Educational Migration to U.S: Did Indian Students’ American dreams dampen over H1B row and COVID-19?

The United States has always been one of the most preferred places for the Indian diaspora, especially when it comes to education. Beginning as early as the 1820s, Indians have migrated to the United States seeking an opportunity. In fact, the USA has the highest population of Indians, with 34,37,000 people residing there. Since the 1990s, Indian immigrants have grown to become the second-largest immigrant population in the U.S and thousands of Indian students go to the US each year to study.

While analysing the educational migration to the U.S, one might consider two key moments of US immigration history- the exclusionary era of the early twentieth century and the period following the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act which will lead us in understanding how the circulation of student migrants between India and the United States is part of a longer history of colonial, postcolonial, and imperialist investments in education. Nowadays, this is mainly a matter of material success, high paying jobs and social status. 

However, certain things that have arisen in recent times might indicate a dampening of the desire to migrate to the US. Firstly, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposal in September 2020 to limit the length of time that many international students are permitted to study in the United States to two or four years, rather than their full course of study, has become a significant concern. The rule also states that “a pattern of behaviour demonstrating that a student is repeatedly unable or unwilling to complete his or her course of the study, such as failing grades, in addition to academic probation or suspension, is an unacceptable reason for program extensions.”

“The increased uncertainty, costs, and administrative burden imposed on international students and scholars by the proposed rule would discourage them from coming to American universities, jeopardizing our country’s long-standing position as the premier the destination for international students and scholars, this, in turn, would jeopardize the United States’ leadership in higher education and research and the scientific and technological innovation that flows from it,” said Boston University President Robert A. Brown in a public comment.

 Added to this is the coronavirus pandemic. Some experts have raised concerns regarding getting job opportunities after graduation because of the economic recession and the decline in jobs and other problems such as travel restrictions and more significant expense. Therefore, with many universities switching to online education and government policy flip-flops adding to the uncertainty, the overall picture looks grim regarding American education for the Indian diaspora.

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