Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint
Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint
Text Size:

Due to coronavirus crisis and global recession, over 20-25 per cent of H1B employees in the US could be laid off in the coming weeks and forced to return to India. After 150 US colleges asked students to vacate campuses and opt for online classes last month, the prospect of studying abroad also appears grim.

ThePrint asks: H1B row: Will Covid, recession dampen Indian students’ desire to study and work abroad?

Many Indian students are unsure whether they will get jobs after graduating in US. But they know the degree is still powerful

Dinesh Singh | TwitterDinesh Singh
Former V-C, University of Delhi

Each year, around this time, I find myself busy writing letters of recommendation for students who are keen to go abroad, particularly to the United States, for higher studies. What is a little different this year is not that the numbers have decreased a bit, because the students are trying to figure out if they should postpone their arrival in the United States from the Fall semester to the Spring semester, that is to January 2021. This is expected given the upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic. There are other concerns as well. For instance, some of the students were not sure if the United States would be able to grant them opportunities to work after they graduate.

However, I find that the desire to gain credentials from a well-regarded American university seem to override their worries about job prospects. I am not surprised by this attitude. These students are well aware that a qualification from an American university shall stand them in good stead when it comes to competing for jobs anywhere in the world. Additionally, they are also banking on the expectation that the American economy has much better chances of making a strong recovery than most others. This could alter the H1B visa scenario in a couple of years, or so they seem to think. In any case, they do not seem to think that they have much to lose.

Indians have a fire in their belly to excel academically and professionally. Motivation to go abroad won’t be affected

Mrinal K. Singh
Educational Consultant, Prem N. Kapur Associates

Indians are resilient by nature and have a stronger fire burning in their belly than most others, so I do not believe that Covid-19 will affect the desire of students to study and work abroad. If anything, I think students will be pushed to work harder to get into better universities and get better grades to get the best possible jobs.

It is important to understand why Indians seek to go abroad for further education – the primary reason is to be better qualified than their peers and to get better and higher-paying jobs. So, the recession that will arise post the coronavirus pandemic will be an additional motivation for them and will push them even harder professionally.

We have been counselling students since 1981 and have seen that economic recessions do not really impact the international education industry. I am busier today than ever before — doing online counselling sessions with students for both 2020 as well as 2021, and do not detect any negativity among them. Universities are still accepting applications and except for the fact that we are all working from home, it is business as usual for the entire industry.

Education abroad is expensive, but HIB work visas helped repay loans. Coronavirus crisis is a dampener for Indian students

Manisha Priyam
Associate Professor at the National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), New Delhi

Covid-19 and the global human crisis that has ensued will be a big dampener for Indian students who want to study and work abroad — in the US, the UK, and Australia, among other places. First of all, education abroad is expensive and the squeeze on household incomes in India will be definitely hard. Second, students have been stranded in the US and elsewhere, because they have had to vacate hostels within days, and have few places they can move to. The closing of airspaces made it difficult for all of them to travel back to India.

An important charm of foreign education was the post-study work visas that allowed Indian students to find high-paying jobs and recover part of the investment in their degrees. In the US, this was the charm in getting an H1B visa, albeit through a lottery and overall cap on numbers. Also, declining jobs in the US will lead to a lot of clamour within the US to give these jobs to Americans first.

These issues make it difficult for the rising Indian middle class and the rich to invest in expensive education in the US and other countries.

When pandemic eases, it will be hard for Indian students to convince parents to let them board a plane, let alone look for better prospects

Subbaraju Pericherla
Founder, Crossborders, H1B visa expert

The US has long been the go-to country for higher education for India’s students. Having closely worked with India-US operations for over a decade, I don’t think this will change.

Over the last few years, the US government has tried to streamline immigration policies, which has benefited Indian aspirants. The number of applicants either for H1 or F1 visa has never decreased drastically and neither has investors’ visa and entrepreneurs’ visa. In the last three years, there has been a high growth in investors’ visa (EB5) applications (year on year) and usually, parents file these applications on behalf of their children to help them obtain Green Cards.

However, I strongly feel the current coronavirus pandemic and the recession will dampen Indian students’ desire to study and work in the US. Lockdowns across the globe and the social distancing factor have also impacted the travel and aviation industry thereby making cross-country movement harder. Even when the pandemic eases, students who come from conservative Indian households will face the challenge of convincing their parents to let them board a plane, let alone venture abroad for better prospects.

Also read: Modi’s 9-min candle plan Sunday: Needless spectacle or much-needed motivation for Indians?

By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism



  1. @ashok I think the answer lies in your beliefs and attitude. Most top scientists are very open-minded people; the domestic religious politics and notions of Hindu Rashtra or Islamic Rashtra are dissuading them from stying in the country. I’m a scientist and I would like to live in a country that funds science and pushes people towards a scientific temper. The physics that I work on does not care whether you’re Hindu or not.

  2. To widen the ambit from just studying to working abroad, the push factor is increasing. India is no longer shining as a land of opportunity. It could be a manual labourer from Punjab or the brightest products of IIT / IIM, the young want to make a better life abroad, cannot wait to exchange their Satyameva Jayate passports for E pluribus unum. One hopes and prays that the people who gaze far into the future, talk of India becoming a Vishwaguru, dream of a resurgent Hindu Rashtra, who have the power and also the responsibility to change the fate lines of ordinary citizens, think deeply of why that part of India’s youth that looks like a demographic dividend cheque is so anxious to buy a one way ticket.

Comments are closed.