Like many others, I too have been following the race to The White House, as we speak. A lot has been said about the President, Donald Trump, and his “Make America Great Again” campaign, and even more has been interpreted in diametrically opposite terms. Amidst all of this, the biggest question students have is, Should I go study in the US, now that Trump has become the president? In this piece, I am going to try and objectively answer this, and allied questions like what would be the likely consequences for Indian students wishing to study in the US.
Now, I am no expert on immigration policies and politics in the US, my take too is based on methodical research and analysis of what has been quoted, and said in this rigorous year of campaigning.
President Donald Trump’s presidency will bring about some political changes. Like every strategic move, it is going to have both pros and cons.
- Indians to enjoy similar flexibility with education
When it comes to pursuing education in the US, Indian students can still go ahead and apply to their dream schools, and obtain admits. The complete process, as before, will boil down to the application and its individual merits against others. This stems from his quotes during his campaign.
“US will always welcome intelligent students to its universities”
– Donald Trump
- Indians studying in American institutions may not be asked to leave
President Trump feels Indian students studying in American universities shouldn’t be asked to leave, because the country needs smart people like them. This goes in-sync with the fact that companies want smart, intelligent and qualified workforce, and Indians occupy a sizeable quota of that workforce. In an interview, with the Fox News, he quotes
“They cannot come into the country. You know, they go to Harvard, they are first in their class and they’re from India they go back to India and they setup companies and they make a fortune and they employ lots of people and all of that”
– Donald Trump
While Mr. Trump has synced ‘first in their class students’ with India, doesn’t necessarily mean that Indian students, either studying in the US, or wishing to do so will remain untouched by the impact of a presidential change. There are, in all probability, going to be some consequences, the major ones of which are:
- The J1 visa will be scrapped and replaced
Each year, 300,000 students fly to America on a cultural exchange program under the J1 visa. Students from all around the world can work, study and live in the USA under this particular permit. Mr. Trump wants to replace this with a program for local youth.
Implication: Students studying in Indian universities will not be able to take a semester abroad in the US universities, or intern there over the summer.
- Americans will be prioritized in employment
Currently, in the US, there are twice as many students who graduate with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) degrees than that needed in the workforce. Mr. Trump wants to deal the issue of unemployment in the states.
There have been recent developments with respect to OPT (Optional Practical Training) period, which allows all those with legit OPT documents an opportunity to work for 24 months, as compared to 17 months earlier. This entails that students can now stay and work in the US, for a total of 36 months after completing their degree. It is highly unlikely that a change in presidency will impact the development, and the education policy surrounding it.
Once your OPT expires, you ultimately will have to apply for a H1B visa, which as per Mr. Trump is a route to take entry level IT jobs from Americans, and in favour of relatively cheap workforce from overseas.
Implication: Companies would prioritize American citizens for jobs, and positions, even if you’re the better candidate. So if you wish to work in the US, after pursuing your education there, expect some H1B visa changes.
Gist: It’s an all clear path if you want to go to US, study there, work there on OPT, and come back! However if you wish to work in the US in the longer run, a lot needs to be understood and seen about the educational, employment and immigration policies, the new republican government enforces, before you decide on your US education.
- Faith might affect the right to study, work & intern
With terrorism a growing threat in the world, Trump has recently opinionated many prejudices against the world’s second largest religion. Following his claims back in December, he has publicly declared that he would introduce a ban on them entering the country. It is unfortunate that, even today, your faith could prevent you from studying at one of the world’s best universities or from interning at a top company.
Implication: Though it’s quite subjective, and frankly, very unclear, but it looks like his presidency might postpone your dream of studying at the best universities. Although, as mentioned earlier, he will stop any exceptional talent from entering the country.
Although nothing can be said for certain, it can only be predicted that India and US will share friendlier relations. Experts and political analysts believe Indian students wanting to study in the US will not be affected much by a presidential change, except more research and stronger monitoring of visas being issued to that effect. This comes off as a welcome note, seeing that he organized a special engagement with the Indian community, and even went on to showcase his Hindi with his popular “Abki baar, Trump Sarkaar” comment!
Mr. Trump, or President Trump has moved back and forth on his stances more than one occasions. If anything, it’s a waiting game for what is about to unfold.
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