Indian science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students planning an overseas higher education are losing sleep over reports that US President Donald Trump may roll back the extension of optional practical training (OPT). During the OPT period, students can work on a student visa. Currently, in America, about 1.6 lakh STEM students are allowed to stay on for up to three years, after they graduate, to work or look for jobs.
When the period was extended for STEM graduates from one year to up to three, during former President Barack Obama’s administration, it became a bigger attraction; students often banked on it to gain experience and in the hope that US companies would sponsor them on the H-1B work visa thereafter.
Studies followed by OPT followed by H-1B followed by green card is the route taken by many international students, especially from India, to the promised land. Thousands of kilometers away, however, one country, Ireland, has slightly different plans from those of Trump. Recently Ireland announced a decision to double the “stay back option” for master’s and Ph.D. students from 12 months to 24. “By increasing the window, we are moving in the opposite direction to other overseas education destinations.
There are many attractive job opportunities in Ireland, and the Irish government is the view that many bright Indian students will now find a compelling option to gain post study work experience and join the diverse workforce in Ireland in sectors such as software, biopharma, engineering, ICT and finance,” Rory Power, director, India & South Asia of Enterprise Ireland, an economic development agency, told ET Magazine.
In 2015, over 2,000 Indian students went to Ireland for higher education; the figure would have gone up by at least 10 percent in 2016. Declan Coogan, an international student recruitment manager at Trinity College Dublin, felt that the announcement of the two-year stay back graduate visa will reinforce Ireland in the minds of Indian students as a welcome destination for world-class education and research along with career opportunities.
But clearly, it’s the US that has the maximum appeal. “The STEM OPT extension in the US is especially appealing to Indian students in master’s programs in engineering and computer science. Data from the Student Exchange & Visitor Program indicates that in 2016, 83 per cent of Indian students were enrolled in STEM programs,” says, a US-based provider of career services to international students.
That may result in advantage Ireland — now the only English-speaking education destination in the European Union — even as non-English speaking destinations are emerging as alternatives.
“The German federal foreign office grants students an 18-month extension of visa after studies for the purpose of seeking a job. Considering that most of the students would like to shift to the industry after studies, this extension gives us ample time to explore opportunities.
In terms of employment opportunities, especially in the field of IT andEngineeringg, Indian students certainly have an edge over others with a majority of them holding engineering degrees. “This combined with Germany’s constant demand for engineers is a win-win for both Germany and Indian students.
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The German parliament has also implemented an EU Blue Card and an unlimited work and residence permit to grant foreign graduates of German universities unrestricted access to the job market. India ranks second in countries of origin of international students enrolled in Germany. Some 83 per cent of Indian students going to Germany opt for STEM programs and, in 2015-16, around 14,000 students were enrolled.
Likewise, Indian students who graduate from French business and engineering schools can extend their stay in the country for up to two years in order to acquire work experience. Every year, 4,000 Indian students go for higher studies in France, a number that the French government hopes will increase to 10,000 by 2020.
Procedures for Indian students wishing to study in France have been simplified. Furthermore, Indian alumni who hold a degree at the master’s or higher level from a French higher education institution are being granted tourist or business visas with a five-year validity period. Finally, the talent passport, a newly created long-term residence permit (four years), is designed for highly skilled foreigners (researchers, scientists, artists) wishing to settle in France,” says Anne-Laure. first counselor at the French embassy in India.
Australia too has emerged as an attractive destination. Current regulations allow all graduating students (bachelor’s and master’s), who have studied for a minimum of two years in Australia, to get what is referred to as a post-study work (PSW) visa for two years irrespective of the specialization. Research students are able to get a PSW for up to four years. Many Indian students in Australia opt for studies followed by PSW followed by work permit and then permanent residency (PR).
“Some students are able to apply and get the PR directly after the PSW without the need for the work permit. The minimum salary required for the work permit is A$54,000. Besides, Australia has just introduced additional points for permanent residency for STEM graduates in a bid to attract talent,” says Ravi Lochan Singh, MD of an educational consultancy firm.
Canada, which is the other huge draw for Indian students, offers a post-graduation work permit for up to three years. Postgraduate work experience in Canada may potentially make Indian students eligible for permanent resident status. In 2016, over 40,000 study permits, or student visas, were issued to Indian students.
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