51% of the total US-born Nepalese population. And the highest number of the foreign-born Nepalese population is of age group 18-29 which is about 30% of the total foreign-born Nepalese population.

Only 20% of Nepalese in the USA have US citizenship and rest 80% of Nepalese do not have US citizenship. And the unemployment rate of Nepalese is about 8.9% which is quite higher than any other Asian community.

What are the problems faced by Nepalese living in the US?

The problems faced by Nepalese in America is similar to any other country people who moved to the USA. But some major problems faced by the Nepalese are due to the new environment and new place. Here are some of the problems that normally a Nepali in America may face:

  • Due to the low literacy rate of Nepalese, the chances of getting a white-collar job as compared to other nation’s person is very low. White-collar professionals are lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc. One of the main reasons for less white-collar jobs is the Degrees awarded by many colleges in Nepal are not recognized by the US.
  • The different culture of the US makes an uneasy and uncomfortable environment for a Nepali to settle down easily. Nepal stands in stark contrast to the way things work in the US which makes it difficult for Nepalese to change according to the place.
  • Most of the Nepalese in America are unaware of services such as Health insurance, apartment and rental protocols which are easily available in America.
  • Difficulties in tackling foreign language and to deal with cultural differences.
  • New place, new people, different cultures, different lifestyles, and everything unseen and new which needs more time to understand and settle down in a foreign land with strangers.
  • Most of the Nepalese get blue-collar jobs such as gas station attendants, waiters, etc due to the academic degrees achieved from Nepali Universities which are not recognized by the US government.

Some facts about Nepalese American

Here are some of the interesting facts about Nepalese American living in the US according to data and research from the Pew Research Center:

  • Nepalese Americans mostly follow Hinduism and Buddhism religions.
  • The festivals of Nepalese Americans are celebrated with the Indian and Nepali communities together also in the United States. They celebrate Dashain, Tihar, Holi, Teej, Losar, etc.
  • 9% of all Nepalese Americans are below the poverty line which is higher than the average of 15.1% of all Americans and 12.1% of all Asians.
  • The significant population of Nepalese Americans exists in major cities like New York, Dallas-Fort Worth, Washington DC, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Florida, Denver, etc.
  • The Per capita Income of average Nepali ethnic people in comparison with all ethnic groups in America is very low. It was found to be the fifth lowest in the US.
  • The education attainment of Nepalese American students is higher than all Americans but lower than other Asians. The bachelor’s and postgraduate degree attainment of Nepalese is higher than all Americans but lesser than other Asians. However, the percentage of higher education attained Nepalese is higher in comparison to all Americans and other Asians.
  • 20% of Nepalese living in the US are citizens of the USA and 80% are non-citizens.
  • Only 17% of the total Nepalese in America have lived for more than 10 years in the US. And rest 83% have lived for less than 10 years in the US and moved back to Nepal.

Notable Nepalese in the USA

Many famous Nepalese celebrities and personals have chosen to live in the US, and some of them are US-born Nepalese who can make Nepal proud of them. Here are some of the notable Nepalese living in the USA.

  • Gautama V. Vajracharya – Sanskritist
  • Parag Pathak – Professor
  • Prabal Gurung – Fashion designer
  • Lujendra Ojha – Scientist
  • Daya Vaidya – Actress

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