American diaspora

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American diaspora
Flag of the United States.svg
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Mexico 738,100–1,000,000[2][3]
Canada 316,350–1,000,000[4][5]
Philippines 300,000–600,000[6]
Israel 200,000[7][8]
United Kingdom 139,000–197,143[9][10]
Costa Rica 130,000[11]
South Korea 120,000–158,000[12]
Germany 108,845[13]
France 100,000[14]
China 71,493[15]
Brazil 70,000[16]
Colombia 60,000[17]
Hong Kong 60,000[18]
India 60,000[19]
Australia 56,276[20]
Japan 51,321[21]
Italy 50,000[22]
United Arab Emirates 50,000[23]
Haiti 45,000[24]
Saudi Arabia 40,000[25]
Argentina 37,000[26]
Norway 33,509[27]
Bahamas 30,000[28]
Lebanon 25,000[29]
Panama 25,000[30]
El Salvador 19,000[31]
New Zealand 17,751[32]
Honduras 15,000[33]
Chile 12,000[34]
Taiwan 10,645[35]
Austria 10,175[36]
Bermuda 8,000[37]
English, Spanish and others.
Related ethnic groups

The American diaspora or overseas Americans refers to the population of United States citizens who relocate, temporarily or permanently, to foreign countries. There are no reliable figures on how many Americans live abroad, but a State Department estimate suggests that the number may be between 3 million and 6 million.[38]

Number of U.S. citizens living abroad[edit]

As of 2014, there are over 8.7 million non-military U.S. citizens living abroad,[39] an increase from the 4 million estimated in 1999.[40] However, these numbers are highly open to dispute as they often are unverified and can change rapidly.[41]

One reasonably "hard" indicator of the U.S. citizen population overseas is offered by the fact that often when they have a child abroad, they obtain a Consular Report of Birth Abroad from a US consulate as a proof of the child's U.S. citizenship. The Bureau of Consular Affairs reports issuing 503,585 such documents over the decade 2000-2009. Based on this, and on some assumptions about the family composition and birth rates, some authors estimate the US civilian population overseas as between 3.6 and 4.3 million.[42]

Sizes of certain subsets of US citizens living abroad can be estimated based on statistics published by the Internal Revenue Service. US Citizens are generally liable for US income tax even if they reside overseas; however, if they receive earned income (wages, salaries, etc.) while residing in a foreign country, they can exclude an amount of foreign earned income from the US taxation or receive credit for foreign taxes paid. The IRS reported that almost 335,000 tax returns with such a foreign-earned income exclusion form were received in 2006.[43] This imposes a lower (and very imprecise) bound on the number of US citizens who were living and working in foreign countries at the time.

In the same tax year, almost 969,000 US taxpayers reported having paid foreign tax on "general limitation income" (i.e., income other than interest, dividends, and other "passive income") from foreign sources on their foreign tax credit forms.[43] Of course, not all of these were actually residing abroad full-time.

Reasons for emigrating[edit]

There are a wide range of reasons for which Americans might emigrate from the country. While some emigrate for economic reasons, the United States' position as an affluent country and one of many immigrants means that many leave for a chance to experience other parts of the world, to return to their country of origin, for religious reasons, such as missionary work, or to escape policies of the American government.[44] Americans do not easily have access to any foreign country for the purpose of permanent residence (with certain exceptions such as Jews emigrating to Israel), so the American diaspora is relatively small in comparison to the total American population.[citation needed]

With the ongoing problems with the American economy, and increase in economic opportunities for skilled laborers in emerging markets, economic opportunities are increasingly driving migration abroad, both for native-born Americans[45] and naturalized immigrants returning to their home country.

Common reasons for living abroad are marriage/partnership, study, employment and retirement. Since children born in the U.S. to non-citizens are granted U.S. citizenship, children born to migrant workers, temporary foreign employees on visas, or international students are U.S. citizens, and when they return to their "home" countries they are also considered to be U.S. citizens living abroad. They are sometimes called "accidental Americans".[46]


Due to the flow of people back and forth between Britain and the colonies, and America and the Caribbean, there has been an American diaspora of a sort since before the United States was founded. During the American Revolutionary War, a number of American Loyalists relocated to other countries, chiefly Canada and Great Britain. Residence in countries outside the British Empire was unusual, and usually limited to the well to do, such as Benjamin Franklin, who was able to self-finance his trip to Paris as an American diplomat.

