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Non-resident Indian and person of Indian origin

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Title: Non-resident Indian and person of Indian origin  
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Subject: Indians in Botswana, Indian Australian, Indian Americans, Foreign relations of India, Indians in Russia
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Non-resident Indian and person of Indian origin

Non-resident Indian and person of Indian origin
Flag of India
A bar chart showing the distribution of Overseas Indians
Total population
Est. 25,000,000 (approx. 1.85% world population) [1][2]
 United States 2,850,000[4]
 Burma 2,900,000[5]
 Malaysia 2,450,000
 Saudi Arabia 1,789,000
 United Arab Emirates 1,750,000
 United Kingdom 1,414,100[6]
 South Africa 1,286,930[7]
 Canada 1,200,000[8]
 Mauritius 882,220
 Oman 670,000
 Kuwait 579,390
 Sri Lanka 551,500
 Qatar 545,000[9]
 France (+Réunion, French West Indies and Guiana Island) 420,200
 Australia 390,894[10]
 Singapore 351,700[11]
 Bahrain 350,000
 Guyana 320,200
 Fiji 313,798
 Netherlands 215,000
 Thailand 150,000
 Suriname 140,300
 Italy 120,000
 Yemen 111,000
 New Zealand 160,000
 Kenya 100,000
 Tanzania 92,000
 Portugal 80,000
 Israel 78,000
Indian languages · Local languages · English (for NRIs)
Hinduism · Islam · Christianity · Sikhism · Jainism · Buddhism · Zoroastrianism · Judaism · Atheism · Agnosticism
Related ethnic groups
Indian people

A non-resident Indian (NRI) is a citizen of India who holds an Indian passport and has temporarily emigrated to another country for six months or more for employment, residence, education or any other purpose.

A person of Indian origin (PIO) is a person of Indian origin or ancestry who was or whose ancestors were born in India or other states but have Indian ancestry but is not a citizen of India and is the citizen of another country. A PIO might have been a citizen of India and subsequently taken the citizenship of another country.

Other terms with vaguely the same meaning are overseas Indian and expatriate Indian. In common usage, this often includes Indian-born individuals (and also people of other nations with Indian ancestry) who have taken the citizenship of other countries.

According to the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, India has the second largest diaspora in the world after overseas Chinese. The overseas Indian community estimated at over 25 million is spread across every major region in the world.[1][12]


  • Legal definitions 1
  • Indian emigration 2
    • Historical 2.1
    • Modern times 2.2
    • After independence 2.3
  • PIOs today 3
    • Overseas Indians' Day 3.1
    • Africa 3.2
      • South East Africa 3.2.1
      • Madagascar 3.2.2
      • Mauritius 3.2.3
      • Réunion 3.2.4
      • South Africa 3.2.5
    • Asia 3.3
      • Bangladesh 3.3.1
      • Indonesia 3.3.2
      • Japan 3.3.3
      • Malaysia 3.3.4
      • Philippines 3.3.5
      • Singapore 3.3.6
    • Americas 3.4
      • Canada 3.4.1
      • Caribbean 3.4.2
      • United States of America 3.4.3
    • South America 3.5
    • Europe 3.6
      • United Kingdom 3.6.1
      • Netherlands and Suriname 3.6.2
    • Middle East 3.7
      • Israel 3.7.1
    • Oceania 3.8
      • Australia 3.8.1
      • New Zealand 3.8.2
      • Fiji 3.8.3
  • Statistics 4
  • See also 5
    • Diaspora of Indian ethnic groups 5.1
    • Related diasporas 5.2
    • Others 5.3
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Legal definitions

Strictly speaking, the term non-resident refers only to the tax status of a person who, as per section 6 of the Income-tax Act of 1961, has not resided in India for a specified period for the purposes of the Income Tax Act.[13] The rates of income tax are different for persons who are "resident in India" and for NRIs. For the purposes of the Income Tax Act, "residence in India" requires stay in India of at least 182 days in a calendar year or 365 days spread out over four consecutive years. According to the act, any Indian citizen who does not meet the criteria as a "resident of India" is a non-resident of India and is treated as NRI for paying income tax.

The Indian government considers anyone of Indian origin up to four generations removed to be a PIO, with the exception of those who were ever nationals of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka.[14][15] The prohibited list periodically includes Iran as well.[16] The government issues a PIO Card to a PIO after verification of his or her origin or ancestry and this card entitles a PIO to enter India without a visa. The spouse of a PIO can also be issued a PIO card though the spouse might not be a PIO. This latter category includes foreign spouses of Indian nationals, regardless of ethnic origin, so long as they were not born in, or ever nationals of, the aforementioned prohibited countries.[14] PIO Cards exempt holders from many restrictions that apply to foreign nationals, such as visa and work permit requirements, along with certain other economic limitations.

