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Expats in the U.S.: Immigrants Flock to America for Better Life and More Pay

Andrew Martins
Andrew Martins

A new study by HSBC Bank suggests immigrants still view the U.S. as a land of opportunity.

  • 92% of expats living in the United States told researchers they've been able to develop new skills.
  • More than 60% of respondents said they noticed an increase in pay, while 9% saw a decrease.
  • Since moving to the U.S., 63% of respondents said their quality of live has improved.

A newly released survey suggests that when it comes to expats, the United States remains the "land of opportunity" where people go to better themselves.

Released yesterday by HSBC Bank, the annual Expat Explorer survey found that, among the more than 10,000 expats from 163 countries and territories polled, 49% said they opted to come to America to advance their professional lives. That figure marks a 13% uptick from the global average of 36% and an almost 30% gulf with our neighbors to the north, Canada (20%).

The data also shows that 92% of expats reported that, since coming to the U.S., they've been able to develop their professional skills. As a result, 57% said they felt more confident at work, and 61% said they were more adaptable.

"Whether through choice or circumstance, moving to a new country brings a host of exciting and often life-changing opportunities," said Paul Mullins, regional head of international banking for HSBC in the U.S. and Canada. "Our research shows that people don't just move to the U.S. for career opportunities – they stay because of them too."

Expats finding betterment in America

While the survey examined how expats were getting on after leaving their home countries, it also sought to understand why people stay in their new homelands. Researchers found that respondents felt staying in the U.S. benefited their careers.

According to the survey, 49% said they stayed in America longer than they initially intended to so they could "continue to progress their career." A majority of expats in the U.S. have also enjoyed consistent employment, as 73% reported having full-time work, compared to the global average of 64%. Perhaps unsurprisingly, approximately 53% said they planned to stay for at least 11 years.

Being able to find work and keep it is important, regardless of where you're from. According to the survey, expats in the U.S. are happy with their chances of doing both, as 68% said there are "fantastic job opportunities" available.

Among those who came to America, 64% reported seeing an increase in pay, with 6% reporting an annual income between $300,000 and $349,999. Though the 6% at that pay grade isn't a large group size, researchers noted that it was the highest percentage of any country.

Finding opportunity

Thanks to those job opportunities, 63% of expats reported having a better quality of life, with the ability to purchase better material things like cars, bigger homes, more clothes and the latest gadgetry.

When it comes to living in a foreign country, work isn't everything. America's culture and social opportunities are a major draw for expats, with most saying they're happier here than in their home country. Approximately 69% said they enjoyed a "vibrant cultural scene with events and exhibitions," though that naturally depends on where you live in the country.

After years of success in the U.S., 43% of expats polled said they found property in the U.S. that's affordable, compared to the global average of 35%.

Countries that rank higher than the U.S.

While expats in the U.S. reported being happier, the country doesn't rank particularly high overall in the Expat Explorer survey.

In a table of 33 countries and locales, the United States ranks 23rd overall. The ranking table is based on findings in a number of key criteria, including the quality of life and aspirational goals available for expats. The survey and resulting table also considered how expats' children would adapt and benefit from such a move.

By those criteria, Switzerland, Singapore, Canada, Spain and New Zealand rank as the top five best countries for expats. According to the data, America ranks particularly high in nearly all the aspirational criteria except for work-life balance, where the country ranked 31st.

The survey's living criteria was where the U.S. faltered the most, with issues like a person's physical and mental well-being ranking 27th overall, which could potentially reflect the country's expensive healthcare system. This area also saw America rank 28th in political stability and 26th in an expat's "ease of settling in."

Andrew Martins
Andrew Martins,
Business News Daily Writer
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I am a former newspaper editor who has transitioned to strictly cover the business world for business.com and Business News Daily. I am a four-time New Jersey Press Award winner and prior to joining my current team, I was the editor of six weekly newspapers that covered multiple counties in the state.