19th century[edit]

Thanks to the increase of whalers and clipper ships, Americans began to travel all over the world for commercial reasons.

The early 19th Century also saw the beginning of overseas missionary activity, such as with Adoniram Judson in Burma.

The middle of the 19th century saw the immigration of many New Englanders to Hawaii, as missionaries for the Congregational Church, and as traders and whalers. The American population eventually overthrew the government of Hawaii, leading to its annexation by the United States.

During this time former slaves also migrated to Liberia, becoming the Americo-Liberians, who dominated the country for most of its history.

Also, due to the American invasion. Many Americans became immigrants to the Philippines when it was a colony after America's victory in the Philippine-American War.

In Asia, the American government made efforts to secure special privileges for its citizens. This began with the Treaty of Wanghia in China in 1844. It was followed by the expedition of Commodore Perry to Japan 10 years later, and the United States–Korea Treaty of 1882. American traders began to settle in those countries.

Early 20th century[edit]

Cecil Rhodes created the Rhodes Scholarship in 1902 to encourage greater cooperation between the United States, the British Empire, and Germany by allowing students to study abroad.

Interwar period[edit]

In the period between the First and Second World Wars, many Americans, particularly writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound migrated to Europe, to take part in the cultural scene.

European cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Paris, Prague, Rome, Stockholm and Vienna came to host a large number of Americans. Many Americans also participated in the Spanish Civil War in Spain while they lived in Madrid and elsewhere.

Other Americans returned home to the countries of their origin, including the parents of American author/illustrator Eric Carle, who returned to Germany. Thousands of Japanese Americans were unable to return back to the United States, after the Attack on Pearl Harbor.[47]

Cold War[edit]

During the Cold War, Americans became a permanent fixture in many countries with large populations of American soldiers, such as Germany and South Korea.

The Cold War also saw the development of government programs to encourage young Americans to go abroad. The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 to encourage cultural exchange, and the Peace Corps was created in 1961 both to encourage cultural exchange and a civic spirit of volunteerism.

With the formation of the state of Israel, over 100,000 Jews made Aliyah to the holy land, where they played a role in the creation of the state. Other Americans traveled to countries like Lebanon, again to take place in the cultural scene.

During the Vietnam War, about 100,000 American men went abroad to avoid conscription, 90% of them going to Canada.[48] European nations including neutral states like Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland offered asylum to thousands of American expatriates who refused to fight.

A small number of Americans abandoned the country for political reasons, defecting to the Soviet Union, Cuba, or other countries, such as Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, current Libyan nominee as UN ambassador, and sixties radicals such as Joanne Chesimard, Pete O'Neal, Eldridge Cleaver and Stokely Carmichael.

During this period Americans continued to travel abroad for religious reasons, such as Richard James, inventor of the Slinky, who went to Bolivia with the Wycliffe Bible Translators, and the Peoples Temple establishment of Jonestown in Guyana.

After the Cold War[edit]

The opening of Eastern Europe, Central Europe and Central Asia after the Cold War provided new opportunities for American businesspeople. Additionally, with the global dominance of America in the world economy, the ESL industry continued to grow, especially in new and emerging markets. Many Americans also take a year abroad during college, and some return to the country after graduation.

