Moving to a new country and starting a life from scratch is never an easy process. Giving up the close proximity of everyone and everything you love, and starting afresh takes a huge toll on you, and you are often left on your own in an unfamiliar land, surrounded by foreign faces. For someone to shift from Nepal to America can be nothing short of a shock. The vast differences that exist between the two nations are staggering. Even with its rich cultural past, Nepal has been a nation that has struggled with poverty and strife. Democracy has only been a recent phenomenon in the country, and the Nepalese people are only starting to get a taste of amenities and freedoms that most Americans take for granted.
Currently, I live in Jackson Heights, Queens and have a career that offers me and my family a better standard of life. Here in America, I have seen a number of my fellow compatriots struggle with their shift to a foreign land. The immigrant programs that I have been a part of, have introduced me to a number of Nepalese individuals who work here, either as permanent citizens or through permanent work visas, and made me aware of the issues that they face. Immigration to the US - Rise in Numbers
The Nepalese community is only a small fraction of the millions of immigrants from all over the globe who has moved to America in the past 50 years. Even though the number of people who have left Nepal and now study or work here has grown over the decades, it is still low enough for the country to qualify for special diversity lottery privileges that entitle Nepalese citizens to get a better chance at acquiring a permanent work visa.
The first known recorded immigration from Nepal to America took place in the 1940s, but it was only in 1957 that Nepalese immigrants were identified by the US as their own special group. Before 1957, Nepalese immigrants fell under the broader category of other Asians, and records indicate that till the year 1996, the number of legal immigrants from the country has stayed below 100 per year. It is only in the last decade that this number has started increasing steadily, with the 1990s US consensus showing that 431 permanent citizenships were granted to the community for the year 1996.
Problems Faced in America by the Nepalese Immigrant Community
The problems that immigrants face are largely the same, no matter which country they come from, but there are some issues that are unique to each nation. While the drastic change in culture, religion, economics, general living standards, and even cuisine are things that most immigrants from developing nations have to cope with, when it comes to Nepal, a number of immigrants also struggle with education and a general distrust in the government due to the very recent introduction of democracy in their homeland.
Low literacy rate in Nepal reduces chances of gaining a white collar job. Degrees awarded by many colleges in Nepal are not recognized in America.
Political and social instability and inequality of Nepal stands in stark contrast to the way things work in the US.
Unawareness about services those are easily available in America, such as health insurance, and apartment rental protocols.
From coping with the language barriers to dealing with the cultural differences, I have faced many issues, and since the years that I have started living in the US, I have noticed many fellow Nepalese who have gone through similar experiences.
The working community in America made up by Nepalese immigrants includes white collared professionals such as lawyers, doctors, professors, engineers, as well as blue collared professionals such as gas station attendants, waiters and more. As more and more people immigrate to the US from Nepal, the community will have to come together and face these challenges together. Already efforts have been started to help recent immigrants find a place for themselves in the country, and due to the close knit nature of Nepalese people, these efforts are only going to intensify in the future.
This article was first published on http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/printedition/news/2014-12-25/postplatform-the-land-of-dreams.html