While almost all the students I work with want to return to their home countries, they also see the advantage of working in the US for a few years, prior to their graduate degrees or before returning home. For most, this is because in the US, a fresh graduate will be exposed to more and gain experience at a faster rate than if they work in India. In India, especially in STEM jobs, there is often extended training period, then a probation period, and then finally when working with the company, you are on the lower end of the hierarchy in what is often several tiers of Human Resources “levels” that is more time-bound than merit-based. Perhaps after 3-5 years, that hungry student will finally manage a small team. Only a few more years till they will have profit-loss responsibility or travel internationally, both key experiences for MBA applications. In short, they want to work in the US to be paid in experience, not necessarily to make more money.
Since Donald Trump has been elected, almost all the families I work with have asked me to speak about changes that are likely under this administration. I must first humbly admit to them that I had never predicted that Donald Trump would win, so feel that I am not uniquely qualified to predict what he will do tomorrow, much less in the next three years! However, I have started to think that perhaps instead of trying to predict what he will do, it is better to try to predict what others will do in reaction to every bizarre thing that is proposed.
When I read the “Global” section of Indian newspapers in India, 90% of which seems to now be made up of Trump, it seems like the US is on fire, and that fire is blowing every dangerous flame directly at India. I don’t blame the newspapers though, they are making lemonade just like the US media is doing. Trump has helped failing newspapers, as “scary” sells well!
The reality is quite different in my experience, and in the experiences of all my students I have spoken to who are in college now. I will be shortly going on a tour of big Trump supported states to visit colleges and international students in order to get the ground reality of sentiments they are feeling. Look forward to new blog post on that soon. I want to see if there is any truth to the fear that some of the more racists elements of Trump supporters now feel they have a voice, and whether international students feel less safe in these places.
There was an article this week in the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/18/technology/h1b-visa-facts-tech-worker.html?_r=0) about Trump considering reducing the H1B (work) visas. It is interesting to note that 70% of these go to Indian workers. Additionally, that at least 6 of the top 10 companies hiring on H1B visas are Indian companies. My first impression was that if these are US-based Indian companies, then they are generating wealth and paying US taxes, so that cannot be bad for the US. However, there also is likely some inequality in pay going on. That is, these Indian companies are likely not paying their H1B employees as much as they would pay a comparable US citizen. I have no proof of this, aside from having worked in India for 20 years (so pretty sure that this would be the reality). I know that during my stint working in India, the Indian government changed the rules of an employment visa needing to make over a certain amount of money. Basically, they established an amount that they wanted to get in taxes from any foreign worker. It would seem something similar could fix this issue of H1B visas, but as the article points out, that would be an advantage for larger established companies, and hurt smaller or startup organizations who are cash poor.
All of this brings us back to the uncertainty of the future. As I alluded to earlier, perhaps trying to predict what the Trump administration will do is impossible, but instead, focus on how the fear will change the focus of many other families to look elsewhere (but besides Canada, I am not sure where one would look?). I propose that unpredictable times are an opportunity for the bold! Every year, for the past 7 years, the number of international students going to study in the US has risen dramatically. This in turn has made it more and more selective to get into universities. Perhaps we are experiencing a huge “correction” here, where many are now looking elsewhere. I see the value in this, and in hedging your bets for other countries; but I also see the advantage to stay in the minority who takes the risk of navigating in uncertain waters.