Indian emigration


Towards West

The most significant historical emigration from India was that of the Romani people, traditionally known by the term "Gypsies".[17] Linguistic and genetic evidence indicates the Romani originated from the Indian subcontinent, emigrating from India towards the northwest no earlier than the 11th century. The Romani are generally believed to have originated in central India, possibly in the modern Indian state of Rajasthan, migrating to northwest India (the Punjab region) around 250 B.C.

In the centuries spent here, there may have been close interaction with such established groups as the Rajputs and the Jats. Their subsequent westward migration, possibly in waves, is believed to have occurred between 500 A.D. and 1000 A.D. Contemporary populations sometimes suggested as sharing a close relationship to the Romani are the Dom people of Central Asia and the Banjara of India.[18]

Towards Southeast

Another major emigration from the subcontinent was to Southeast Asia. There is possibility that the first wave of Indians migration towards Southeast Asia happened when the Asoka's invasion towards Kalinga and Samudragupta's expedition towards the South.[19] It followed by early interaction of Indian traders and, after mid-first millennium A.D., by some import of members of the Brahmin social caste. This resulted in the establishment of the so-called Indianized kingdoms in Southeast Asia. The Cholas, who were known for their naval power, conquered Sumatra and Malay Peninsula. The influence of Indian culture is still strongly felt in Southeast Asia, for example with the royal Brahmins of Thailand (rajkru), or especially in Bali (in Indonesia). In such cases, it is not reasonable to apply the label 'PIO' to the descendants of emigrants from several centuries back. Intermixture has been so great as to negate the value of such nomenclature in this context.

Another early diaspora, of which little is known about was a reported Indian "Shendu" community that was recorded when Yunnan was annexed by the Han Dynasty in the 1st century by the Chinese authorities.[20]

Indian trader's family in Bagamoyo, German East Africa, around 1906/18.

The Indian merchant diaspora in Central Asia and Persia emerged in the mid-16th century and remained active for over four centuries. Astrakhan at the mouth of the Volga was the first place in Tsardom of Russia where an Indian merchant colony was established as early as the 1610s. Russian chroniclers reported the presence of Hindu traders in Moscow and St. Petersburg in the 18th century.[21]

Individuals of Indian origin have achieved a high demographic profile in metropolitan areas worldwide, including India Square in Jersey City, New Jersey, USA, one of at least 24 enclaves characterized as a Little India which have emerged within the New York City Metropolitan Area, with the largest metropolitan Indian population outside Asia, as large-scale immigration from India continues into New York.[22][23][24][25]

Modern times

During the 19th century and until the end of the British Raj, much of the migration that occurred was of poor workers to other British colonies under the indenture system. The major destinations, in chronological order, were Mauritius, Guyana, the Caribbean, Fiji, and East Africa.

Gujarati and Sindhi merchants and traders settled in Iran, Aden, Oman, Bahrain, Dubai, South Africa and East African countries, most of which were ruled by the British. Indian Rupee was the legal currency in many countries of Arabian peninsula.

After independence

After the 1970s oil boom in the Middle East, numerous Indians emigrated to work in the Gulf countries. With modern transportation and expectations, this was on a contractual basis rather than permanent as in the 19th century cases. These Gulf countries have a common policy of not naturalizing non-Arabs, even if they are born there.Some gulf nations give citizenship if the family has lived there for many generations or years. Two examples is Kuwait and UAE.

The 1990s IT boom and rising economy in the USA attracted numerous Indians who emigrated to the United States of America. Today, the USA has the third largest number of Indians. Also, as per UNESCO Institute for Statistics the number of Indian students abroad tripled from 51,000 in 1999 to over 153,000 in 2007, making India second after China among the world’s largest sending countries for tertiary students.

PIOs today

Overseas Indians' Day

Since 2003, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Overseas Indians' Day) sponsored by Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, is being celebrated on 9 January each year in India, to "mark the contribution of Overseas Indian community in the development of India". The day commemorates the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi in India from South Africa, and during a three-day convention held around the day, a forum for issues concerning the Indian diaspora is held and the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards are given away.[26] As of January 2006,[27] The Indian government has introduced the "Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI)" scheme to allow a limited form of dual citizenship to Indians, NRIs, and PIOs for the first time since independence in 1947. The PIO Card scheme is expected to be phased out in coming years in favour of the OCI program.


South East Africa

Main Article: Indian Diaspora in South East Africa

Vikash Dhorasoo of Indo-Mauritian descent, former professional football midfielder playing for France.

Before the larger wave of migration during the British colonial era, a significant group of South Asians, especially from the west coast (Sindh, Surat, Konkan, Malabar and Lanka) regularly travelled to South East Africa, especially Zanzibar. It is believed that they travelled in Arab dhows, Maratha Navy ships (under Kanhoji Angre), and possibly Chinese junks and Portuguese vessels. Some of these people settled in South East Africa and later spread to places like present day Uganda, and Mozambique. Later they mingled with the much larger wave of South Asians who came with the British.

