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Last Updated : Oct 26, 2019 02:20 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Is the American dream over for Indians?

With the US government cracking down on immigrants and favouring jobs for American citizens, the dream to live in the United States could be fading away


Avishek Dassani and his wife had been living in the United States for six years. Employed in an energy plant, Dassani was fairly confident that he would soon be able to procure a Green Card, after all he was a specialist in the field.

But it was during a recent trip to India that Dassani got the shock of his life. A call from the US informed him that his H-1B visa had not been renewed. He couldn't even fly back to the US.

His career in the US is now uncertain and his wife’s PhD application is subject to reconsideration, since she was on a dependent visa.

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Over the past two-to-three years, there has been a tightening of rules for immigrants to the US. With a lack of clarity on whether the policies could be changed midway, Indians seem to be taking a cautious approach towards pursuing academics, or a professional life in the US.

It's not that Indians are leaving the US shores in hordes. Indians continue to be among the largest community in the US. As per the 2018 Open Doors Report, there were 1,96,271 Indian students in higher education institutes. in the US. Indians still form the second largest foreign student community in the US after the Chinese.

Similarly, a report said there were about 4.4 million people of Indian origin living in the US in 2017, a 38 percent increase over 2010.

However, over the last few years, Indians are increasingly growing wary about pursuing education or full-time careers in the US. Many are looking at other options and have opted for other countries.

Education woes

Anju Balachandran, a 28-year old management graduate from Kolkata got two job offers, one from Canada and another from the US. Even though the US role paid more, she decided to take up the Canada offer.

“The reason was simple. I at least know that there is more certainty in Canada, even though the weather can be extreme during winters. Since my mother stays with me, it wouldn’t have been fair to take to a country which I may have to shift out of in a few years,” she added.

Balachandran also added two of her colleagues chose Norway over the US because the salary for teachers was better and the crime rate was lower.

Students too are taking a similar route.

GMAC, which conducts the GMAT examination for admission into management programmes, showed that only 45 percent Indians sent their GMAT scores to US B-Schools in 2018, compared to 57 percent in 2014.

During that same period, the percentage of Indian GMAT test takers sending their test scores to Indian schools rose to 19 percent from 15 percent.

Puneet Todi, an aspiring MBA student from Dehradun, has decided to apply to the IIMs and a few others like SPJIMR and XLRI. “US school fees are on a rise. If I am spending so much money, the basic return expected is that I should be allowed to at least work there for three-to-four years. It seems impossible at this stage,” he added.

Higher education consultants have also noticed a trend where students are preferring other markets like Canada, New Zealand, Australia, France and Belgium for higher education.

Visa nightmare

US President Donald Trump has reiterated the policy of offering premium jobs across companies to American citizens first. This has led to a series of decisions being taken to cut down on the number of work visas issued under the H-1B regime.

The visa process has also become more complicated with more request-for-evidence (RFEs) being sought for H-1B visas. This means a lot more documents required from the individual applicants.

Meanwhile, the EB-5 visa, which requires an investment of $1 million, was widely regarded as an alternate route of gaining permanent residency in the US.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allocates 10,000 visas every year under the EB-5 programme, or Immigrant Investor Program, to immigrants and their families, whose qualifying investments result in the creation or preservation of at least 10 full-time jobs for US workers.

Of the total, 3,000 visas are specifically allocated to immigrants who invest through the USCIS-designated regional centers.

EB-5 provides foreign nationals with the opportunity to become conditional residents for a period of two years upon making an investment of $1 million ($1.8 million from November), or $500,000 ($900,000 from November) in a designated Targeted Employment Area, in a new commercial enterprise.

While this scheme specifically targets high net worth individuals, an upfront investment of almost Rs 13-14 crore is still a huge sum for an Indian family.

Fifteen year-old Aditya Khopoliwala's family has applied for an EB-5 visa for him, but have been told by the agency that he will wait at least for three years before the approval comes through. While he still has time before pursuing his graduation, his family is not certain if they will get the visa in three years or if the application will be rejected.

Racism concerns

While this is still not a major factor of discontent, the fact remains that there has been an increase in attacks on people of colour in the US. Placement consultants have seen an increase in inquiries from parents of prospective candidate on how safe the US is.

Trump has also cracked down on illegal immigrants with an iron fist and Indians seeking to enter through unreliable means are taking a step backward. Mexico, once considered a hot favourite for such immigrants seeking to gain entry, is no longer a possibility since the announcement of building a wall to secure the borders.

Once considered a Mecca for a professional career and Green Card the most possessed asset, the American dream is slowly fading in India. While there is still some time before Indians completely stop pursuing the US dream, there has been a definite dent in the demand. 

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First Published on Oct 25, 2019 09:52 am
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