A Guide to Being Pakistani American: Culture, Shopping, Banking & More

23 Mar 2023 - Category: Blog /
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Whether you’re of Pakistani heritage, want to become an American citizen, or were born a Pakistani American, the likelihood you have some questions about the immigration process or Pakistani American culture is high. So, to shed light on your wonders, we’ve gathered all the details, information, and facts you need to know about becoming or being a Pakistani American.


Pakistan people in the U.S.

Pakistanis have a varied and rich culture in the U.S. that draws on both the surrounding society and that of their ethnicity. As of 2019, there were an estimated 954,202 self-identified Pakistani Americans living in the USA, representing about 0.187% of the U.S. population.

Pakistani-American culture

Due to the Pakistani entrepreneurial spirit, many Pakistani-themed businesses can be found throughout the United States which serves to keep the Pakistani culture thriving and developing while becoming ever more integrated and fused with that of America. Authentic Pakistani food can be found in most United States cities. There are also gatherings or celebrations annually to celebrate Pakistan Day and Pakistan Independence Day. Another aspect of day-to-day life that tends to define Pakistani-American culture is that of the Islamic religion.

Pakistani immigration to the U.S.

The first generation of immigrants from the present-day country of Pakistan arrived in the USA between 1893 and 1917. They settled first in California and worked as contract laborers. The next generation of Pakistani immigrants arrived in 1947, after the creation of Pakistan. In the subsequent decades, second and third-generation Pakistani-Americans were born, integrating further into American culture while still honouring their Pakistani roots.

Pakistani-American community

The community is concentrated in the major population centres of New York City, Washington DC, Houston, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. The Pakistani American community generally lives in a comfortable middle-class, upper-middle-class or upper class lifestyles. This is largely believed to be due to subsequent generations following the example set by their predecessors in opening and sustaining businesses.

The American-Pakistani community tends to be close-knit, with many of its members preferring to turn to one another before seeking government help. Members of the family and sometimes the closer community tend to take care of each other, and to assist in times of economic need. Hence, it would be more common to turn to a community member for economic assistance rather than to a government agency.

However, there is also an incidence of poverty in the Pakistani community and in particular around the growing number of new immigrants that migrated from less privileged backgrounds in Pakistan.

The Pakistani-American Experience

While there’s a general scepticism and apprehension among Pakistanis when it comes to imagining how they’ll be treated in America, the reality is generally quite a lot more accepting and warmer. Following the 2001 terror attacks, the general attitude to perceived “outsiders” among Americans certainly soured. However, attitudes and mindsets are changing as Pakistanis continue to thrive and flourish in American culture.

One main dilemma Pakistani Americans deal with is navigating a dual identity. They may feel conflicted, not fully sure which nationality they identify with more, never fully feeling a part of either. They also face some ostracism from both sides who may not view them as entirely “one of them.” While this aspect of having a dual identity is improving, there are many organizations and community movements that aim to help Pakistani Americans assimilate into both cultures and feel comfortable with their dual identity.

Pakistani-American citizenship

The Government of Pakistan has a dual nationality arrangement with the United States of America, meaning that Pakistani Americans can hold dual citizenship. With a 64% chance of becoming naturalized, Pakistani immigrants are more likely to become U.S. citizens than the foreign-born population overall at 44%.

Pakistani-American visa requirements

The Pakistani-America visa requirements include a series of steps:

Step 1 Complete the DS-160 Form
Step 2 Pay the visa application fee of $160
Step 3 Schedule your visa appointment. In order to schedule your appointment you will need to provide your passport number, a receipt number on your Visa Fee receipt and the ten-digit barcode number of your DS-160 confirmation page
Step 4 Visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate on the pre-fixed date and time of your visa interview. You will need to present a printed copy of your appointment letter alongside your DS-160 confirmation page, a recent photograph, and your current and all old passports

Pakistani-American green card process

To start the green card process, you generally must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident immediate relative/s. A U.S. employer can also petition for you to obtain a visa. Citizens of Pakistan should be aware of the Diversity Lottery Program. This immigration program can give you a Green Card to live and work in the United States. At the moment, travellers from Pakistan aren’t eligible for the Green Card Lottery Pakistan.

The timeframe to process a standard Green Card application is generally 7 to 33 months. Family Preference Green Cards processing takes from 1 to 10 years with varying wait time and yearly caps. Employment Based Green Cards processing could be from 1 year for visas in low demand or 4 or 6 years for visas in high demand.

Pakistani-American citizenship process

To apply for an immigrant visa, a foreign citizen generally must be sponsored by a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, immediate relative/s or prospective US employer and have an approved petition before applying for an immigrant visa. There are 185, which are divided between immigrant and non-immigrant visas. Non-immigrant visas include workers who mainly apply for H-B1 or L-1 visas, while the most common student visa is the F-1 visa.

If, upon receiving your visa or green card, you stay in the US for 5 years, you are permitted to apply for citizenship. However, if you are a child of a US citizen, married to a US citizen, or work for the US military, you can also apply for citizenship.

To start your application, you will complete Form N-400, the application for naturalization, and create a free account to submit your form online. Following on, you will take the US Naturalization Test, which covers some standard questions about US culture, history, politics, and socioeconomic structure. Finally, following a personal interview, the United States Immigration Services will determine whether or not your application for citizenship has been successful.

