Chain migration is the process whereby immigrants come to a country following friends or family who migrated before them.
Human geographers believe it is beneficial for migrants because they have social support upon arrival. This makes them less reliant upon government and social services and improves their chances of successfully settling into their new home.
Chain Migration Examples
1. Family-Based Immigrant Visa Programs
In many countries, this can involve official sponsorship by family or friends already living in the destination country.
For example, the United States has a number of visa programs that allow for chain migration, including the family-based immigrant visa program.
Advocates of the US chain migration policy argue that it is a compassionate approach to reuniting families. However, detractors highlight that it does not lead to the migration of skilled labor, but rather lower-skilled labor that will not be as productive in the workforce.
Related Article: 10 Transnational Migration Examples
2. Chinatowns and Ethnic Enclaves
People who migrate to new countries often settle near their family members. This leads to ethnic enclaves within major cities. For example, Chinatowns in the United States and Europe are areas where many migrants from China have settled through generations.
These enclaves provide social support for new arrivals, as well as opportunities to find work and housing. They also allow migrants to maintain their cultural traditions and connect with others who share their backgrounds.
3. The Somali Diaspora
The Somali diaspora is a good example of how chain migration can lead to the spread of a new culture. Somalis began migrating in large numbers in the early 1990s, following the outbreak of civil war in their home country.
Today, there are Somali communities all over the world. They have been formed through chain migration, with new migrants following friends and family members to new countries. This has allowed Somalis to maintain their culture and connect with others who share their background.
The largest Somali diaspora can be found in the United States, where there are over 250,000 Somali immigrants.
See here for more examples of diasporas that have engaged in chain migration, such as the Armenian and Czech diasporas.
4. White Migration Policies
During the early 20th Century, migration policies in nations like the United States, Canada, and Australia were often racist. They would privilege white migrants from Western Europe.
At the time, a defense of this policy was that it would provide the dominant white population’s distant relatives and cousins easy access to the countries. In other words, it was directly implemented to encourage chain migration.
Furthermore, it was believed it would be easier for Western Europeans to “assimilate” into the dominant culture given the cultural similarities. This would supposedly lead to a more harmonious society.
However, these policies had the opposite effect. They created tension and resentment among existing minority populations, who felt they were being left out of the social and economic opportunities of the country.
5. Czech Migration to Alaska
In the late 1800s, many Czechs were displaced due to famine and war. As a result, they began migrating to other parts of the world in search of better opportunities.
One such destination was Alaska, where gold had been discovered in the 1860s. Czech migrants were drawn to the new frontier and started settling there in large numbers.
Over the years, a distinct Czech community developed in Alaska. This was largely due to chain migration, as new migrants followed friends and family members to the new country. Today, there are an estimated 25,000 Czechs living in Alaska.
6. Indian Migration to Fiji
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many Indians were displaced due to famine and British colonial policies. As a result, they began migrating to other parts of the world in search of better opportunities.
One such destination was Fiji, where Indians began settling in large numbers in the early 1900s.
Today, there are over 900,000 Indians living in Fiji. This is largely due to chain migration, as new migrants have followed friends and family members to the new country. This has allowed Indians to maintain their culture and connect with others who share their background.
7. Palestinian Emmigration
Since the late 1940s, Palestinians have been displaced by conflict in the region. As a result, they have migrated to other parts of the world in search of better opportunities.
One such destination has been Lebanon, where Palestinians began settling in large numbers in the late 1940s.
Today, there are over 400,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon. Every year, thousands of new Palestinians migrate to Lebanon in search of better opportunities, following relatives and friends.
8. Italian Migration to USA in the Early 20th Century
Chain migration has a long history in the United States, with Italians being among some of the earliest groups to take advantage of the opportunity. In the early 20th century, large numbers of Italian immigrants arrived in the US, many of them through chain migration. By 1910, there were over 1 million Italian Americans in the country, and by 1920 that number had more than doubled to over 2.5 million.
Italians have contributed greatly to American culture. Some of the most famous Italian Americans include actor Robert De Niro; singer Frank Sinatra; and chef Mario Batali.
9. Fathers Going Ahead to find Jobs
Many times, fathers would go ahead to find work in wealthier countires, leaving their wives and children behind until they could save up enough money to bring them over.
This was often done through chain migration, as the father would send for his wife and children once he had secured a job and a place for them to live.
This was a risky endeavor, as the father would be leaving his family behind in a foreign country with no guarantee they would ever see him again. However, for many families it was their only hope of escaping poverty and achieving a better life.
10. Grandparents following their Families Overseas
In some cases, grandparents follow their families overseas after they had migrated. This is often done through chain migration, as the grandparents would follow their children and grandchildren to the new country through family reunification schemes.
For example, in the early 2000s, many grandparents from the Philippines migrated to the United States to be with their grandchildren. This was made possible through America’s family-based migration program.
Eventually, many of these grandparents ended up staying in the US and becoming permanent residents.
11. Mail-Order Brides
Chain migration is often used to describe the movement of brides and grooms from India to various countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
Women choose to marry men they barely know in order to secure a better life for themselves and their families in the man’s first-world country.
One of the main advantages for the bride is that it provides women with an opportunity to escape from poverty or difficult life circumstances in their home countries. In many cases, these women are coming from countries where they have little to no rights and little chance of improving their economic situation.
However, mail-order bride chains can also be dangerous. There have been cases of women being abused or even killed by their husbands. It’s also often unclear if the bride has chosen willingly to participate or she is the victim of human trafficking.
Benefits of Chain Migration
Chain migration is a compassionate way to operate an immigration program. By allowing families to migrate to new countries together, we are providing them with the chance to be united with their loved ones.
When families and friends are able to migrate together, they are also more likely to succeed in their new country. This is because they have support networks to help them settle in. They can help each other navigate the new cultural landscape, find jobs and housing, and learn the language.
Furthermore, with support networks in place, new migrants will rely less on government assistance programs. This helps to reduce the burden on taxpayers and allows new immigrants to become self-sufficient more quickly.
Negatives of Chain Migration
There are some potential negatives to chain migration. For example, it can lead to the formation of ethnic enclaves, where people from the same country or region live together and do not integrate with the larger population.
It can also be considered an inefficient migration policy. Skills-based migration policies are considered to be better because they allow for the selection of the best and the brightest immigrants. Chain migration can lead to the arrival of less-qualified immigrants, which can be costly for the receiving country.
Other Types of Migration:
Despite these potential negatives, chain migration is a humane and compassionate way to allow people to migrate to new countries. By allowing families to migrate together, we are giving them the chance to be together and to start new lives. Common examples of chain migration include the movement of brides and grooms from third world nations to first world nations, grandparents following their families overseas, and refugees fleeing persecution.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]