For Indian students, the American dream is becoming a Canadian one

Where Indian students want to go.
Where Indian students want to go.
Image: Reuters/Shaun Best
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With the US and the UK slowly shutting their doors, Canada has flung its open, and Indian students are rushing in.

In 2017, Indian students who secured Canadian visas increased by almost 60% from a year ago, according to official data. In all, Indian students received 83,410 of the 317,110 Canadian study permits granted during the year.

“Indians used to go to the US, taking hefty loans to pay expensive tuition fees, because they expected a ‘return-on-investment’ by getting a high-paid job upon graduation. Now, chances of that are low because of changing policies and employers’ reluctance to engage foreign workers in uncertain times,” said Poorvi Chothani, managing partner at immigration law firm LawQuest.

The US has traditionally been the favourite destination for Indian students, but the Donald Trump administration is gradually shutting foreign talent out of the country. Already, among students in US science and engineering degree courses at the graduate-school level, the share of Indians dipped 19% year-on-year in the fall of 2017, National Science Board data show.

“In the US, going on the student visa means you’re going as a non-immigrant…you’re starting off on the wrong foot already,” said Chothani. “Canadian colleges are relatively less expensive and Canada offers a more predictable path to citizenship.”

Other countries that Indian students once made a beeline for, including the UK and Singapore, have also started closing doors on immigrant workers. For the UK, in particular, there has been a 50% drop in the number of Indian students since 2010.

In contrast, Canada has far simpler policies for immigrant workers. After becoming permanent residents in the country for six years, individuals can apply for Canadian citizenship. Moreover, getting a work permit in Canada is not really up to chance compared to the US, where the H-1B lottery determines the fate of thousands of foreign jobseekers. Canada even offers express entry for skilled immigrants.

And Canada is relaxing its rules for foreign students even further.

On June 08, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced the Student Direct Stream (SDS) for China, India, Vietnam and the Philippines. Students from these four countries who have enrolled in any of the 1,400-plus designated learning institutes in Canada can now fast-track their applications, as long as they pass English-language tests and prove they are financially stable.