Indian migration to the modern countries of Kenya, Uganda,Mauritius, South Africa, and Tanzania started nearly a century ago when these parts of the continent were under British and French colonialism. Most of these migrants were of Gujarati or Punjabi origin. There's currently almost 3 million Indians living in South East Africa. Indian-led businesses were (or are) the backbone of the economies of these countries. These ranged in the past from small rural grocery stores to sugar mills. In addition, Indian professionals, such as doctors, teachers, engineers, also played an important part in the development of these countries.


Indians in Madagascar are descended mostly from traders who arrived in 19th century looking for better opportunities. The majority of them came from the Indian west coast state of Gujarat and were known as Karana (Muslim) and Banian (Hindu). The majority speak Gujarati, though some other Indian languages are spoken. Nowadays the younger generations speak at least three languages including, French or English, Gujarati and Malagasy. A large number of Indians are highly educated in Madagascar, particularly the younger generation, who try to contribute their knowledge to the development of Madagascar.


Outside of India. itself, Mauritius is the only country where people of Indian origin form the vast majority (not including Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago where Afro-Trinidadians and Indo-Trinidadians have equal populations, or Fiji where the Indo-Fijians once formed the majority but not today). The people are known as Indo-Mauritians, and form about 70% of the population. The majority of them are Hindu (77%) and a significant group are Muslims (22%). There are also some Christians, Bahá'ís and Sikhs, but the Bahá'ís and Sikh populations do not add up to even 1% of the population. The mother tongue of Indo-Mauritians is Creole, as well as French and English in general fields, however various Indian languages are still spoken, especially Bhojpuri, Tamil, Marathi, Telugu, Hindi, and Urdu are used in religious activities. Mauritius hosts the Aapravasi Ghat, the only site of UNESCO in the world, to pay homage to the memory of indenture.


Indians make up a quarter of Réunion's population. Most originally came as indentured workers from South India.

South Africa

Navanethem Pillay, an Indian South African of Tamil descent.

Most Asians in South Africa are descended from indentured Indian labourers who were brought by the British from India in the 19th century, mostly to work in the sugar cane plantations of what is now the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). A minority are descended from Indian traders who migrated to South Africa at around the same time, many from Gujarat. The city of Durban has the highest number of Asians in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi worked as a lawyer in the city in the early 1900s. South Africa in fact has the highest number of people of Indian descent outside of India in the world, i.e. born in South Africa and not migrant, compared to the U.S. Most of them are fourth to fifth generation descent. Most Indian South Africans do not speak the Indian languages which were 'lost' over the generations, although they do enjoy watching Indian movies and listening to Indian music.



As of 2009, there were 500,000 Indian nationals living in Bangladesh, mostly illegally. In 2012, Bangladesh was the fifth largest source of remittance to India with over US$3 billion.


Though there are no official figures, it is estimated that there are around 25,000 PIOs/NRIs living in Indonesia of which the Indian expatriate community registered with the Embassy and our Consulate in Medan numbers around 5000.

Indians have been living in Indonesia for centuries from the time of the Srivijaya and Majapahit Empire both of which were Hindu and heavily influenced by the subcontinent. Indians were later brought to Indonesia by the Dutch in the 19th century as indentured labourers to work on plantations located around Medan in Sumatra. While the majority of these came from South India, a significant number also came from the north India. The Medan Indians included Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. They have now been in Indonesia for over four generations and hold Indonesian passports. While local statistics continue to suggest that there are some 40,000 PIOs in Sumatra, the vast majority are now completely assimilated in Indonesian society, though some elements of the Tamil, Sikh and Bihari communities still maintain their cultural traditions.

The Indian diaspora also includes several thousand Sindhi families who constitute the second wave of Indian immigrants who made Indonesia their home in the first half of the 20th century. The Sindhi community is mainly engaged in trading and commerce.

Among these communities, Tamils and to a lesser extent Sikhs were primarily engaged in agriculture while Sindhis and Punjabis mainly established themselves in textile trade and sports business.

The inflow of major Indian investments in Indonesia starting in the late 1970s drew a fresh wave of Indian investors and managers to this country. This group of entrepreneurs and business professionals has further expanded over the past two decades and now includes engineers, consultants, chartered accountants, bankers and other professionals.

The Indian community is very well regarded in Indonesia, is generally prosperous and includes individuals holding senior positions in local and multinational companies.

Due to economic factors, most Indian Women's Association brings together PIO/NRI spouses and undertakes charitable activities. There is a Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee in Jakarta and Sindhis as well as Sikhs are associated with Gurudwara activities The Economic Association of Indonesia and India (ECAII) brings together leading entrepreneurs from the Indian community with the objective of promoting bilateral economic relations, but has been largely inactive. Finally, there is the Indonesian Chapter of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).


Indians in Japan consist of migrants from India to Japan and their descendants. As of December 2008, there were 22,335 Indian nationals living in Japan.[29] Roughly 60% consist of expatriate IT professionals and their families.[30]


Current World No. 1 of women's squash, Malaysia's Nicol David, is of Chindian descent.

