Post Brexit, Ireland emerges as a favourite spot for Indian immigrants

Sudhansh Verma’s experience working and living in the Irish capital of Dublin is over two decades old. He came to Dublin in 2001 when not many from India chose Ireland as their first pick to settle abroad. Today, after 22 years, Mr. Verma says Indian faces are more familiar on the streets of Dublin than they were at that time. “When I came here 22 years ago, I could count the number of Indians on my fingers; it was very limited. But time has changed a lot now. More people are choosing Ireland”, says Mr. Verma, who owns an Indian sweets and grocery shop in the heart of Dublin city.

So, what changed in the last two decades?

Brexit had a huge role to play in this shift. Post-Brexit Ireland largely remained the only English-speaking country in the EU, putting the island nation at an advantage in attracting immigrants across the globe. With work-life balance, growing job opportunities, and being the only English-speaking state in the EU, more people preferred Ireland. And, over time, Indians have become the fastest-growing immigrant population in the country. The number of Indians in the country has risen by 170% since 2016. With the growth in the health, IT, and management sectors, Ireland has become a preferred choice for Indian students and job seekers.

“Brown people were mostly known for entering the medical profession in the early 2000s. With massive growth in the job sector and new industries emerging in Ireland, more Indians started coming here after 2016. Also, due to the tight immigration policies of the U.K., more people got attracted to Ireland after Brexit happened”, adds Mr. Verma.

His shop, Mini India, caters to the needs of the growing Indian immigrant population in Dublin. The shop sells a variety of Indian sweets and snacks, appealing to both Indians and Dubliners. “I opened this shop with the motive of spreading the idea of Indianness and serving the people of my community. But those who aren’t Indian and love our food are also welcome. I know a lot of my customers who aren’t Indians but love coming here”.

Since 2016, there has been a steady rise in the number of Indian immigrants in Ireland, especially those pursuing higher education. In 2022, Ireland saw the highest number of Indian students getting enrolled in both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. According to the data by the Indian Embassy, 6,422 student visas were issued in 2022, as compared to 4,688 in 2019 and 3,519 in 2018. The numbers were, however, dwindling during the pandemic but saw a rise as restrictions eased in 2022.

“Our community has grown. More students are coming here for higher education and then landing a job”, said Mr. Verma, who now sees a lot more student crowds in his shop.

Rapid growth in Ireland’s economy is a pivotal aspect contributing to the growing Indian immigrant population. The Third-Level Graduate Scheme, non-European Economic Area (EEA), allows international students to stay in Ireland for up to two years to seek employment. This revised scheme came in 2017, allowing students a period of up to 24 months to transition into the workforce. The scheme is applicable to graduates at the bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD levels.

According to the Irish Immigration and Citizenship Policy Division, the Third-Level Graduate Scheme allows international students to seek employment by granting either a general employment permit, a critical skills employment permit, or a research hosting agreement.

“Amidst the ongoing global job market strains, securing a full-time employment opportunity in Ireland has been challenging. It became evident that excelling in a field with experience was the most effective way to break into the Irish job market. So, I focused on interview preparation according to JDs and ultimately landed a position as a business process consultant at SAP Ireland”, says Aashray Malhotra, who came to Dublin last year to pursue his MSc Information Systems programme from University College Dublin (UCD).

When asked about the most attractive factor for choosing Ireland for career progression, Aashray Malhotra said, “The educational approach here emphasises more on critical thinking, practical application, and independent learning, in contrast with the structured and exam-focused approach in India. The diverse international student body promotes a global perspective, differing from the predominantly local context in Indian universities. During my time at UCD, I felt the education system focused more on holistic development and adaptability to a dynamic global landscape, thus setting it apart from the Indian education system”.

According to the Higher Education Authority’s Graduate Outcomes Survey, 80% of Ireland’s international graduates are either employed or about to start a job, with 66% of students seeking employment opportunities in the country. Apart from booming economic benefits, job security, and work-life balance, Ireland offers multiculturalism for overseas students, helping them to merge into the new landscape. International students strive for personal growth, development, and a hospitable environment to sustain.

“The UCD campus offered excellent facilities and a vibrant multicultural environment, which has broadened my horizons. Overall, it’s been a rewarding journey both academically and personally, preparing me for a promising future,” mentioned Mr. Malhotra.

(Simran Kathuria is journalist based in Dublin)

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