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Why is US turning back Indian students?

Current scenario:

Indian students coming to the United States for pursuing higher education, have been caught in a fix, with many cases of deportation or denial of entry for no fault of theirs.

With Paris and St. Bernardino paranoia in the wake and US pre-elections right around the corner, the situation’s only aggravating. An estimated 60-70 students have been forced to turn back, despite having valid F-1 visas issued by US missions in India with the requisite I-20 forms from educational institutions certifying their admission. Deportation continues despite New Delhi making a strong plea to Washington, to honor their visas.

Most recent events responsible for such drastic measures can be tracked back to San Francisco, about two weeks after the December 2 terrorist attack in St Bernardino, with Air India asked to fly back 14 Indian students who had come to join schools like the Silicon Valley University (NPU – San Jose) and Northwestern Polytechnic (Fremont). The voice of schools to which students had applied for, suggested that Air India was not allowing its students to board the flight from India to the US, as it would have the responsibility to fly back any individual eventually denied entry to a country, at its own cost. Following these acquisitions, Air India has resumed bringing in Indian students provided they commit to pay for their return in case they were not allowed to enter the US.

The United States however, has denied any large-scale ban on entry of Indian students and claims that CBP agents decide every student file solely on its merits. In some cases, students didn’t even know what courses they had planned to study, where they would stay or how they would meet their living expenses, as students are not allowed to work. Some immigration officers are even giving spot tests to incoming students. A vast majority of students belong to Andhra Pradesh, but there is apparently no racial profiling or targeting of Indian students as students from other countries including China too have been denied entry.

Reasons behind high brain drain:

Recently, cut-offs for admissions have become close to 100% in order to get into the best Indian universities. While the institutes are in the race for getting the best students in the country, the ambitious youth who fail to meet the “irrational” demands of high cut-offs and the extremely high quota based reservation system, compromise on their dream to occupy a seat in any of the prestigious Indian universities. This leads them to exploring the scope of higher education abroad. The academically well qualified people too, prefer going abroad for higher research because they don’t get the best chances, resources and facilities for research in India.

Most of the students prefer staying back in the host foreign country due to better work opportunities and heavy pay packages. After getting good global exposure and getting introduced to high quality of life and facilities, students become reluctant to come back to their home country. These days, most of the developed countries act like organizations. When they fail to find good, talented and skilled workers in their country, they attract the highly skilled and qualified people from other countries. It’s very obvious that the skilled Indians prefer US Green Cards and EU Blue Cards over the not-so-attractive pay checks and average living conditions in a developing country like India.


There is no short-term solution to this problem for India. The only remedy is to build up high-quality capacity in key disciplines at national institutions so that a greater number of Indian students can obtain excellent training at home. This means significant investment over time, and careful choices about where to invest since all universities cannot be top research universities.

It also means significant changes in India’s academic culture to ensure that meritocracy operates at all levels. China’s top universities are beginning to show up in the mid-levels of the global rankings, an indication that they are having some success. India, so far, is nowhere to be seen.

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