Malaysia has one of the world's largest overseas Indian and overseas Chinese populations. Most Indians migrated to Malaysia as plantation labourers under British rule. They are a significant minority ethnic group, making up 8% of the Malaysian population. Most of these people are Tamils but Malayalam, Telugu, Punjabi and Gujarati- speaking people are also present. They have retained their languages and religion — 90% of ethnic Indians in Malaysia identify as Hindus. A significant number of the population are Sikhs and the rest are Christians and Muslims.

There is also a small community of Indian origin, the Chitty, who are the descendants of Tamil traders who had emigrated before 1500 AD, and Chinese and Malay locals. Considering themselves Tamil, speaking Malay, and practicing Hinduism, the Chittys number about 2000 today.

Indians from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India also came with the British expedition against Manila that took the city from the Spaniards and occupied Manila and the area around Caintâ and Morong (which is now Rizal province) between 1762 and 1763. Many of them refused to leave, mutinied, and married local Tagalog women, which explains why many Filipinos around Caintâ, Rizal are Indian descendants.[31][32]


A Golden Statuette of Hindu/Buddhist 'Kinnara' found in a Kingdom of Butuan Archeological Dig
Laguna Copperplate Inscription in Filipino Baybayin script based on Indian script

India and Philippines have historic ties going back over 3000 years and there are over 150,000 people of Indian origin in Philippines[33]

Indian Filipinos are Philippine citizens of Indian descent.

Iron Age finds in Philippines also point to the existence of trade between Tamil Nadu in South India and the Philippines Islands during the ninth and tenth centuries B.C.[34] The influence of Culture of India on Culture of the Philippines intensified from the 2nd through the late 14th centuries CE.[35]


The former President of Singapore, S.R. Nathan, is a Tamil of Indian descent.
Lady Kash and Krissy, International Rapper and Singer duo from Singapore.

Indians in Singapore—defined as persons of South Asian paternal ancestry—form 10% of the country's citizens and permanent residents, making them Singapore's third largest ethnic group. Among cities, Singapore has one of the largest overseas Indian populations.

Although contact with ancient India left a deep cultural impact on Singapore's indigenous Malay society, the mass migration of ethnic Indians to the island only began with the founding of modern Singapore by the British in 1819. Initially, the Indian population was transient, mainly comprising young men who came as workers, soldiers and convicts. By the mid-20th century, a settled community had emerged, with a more balanced gender ratio and a better spread of age groups. Tamil is one among the four official languages of Singapore alongside with English, Chinese and Malay.

Singapore's Indian population is notable for its class stratification, with disproportionately large elite and lower income groups. This long-standing problem has grown more visible since the 1990s with an influx of both well-educated and unskilled migrants from India, and as part of growing income inequality in Singapore. Indians earn higher incomes than Malays, the other major minority group. Indians are also significantly more likely to hold university degrees than these groups. However, the mainly locally born Indian students in public primary and secondary schools under-perform the national average at major examinations.

Singapore Indians are linguistically and religiously diverse, with ethnic Tamils and nominal Hindus forming small majorities. Indian culture has endured and evolved over almost 200 years. By the mid to late 20th century, it had become somewhat distinct from contemporary South Asian cultures, even as Indian elements became diffused within a broader Singaporean culture. Since the 1990s, new Indian immigrants have increased the size and complexity of the local Indian population. Together with modern communications like cable television and the internet, this has connected Singapore with an emerging global Indian culture.

Prominent Indian individuals have long made a mark in Singapore as leaders of various fields in national life. Indians are also collectively well represented, and sometimes over-represented, in areas such as politics, education, diplomacy and the law. There is also a small community of Indian origin, the Chitty, who are the descendants of Tamil traders who had emigrated before 1500 AD, and Chinese and Malay locals. Considering themselves Tamil, speaking Malay, and practicing Hinduism, the Chittys number about 2000 today. Also there are many Marwaris in Singapore doing business successfully.

The New York City Metropolitan Area, including Manhattan, Queens, and Nassau County in New York, and Jersey City, Edison, Plainsboro, Bergen County, and Parsippany in New Jersey, is home to by far the largest Indian population in the United States,[36] estimated at 659,784 as of 2013.[37]



Harpreet Sandhu, Canadian Film Actor and Director
Neelam Verma, Canadian television anchor and former Miss Canada.
With 572,250 people of Indian descent, Toronto contains the largest Indian population in Canada and the second largest Indian population on the North American continent. In the northwestern suburb of Brampton, one in three people have Indian ancestry.[38]

According to Statistics Canada, in 2006 there were 962,665 people who classified themselves as being of Indian origin, including terms of "East Indian", South Asian or Indo-Canadian. In 2001, Sikhs represented 34%, Hindus 27%, Muslims 17% and Christians 16% (7% Protestant/Evangelical, 9% Catholic) of the total people of Indian origin in Canada.[39] Relatively few people of Indian origin have no religious affiliation.

