Techcrunch has a great article talking about the decline of foriegn students in US universities.
"U.S. grad school admissions for would-be international students plummeted this year, according to the Council of Graduate Schools—the first decline in five years. The decline was 3% on average, thanks to increases from China and the Middle East, but some countries saw double-digit declines in interest in a U.S. education. Applicants from India and South Korea fell 12% and 9% respectively—with students turning their sights on schools in Asia and Europe instead.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Much of the world’s economic growth—hence, jobs—is in emerging markets, the schools are far cheaper and in many cases competitive academically, and then there’s the H-1B issue. If America won’t allow a PhD just trained in our top schools to work here and contribute to the economy—why come here and take on the student loans to begin with?"
Having recently graduated from a US university and having seen the gradual decline in students, this article comes as no surprise. I have some personal experience with this and can say a few words about the process:
- The economy in India is doing much better than before. Despite the meltdown and the world wide recession, companies that are focused on the Indian markets are still doing great. Many engineers in India are now finding high paying jobs (unlike the situation in 2001).
- The process of obtaining a US Visa -- be it a student visa or a visitors visa is excruciatingly painful and at times downright stupid. Having a visa rejected (at times; without any clear reason) is quite demotivating and many people simply do not really wish to put up with it.
- Once you do have the visa, however, things can be somewhat straightforward while you are in grad school. As long as you are a student and your I20 is valid there is little to be worried about. The good part of the process is also the fact that in the United States, you get to do Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) while you are in school. Most foreign students utilize this to gain experience and skills in the industry. (Although, you land up paying a lot of out-of-state tuition so that you can do this internship!).
- The part that starts becoming difficult is the point when your company needs to sponsor for an H1. Many companies exclusively ask that candidates requiring H1s need'nt apply. This year there are still 20K H1s open. Last year, things were much crazier. There were limited number of H1s and too many applicants -- resulting in a lottery system. I personally know enough people who were affected by this madness and had to either reapply or work from Canada/India until the H1 was approved. The basic problem with H1s is:
- The quota/caps on H1s used to get filled very quickly -- up until the admissions to grad schools in US declined drastically.
- They are often abused. Consultants and other contractors file for H1s -- at times for candidates who are not really qualified. Many large companies find it cheaper to hire temporary workforce via contractors -- adding to the problem.
- Next, while you are on a student visa (F1) building a startup is extremely complicated. If there was one place in the world where I would imagine this could even be possible would be here in the US. There are ways to do this but all pretty complicated to work out.
- Finally, getting a green card requires a wait time of about 5 years (for India) under the EB2 category. Moreover, if you are applying for a green card and get married (to someone who is not on H1/greencard) after your green card is approved it can take forever to get your spouse added to your green card. I know atleast two PhDs who had to leave the country because they could not bring their spouse over.The EB3 category can take 7-9 years!
No system is perfect. Despite the above problems United States is still a place that attracts the best talent in the world. As the world becomes flat and more opportunities/resources become available in other places, keeping the competitive edge for many businesses requires that we reconsider some of the laws around immigration and visas. I really hope that the Obama administration is able to change the legislature to carry out the appropriate reforms.