10 Types Of Desi South Asians and Indian Immigrants in the USA

Written on 12/28/2023
Asia91 Team

In the United States, Desi South Asian immigrants bring a rich mix of backgrounds and experiences.  Our story is all about exploring the different kinds of South Asian immigrants you can find here in the USA. From hardworking professionals chasing the American dream to folks who love to keep their cultural roots alive, we'll uncover the many faces of Desi South Asian Immigrants. 


Come along as we discover their stories, experiences, and the fantastic variety that makes this community attractive.


Throughout America, South Asians, including Indian talents, are making significant contributions. I'm not referring to individuals like Satya Nadella or Sundar Pichai. 


In the tech hub of Silicon Valley, Priya from India is creating educational apps. Mahmud, hailing from Pakistan, works as a chef in New York, blending South Asian flavors with American cuisine. In Chicago, Sri Lankan nurse Nimali is renowned for her compassionate care. Meanwhile, in Boston, Bangladeshi student Fahad advocates for a greener Earth. Their stories enrich the American mosaic, highlighting the diverse talents of South Asians.


This Asia91.com story explores 10 Types Of South Asian Desi Immigrants in the USA that are:


  1. The Early Settlers (Pre-1960s): 
  2. The Post-1965 Wave (1965-1980s)
  3. The IT Boom and Y2K Immigrants (1990s-2000s)
  4. The Bulk Onsite Brigade (2000s-Present)
  5. The Healthcare Heroes(2000s-Present)
  6. The Student Contingent (Ongoing)
  7. The Family Ties (Ongoing)
  8. The Entrepreneurial Spirits(Ongoing)
  9. The Cultural Curators and Priests (Ongoing)
  10. Diversity Lottery (Nepalis and Bangladesh)



1. The Early Settlers (Pre-1960s): 


These pioneers were among the first Desis to seek new opportunities in the USA. Many notable persons like Kanji Bhai Desai, who owned the first hotel business in California before 1960, paved the way for fellow Gujarati Indians in the coming years.

Timing: Before the 1960s.

Purpose: Mostly came for labor and agricultural opportunities, driven by the quest for a better life.

Characteristics: They were resilient and hardworking, adapted to a new world with limited support, and laid the groundwork for future South Asian Desi communities.


2. The Post-1965 Wave (1965-1980s)


After the 1965 Immigration Act in the U.S., more South Asians, especially Indians, moved to America. This law was a significant change because it stopped using country quotas and let more skilled workers and families from India come in, which led to many Indians settling in the U.S. and adding their culture and skills. 


Many were educated professionals like doctors and engineers. They were the first large group of skilled Indians in the U.S. and helped make it easier for more to come, changing how South Asian Desis, especially Indians, were seen in America.


Timing: Between 1965 and the 1980s.

Purpose: Looking for good jobs and a chance to grow. This wave was triggered by the relaxation of immigration laws, attracting doctors, engineers, and academics.

Characteristics: They were smart, worked hard, and kept close to their Indian roots while making a life in the USA. Highly educated and skilled, they established themselves in prominent sectors, integrating into American society while retaining cultural ties.



3. The IT Boom and Y2K Immigrants (1990s-2000s)


In the late 1990s, the I.T. boom in the United States created a massive demand for tech skills, especially around the Y2K problem. This led to a significant increase in South Asian, mainly Indian, professionals migrating to the U.S. The need drew them for their expertise in software and information technology. 


Many of these immigrants were programming and systems analysis experts, skills crucial for addressing the Y2K bug that threatened computer systems worldwide.


This wave of immigration had a lasting impact on the U.S. tech industry and the South Asian community. These immigrants, often called 'Y2K immigrants', played a vital role in the tech sector's growth. Their arrival boosted the industry and established a solid South Asian presence in technology hubs like Silicon Valley. 


The influence of these immigrants extended beyond the tech industry, contributing to the cultural and economic diversity of the communities they joined in the U.S.


Timing: The late 1990s to the early 2000s.

Purpose: To address the Y2K bug and capitalize on the burgeoning I.T. sector.

