According to recent statistics, the United States is losing international students to Canada, particularly in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
Among them are Indian students enrolled in STEM courses, who make up one of the largest cohorts of international students in the United States. The trend appears to have turned to Canada, owing to the country’s friendlier immigration rules.
According to a new study published by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), international student enrollment at American universities fell by 7% between 2016 and 2019 but surged by 52% at Canadian colleges and universities. During the same time period, the study found that enrollment of Indian students in science and engineering at the master’s level fell by 40% in the US but increased by 182% at Canadian postsecondary institutions.
The shift in favor is partly attributable to the United States’ strict immigration laws. However, unlike the United States, Canada is well-known for its visa and immigration programs that allow overseas students to stay in the country after they finish their education. Its post-graduation work permit (PGWP) is often regarded as the first significant step in obtaining permanent residency status.
“Canada is benefiting from a diversion of young Indian tech workers from US destinations, largely because of the challenges of obtaining and renewing H-1B visas and finding a reliable route to US permanent residence,” Peter Rekai, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer, was quoted saying in Forbes.
In terms of exceptional STEM courses, Canada does not lack university options. Its universities have been at the forefront of some of the most significant modern advances in life sciences, such as stem cell research and insulin.
As per the 2022 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the country has five universities ranked among the top 100 in the world in computer science, engineering, and medical. When it comes to Indian students’ decision to study abroad, there is also the cost aspect to consider.
In 2021-22, international undergraduate fees in Canada average roughly US$26,495 per year, which is less than the US average of around US$43,000-50,000 per year for out-of-state students, depending on the institution. Add to that the Student Direct Stream program, which expedites study permit procedures for Indian citizens, and Canada’s attraction is simply too strong to ignore.
International STEM graduates can find jobs in both countries, but Canada is the obvious winner in terms of ease of obtaining work permits. Because of the obvious recognition that education is a gateway to careers and the workforce, Canadian rules are significantly friendlier to international students.
Even with the addition of additional STEM courses to the United States’ Optional Practical Training Programme (OPT), the visa extension is restrictive and subject to specific restrictions. The applied employment opportunities available to international students after completing their education through the OPT Program are extremely limited.
With the prospect of lucrative professions and permanent residency on the horizon, it’s no surprise that more Indian students are migrating to Canada each year. The number of Indian students who successfully gained PR status increased by 105 percent between 2016 and 2019.
Irrespective of the prominence connected to STEM courses at American colleges, the country’s stringent post-study immigration laws will continue to dissuade international students. Preserving the existing quo is a formula for static or declining international student enrollment, as well as less innovation and prosperity in the US economy, writes Stuart Anderson, Executive Director of NFAP.
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