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April 1995, Volume 2, Number 4

US Taiwanese Return to Homeland

A profile of Asian professionals in the US who are returning to Taiwan, Korea, India, and other Asian countries of citizenship suggests that a combination of economic growth that has narrowed income gaps, new private investment in high-tech industries, and government policies that subsidize returns has persuaded thousands of engineers and financial professionals to return to their countries of origin. Emigration from the US is estimated to be about 200,000 of the estimated 850,000 immigrants arriving annually in the early 1990s, suggesting that emigration is about 25 percent of immigration.

An OCAC survey on ROC nationals who have migrated to the United States shows that 27 percent have done so for business reasons, 21 percent have gone for the sake of their children's education, and another 10 percent said they migrated to continue their own advanced studies. Only 14 percent said they emigrated due to the low quality of life in Taiwan, and 9 percent said they chose to emigrate because of the poor social security situation in Taiwan.

Another 8 percent said their motive for emigrating was their fear of a communist Chinese invasion, 7 percent said they were wary of the unstable political situation, and 5 percent said they wanted to live with other family members in the United States.

The report says that the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa are the top five countries of destination for Taiwanese emigrants. Data from the five countries show that 21,166 ROC citizens emigrated to those countries in 1990; 19,988 in 1991; 21,580 in 1992, and 22,081 in 1993.

The emigration rates of Taiwanese to the five countries are related to those countries' immigration policies. Stricter immigration policies adopted by the US, Canada, and Australia are expected to slow the number of immigrants from Taiwan, while the relatively more relaxed immigration rules of New Zealand will prompt more Taiwan people to seek residency there. In addition, the Interior Ministry is planning to establish an emigration agency.

Many of the returning Asian professionals studied in the US, and were offered jobs upon graduation by US employers. With prospects for using their training at home in modern labs dim, many stayed in the US. In the 1990s, however, US aerospace, financial, and other industries sharply reduced employment, while such industries boomed in Asia.

Most of the Asians are returning in what Taiwan calls rencai huiliu--return flow of human talent--accept pay cuts of 30 to 40 percent in exchange for being closer to aging parents and relatives and what they see as better prospects for upward mobility.

In a bid to attract more professionals and investment capital from Hong Kong and Macao, Taiwan has relaxed its immigration rules. Investment requirements have been lowered from $US 384,000 to $US 192,307; investors must remain in Taiwan for 21 out of 24 months. The new rules must be approved by the Cabinet.

"Taiwan welcomes Hong Kong Immigrants," UPI, March 30, 19945. "Immigrant Rules," China Economic New Service, March 31, 1995. "Business Community Pressuring CLA for More Foreign Workers," China Economic News Service, March 14, 1995. Ashley Dunn, "Skilled Asians Leaving US for High Tech Jobs at Home," New York Times, February 21, 1995, A1. China Economic News Service February 16, 1995. Central News Agency, March 14, 1995.