Iraq War deserters sought refuge mostly in Canada and Europe, and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden escaped to the Russian Federation.[49][50]

Increasing numbers of Americans are retiring abroad due to financial setbacks resulting from the 2008 financial crisis.[51]

Young Americans facing a tough job market due to the recession are also increasingly open to working abroad.[52]


One of the biggest issues with the American diaspora is the issue of double taxation. Unusual among developed nations, the United States taxes its citizens even when they live overseas. The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion mitigates double taxation on wage income, but the Internal Revenue Code treats ordinary foreign savings plans held by residents of foreign countries as if they were offshore tax avoidance instruments and requires extensive asset reporting, resulting in significant costs for Americans at all income levels to comply with filing requirements even when they owe no tax.[38][53][54] Even Canada's Registered Disability Savings Plan falls under such reporting requirements.[55] The most prominent piece of legislation which has attracted the ire of Americans abroad is the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). Disadvantages stemming from FATCA, such as hindering career advancement overseas, may decrease the number of Americans in the diaspora in future years. The problem is so severe that some Americans have addressed it by renouncing or relinquishing their American citizenship.[56]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ People live in Mexico, INEGI, 2010
  3. ^ Smith, Dr. Claire M. (August 2010). "These are our Numbers: Civilian Americans Overseas and Voter Turnout" (PDF). OVF Research Newsletter. Overseas Vote Foundation. Retrieved December 11, 2012. Previous research indicates that the number of U.S. Americans living in Mexico is around 1 million, with 600,000 of those living in Mexico City. 
  4. ^ "Ethnic origins, 2006 counts, for Canada, provinces and territories - 20% sample data". Statistics Canada. Government of Canada. June 10, 2010. Retrieved February 17, 2013. Ethnic origins Americans Total responses 316,350 
  5. ^ Barrie McKenna (June 27, 2012). "Tax amnesty offered to Americans in Canada". The Globe and Mail (Ottawa). Retrieved December 17, 2012. There are roughly a million Americans in Canada – many with little or no ties to the United States. 
  6. ^ "U.S. Relations With the Philippines". Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. United States Department of State. January 31, 2014. Retrieved November 17, 2014. There are an estimated four million Americans of Philippine ancestry in the United States, and more than 300,000 U.S. citizens in the Philippines, including a large presence of United States veterans. 
    Cooper, Matthew (November 15, 2013). "Why the Philippines Is America's Forgotten Colony". National Journal. Retrieved January 28, 2015. c. At the same time, person-to-person contacts are widespread: Some 600,000 Americans live in the Philippines and there are 3 million Filipino-Americans, many of whom are devoting themselves to typhoon relief. 
  7. ^ Daphna Berman (January 23, 2008). "Need an appointment at the U.S. Embassy? Get on line!". Haaretz. Retrieved December 11, 2012. According to estimates, some 200,000 American citizens live in Israel and the Palestinian territories. 
  8. ^ Michele Chabin (March 19, 2012). "In vitro babies denied U.S. citizenship". USA Today (Jerusalem). Retrieved December 11, 2012. Most of the 200,000 U.S. citizens in Israel have dual citizenship, and fertility treatments are common because they are free. 
  9. ^ "Population by Country of Birth and Nationality Report, August 2012" (PDF). Office for National Statistics. August 30, 2012. Retrieved December 11, 2012. 
  10. ^ Simon Rogers (May 26, 2011). "The UK's foreign-born population: see where people live and where they're from". The Guardian. Retrieved February 17, 2013. County of birth and county of nationality. United States of American 197 143 
  11. ^ "Background Note: Costa Rica". Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. United States Department of State. April 9, 2012. Retrieved December 11, 2012. Over 130,000 private American citizens, including many retirees, reside in the country and more than 700,000 American citizens visit Costa Rica annually. 
