Unless Congress acts, fewer Indian students will come to America

Total green card backlog for Indians would increase to nearly 2.2 million by FY 2030, according to new NFAP study

Fewer Indian graduate students likely will come to America unless Congress addresses the long waits for employment-based green cards, fueled by the per-country limit and low annual quota, according to a new study.

Added to this is the rejection of 70% of H-1B registrations due to the inadequate 85,000-annual H-1B limit for companies, according to Forbes citing analysis of education data from the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP).

US technology companies hire the greatest number of skilled workers from India and China every year through the H-1B visa for high skilled foreign nationals in specialty occupations.

For America to attract and retain top foreign-born talent, Congress and the executive branch almost certainly will need to change US policies, the NFAP study says.

Read: ‘Include immigrants in green card backlog in budget reconciliation’ (August 24, 2021)

Even before the pandemic, US universities experienced declines in enrolling new international students. Covid-19 caused new enrolment to plummet, it noted.

The number of full-time international students enrolled in graduate-level electrical engineering at US universities declined 19.5% between 2015 and 2019.

The number of full-time international students enrolled in graduate-level computer and information sciences at US universities fell 9.5% between 2016 and 2019.

Between 50% and 82% of the full-time graduate students in key technical fields at US universities are international students.

Ominously, most of the graduate students are from India and China—two countries where US policies are preventing or discouraging individuals from studying in America, the study suggests.

International students from India in graduate-level computer science and engineering at US universities dropped by more than 25% between the 2016-17 and 2018-19 academic years.

This decline is substantial for US universities, as 75% of full-time graduate students are international students, two-thirds of whom are from India, the National Law Review noted citing the NFAP study.

While the number of international students from India declined in the United States, the number in Canada rose from 76,075 in 2016 to 1,72,625 in 2018.

This is a 127% increase, as declared by the Canada Bureau for International Education, the Review noted.

As employment-based green cards are limited to 7% of the total issued in each fiscal year for each country, Indians wait for years and sometimes decades for their green card approvals.

Frustrated Indians have chosen to move to Canada from the United States, looking forward to a more permanent future, the review says.

Without the Congressional action, the total backlog for all three employment-based permanent resident categories for Indians would increase from an estimated 915,497 individuals currently to an estimated 2,195,795 by the fiscal year 2030, according to Stuart Anderson, NFAP Executive Director.

“We should let that number sink in: Within a decade, more than two million people will be waiting in line for years or even decades for employment-based green cards,” he testified before the House Judiciary Committee-Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship.

Highly skilled foreign nationals, including international students, are taking the informed decision of choosing Canada over America, the Review said.

The ease of acquiring temporary work visas for foreign nationals and subsequently acquiring permanent residence in Canada has pushed many foreign nationals to choose Canada.

“The world has changed since 1990, the US immigration policy has not,” Anderson was quoted as saying.

International students are a significant source of talent for US employers and allow US universities to offer high-quality academic programs in science and engineering for American students, according to the NFAP study.

Read: US lawmakers seek to include employment based Green Card backlog as part of budget reconciliation (August 24, 2021)

Without international students the number of students in America pursuing graduate degrees (Master’s and PhD’s) in fields such as computer and information sciences and electrical engineering would be small relative to the size of the US economy.

In 2019, at US universities, there were only 9,083 full-time American graduate students in electrical engineering, compared to 26,343 full-time international students.

Similarly, in computer and information sciences, in 2019, there were only 17,334 full-time American graduate students compared to 44,786 international graduate students at US universities, according to NFAP study.

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