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Forget USA and UK for higher education
Despite President Trump’s characterisation of the visa category as a source of cheap labour, he recognises the importance of skilled workers from abroad.

April has been a month of turmoil, with upcoming elections in Europe and executive orders in America creating an environment increasingly unfavourable to Indian workers and students. On 18 April, President Trump signed an order to begin a review of H1B visas, as a fulfillment of his electoral promises. For India’s job seekers, the news is not as bad as might be expected: there were fears that H1B visas might be frozen. The Order calls for a review of the visa programme that may take years to complete. 

Indians looking at jobs in US tech firms such as Microsoft and Google are unlikely to suffer adverse effects immediately. However, long-term reforms remain a threat, particularly for those applying for jobs at smaller companies. A proposal to grant H1B visas for only the highest paid workers – on the principle that it would lower the number of American jobs taken by foreigners – would hit Indians hoping to work at newer organisations, which lack the resources to offer large salaries. 

The uncertain future of the H1B visa might also be part of the reason that applications by Indian students to US universities have dropped. For those still looking at education in the States, the H1B would have previously been the way to get a visa for employment in the country. With this in doubt and with the high costs of education in the US, they may be better off looking at other nations. 

The populist anti-foreigner sentiment is another concern of Indians in the US.  Some racist assaults and shootings were targeted at Indians and this violence has a troubling precedent.


Leave the day you graduate...

The news from Britain is also less than stellar for Indians considering jobs there. Prime Minister Therasa May’s decision to hold a snap election took the country by surprise. May’s Conservative party lacks a real national opposition and is likely to carry enough seats to gain a substantial majority in Parliament, allowing her to rule as she wants. 

Such a victory should make Indians looking for employment or education think twice about coming to the UK. As Home Secretary, the Prime Minister’s policies towards international students were unequivocal: “I want foreign students to leave the day they graduate,” she said. 

The Prime Minister’s stubborn persistence on the issue may break down in the wake of Brexit and the need for better trade deals with India and other countries. Her overtures towards the BJP suggest that she recognises the importance of the Commonwealth to Britain’s future: upon leaving the European Union, the island nation will lose much of its bargaining clout. For the time being, however, May’s increasing power means Indian students keen to stay on in the UK may well be disappointed.


Le Pen suggests ban on all immigration

While the French elections were planned considerably in advance of their UK counterparts, their outcome is far less obvious. Should Emmanuel Macron, the liberal candidate be victorious, a change in the status of international students and workers is implausible. The recent murder of a French police officer in an attack claimed by the Islamic State brought the not impossible alternative of Marine Le Pen into sharp relief. Le Pen (the daughter of a Holocaust denier who formerly headed her party, the Front National) recently proposed a ban on all immigration to the country. The precedent of shutting out all foreigners may interest populist politicians elsewhere. 

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