  12. ^ "U.S. Citizen Services". Embassy of the United States Seoul, Korea. United States Department of State. Retrieved December 11, 2012. This website is updated daily and should be your primary resource when applying for a passport, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, notarization, or any of the other services we offer to the estimated 120,000 U.S. citizens traveling, living, and working in Korea. 
    "North Korea propganda video depicts invasion of South Korea, US hostage taking". Advertiser. Agence France-Presse. March 22, 2013. Retrieved March 23, 2013. According to official immigration figures, South Korea has an American population of more than 130,000 civilians and 28,000 troops. 
  13. ^ "Anzahl der Ausländer in Deutschland nach Herkunftsland (Stand: 31. Dezember 2014)" (in German). Statista. 
  14. ^ "Americans in France". Embassy of the United States, Paris. United States Department of State. Retrieved April 26, 2015. Today, although no official figure is available it is estimated that over 100,000 American citizens reside in France, making France one of the top 10 destinations for American expatriates. 
  15. ^ "Major Figures on Residents from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan and Foreigners Covered by 2010 Population Census". National Bureau of Statistics of China. April 29, 2011. Archived from the original on May 14, 2011. Retrieved April 29, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Brazil (11/30/11)". Previous Editions of Brazil Background Note. United States Department of State. November 30, 2012. Retrieved December 11, 2012. The consular section of the embassy, the consulates, and the consular agents provide vital services to the estimated 70,000 U.S. citizens residing in Brazil. 
  17. ^ "Colombia (03/28/13)". United States Department of State. Retrieved February 27, 2014. Based on Colombian statistics, an estimated 60,000 U.S. citizens reside in Colombia and 280,000 U.S. citizens travel, study and do business in Colombia each year. 
  18. ^ "Hong Kong (10/11/11)". Previous Editions of Hong Kong Background Note. United States Department of State. October 11, 2011. Retrieved December 11, 2012. There are some 1,400 U.S. firms, including 817 regional operations (288 regional headquarters and 529 regional offices), and over 60,000 American residents in Hong Kong. 
  19. ^ Barry Bearak; Seth Mydans (June 8, 2002). "Many Americans, Unfazed, Go On Doing Business in India". New York Times. Retrieved December 17, 2012. The number of Americans living in India is often estimated at 60,000. 
  20. ^ "ibid, Ancestry (full classification list) by Sex – Australia". Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Table 10.1 Registered Foreigners by Nationality: 1950-2006" (PDF). Ministry of Justice, . Annual Report of Statistics on Legal Migrants. National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. 2008. Retrieved December 11, 2012. 
  22. ^ Kelly Carter (May 17, 2005). "High cost of living crush Americans' dreams of Italian living". USA Today (Positano, Italy). Retrieved December 17, 2012. Nearly 50,000 Americans lived in Italy at the end of 2003, according to Italy's immigration office. 
  23. ^ "UAE´s population – by nationality". BQ Magazine. 12 April 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2015. 
  24. ^ McKinley Jr., James C. (January 17, 2010). "For 45,000 Americans in Haiti, the Quake Was ‘a Nightmare That’s Not Ending’". New York Times. Retrieved February 27, 2015. 
  25. ^ "SAUDI-U.S. TRADE". Commerce Office. Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington D.C. Retrieved February 14, 2012. Furthermore, there are approximately 40,000 Americans living and working in the Kingdom. 
  26. ^ "Argentina (03/12/12)". Previous Editions of Argentina Background Note. United States Department of State. March 12, 2012. Retrieved December 24, 2012. The Embassy's Consular Section monitors the welfare and whereabouts of some 37,000 U.S. citizen residents of Argentina and more than 500,000 U.S. tourists each year. 
  27. ^ "Statistics Norway – Persons with immigrant background by immigration category and country background. January 1, 2010". Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  28. ^ "Bahamas, The (01/25/12)". Previous Editions of Panama Background Note. United States Department of State. January 25, 2012. Retrieved December 29, 2012. The countries share ethnic and cultural ties, especially in education, and The Bahamas is home to approximately 30,000 American residents. 
  29. ^ Kate King (July 18, 2006). "U.S. family: Get us out of Lebanon". CNN. Retrieved February 14, 2012. About 350 of the estimated 25,000 American citizens in Lebanon had been flown to Cyprus from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut by nightfall Tuesday, Maura Harty, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, told reporters. 
