Different Follow-on Effects of Migration from China and India

Economic vs. political goals

By David North on April 22, 2019

China and India are the second largest and the fourth largest suppliers of migrants to the United States, respectively; they are both heavily populated, adjacent Asian nations, but the follow-on aspects of these two migratory streams are quite different. (Mexico is the largest supplier of immigrants, and Cuba is the third; the ranking is for green cards issued in FY 2017.)

Let's start with the measures of four different migration flows: the number of new green cards issued in the most recent year for which numbers are available, the size of the foreign student population during the 2017-2018 academic year, the number of alien alumni remaining in this country under the U.S. government-subsidized Optional Practical Training program, and the number of H-1B workers (often former OPTs). These are different measures of different aspects of migration and come from different sources, so they are not precisely comparable with one another:

  China India
New Green Cards Issued, FY 20171 71,565 60,394
Foreign Students as recorded by "Open Doors"
Academic Year 2017-20182
363,341 196,271
OPT Workers (F-1 Alumni) 2004-20163 313,500 441,400
Approved petitions for H-1B workers, FY 20174 34,477 276,423

1 2017 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Department of Homeland Security,
last published April 9, 2019, Table 3.
2 "Open Doors", Institute for International Education, November 13, 2018.
3 Neil G. Ruiz and Abby Budiman, "Number of Foreign College
Students Staying and Working in the U.S. After Graduation Surges"
, Pew
Charitable Trust, May 10, 2018.
4 "Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers, FY 2017 Annual
Report to Congress"
, USCIS, April 9, 2018, Section 3.2.

What stands out among those numbers is this: There are more Chinese students in this country at any one time than Indian ones, but a much larger proportion of the Indians stay in the United States after graduation. An alien must be a student at, or more likely a graduate of, an American educational institution to qualify for the OPT program. Generally, many of the Chinese students study here and then return; a much smaller proportion of the Indian students do the same.

Two other follow-on effects relate to what those two nations do in connection with these flows.

In broad strokes, India, through the Indian outsourcing companies, seeks to keep as many of its former students in the American economy as possible, in roles that — among other things — provide substantial profits to Indian companies. There is nothing comparable in other nations to the major roles in our economy played by such India-oriented firms as Infosys, Tata, and Cognizant — prime employers of H-1B workers. These firms not only prefer H-1B workers to U.S. workers, they hire something on the order of 97 percent to 99 percent of their H-1B workers from India, with a particular emphasis on young, male workers from the south of that country, as we have reported previously.

The big difference between the OPT and the H-1B data may well be caused by the large role played in the H-1B program by the Indian outsourcing companies; the latter recruit in India as well as among Indian graduates of U.S. universities.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government, far more than the Indian one, seeks to make sure that the political objectives of its government are enhanced by the Mainland-supported Confucius Institutes, which have been planted on scores of college campuses, and are the subject of a recently released report by the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

The staff report to the subcommittee noted that these institutes have been funded by the Chinese government to the extent of $158 million since 2006, that the arrangements with the host universities often demand that the institutes operate under Chinese law, as well as U.S. law, and that our universities can be punished financially if they close these places.

According to the report:

Confucius Institutes' soft power encourages complacency towards China's pervasive, long-term initiatives against both government critics at home and businesses and academic institutions abroad.

Another objective of these Confucius Institutes is to keep the Chinese students' thinking in line with that of Beijing.

The report also dings the program for an interesting immigration law violation; many of the J-1 workers who staff these program secure visas on the grounds of research; in some cases, the beneficiaries were found to be teaching, not conducting research, and were told to leave the country.

To some extent then, India seeks to reach economic goals through its expatriates, while China attempts to keep its overseas students from wandering too far from the appropriate political path.