How ‘America First’ Is Making Adulting Harder For Indians

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Throughout his election campaign and the first half of his presidency, Donald Trump reiterated that foreign-born immigrant workers were ‘stealing’ American jobs. His claim is not entirely off the mark.

Since the early 2000s, America has been outsourcing thousands of jobs to countries like India, China, Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, Pakistan, Turkey, etc. American outsourcing reached its peak in 2013, when 14 million jobs in industries like manufacturing, customer service, information technology, human resources, etc., were ‘exported’ abroad – all of which could have been held by native-born Americans instead. In the domestic workforce, foreign-born immigrants were taking up a bigger portion of the jobs available with every passing year – from 15% in 2005 to 17.1% in 2017 and they were more likely to be employed than their native-born counterparts.

Not just jobs, but U.S. dependence on foreign goods increased too. By 2013 America’s imports reached a peak with a trade deficit (imports greater than exports) of $51.4 billion, up by 22.5% since 2010. That means instead of buying American goods to encourage their own economy, Americans were buying more and more imported products.

So President Trump came up with the “America First” policy – a new set of immigration and trade laws to bring all these jobs and all this business back to native-born Americans. Good news for Americans but bad news for Indians. Since we’re the second largest immigrant population in the U.S. (Mexico is first), making up over 5% of the total foreign-born population, America First will most affect us the most.

Here’s a rundown on what will happen.

And this will ring true especially while we do all our adulting – like graduating college, earning a living, getting hitched and having babies.

1. Education

Many young Indians look at an education in the U.S. as a way to get a leg into the American workforce. They hope that they’ll find a job straight out of college through campus recruitments, get an H1B work visa, paving the way for eventual citizenship. But “America First” also means “Americans First”.

Before the 90s, changing an F1 (student) visa, to an H1B (employment) visa, was little more than a formality. The difficult part was actually getting someone to hire you for a job that paid high enough. Back then, most immigrants only got low-income jobs in the service industry. This changed with the boom in the late 90s-early 2000s when Indians – with a high aptitude for mathematics and science  – were heavily recruited in the IT sector. More and more Indians began to pursue higher education in STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), converting their degrees into high paying jobs after graduation. Eventually, a third of all H1B visas were Indians, mostly working in the tech industry.

Obviously, this won’t work in an “America First” world. According to a National Association of Colleges and Employers report, in 2018, 23.4% of employers indicated they will hire international students, down from 27.5% last year and a high of 34.2% in 2015, mainly to avoid scrutiny from the U.S. Government.

Discouraged by this trend, fewer students are applying to U.S. universities. According to the National Science Board, undergraduate enrolment fell 2% from 2016 to 2017, and graduate enrolment declined by 6% in science and engineering fields and by 5% in other fields. With slimmer future prospects, getting an education in the U.S. may not be worth the $50,000/year (average) international students have to pay.

2. Employment

In April 2017, President Trump signed the Buy American, Hire American” executive order, directing the Department of Homeland Security to ensure H-1B visas used by employers to hire foreign citizens are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid beneficiaries. This meant that American companies could only hire foreign-borns if a similar skill set was not found in a native-born. When employers applied for a visa on behalf of foreign-born recruits, they would have to provide RFEs (requests of evidence) to the Immigration office to prove that the new recruit had a unique skill set and was hired for a high-paid profile. Anything lesser would be rejected. Because of all the extra time, money and paperwork, employers preferred to look for a native-born who could do the same work.

The numbers from the Department of Homeland Security corroborate this. H-1B visa petitions fell significantly in 2018, when 190,098 applications were received for 2019, down from 199,000 applications for 2018 and 236,000 for 2017.

Today, Indians make up 50.5% of all H1B visa holders, nearly 9 lakh foreign-borns. However, this number isn’t going to increase as rapidly as it did before. Already there has been a 4% dip in the visas granted to Indians. While 70,737 people were approved in 2016, only 67,815 were approved this year. Firms like Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Tech Mahindra Ltd., Infosys Ltd., and Wipro Ltd., with offices in the U.S., have already noted a decline in the number of H1B visas granted to their employees.

If this trend continues, finding employment in the U.S. is going to be a lot tougher.

3. Marriage

To add to these problems, the Department of Homeland Security announced in March 2018, that they will be revoking the right to employment from H4 visas, which are held by the dependents of H1B visa-holders, mainly spouses.

For decades, the H4 visa holders were not allowed to work until they got their green cards. However, with nearly 3 lakh Indians waiting in queue to get their Green Cards, it would take forever before H4 visa holders could get their hands on one to seek employment. To fix this problem, the Obama Administration in 2015 instated the H4-EAD (Employment Authorization Document), which allowed spouses to work while they waited for their green cards. However, the Trump Administration wants to revoke the EADs in another attempt to take back jobs from foreign-borns.

Nearly 93% of H4 holders are Indian women, a lot of them established professionals in their own right and active contributors to their households and the U.S. economy. Without employment, they’ll be forced to take on the role of housewives. For many Indian women, one of the perks of marrying someone from the U.S. is that they could escape the Indian patriarchy and work freely. Without this perk, it’s going to be harder for professionals in the U.S. to find wives. Once a hot commodity in the matrimonial market, software engineers from the U.S. are now becoming undesirable. According to Gourav Rakshit, CEO of, “The number of women looking for life partners in the US has been declining rapidly, especially since November…(this) may be related to political developments in the US.”

4. Having Children

H4 visas don’t apply only to spouses but also the children of H1B visa holders, and with the new plan to revoke H4 EADs, if you’re an H1B holder, you might want to reconsider having children in the U.S.

According to President Trump’s plan, regardless of when you moved to the U.S., how long your H1B visa extends to or how many years your children have spent in the U.S., the second they turn 21, they’ll be on their own. This means, if they’re in college, they will have to re-enroll as international students (international students pay way more tuition fees than U.S.  Citizens). They won’t be eligible to apply for the thousands of scholarships given to local students, nor can they benefit from the many financial aid schemes available to native-borns.

That’s not all. Since most students start out college at 18, their age 21 cut-off will probably come when they’re in the middle of their education. If you started out with a course that’s only available to American’s, you’ll be forced to switch majors mid-course.

Even if you can afford to pay the full tuition fees of an international student and finish out the course, once your child graduates, they’ll have to apply for citizenship or employment as if they’re applying from another country, and hope they pass the new more rigorous process of getting their own H1B visa.

Since there’s no guarantee of a stable future for your children, raising a family in the U.S. just got a whole lot more complicated.

What’s worse?

All these Indian-American send back millions of dollars as remittances. In 2016, India received $10.657 billion in remittances from foreign workers in the U.S. With fewer Indian workers in the U.S., India’s going to make a lot less money henceforth.

And that’s not all, by increasing trade tariffs on certain imports, to encourage domestic markets, President Trump is also diverting investments back to the U.S. By making it less lucrative for Americans to invest in foreign markets,  it will be harder for Indian businesses to find American investors.

Watch the video below to understand the impact of Trump’s new trade policies on India, and read this article to understand how it will affect you personally.

How ‘America First’ Is Making Adulting Harder For Indians was last modified: by
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