  30. ^ "Panama (03/09)". Previous Editions of Panama Background Note. United States Department of State. March 2009. Retrieved December 17, 2012. About 25,000 American citizens reside in Panama, many retirees from the Panama Canal Commission and individuals who hold dual nationality. 
  31. ^ "El Salvador (01/10)". United States Department of State. Retrieved April 11, 2014. More than 19,000 American citizens live and work full-time in El Salvador 
  32. ^ "North Americans: Facts and figures". Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 
  33. ^ "Honduras (11/23/09)". Previous Editions of Honduras Background Note. United States Department of State. November 23, 2009. Retrieved December 17, 2012. U.S.-Honduran ties are further strengthened by numerous private sector contacts, with an average of between 80,000 and 110,000 U.S. citizens visiting Honduras annually and about 15,000 Americans residing there. 
  34. ^ "Chile (07/08)". Previous Editions of Chile Background Note. United States Department of State. July 2008. Retrieved December 17, 2012. The Consular Section of the Embassy provides vital services to the more than 12,000 U.S. citizens residing in Chile. 
  35. ^ "06-08 外僑居留人數 Foreign Residents". National Immigration Agency, MOI. Department of Statistics, Ministry of the Interior. 2011. Retrieved December 17, 2012. 
  36. ^ "STATISTIK AUSTRIA - Bevölkerung nach Staatsangehörigkeit und Geburtsland". Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  37. ^ "Bermuda". Previous Editions of Bermuda Background Note. United States Department of State. December 9, 2011. Retrieved December 29, 2012. An estimated 8,000 registered U.S. citizens live in Bermuda, many of them employed in the international business community. 
  38. ^ a b "The American Diaspora". Esquire. 26 September 2008. Retrieved 17 April 2011. 
  39. ^ "By the Numbers" (PDF). U.S. Department of State. May 2015. 
  40. ^
  41. ^ Bill Masterson (2000), How Many Americans Really Live in Mexico? And Who Cares, Anyway?, 
  42. ^ These are our Numbers: Civilian Americans Overseas and Voter Turnout, By Dr. Claire M. Smith (Originally published: OVF Research Newsletter, vol. 2, issue 4 (Aug), 2010)
  43. ^ a b Individual Foreign-Earned Income and Foreign Tax Credit, 2006, pp. 54 (overall number), 57 (geographical distribution), 84 (foreign tax credit) at SOI Tax Stats - Individual Foreign Earned Income/Foreign Tax Credit
  44. ^ Sullivan, Andrew. The New American Diaspora, The Atlantic, 22 December 2009, accessed 17 April 2011.
  45. ^ Sappho, Paul. A Looming American Diaspora, Harvard Business Review, 2009, accessed 17 April 2011.
  46. ^ Joe Costanzo, Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels (May 17, 2013). "Counting the Uncountable: Overseas Americans". Migration Policy Institute. 
  47. ^ Mary Granfield (6 August 1990). "Hiroshima's Lost Americans". People (Time Inc.). Retrieved 7 January 2015. n the summer of 1945, there were 30,000 Japanese-Americans in Japan. Many were kibei, American-born children whose immigrant parents had sent them back to Japan before the war to receive a traditional education. Others had come to visit relatives. After the war broke out in 1941, they were unable to return to the U.S.; 110,000 of their American relatives, most of them on the West Coast, were confined in internment camps. 
  48. ^ "President Carter pardons draft dodgers". Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  49. ^ Patty Winsa (February 8, 2015). "More U.S. soldiers could be sent back for court martial on desertion charges". The Star. 
  50. ^ "Edward Snowden: Leaks that exposed US spy programme". BBC. January 17, 2014. 
  51. ^ Anna Robaton (November 20, 2013). "Feeling pinch back home, U.S. retirees pursue the American Dream abroad". CNBC. 
  52. ^ Jonathan House (October 6, 2014). "Americans Don’t Fancy Jobs Abroad. Oh, Except Millennials". Wall Street Journal. 
  53. ^ "Costing More Over There", The Economist, 22 June 2006, accessed 17 April 2011
  54. ^ Leckie, Gavin F. (November 2011). "The Accidental American". Trusts & Estates: 58. Retrieved 2014-11-03. 
  55. ^ Hildebrandt, Amber (2014-01-13). "U.S. FATCA tax law catches unsuspecting Canadians in its crosshairs". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  56. ^ Richard Rubin. "Americans Living Abroad Set Record for Giving Up Citizenship". Bloomberg. Retrieved August 23, 2015. 

External links[edit]