The Canadian Census uses the term 'Asian' pan-continentally and the list of visible minorities includes "West Asian", "South Asian", "Central Asian" and "Southeast Asian". The Canadian government uses "West Asian" in its statistics; however people from the Arab countries of Western Asia are counted in a separate "Arab" category.
In the United Kingdom, the term "Asian" is more commonly associated with people of South Asian origin, particularly Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans. The UK usage of the term "Asian" is reflected in the "ethnic group" section of UK census forms, which treat "Asian" and "Chinese" as separate (see British Asian). Most respondents to the UK 2001 Census of non-Chinese East Asian and Southeast Asian descent chose to write-in their ethnicity in the "Other Ethnic Group" category rather than the "Other Asian" category, reflecting the association of the word Asian in the UK with South Asian. Despite there being a strong presence of East Asians in the United Kingdom there are considerably more South Asians, for example the 2001 Census recorded 1.05 million people of Indian origin and 247,000 of Chinese origin in the UK. Peter J. Aspinall of the Centre for Health Services Studies, University of Kent, recommends privileging the term "South Asian" over the term "Asian", since the term "Asian" is a "contested term".
Asian ancestries as defined by the 2000 U.S. Census.
In 1968, an Asian activist conference decided on favoring the name "Asian American" over the competing terms: "yellow", "Mongolian", "Asiatic" and "Oriental", since the Filipinos at the meeting thought they were "brown" rather than "yellow" and the conference thought the term "Oriental" was Eurocentric, since they originate from lands "east" only from Europe's standpoint and, since the term "Oriental" suggested to them "passivity".
Earlier Census forms from 1980 and prior listed particular Asian ancestries as separate groups along with White and Black or Negro. Previously, Asian Americans were classified as "other". But the 1980 Census marked the first general analyses of Asians as a group, combining several individual ancestry groups into "Asian or Pacific Islander." By the 1990 Census, Asian or Pacific Islander (API) was included as an explicit category, although respondents had to select one particular ancestry.
In 1930 and 1940, Indian Americans were identified as a separate race, Hindu, and in 1950 and 1960 they were racially classified as Other Race, and then in 1970 they were classified as White. Since 1980, Indians and all other South Asians have been classified as part of the Asian race. Sociologist Madhulika Khandelwal described how "....as a result of activism, South Asians came to be included as 'Asians' in the census only in the 80's. Prior to that many South Asians had been checking 'Caucasian' or 'Other'."
In normal American usage Asian does not refer to the people from the Pacific Islands who are usually called Pacific Islanders. The term "Asians and Pacific Islanders" or "Asia/Pacific" was used on the 1990 US Census. However, in the 2000 US Census, the Asian or Pacific Islander category was separated into two categories, "Asian" and "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander".
Definition by non-government sources
This is a genetic distance map of human populations made by geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza of Stanford University. Cavalli-Sforza referred to both "Asian Caucasoids" and "Mongoloids" in Asia which he also called "other Asians" as encompassing "Asian populations". Cavalli-Sforza also referred to "Amerinds" as being the "aboriginal Asian group" of the Americas.
Eugénia Maria Guedes Pinto Antunes da Cunha of the Department of Anthropology, University of Coimbra, Portugal, said there has been a modern trend in "most of the forensic anthropology literature" to "rename" the term "Mongoloid", a term in which she includes the "North American Indian", with the term "Asian" or "Asiatic". Antunes da Cunha said that, even though the "terminology" has changed, the "underlying assumptions are the same".
Matt Cartmill of the Department of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Duke University, United States, said "geography has little to do with the race concept in its actual application", since "Asian individuals [can be] born in the same geographical region" as other races.
^American Heritage Book of English Usage. Asian. 1996. September 29, 2006. 
^Census '90. Asian and Pacific Islanders in the United States. 1990. September 1, 2006. 
^"Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity". OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET. "The Native Hawaiians presented compelling arguments that the standards must facilitate the production of data to describe their social and economic situation and to monitor discrimination against Native Hawaiians in housing, education, employment, and other areas. Under the current standards for data on race and ethnicity, Native Hawaiians comprise about three percent of the Asian and Pacific Islander population. By creating separate categories, the data on the Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islander groups will no longer be overwhelmed by the aggregate data of the much larger Asian groups. Native Hawaiians will comprise about 60 percent of the new category. The Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander population groups are well defined; moreover, there has been experience with reporting in separate categories for the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population groups. The 1990 census included "Hawaiian," "Samoan," and "Guamanian" as response categories to the race question. In addition, two of the major tests conducted as part of the current review (the NCS and the RAETT) used "Hawaiian" and/or "Native Hawaiian," "Samoan," "Guamanian," and "Guamanian or Chamorro" as response options to the race question. These factors facilitate breaking apart the current category."
^ abcCavalli-Sforza, L.L., Menozzi, P. & Piazza, A. (1994). The History and Geography of Human Genes. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
^Lieberman, Leonard. (1997). Race 1997 and 2001: A Race Odyssey. American Anthropological Association. pp. 7 & 19
^ abAurore Schmitt, Eugénia Maria Guedes Pinto Antunes da Cunha, and João Pinheiro. (2006). Forensic Anthropology and Medicine: Complementary Sciences from Recovery to Cause of Death. Humana Press. ISBN 1-59745-099-5
^Konstantinos Moraitis Ph.D., Constantine Eliopoulos Ph.D., Chara Spiliopoulou MD, PhD, Sotiris Manolis Ph.D. (2009). Assessment of Ancestral Background from the Skull: Case Studies from Greece. The Internet Journal of Biological Anthropology™ ISSN: 1939-4594
^Kyung Ran Jun, Sung-Eun Choi, Choong-Hwan Cha, Heung-Bum Oh,corresponding author Yong-Seok Heo, Hong-Yup Ahn, and Kwan-Jeh Lee. J Korean Med Sci. Meta-analysis of the Association between HLA-DRB1 Allele and Rheumatoid Arthritis Susceptibility in Asian Populations. 2007 December; 22(6): 973–980.
^Lahr M. M. (1995). "Patterns of modern human diversification: Implications for Amerindian origins". American Journal of Physical Anthropology38: 163–198. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330380609.
^Novita, Masniari. (2006). Facial, upper facial, and orbital index in Batak, Klaten, and Flores students of Jember University. Dent. J. (Maj. Ked. Gigi), Vol. 39. No. 3 116–119
^Cartmill, M. (1999). The Status of the Race Concept in Physical Anthropology. American Anthropologist 100(3)651 -660.
^Michael Bamshad, Stephen Wooding, Benjamin A. Salisbury and J. Claiborne Stephens. (2004). DECONSTRUCTING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GENETICS AND RACE. Nature Publishing Group. (5) pp. 598.
^Lee, Sandra S. Mountain, Joanna. Barbara, Koening A. The Meanings of Race in the New Genomics: Implications for Health Disparities Research. Yale University. 2001. October 26, 2006. 
^Willett Enos Rotzell. (1905). Man: an introduction to anthropology. Philadelphia.