American diaspora

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American diaspora
Flag of the United States.svg
Total population
9,000,000[1] (2016, est.)
Regions with significant populations
Dominican Republic200,000[10]
United Kingdom139,000–197,143[12][13]
Puerto Rico189,000[14]
Costa Rica130,000[15]
South Korea120,000–158,000[16]
Hong Kong60,000[19]
Japan55,713 (2017)[21]
United Arab Emirates50,000[24]
Saudi Arabia40,000[26]
Spain34,638 (2018)[28]
El Salvador19,000[34]
New Zealand17,751[35]
Ireland17,552 (2017)[36]
English, Spanish and others.
Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, Mormonism 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.

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

There are no exact figures on how many Americans live abroad. In 1999, a State Department estimate suggested that the number may be between 3 million and 6 million.[45][46] In 2016, the agency estimated 9 million U.S. citizens were living abroad.[1] However, these numbers are highly open to dispute as they often are unverified and can change rapidly.[47] The United States Census Bureau does not count Americans abroad and individual American embassies offer only rough estimates, which makes the U. S. the only developed country that does not even attempt a formal enumeration of expatriate citizens. The State Department does not release what statistics it may have, citing "security reasons."[45]

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.[48]

Sizes of certain subsets of US citizens living abroad can be estimated based on statistics published by the Internal Revenue Service. US Citizens are 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.[49] 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.[49] 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 a country with a strong immigrant history 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.[50]

With the ongoing problems with the American economy, and increase in economic opportunities for skilled workers in emerging markets, economic opportunities are increasingly driving migration abroad, both for native-born Americans[51] 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 United States to non-citizens are generally automatically 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 countries of origin, they are also considered to be U.S. citizens living abroad. They are sometimes called "accidental Americans".[52]

Other reasons for Americans to leave the United States are for political reasons, racism, economic inequality, and no universal healthcare. Normally, 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]


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 the United Kingdom. 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 business reasons.

The early 19th century also saw the beginning of overseas religious 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 an invasion in the late 19th century, many Americans became immigrants to the Philippines when it was a colony after the American 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, Paris, Prague, Rome, Stockholm, and Vienna came to host a large number of Americans. Many Americans, typically those who were idealistic and/or involved in left-leaning politics, also participated in the Spanish Civil War (mainly supporting the Republicans against the Nationalists) 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 to the United States, after the Attack on Pearl Harbor.[53]

Cold War[edit]

During the Cold War, Americans became a permanent fixture in many countries with large populations of American soldiers, such as West 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.[54] 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 Russia.[55][56]

Increasing numbers of Americans are retiring abroad due to financial setbacks resulting from the 2008 financial crisis.[57]

Young Americans facing a tough job market due to the recession are also increasingly open to working abroad.[58]

According to a Gallup poll from January 2019, 40 percent of women under the age of 30 would like to leave the United States.[59]


One of the biggest issues with the American diaspora is the issue of double taxation. Unlike most 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.[45][60][61] Even Canada's Registered Disability Savings Plan falls under such reporting requirements.[62] 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.[63] Since 2013, the number of people giving up US citizenship has risen to a new record each year, with an unprecedented 5,411 in 2016. This is up 26 percent from the 4,279 renunciations in 2015.[64][65][66]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ "People live in Mexico, INEGI, 2010".
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  4. ^ "Fact Sheet: The United States and India — Prosperity Through Partnership". White House. June 26, 2017. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  5. ^ "BiB - Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung - Pressemitteilungen - Archiv 2017 - Zuwanderung aus außereuropäischen Ländern fast verdoppelt".
  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 220,000 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ "Americans in France". Embassy of the United States, Paris. United States Department of State. Archived from the original on April 18, 2015. Retrieved April 26, 2015. Today, although no official figure is available it is estimated that over 150,000 American citizens reside in France, making France one of the top 10 destinations for American expatriates.
  12. ^ "Population by Country of Birth and Nationality Report, August 2012" (PDF). Office for National Statistics. August 30, 2012. Retrieved December 11, 2012.
  13. ^ 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 America 197 143
  14. ^ El Pais. "Mapa de Migraciones". La base de datos de la División de Población del Departamento de Asuntos Económicos y Sociales de Naciones Unidas recoge el número de extranjeros residentes en cada país a partir de 1990. Se trata de una estimación basada en los datos oficiales aportados por los Estados que registran tanto a los ciudadanos nacidos en otros países como a los que tienen nacionalidad extranjera, incluyendo a los residentes en situación irregular. La variación entre una década y otra refleja los cambios en las comunidades de inmigrantes y en los flujos migratorios. El dato de “Otros” corresponde al número de extranjeros residentes del que no ha sido declarada la nacionalidad.
  15. ^ "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.
  16. ^ "U.S. Citizen Services". Embassy of the United States Seoul, Korea. United States Department of State. Archived from the original on November 30, 2012. 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 propaganda 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.
  17. ^ "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.
  18. ^ "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.
  19. ^ "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.
  20. ^ "ibid, Ancestry (full classification list) by Sex – Australia". Retrieved October 19, 2014.
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  22. ^ Gishkori, Zahid (July 30, 2015). "Karachi has witnessed 43% decrease in target killing: Nisar". The Express Tribune. Retrieved August 3, 2017. As many as 116,308 Afghan nationals are living as immigrants in the country, higher than any other country,” Nisar told the House. Besides Afghans, 52,486 Americans, 79,447 British citizens and 17,320 Canadians are residing in the country, the interior minister added.
  23. ^ 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.
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  25. ^ McKinley Jr., James C. (January 17, 2010). "For 45,000 Americans in Haiti, the Quake Was 'a Nightmare That's Not Ending'". The New York Times. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  26. ^ "SAUDI-U.S. TRADE". Commerce Office. Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington D.C. Archived from the original on September 13, 2012. Retrieved February 14, 2012. Furthermore, there are approximately 40,000 Americans living and working in the Kingdom.
  27. ^ "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.
  28. ^ "Spanish National Institute of Statistics - Foreign Population by Nationality and Sex, Jan 1st 2018" (in Spanish). National Institute of Statistics, Spanish Government. 2018. Retrieved June 14, 2018. Search for "Sexo = Ambos sexos" (both sexes), "Comunidades y provincias = TOTAL ESPAÑA" (Spain total) and "Nacionalidad = Estados Unidos de América".
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  32. ^ Kate King (July 18, 2006). "U.S. family: Get us out of Lebanon". CNN. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. 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.
  33. ^ "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.
  34. ^ "El Salvador (01/10)". United States Department of State. Archived from the original on April 13, 2014. Retrieved April 11, 2014. More than 19,000 American citizens live and work full-time in El Salvador
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  37. ^ "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.
  38. ^ "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.
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  41. ^ "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.
  42. ^ Tatiana Morales (August 2, 2009). "Americans in Kuwait: When To Go?". CBS News. Retrieved December 17, 2012. There are about 8,000 Americans who live in Kuwait.
  43. ^ "Guatemala (07/08)". Previous Editions of Chile Background Note. United States Department of State. July 2008. Archived from the original on March 23, 2017. 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.
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  53. ^ Mary Granfield (August 6, 1990). "Hiroshima's Lost Americans". People. Time Inc. Retrieved January 7, 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.
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  57. ^ Anna Robaton (November 20, 2013). "Feeling pinch back home, U.S. retirees pursue the American Dream abroad". CNBC.
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