Pakistani-American tax filing

A 1957 Income Tax Convention exists between Pakistan and America, making tax filing a matter of following the standard steps for most Pakistani Americans. Any foreign-source salary earned by a resident individual is exempt from tax in Pakistan, given the individual has paid foreign income tax– and vice versa.

Pakistani-American legal documents

Pakistani-American legal documents tend to be fairly similar. The four main Pakistan Documents are:

  • Birth Certificate.
  • Marriage Certificate.
  • Divorce Certificate.
  • Certificate of Non-Conviction (Police Certificate.).

Additional documentation could be educational or death certificates.

Pakistani-American students

There has been a 17 percent year-on-year increase in the number of Pakistani students in the United States during 2021-22. Interestingly, Educational attainment level and household income are much higher in the Pakistani-American diaspora in comparison to the general U.S. population. Pakistani Americans tend to be high achievers in comparison with other heritage groups with 89.1% being at least high school graduates and around 54% holding a bachelor's degree or higher professional degree. Additionally it was found that over 30% of Pakistani Americans hold graduate or professional degrees.

There are also programs like the Visa Summer Work Travel Program that gives international students the opportunity to live and work in the US during their holidays.

Pakistani-American political representation

Political representation among Pakistani American’s has been notably low with many members of the community being reluctant to get involved in politics since the first wave of immigration. However, more recently, there have been some advancements in the Pakistani American political sphere with the younger generation not only showing political interest but also an interest in getting involved.

There is a political organization for Pakistani American politicians called the Pakistani American Political Action Committee. Founded in 1989 by a group of visionary Pakistani Americans, the group aims to increase Pakistani-American representation throughout the American political structure. The U.S. Congress has never had representation from a Pakistani or someone of Pakistani descent so far in its history, although over the years. However, Dr. Asif Mahmood, a Pakistani-American who takes on the roles of philanthropist, Customs officer, Medical Doctor, Social worker, and Writer, plans to be the first.

In January 2019, Sadaf Jaffer became the first female Pakistani American mayor, the first female Muslim American mayor, and the first female South Asian mayor in the United States, of Montgomery in Somerset County, New Jersey.

Pakistani-American businesses

While Pakistani immigrants to America are well-known for their entrepreneurial spirit, their enterprises tend to be relatively small-scale. However, there are some exceptions, such as Shahid Rafiq Khan, who is a Pakistani-American billionaire businessman and tycoon. He is the owner of Flex-N-Gate, a popular American supplier of motor vehicle components. Pakistani immigrants looking to set up their own businesses tend to go to PABPA (Pakistani American Business & Professional Association ), which is a dynamic organization consisting of business owners and professionals of Pakistani descent. They form a community of business owners where networking, growth, and supporting one another is possible.

Pakistani-American media representation

Unfortunately, there is little Pakistani-American representation in the media. Unlike some other second or third-generation immigrants, Pakistani Americans have yet to enjoy a tv series or film dedicated to their unique experience. What’s more, there are relatively few American-Pakistani actors to be seen on screen, with Kumal Nanjiani and Somy Ali being two of the more familiar faces.

Pakistani-American investment opportunities

Pakistanis can certainly start a new business or buy an existing business in the U.S. The laws and procedures are more or less the same for U.S. residents and foreign investors. The U.S. Federal and State governments do allow non-residents to open companies anywhere.

In fact, there are many organizations solely dedicated to helping Pakistanis invest within the United States.

If you’d like to start investing in American stocks, it’s as easy as opening a Brokerage Account, CDC Sub Account, and a CDC Investor Account. Next, deposit your choice of funds in your account. To complete, you simply have to select the companies you wish to invest in.

Navigating the American Financial System

The American financial system is based on credit. Credit is assigned to every American citizen and is an indicator of their financial stability. A good credit score can mean being approved for a loan or mortgage, while a bad credit score can lead to the opposite. To maintain good credit, always try to make your payments on time or always pay what you can. Paying credit card or loan payments when needed, is key in keeping your credit score high. If you are able to pay more than the minimum, that is also helpful for building your score.

When it comes to banking options and opening a bank account, you can essentially choose any bank that suits your preferences or needs. Opening an account with a bank is easy in the US.

How to open a bank account in the US

You can call a bank in advance to schedule an appointment to open your bank account. What you’ll need to bring to this appointment is the following:

1. Your Social Security number.

2. A valid, government-issued photo ID like a driver's license, passport, or state or military ID.

3. A minimum opening deposit of $25 to activate your account (once you've been approved).

Most US banks offer online and in-person banking options.

Bank accounts you can open in the US:

  • Checking accounts.
  • Savings accounts.
  • Money market accounts.
  • Certificates of deposit.
  • Brokerage accounts.
  • Individual retirement accounts.

Loan Options

  • Personal loans
  • Auto loans
  • Student loans
  • Mortgage loans
  • Home equity loans
  • Credit-builder loans
  • Debt consolidation loans
  • Payday loans
  • Small business loans
  • Pawn Shop loans
  • Boat loans.
  • Recreational Vehicle (RV) Loans
  • Land loans
  • Family loans
  • Pool loans

Where to Find Products of Pakistan in the United States

While there are some Pakistani shops in the US, they’re not always easy to come by, especially in more rural areas. Here’s a quick guide and collection to Pakistani stores in the US. Many Pakistani products are available online.

Best ways to send money to Pakistan

Remember that you can use your bank account to send money to Pakistan using Small World. You can use your Visa or Mastercard or, if you prefer, use a wire transfer to process your order online. You can also go to one of our shops or agents to process your order.

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