As Donald Trump tightens immigration rules, Indian tech students ditch the American Dream for Canada

Yet another article of the shift with some interesting data:

Indian students are slowly getting over their fascination with the US.

The number of Indians enrolled in graduate-level computer science and engineering courses at American universities declined by more than 25% between 2016-’17 and 2018-’19, according to an analysis of government data by the National Foundation for American Policy.

The key factors for this decline are “more restrictive immigrationand international student policies under the [Donald] Trump administration and the difficulty of obtaining green cards in the United States,” the think tank focused on public policy research on trade and immigration said in a report published on June 8.

Data: National Foundation for American Policy, US Department of Homeland Security, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, special tabulations (2018) of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) database via Quartz

This decline is a massive hit to the entire international tech student population in the US, as Indians form an outsized proportion of the group.

Data: National Foundation for American Policy, US Department of Homeland Security, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, special tabulations (2018) of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) database via Quartz

America’s loss

In a letter dated June 2, 21 members of the US Congress highlighted that international students and their families contributed approximately $41 billion to the US economy in 2018-’19 alone, despite making up just 5.5% of overall US college enrollments. This cohort subsidises tuition for many domestic students.

Moreover, “as a source of research assistants, graduate students help professors conduct research and retain top faculty,” the National Foundation for American Policy report said. “Without the ability to perform high-level research, many leading professors would move on to other careers, which would weaken American universities as a global centre for science.”

While the US is losing out on Indian talent, its neighbour is making strides.

Canada’s gain

National Foundation for American Policy’s research shows that the share of Indian students in Canada more than doubled between the academic years 2016-’17 and 2018-’19.

Data: Canadian Bureau for International Education, National Foundation for American Policy via Quartz

Unlike America’s hardline approach, Canada’s policies have been incentivising students. In June 2018, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced the Student Direct Stream for China, India, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Students from these four countries enrolled in any of the 1,400-plus designated learning institutes in Canada can fast-track their applications, as long as they pass English-language tests and prove they are financially stable.

While the US has suspended immigration due to coronavirus outbreak and is reconsidering the post-graduate work programme Optional Practical Training, Canada isn’t letting Covid-19 get in its way.

As of May 14, international students with valid study permits in Canada from before March 18 have been exempted from the travel restrictions contingent on passing health checks and following isolation protocols.

Not just students but even Indian working professionals have been flocking to Canada as Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric builds up. Several Indian techies have been swapping Silicon Valley for the more immigrant-friendly neighbour.

“Canada is benefiting from a diversion of young Indian tech workers from US destinations, largely because of the challenges of obtaining and renewing H-1B visas and finding a reliable route to US permanent residence,” said Peter Rekai, founder of the Toronto-based immigration law firm Rekai LLP. The country even offers express entry for skilled immigrants.

Moreover, Canada allows permanent residents to apply for citizenship after six years. Indian permanent residents admitted into the country jumped up over 117% between fiscal years 2016 and 2019, National Foundation for American Policy found.

Source: As Donald Trump tightens immigration rules, Indian tech students ditch the American Dream for Canada

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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