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Trump’s visa clampdown hasn’t stopped Indian students from pursuing their US dreams

By Ananya Bhattacharya

Amidst all the job woes for immigrants in the US due to Donald Trump’s work visa clampdown, there’s still no dearth of Indian students taking their dreams there.

Indians comprise the bulk of the international student population in the US after Chinese people, recent research from the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the US state department’s bureau of educational and cultural affairs.

If anything, the Indian student population in the US went up by 3% in 2018-19 to 202,014 from the previous year, the report said.

The stress isn’t all gone, though: The share of graduate students has declined by 6%.

New student enrollment has been declining for various reasons but topping the list is visa application issues or delays and denials, IEE’s survey shows. The proportion of institutions citing this factor grew 86.9% in fall 2019 from 68.4% two years ago.

Other research, too, supports this phenomena. For instance, visa-related inquiries on listings site Indeed.com shot up among Indian job-seekers looking for employment in the US.

More than half of the colleges and universities with new enrollment declines said students are choosing other countries, especially Canada. The concern is valid considering that at least Indian students are flocking there.

Moreover, a “combination (of) political rhetoric and personal safety continued to cause hesitation for prospective international students and their families,” the report noted. After all, hate crimes in the US have claimed many Indian lives.

Yet, one bright spot for America still is optional practical training (OPT). This is a year-long period during which undergraduate and graduate students can work on a student visa. Students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields get an additional 24 months. Just over 223,000 international students took advantage of OPT in the last academic year. Of these, more than 84,000 were from India. Most Indian students have preferred STEM subjects of late, according to US officials.

However, despite the provision to work following the completion of studies, “approximately half of responding institutions with new student declines cited concerns about international students being able to secure a job in the US after their studies,” IEE said.