Anuj Parikh is director at Gujarat-based Disha Consultants, a leading overseas education consultancy firm. He has been associated with Disha since 2005, and is primarily responsible for the firm’s international outreach and relationship building with top foreign universities. He also oversees the recruitment of new students, counseling, providing guidance with university selection, application process, admission, visa processing and financial requirements.
The world of students, those that graduated either from high school or from their colleges with a bachelor’s degree in 2021 or 2022 has been uncertain. There are multiple views on which country is welcoming students and which is not. Of the lot, US and Canada have been most proactive and responsive. Case in point is that both countries have been processing student visas on priority. In fact, in the case of the US, a student visa (F1) is the only category of visas processed by US consulates in India for the past eight months.
In this article, we will explore the current policies of US and Canadian universities and governments as well as ease of travel to these countries, especially by students.
The US, especially the Biden administration has granted National Interest Exception to Indian students guaranteeing them entry into the country with a valid visa. This in itself shows that the administration considers international students a priority. It is aware of not only the revenue that students bring to the universities, but also the diversity, cultural inputs, and ultimately the value as professionals as they drive US high tech industries.
In fact, it is the stated policy of the Biden administration to support international education. There is also a possibility of an extension of OPT as well as an increase in quota for H-1 visas. Almost all US universities have started in-person classes and thus there is no need for online study.
Starting with the Fall intake of 2021 (in September) Canada has started welcoming foreign students, especially from India. Both the Indian vaccines have been approved by Canada, and there is no need for quarantine in most provinces for fully vaccinated students.
It is a well-known fact that in terms of granting permanent residence to Indian students, the Canadian government is among the most prompt and transparent. This is the reason why Canada today welcomes more Indian students than any other country.
The reason for limiting this document to US and Canada is due to the leadership position enjoyed by both countries in recruiting students from India. Since most students look for a successful career in a foreign country after graduating, it is important to note the size of the economies of these countries which will reflect the potential job market.
US: $22.36 Trillion; Canada: $1.8 Trillion; Australia: $1.3 Trillion; and UK: $3.1 Trillion.
From the above numbers, it is clear that in terms of the economy and its consequent effect on available jobs, US is by far the largest market. This is further proved by the fact that industry leaders of Indian origin such as Sunder Pichai, Indra Nooyi, Satya Nadella, and Parag Agrawal, the newly appointed CEO of Twitter, have all found their calling in US. The number of Indian-origin professionals is relatively lower in other countries.
The reason for Indian students going in large numbers to Canada is very obvious. The country has the best policy for granting permanent residence to potential immigrants. Given the low density of population, (just 4 people per sq km compared with 464 in India), it is logical that the Canadian government is among the most welcoming in terms of its immigration policies, especially towards young student population.
We will now explore the admission and student visa processes of the US and Canada.
Application Process for Admission to US and Canadian Universities:
It is most important to identify the programs and universities that the student is interested in. This process should be initiated at least one year prior to graduating from school/college in India.
Most students while making a list of universities to be applied to take up some ambitious universities and some moderate or safe universities. Other criteria for selection of university and program are the cost of education (including possibilities of scholarship or assistantship), employment opportunities after graduating, university reputation and ranking, and program availability.
Each university and program have a unique set of admission requirements and it is important that the student understands them carefully. Besides academic record, the university may require a statement of purpose (a short and focused write up about why the student requires higher education, his/her interests, and how he/she is geared to prepare for overseas educational experience), recommendation letters (in most cases two or three, ideally from professors who have taught the student and/or superior at the company where student is employed), transcripts, cover letters, filling up of online application form, financial documents (requirement varies from country to country and from university to university), resume (concise), test scores, and any other information that can help with admission decision.
Visa Process for the US
After a lean period during the Covid-19, it is important to note that for the Fall intake of 2021, US has given student visas (F 1 category) to more than 55,000 Indian students, a record in itself. The most notable aspect here is that the interview process was opened by US consulates only for students and not for any other category of visas further underlying the importance of Indian students to US.
The student visa for the US entails booking an appointment for a physical interview at one of the consulates and convincing the visa officer about the student’s need for higher education, quality of program and university, future goals, and financial capabilities of the family to provide for the education and other expenses.
Visa Process for Canada
In the recent past, Canadian government has also made Student Study Permit policy very liberal and transparent. If the student has given IELTS and scored a minimum of 6 bands in each category (speaking, listening, reading and writing), he/she qualifies for SDS (student direct stream started in June 2018) visa processing. This cuts down on time and documentation requirements. The student has to pay one year tuition fees in advance to the educational institution and a further deposit (GIC) of CAD 10,000/- needs to be made in a Canadian bank towards living and other expenses. This amount is returned to the student in equal instalments once he/she arrives in Canada.
It is thus obvious that US and Canada have acted very positively and proactively facilitating ease of obtaining student visas. It is time Indian students take advantage of this.