Characteristics: Predominantly tech professionals, they played a pivotal role in America's tech industry, bringing innovation and expertise.


4. The Bulk Onsite Brigade (2000s-Present)


A continued wave of I.T. professionals kept the momentum of the previous decade. After 2000, even more Desis who were good at technology came to the USA. They worked in big companies and made India proud with their tech skills. During this period, Indian I.T. companies sent thousands of Indian Software and I.T. professionals to the USA. Similarly, many U.S.-based MNCs opened their offices in India.

Timing: From the 2000s to the present.

Purpose: Ongoing migration for technology and software development roles in American corporations.

Characteristics: They are known for their technical understanding and have contributed significantly to the tech sector's expansion in the U.S. They are a big part of America's technology business.


5. The Healthcare Heroes (1990s-Present)


Indian medical professionals, including many Desis, have become integral to the healthcare system in various parts of the USA. These doctors and nurses work across the country, often in areas facing a shortage of medical staff, showcasing our community's caring and skilled nature.

Timing: This trend has been prominent since the 1990s.

Purpose: Their primary aim is to fill critical roles in healthcare, especially in underserved regions.

Characteristics: This group includes doctors, nurses, and researchers known for their dedication and skill. They often work in challenging environments and show deep care for their patients. Notably, nurses from Kerala and those with Malayali backgrounds have demonstrated exceptional nursing and healthcare services.



6. The Student Contingent (Ongoing)


There's a steady stream of young, ambitious minds from the South Asian Desi community seeking higher education in the USA, driven by the pursuit of the American dream. Many young Desis come to study in American colleges and universities.

Timing: This trend has been consistent over the years, with a noticeable increase recently.

Purpose: Their goal is to pursue degrees in various fields, particularly in STEM and business, and often to settle in the USA.

Characteristics: These students are eager to learn and excel. Many transition to professional roles in the U.S., bringing fresh perspectives and new ideas to their fields of work.


7. The Family Ties (Ongoing)


Families are coming together, strengthening the Desi community in the USA. Many Desis migrate to be with their family members, helping keep the community close-knit and sharing their culture from home.

Timing: This trend has been steady throughout the years.

Purpose: The primary aim is reunification, as individuals join relatives who have already settled in the USA.

Characteristics: These family members are diverse in age and background. They play a crucial role in community building and preserving cultural traditions, enriching the multicultural fabric of the USA.


8. Indian Entrepreneurs and Business Pioneers in America(Ongoing)


Indian immigrants are venturing into business and startups, often through E-5 investor visas, and some Desis start their companies in America after receiving their green cards.

Timing: This trend is ongoing, with a notable rise in recent years.

Purpose: Their goal is to seek new opportunities in business and entrepreneurship.

Characteristics: These individuals are innovative and willing to take risks. They have significantly impacted various sectors of the American economy, showcasing their entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen.


9. The Cultural Curators and Priests (Ongoing)


A small but significant percentage of South Asian Desis who are artists, musicians, and priests have immigrated to the USA.

Timing: This trend has been consistent and ongoing.

Purpose: They aim to promote and preserve Indian cultural traditions and practices in the USA.

Characteristics: This group includes artists, musicians, spiritual leaders, and cultural educators. They play a vital role in cultural exchange and education, enriching the cultural landscape of the USA with South Asian traditions.


10. Diversity Lottery (Only certain South Asian countries like Nepal and Bangladesh)


People from Nepal and Bangladesh also come to the USA through a Diversity lottery in the last ten years, adding more stories and culture to our South Asian community here.

Timing: This has been particularly notable in recent years, becoming more common.

Purpose: The diversity lottery system allows immigrants from underrepresented countries to enter the USA.

Characteristics: These individuals bring unique cultural and social perspectives, enriching the diversity of the South Asian diaspora in America.


Each group, with its distinct journey and contributions, weaves a unique thread into the fabric of the Desi community in the USA. Together, they paint a picture of resilience, diversity, and cultural richness.


Did we miss anything? Please Let us know in the comments.