The first known Indian settlers in Canada were Indian army soldiers who had passed through Canada in 1897 on their way back home from attending Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebration in London, England. Some are believed to have remained in British Columbia and others returned there later. Punjabi Indians were attracted to the possibilities for farming and forestry. They were mainly male Sikhs who were seeking work opportunities. Indo-Caribbeans, descendants of the Indian indentured workers who had gone to the Caribbean since 1838, made an early appearance in Canada with the arrival of the Trinidadian medical student Kenneth Mahabir and the Demerara (now Guyana) clerk M.N. Santoo, both in 1908.

The first Indian immigrants in British Columbia allegedly faced widespread racism from the local white Canadians. Race riots targeted these immigrants, as well as new Chinese immigrants. Most decided to return to India, while a few stayed behind. The Canadian government prevented these men from bringing their wives and children until 1919, another reason why many of them chose to leave. Quotas were established to prevent many Indians from moving to Canada in the early 20th century. These quotas allowed fewer than 100 people from India a year until 1957, when the number was increased to 300. In 1967, all quotas were scrapped. Immigration was then based on a point system, thus allowing many more Indians to enter. Since this open-door policy was adopted, Indians continue to come in large numbers, and roughly 25,000-30,000 arrive each year (which now makes Indians the second highest group immigrating to Canada each year, after the Chinese).

Most Indians choose to immigrate to larger urban centers like Toronto, and Vancouver, where more than 70% live. Smaller communities are also growing in Calgary, Edmonton, and Montreal. A place called Little India exists in Vancouver and a section of Gerrard Street (Toronto) in Toronto as well. Indians in Vancouver mainly live in the suburb of Surrey, or nearby Abbotsford but are also found in other parts of Vancouver. The vast majority of Vancouver Indians are of Sikh origin and have taken significant roles in politics and other professions, with several Supreme Court justices, three Attorneys General and one provincial premier hailing from the community. Both Gurmant Grewal and his wife Nina Grewal were the first married couple in Canada to be concurrently elected as Member of Parliament in 2004.Most read newspaper in the Indian community is The Asian Star and The Punjabi Star based in Vancouver started by an immigrant from Mumbai-Shamir Doshi.

The Greater Toronto Area contains the second largest population of Indian descent in North America, enumerating 572,250 residents of Indian origin as of 2011, surpassed only by the 592,888 estimate by the 2011 American Community Survey[40] (and 614,214 in 2012[41]) for the New York City Combined Statistical Area. Compared to the Vancouver area, Toronto's Indian community is much more linguistically and religiously diverse with large communities of Gujaratis and Malayalis. Note, however, that the Toronto count (but not the New York count) includes individuals of West Indian/Indo-Caribbean descent.


Shiv Chanderpaul, West Indian cricketer.
Fareisa Rouella Joemmanbaks, Surinamese model and actress of Indian origin.
Valene Maharaj, Miss Trinidad and Tobago and Miss World of the Caribbean for 2007.

From 1838 to 1917, over half a million Indians from the former British Raj or British India, were brought to the British West Indies as indentured servants to address the demand for labour following the abolition of slavery. The first two shiploads arrived in British Guiana (now Guyana) on 5 May 1838.

The majority of the Indians living in the English-speaking Caribbean migrated from eastern Uttar Pradesh and western Bihar, while those brought to Guadeloupe and Martinique were mostly from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. A minority emigrated from other parts of South Asia, including present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh. Other Indo-Caribbean people descend from later migrants, including Indian doctors, Gujarati businessmen and migrants from Kenya and Uganda. A vague community of modern-day immigrants from India is to be found on Saint-Martin / Sint Maarten and other islands with duty-free commercial capabilities, where they are active in business.

Indo-Caribbeans are the largest ethnic group in Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. They are the second largest group in Jamaica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and other countries. There are small populations of them in Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, French Guiana, Grenada, Panama, Guatemala, St. Lucia, Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and the Netherlands Antilles.

The indentured Indians and their descendants have actively contributed to the evolution of their adopted lands in spite of many difficulties. Jamaica has always celebrated the arrival of the East Indians in Old Harbour Bay on 13 May. In 2003, Martinique celebrated the 150th anniversary of Indian arrival. Guadeloupe did the same in 2004. These celebrations were not the fact of just the Indian minority but the official recognition by the French and local authorities of their integration and their wide-scale contribution in various fields from agriculture to education and politics, and to the diversification of the Creole culture. Thus the noted participation of the whole multi-ethnic population of the two islands in these events.[42]

United States of America

Rohit Gupta - Indian American film Producer, Director

Indian immigration to North America started as early as the 1890s. A Sikh-Canadians community has existed in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, for over 100 years. Emigration to the U.S. also started in the late 19th and early 20th century, when Sikhs arriving in Vancouver found that the fact that they were subjects of the British Empire did not mean anything in the Empire (Canada) itself, and they were blatantly discriminated against. Some of these pioneers entered the U.S or landed in Seattle and San Francisco as the ships that carried them from Asia often stopped at these ports. Most of these immigrants were Sikhs from the Punjab region. They were referred to in the U.S. as Hindus (due to the idea that everyone from the around and beyond the Indus river was a Hindu and also for want of a term that distinguished these immigrants from Native Americans who are called Indians).

