The covid pandemic has posed unforeseen challenges for Indian students aspiring to study abroad. However, he ignored the determination of the country’s students in their desire to build a better life for themselves.
As international borders began to open around July and August of this year, we saw scores of Indian students rushing to consulates in various countries to get their study visas approved. In August, as India’s vaccination program accelerated, 17 EU member countries agreed to lift travel restrictions for those who had received both doses of the Covishield vaccine. The US Mission to India, which issues immigrant and non-immigrant visas to Indians seeking entry into the United States, saw an unprecedented wave of activity around this time, as students rushed to its embassies and consulates. Even though the student season was delayed by a few months this year, the United States Embassy and its consulates worked overtime to process a record number of applications and provided visas to more than 55,000 students for the semester. fall which is currently underway in American universities. The mission is now looking forward to facilitating student entry for the spring semester, which begins in January next year.
What exactly makes studying abroad such an attractive option for Indian students?
Namita Mehta, President of The Red Pen, an independent global education consulting firm that helps applicants navigate the admissions process, said: “Indian students choose to study abroad for four key reasons. our experience. One, unrivaled infrastructure; second, a diverse international community that further fosters innovation and learning; third, the flexibility of the system, [such as] options to change specialization while graduating on time; and fourth, the many opportunities for research and practical experience that are built into most university programs. “
The United States alone has more than 4,500 universities that offer benchmark education, with state-of-the-art infrastructure and technological support as well as flexible academic programs coupled with opportunities for hands-on training. Studying at some of the best universities in the world not only gives Indian students the chance to build strong professional networks, but also makes it easier for those who intend to settle abroad.
However, the quality of the experience students have in a foreign country is highly dependent on the residency rights they have, which in turn are closely linked to immigration laws. Conventional routes, like opting for an F-1 visa for study in the United States, followed by an H-1B visa for work, have serious drawbacks. For example, the freedom of students to study and work is tied to the universities and employers sponsoring these visas. The temporary nature of these visas and the capping of visa applications through the US H-1B lottery system only further complicated the path to establishment in America.
However, some government-run immigration programs in developed countries can dramatically improve the experience of Indian students, as they provide long-term residency options. These programs offer investors the opportunity to diversify their portfolios by investing in a foreign country, with the added benefit of acquiring a permanent residence permit or citizenship there.
An increasing number of Indians are applying for such citizenship or residence permits using these investment programs, the majority of them doing so to support education abroad and their children’s global career goals. Parents believe that by using this route, they can provide a level playing field for their children, who can then compete with their global peers without worrying about their temporary visas prematurely ending their dreams.
One such program that is very popular with affluent Indian families is the US EB-5 Immigrant Investor program. This program offers investors, their spouses and their children the advantage of American “green cards” in a few years if they invest $ 500,000 in an American project that creates at least 10 American jobs. Green cards offer a wide range of benefits to international students, such as a greater chance of being admitted to higher education institutions, as many colleges would not classify them as international students. As green card holders, students can also access scholarships and loans in the United States more easily, and they may even be eligible for lower tuition fees. The career opportunities that open to students with green cards are significant and there is no reliance on an employer for visa sponsorship. They might even start their own business right after college.
Portugal‘s Golden Visa program is a similar alternative to the US EB-5 visa program. It allows permanent European residence by investing a minimum of € 280,000 in this country.
The US and Portuguese programs both offer an optional path to citizenship in these countries after a few years. If better education, employment and lifestyle opportunities were not sufficient motivation, a US passport allows visa-free travel to 187 other countries (a Portuguese passport does the same for 188), compared to 58 entry options that an Indian passport provides. This is perhaps one of the main reasons why the demand for the US EB-5 visa has almost quadrupled in recent years. Applications for Golden Visas in European countries such as Greece and Portugal have also seen a substantial increase, leading to real estate booms in these countries. Various other nations also have such programs.
Whether through investment programs or conventional pathways, Indian students are starting to spread their wings abroad. This will help rebuild bridges to a globalized post-pandemic world.
Shilpa Menon is Senior Director, India, LCR Capital Partners.
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