International education – funding options and flexible visa rules

With a number of countries now offering increasing funding options and flexible visa and immigration rules, pursuing an international education has become considerably easier.

Universities in the US and Canada offer partial as well as full tuition fees waivers to meritorious applicants. The number of students benefiting from these scholarships has increased considerably. This is the result of many universities limiting the full tuition fee waivers to top performers and increasing the partial scholarship rewards to a larger number of applicants. Other than tuition waivers, universities in the North American region offer cultural scholarships, sports scholarships as well as ethnic diversity scholarships to help students with smaller sums of money. Many universities offer co-op facilities wherein students are allowed to work for a whole semester in any company and are usually paid about USD 15,000 per co-op. The best financial aid is reserved for masters and doctoral students who are given full tuition fee waivers along with a graduate assistantship of as much as USD 1,000 to 2,000 per month. Paid summer internships often resulting in a job offer too are common.

In the UK, bursaries awarded to students in most universities are not huge. However, the availability of scholarships such as the British Chevenin, Commonwealth, Rhodes Foundation, and Inlaks Foundation among others encourages students to seriously consider universities in Britain. This, in spite of he relatively higher cost of studying there. Singapore offers students, seeking admissions to public universities a waiver of about 75 percent on the tuition fees for the entire period of study on the condition of signing a bond. According to this bond, students are required to work in Singapore for at least three years post completion of their course. All countries namely, the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore allow students to work for 20 hours per week which generally offsets their living expenses. Though universities in the US insist on on-campus student employment during the semester, other countries pave the way for higher earning and several future job opportunities for students by not persisting on on-campus employment.

Apart from the expenses of an international education, one of the key concerns of most students going abroad is the availability of job opportunities in the country of study post the completion of their course. Getting a visa for the US and Canada is relatively easier. An application, proof of sufficient funds and an interview with the visa officer, is all it takes for a US or Canadian visa to be delivered within 48 hours. The recent changes in the UK visa process that require students to produce several uncommon documents have made the study visa process slightly cumbersome.

The Singapore visa takes about two weeks to arrive. The Immigration and Customs Authority (ICA) processes the application in Singapore after which the student is sponsored by his / her institution.

This method leaves little onus on the student except sending duly filled in forms to get the visa. The advent of e-visas has largely made it simpler to get visas for both Australia and New Zealand.

As a large number of international students are choosing to stay back and take up jobs in the country of their education, nations are increasingly working towards easing their immigration procedures. For instance, the US has allowed an additional 20,000 H1B temporary workers visas for students who have earned a graduate school degree in the country. Moreover, anew rule allows STEM graduates, waiting for their H1B visa applications to be accepted, to take up Optional Practical Training for an extended period of 29 months. In Australia and New Zealand the requirement for application for a Permanent Residence status is not difficult. It takes two years pf graduate study in a university in ANZ and 120 points in Australia and 80 points in New Zealand to qualify as a highly skilled migrant. To acquire a work permit in Singapore the applicant is required to be earning more than Singaporean dollars 3,000 per month while working in a reputed organization. Canada offers employment and possible residency status to degree and diploma holders from a Canadian university.

Because of their skills, knowledge, and perseverance, and with countries increasingly relaxing their funding options, visa and immigration rules, Indians are in high demand in the global job market. —