Bobby Jindal, 55th and current Governor of the state of Louisiana.

Asian women were restricted from immigrating, because the US government passed laws in 1917 at the behest of California and other states in the west, which had experienced a large influx of Chinese, Japanese and Indian immigrants during and after the gold rush. As a result, many of the South Asian men in California married Mexican women. A fair number of these families settled down in the Central Valley in California as farmers, and continue to this day. These early immigrants were denied voting rights, family re-unification and citizenship. In 1923 the Supreme Court of the United States, in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, ruled that people from India (at the time, British India, e.g. South Asians) were ineligible for citizenship. Bhagat Singh Thind was a Sikh from India who settled in Oregon; he had earlier applied for citizenship and was rejected in Oregon.[43] Thind became a citizen a few years later in New York.

After World War II, US immigration policy changed to allow family re-unification for people of non-white origin after being banned for almost half a century. In addition, Asians were allowed to become citizens and to vote. A large number of the men who arrived before the 1940s were finally able to bring their families to the US; most of them in this earlier era settled in California and other west coast states.

Another wave of Indian immigrants entered the U.S. after independence of India. A large proportion of them were Sikhs joining their family members under the new more (though not completely) colour-blind immigration laws, and professionals or students that came from all over India. The Cold War created a need for engineers in the defense and aerospace industries, some of whom came from India. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, Marwaris, Gujarati, Kannadigas, Telugu and Tamil people settled in the U.S. The most recent and probably the largest wave of immigration to date occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s during the internet boom. As a result, Indians in the U.S. are now one of the largest among the groups of immigrants with an estimated population of about 3.18 million or ~1.0% of the U.S. population according to American Community Survey of 2010 data.[4] The U.S. Census Bureau uses the term Asian Indian to avoid confusion with the indigenous peoples of the Americas commonly referred to as American Indians.

In contrast to the earliest groups of Indians who entered the US workforce as taxi drivers, labourers, farmers or small business owners, the later arrivals often came as professionals or completed graduate study here and moved into the professions. They have become very successful financially thanks to the hi-tech industry, and are thus probably the most well-off community of immigrants. They are well represented in all walks of life, but particularly so in academia, information technology and medicine. There were over 4,000 PIO professors and 84,000 Indian-born students in American universities in 2007-08. The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin has a membership of 35,000. In 2000, Fortune magazine estimated the wealth generated by Indian Silicon Valley entrepreneurs at around $250 billion.

Though the Indian diaspora in the US is largely concentrated in metropolitan areas such as New York City (enumerating 659,784 Indian Americans as of the 2013 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, composing by far the largest Asian Indian population of any metropolitan area in the United States);[37] Washington D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, almost every metropolitan area in the US has a community of Indians.

South America

The migrations of Indians began when the British had guinea as its colony, primarily in the same time period Indians started migrating to the other British colony. Later on the Dutch colonist had a trade off with the "British Raj" to import Indian's into one of their biggest colonies, Suriname. The French has also imported Indians, although with small numbers. The latest pre-world war migration has taken place since 1873 in Suriname and was only stopped due to the first world war 1914. See more under Netherlands and Suriname.


For the earlier wave of immigration of people from the Indian subcontinent into Europe and North-Africa around 1000 AD, commonly called Gypsies, see Romani people.

United Kingdom

Freddie Mercury, lead singer and co-founder of the immensely successful rock band Queen, was of Parsi descent and grew up in India.
Jay Sean, British singer-songwriter, rapper, beat-boxer and record producer.

The Indian emigrant community in the United Kingdom is now in its third generation. Indians in the UK are the largest community outside of Asia proportionally, and the second largest in terms of population, only surpassed by the United States, and closely followed by Canada. The first wave of Indians in the United Kingdom worked as manual labourers and were not respected within society. However, this has changed considerably. Third and fourth generation immigrants are on the whole proving to be very successful, especially in the fields of law, business and medicine.

Indian culture has been constantly referenced within the wider British culture, at first as an "exotic" influence in films like My Beautiful Laundrette, but now increasingly as a familiar feature in films like Bend It Like Beckham.

According to the April 2001 UK National Census,[44] there are 1,051,800 people of Indian origin in the UK. The main ethnic groups are Kannadigas, Marwaris, Tamils, Panjabis, Gujaratis, Bengalis and Anglo-Indians. Hindus comprise 45% of the population, Sikhs 29%, Muslims 13%, Christians nearly 5%, with the remainder made up of Jains (15,000), Parsis (Zoroastrians), and Buddhists. 2005 estimates state 2.41% of England's population as being Indian (not including mixed race), which would be around 1,215,400 (see Demographics of England). Following the continuous trend (including those of mixed Indian ancestry), in 2008 there are likely to be well over 1,600,000 Indian people in the UK. Some are Atheist (<1%).[45]

Most Indians in the United Kingdom have settled in London, the Midlands, the North West, Yorkshire and the South East. Their presence in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and other regions is not as large. The first generation of immigrants were to be found in the east-end of London which, traditionally was the poorest area in London. However, due to gentrification, this is no longer the case.

