Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe poses with performers from the Diwali celebration in Fairfax, Virginia. Image: Official Instagram account of Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Indian Immigrants at Heart of Virginia’s Booming Asian-Born Population, as Economic Ties Increase


Virginia’s governor Terry McAuliffe spent 11 days in November on a trade mission to India to further boost Indian investment in the state. While on his trip, McAuliffe promoted Virginian food and defense technologies, among other products, and announced a new contract to export apples from his state's Crown Orchard Company. Upon his return the Governor attended a Diwali celebration in Fairfax, Virginia. Since 2006, investment from India into Virginia has totaled $150 million and created 1,000 jobs. This year’s exports to India from the state are valued at $230 million, a 7% increase in the last two years.

Virginia’s Indian-born population has burgeoned in recent years, more than doubling since the year 2000. Northern Virginia’s Korean American population, historically the largest immigrant group, is now second to Indian Americans in both population size and rate of population growth. Analysts speculate that the increase in Indian immigrants, who are mostly of working age, has been driven by good public education in the state and a boom in the region’s high-tech sector. Virginia is now one of nine states in which Indians are the largest group of foreign-born residents. Indian immigrants comprise almost half of the state’s Asian-born population, up from just one-quarter a decade ago. On a per capita basis, the Washington metropolitan area, which includes northern Virginia, is second on the east coast to Boston in size of Chinese population, and second nationwide to New York City in size of Japanese population, while New Orleans is the only metropolitan area with a greater concentration of Vietnamese.

The increase in Indian immigrants in Northern Virginia and the Washington, DC area has also led to increased cultural ties. Last year, the Smithsonian Institution put on an exhibit highlighting Indian Americans and their cultural and historical contributions to the US. In the summer of 2011, the Kennedy Center held a festival called Maximum India, showcasing Indian art, music, and technology. Additionally, the past five years have seen a proliferation of DC-area Diwali and Holi celebrations, and Norfolk, Virginia is one of only 23 cities in the United States to boast a sister city relationship with an Indian city, which it shares with Kochi in Kerala State.

Peter Valente is a graduate student in American University’s Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs program, and a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington, DC.