Even as international travel, whether for employment or tourism or business, is yet to fully bounce back from its pandemic-induced trough, the first 11 months of 2022 have witnessed a record number of Indian students go abroad on student visas. According to the statistics placed before the Parliament by the Bureau of Immigration (BoI), as many as 6,48,678 students have gone abroad on student visas up to November 30, 2022, which is an all-time high compared with the student movement figures in the past five years.
The data compiled by the BoI, which collects the data on Indians going abroad based either on their verbal disclosure or the type of visa of the destination country produced by them at the time of immigration clearance, shows that international travel by Indians, including for business, employment, pilgrimage, medical, residence re-entry, visiting, and tourism purposes, has not fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Only travel on student visas and people travelling on visiting visas have reached either at the pre-pandemic level or surpassed the pre-COVID-19 figures.
A record number of Indians had gone abroad in 2019, with over 2.52 crore Indians visiting various countries for different purposes, including 89.50 lakh Indians travelling for residence or re-entry purposes, 63.80 lakh on tourist visas, and 42.11 lakh on visiting visas. In 2022 (up to November 30) as many as 1.83 crore Indians went abroad, with 72.49 lakh for residence and re-entry purposes, 40.92 lakh on visiting visas, and 30.85 lakh on tourist visas.
The data also reveals that international travel to traditional destinations for jobs in West Asia, such as the UAE, which accounts for the highest number of Indians abroad, is yet to reach the pre-pandemic levels, but the number of Indians going to countries like Canada and the U.K. — favoured destinations for students — surpassed the pre-pandemic figures. If 6.17 lakh Indians went to Canada in 2019, the number has reached 6.60 lakh in the first 11 months of 2022. Similarly, 7.54 lakh Indians are heading for the U.K. till November 30, 2022, compared with 7.45 lakh in 2019.
Speaking to The Hindu, S. Irudaya Rajan, chairman, International Institute of Migration and Development, Kerala, said it’s true that the student migration from India to foreign countries has now reached a feverish pitch, post-COVID-19. “Our young brains leaving the country in large numbers will definitely have an impact on the economic growth of the country in terms of huge outflow of money from India to support colleges and universities in Canada, Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. Further, the increase in the number of people travelling on visiting visas is an indication of people leaving for permanent residence using their children’s Permanent Residence status. The new trend also indicates not only youth but the old parents of skilled migrants are travelling,” Mr. Rajan said.