There are 2,360,000 people currently speaking Indian languages in the United Kingdom.[46] Punjabi is now the second most widely spoken language in the United Kingdom,[47] and the most frequently spoken language among school pupils who do not have English as a first language.[48]

Netherlands and Suriname

There are around 120,000 people of Indian origin in the Netherlands, 90% of whom migrated from the former Dutch colony of Suriname, where their forefathers were brought from India to work on the plantations after slavery was abolished in 1863 in the Dutch colonies.

Indo-Surinamese are nationals of Suriname of Indian or other South Asian ancestry. After the Dutch government signed a treaty with the United Kingdom on the recruitment of contract workers, Indians began migrating to Suriname in 1873 from what was then British India as indentured labourers, many from the modern-day Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and the surrounding regions. Just before and just after the independence of Suriname on 25 November 1975 many Indo-Surinamese emigrated to the Netherlands.

During the heyday of the British Raj/Empire, many people from India were sent to other British colonies for work. After the abolition of slavery in the Dutch colony of Suriname, the Dutch were allowed by the British Raj to recruit labourers in certain parts of the North-Indian United Provinces. [49]

One of the biggest temple compound in the hague under is today underconstruction. This will be Europe biggest and is also uniquely with three stream: Iskon (Sri Krisna Mandir, Arya Samadj and Sikh temple. [50]

Arya Dewaker, an Hindu temple in Suriname.

Middle East

There is a huge population of NRIs in the Middle East, most coming from Kerala and other south Indian states, especially in the oil rich countries neighbouring the Persian Gulf. They work as engineers, doctors, lawyers, labourers and for clerical jobs. Unlike in Europe and Americas, most of the countries in the Middle East do not provide citizenship or permanent residency to these Indians, however long they might live there. One of the major reasons why Indians like to work in the Gulf is because it provides incomes many times over for the same type of job back in India and its geographical proximity to India, and the incomes are free of taxation. The NRIs make up a good proportion of the working class in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). NRI population in these GCC countries is estimated to be around six million (2007), of which over 1,500,000 stay in the UAE.[51] In 2005, about 40% of the population in the United Arab Emirates was of Indian descent. Majority of them originate from Karnataka, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu. Similarly, Indians are the single largest nationality in Qatar, representing around 25% of the total population as of 2014.[9] NRI population tends to save and remit considerable amount to their dependents in India. It is estimated such remittances may be over USD 10 billion per annum (including remittances by formal and informal channels in 2007-2008). Since these people travel to their homes often twice or thrice a year, they are very close to the Indian culture. There are TV soaps aimed at them, there are shows that happen quite often through the community groups in the UAE. Many NRIs live for a couple of months in the year in India, often during the vacation periods. They often continue their banking relationships & telecom relationships in India. (Source: Research by S.Kadwe, 2009).


The Bene Israel (Hebrew: בני ישראל‎, "Sons of Israel", Marathi:बेने इस्राएल) are a group of Jews who migrated in the 19th century from villages in the Konkan area to the nearby Indian cities, primarily Mumbai, but also to Pune, and Ahmedabad. In the second half of the 20th century, most of them emigrated to Israel, where they now number about 60,000. The native language of the Bene Israel is Judæo-Marathi, a form of Marathi.

The Jews of Cochin, in Kerala (Cochin Jews), were another prominent community that migrated to Israel after its creation. They were granted protection by the King of the Princely State of Cochin. The earliest Jews in this region, as per local tradition, date to as early as 379 CE. The community was a mix of native Jews (called 'Black Jews'), and European Jews (called 'White Jews') who had emigrated to Cochin after the successive European conquests of Cochin. The Jewish community of Cochin spoke a variant of Malayalam, called Judeo-Malayalam. The community, after the creation of Israel, saw a mass exodus from Cochin, and is presently facing extinction.

Another group of Indians to arrive in Israel belong to the Bnei Menashe ("Children of Menasseh", Hebrew בני מנשה) a group of more than 9,000 people from India's North-Eastern border states of Manipur and Mizoram, who claim descent from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel, and of whom about 1,700 now live in Israel (some of them in Israeli settlements on the West Bank). Linguistically, Bnei Menashe are Tibeto-Burmans and belong to the Mizo, Kuki and Chin peoples (the terms are virtually interchangeable).[52] The move to convert them to Judaism and bring them to Israel is politically controversial in both India and Israel.



As of 2009, it is estimated that there are over 390,894 Australians of Indian origin of which 308,542 are born in India.[10] Before roads and road transport were developed, many Indians had come to Australia to run camel trains. They would transport goods and mail via camel in the desert. Some of the earliest Punjabi arrivals in Australia included Kareem Bux who came as a hawker to Bendigo in 1893, Sardar Beer Singh Johal who came in 1895 and Sardar Narain Singh Heyer who arrived in 1898. Many Punjabis took part in the rush for gold on the Victorian fields.

