Number of US Citizens Living in ASEAN Member States (Image: Evan Roe)

Americans Abroad in ASEAN


How many Americans live in Southeast Asia?

This seemingly simple question turns out to be surprisingly difficult, if not impossible, to answer. The US Bureau of Consular Affairs in May 2013 estimated that 7.6 million U.S. citizens live in a foreign country, and in 2011 the State Department unofficially estimated that 864,000 Americans live in the Asia-Pacific region. Both the 2000 and 2010 census avoided counting Americans living abroad, however, due to the overall expense.

While a few ASEAN members publish data relating to the number of Americans working or living in their country, for the most part there is no official data. After a careful study of data published by ASEAN government ministries and international organizations, as well as inquiries to the US State Department, the Bureau of Consular Affairs, American Citizens Abroad, the Association of Americans Resident Overseas (AARO), all 10 American embassies, and every local chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce in Southeast Asia, the best estimate for the number of Americans living in Southeast Asia is at least 360,000 people, split up for the most part between workers, students, and retirees. This number does not include Americans living abroad as part of government or military service.

The following is a breakdown of the number of American expatriates by country in ASEAN.

The Philippines: Over 300,000 Source: Fact Sheet from the United States Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

The government of the Philippines and the International Organization for Migration also published an immigration report in 2013, which stated that the number of Americans living in the Philippines who were not Permanent Residents was 29,959, the most of any foreign country.

Singapore: 26,000 Source: Estimate from the United States Embassy in Singapore

The Singaporean government only counts the Resident Population of the country (therefore covering only 3.82 million of Singapore’s total population of 5.31 million). The most recent Singaporean census in 2010 listed 7,512 permanent residents from the United States and Canada. Singapore also recently topped HSBC’s 2012 “Expat Explorer Survey” of places for expats to live; Thailand came in third.

Thailand: 20,000 Source: Estimate from the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand

Data released in 2010 from the Thai Ministry of Labour show that there are 6,838 Americans with official work permits in the country.

Malaysia: 8,000 Source: 2009 article from the Financial Times

The Malaysian government recently launched the “My Second Home” program to encourage expats to retire in Malaysia. 12,000 people have been approved.

Indonesia: 6,636 Source: 2011 data from the Indonesian Ministry of Manpower

Cambodia: 2,500 Source: Estimate from the American Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia

Laos: 200-300 Source: Estimate from the American Chamber of Commerce in Laos

There is no visa for permanent residency for foreigners to live in Laos, however Laos is currently working on a residence system for foreign nationals married to Laotian citizens.

Brunei: 169 Source: 2011 Brunei Housing Report and Census (released in hardcopy, to be published online in the near future)

Myanmar: ?

The US Embassy in Yangon (Rangoon) stated that, as a matter of policy, it does not maintain a list of US citizens in the country. In 2014, Myanmar will conduct its first census in over thirty years.

Vietnam: ?

The 2009 Vietnam Census divided the population by ethnic group rather than nationality, and listed 2,134 total foreigners.