Indian students, professionals ditching "American dream" for Canadian one

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WASHINGTON: Indians students and white collar professionals are ditching the "American dream" to pursue a Canadian one because of the increasingly restrictive visa and immigration policies of the Trump administration, which, according to the U.S corporations, are going be tightened further within days with damaging consequences for the country.
There is heightened expectation in right wing quarters – and growing apprehension in U.S corporations and academic circles -- that President Trump will issue an executive order late on Friday or early next week to scrap or freeze the H1B visa program and the optional practical training program that allows graduate foreign students to intern in the U.S., because of the high unemployment rate due to the coronavirus pandemic. But a new analysis of U.S government data shows Indian STEM students and skilled professionals were already veering away to Canada even before the Covid-19 pandemic because of Washington’s unwelcome policies.
Data examined by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) show that the number of international students from India enrolled in graduate-level computer science and engineering at U.S. universities declined by more than 25% between the 2016-17 and 2018-19 academic years. At the same time, the Canadian Bureau of International Education reported that international students from India studying at Canadian universities rose from 76,075 in 2016 to 172,625 in 2018, a staggering 127% increase.
Indian students have long formed the bulwark of STEM education in the U.S. As recently as the 2016-17 academic year, 67% of international graduate students in computer science at U.S. universities were from India. While for engineering as a whole international student enrollment at the graduate-level at U.S. universities dropped from 96,330 in 2016-17 to 86,070 in 2018-19, a decline of 10,260, or 10.7%, the NFAP analysis noted, “was primarily a result of enrollment of Indian graduate students in engineering falling by 10,870, or 27.5%, between the 2016-17 and 2018-19 academic years.”
In computer science, international student enrollment at the graduate-level at U.S. universities dropped from 70,630 in 2016-17 to 64,580 in 2018-19, a decline of 6,050, or 8.5%. As with engineering, the decline was largely due to the enrollment of Indian graduate students in computer science dropping by 11,080, or 23.3%, between the 2016-17 and 2018-19 academic years.
"The number of graduate students from China enrolled in computer science over this period increased by 3,880, or 29.5%, but not enough to overcome the steep drop in Indian graduate students in computer science," according to the NFAP report, which was reported in Forbes.
Canadian immigration lawyers are acknowledging that Canada is benefiting from a diversion of young Indian tech workers and students from U.S. destinations, largely because of the challenges of obtaining and renewing H-1B visas and finding a reliable route to U.S. permanent residence.
In fact, the number of Indians who became permanent residents in Canada increased from 39,340 in 2016 to 85,585 in 2019, a rise of more than 117%, according to a the NFAP analysis of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada data
In contrast to U.S policies, the report said the Canadian approach allows international students to make a smooth transition to work after graduation, which creates a path to permanent residence. Canada’s Global Skills Strategy allows many applications for high-skilled foreign professionals to be approved within two weeks, in contrast to the situation in the U.S where the H-1B visa process can take months of jumping through the hoops, and where the annual limit on 85,000 H-1B visas has been reached for the past 18 fiscal years.
But even that has not satisfied the Trump base, which is now pressing the White House to altogether freeze or ban H1B and OPT program via an executive order that is said to be undergoing scrutiny by his aides. An alarmed U.S Chamber of Commerce on Thursday rushed a letter to Trump urging him not to go down that route, arguing that it is crucial that U.S businesses have access to talent both domestically and from around the world. "Policies that would impose wide-ranging bans on the entry of non-immigrant workers or impose burdensome new regulatory requirements on businesses that employ foreign nationals would undermine that access to talent, and, in the process, undercut our economy’s ability to grow and create jobs," Chamber CEO Thomas Donahue said in the letter.
Donahue specifically defended the H1B program, pointing out that American businesses across multiple industries, including technology companies, accounting firms, manufacturers, among others, employ H-1B workers for the skill sets they possess that drive innovation and productivity gains within their own companies or for their clients.
"If companies cannot hire new H-1B workers or continue to employ their current H-1B workers, innovation and productivity growth, particularly that which is achieved through patent production, would suffer greatly to the detriment of our overall economy. Short-term disruptions in the L-1 and H-1B visa programs would hamper businesses’ ability to make long-term planning and domestic investment decisions," Donohue said.

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