Indians also entered Australia in the first half of the 20th century when both Australia and India were still British colonies. Indian Sikhs came to work on the banana plantations in Southern Queensland. Today a large number of them live in the town of Woolgoolga (a town lying roughly halfway between Sydney and Brisbane). Some of these Indians, the descendants of Sikh plantation workers, now own banana farms in the area. There are two Sikh temples in Woolgoolga. One of which even has a museum dedicated to Sikhism. A large number of Britons and Anglo-Indians born in India migrated to Australia after 1947. These British citizens decided to settle in Australia in large numbers but are still counted as 'Indian' Nationals in the census. The third wave of Indians entered the country in the 1980s, after the demise of the white Australia policy. After the policy was abolished many Indian teachers and doctors settled in Australia. Another big influx began with the IT revolution. Large numbers of Indian IT professionals arrived in Australia from 1976 onwards. After successive military coups in Fiji of 1987 and 2000 a significant number of Fijian-Indians migrated to Australia as such there is a large Fijian-Indian population in Australia. Fijian-Indians have significantly changed the character of the Indian community in Australia. While most earlier Indian migration was by educated professionals, the Fijian-Indian community was also largely by professionals but also brought many small business owners and entrepreneurs.

The current wave of Indian migration is that of engineers, toolmakers, Gujarati business families from East Africa and relatives of settled Indians. Starved of government funding, Australian education institutes are recruiting full fee paying overseas students. Many universities have permanent representatives stationed in India and other Asian countries. Their efforts have been rewarded and a new influx of Indian students entering Australia. The total number of student visas granted to Indian students for 2006-2007 were 34,136;[53] a significant rise from 2002 to 2003 when 7,603 student visa's were granted Indian students.[54]

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 87% of Indians residing in Australia are aged under 50 and over 83% of the population are proficient in English.

New Zealand

Indians began to arrive in New Zealand in the late eighteenth century, mostly as crews on British ships. A small number deserted; the earliest known Indian resident of New Zealand was living with a Māori wife in the Bay of Islands in 1815. Numbers slowly increased through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, despite a law change in 1899 which was designed to keep out people who were not of 'British birth and parentage'. As in many other countries, Indians in New Zealand dispersed throughout the country and had a high rate of small business ownership, particularly fruit and vegetable shops and convenience stores. At this stage most Indian New Zealanders originated from Gujarat. Changes in immigration policy in the 1980s allowed many more Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis into the country, and the 1987 and 2000 military coups in Fiji caused a large increase in the number of Fijian Indians coming to New Zealand. Notable Indian New Zealanders include former Dunedin mayor Sukhi Turner, cricketers Dipak Patel and Jeetan Patel, singer Aaradhna, and former Governor General Anand Satyanand.[55]


Indo-Fijians are Fijians whose ancestors came from India and various other parts of South Asia. They number 313,798 (37.6%) (2007 census) out of a total of 827,900 people living in Fiji.[56] They are mostly descended from indentured labourers, girmitiyas or girmit, brought to the islands by Fiji's British colonial rulers between 1879 and 1916 to work on Fiji's sugar cane plantations. Music has featured prominently in Indo-Fijian culture, with a distinctive genre emerging in the first decades of the 20th century that some claim influenced early jazz musicians. The Indo-Fijians have fought for equal rights, although with only limited success. Many have left Fiji in search of better living conditions and social justice and this exodus has gained pace with the series of coups starting in the late 1980s.


See also

Diaspora of Indian ethnic groups

Related diasporas



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Further reading

  • Brij V. Lal, ed. (2006). The encyclopedia of the Indian diaspora. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press.  

Oonk G 2007 Global Indian Diasporas. Exploring Trajectories of Migration and Theory|publisher=Amsterdam University Press|isbn=978 90 5356 0358.

  • Kuiper, K., ed. (1 July 2008). "Differences of language policies between nation and family: A case study of three Indian migrant families in three countries of Europe". Contemporary linguistics (Shahzaman Haque) 65 (1): 57.  
  • "India". Acting For Non-Resident Indian Clients. Jordans. 2004.  
  • Copland, I.; Latha Varadarajan (8 October 2010). "The Domestic Abroad:Diasporas in International Relations" (1st ed.).  
  • Varadarajan, Latha (2010). The Domestic Abroad:Diasporas in International Relations. Delhi:  
  • Raj, Hans (25 December 1989). "Protection of Foreign Investment, Property, and Nationalisation in India" (7th ed.). Deep and Deep Publications.  
  • Yadav, S. N. (29 October 2005). "Journey of Overseas Indians: Labour to Investor, Volume 1" (1st ed.). Global Vision Pub House.  

External links

  • The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs
  • Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre
  • Indian Diaspora, Official Government of India Website
  • Indian diaspora in New Zealand, A bibliography of published sources
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