Tell us about your experience with H-1B.
Even back then (eight years ago), going from an H-1B to a Green Card took over 10 years. My path was more unusual. After my undergrad in the US, I moved to Singapore to build my first startup and only returned to be on an H-1B because of the chance to live in California and work for LinkedIn when it was still a young startup. We would have loved to have the chance to build our life in California but I couldn’t see myself spending the best years of my life on a highly restrictive visa. I had a chance to talk to many smart and highly skilled Indians struggling with the H-1B. Most had completed the entire Green Card process but were waiting over 10 years just to be handed the card. There was a lot of frustration especially since these were some of the smartest and most capable people I have ever known. To add to the frustration, their colleagues got their Green Cards faster because they were from smaller countries with less population. With current wait times, I think the H-1B is no longer a path to a life in the US.
Why should an H-1B guest worker expect to get a Green Card or citizenship? It wasn’t meant to be an immigration visa right?
The H-1B is a dual intent visa so you are allowed the intent to immigrate. This is why millions of Indians over the years took this path. If it didn’t have this provision, none of the smart and capable people I worked with would care for it.
Is it fair to say the H-1B visa system has been gamed by unscrupulous elements and body shoppers?
There were those that were hired from universities by the companies themselves, and those that were sent by sourcing companies to replace US employees. Many companies made a business model out of this visa and there was massive fraud and misuse. The latter resulted in all the negative rhetoric around this visa.
What prompted you to move to Toronto? Why Toronto?
Not wanting to wait years for a Green Card, we started looking for alternatives. I had a friend who runs a successful Toronto-based startup called Influitive who helped me understand the city and its fastgrowing tech ecosystem. I loved the simple and transparent Permanent Residency process. We did the application on our own. Our friends helped us see how fun the city is, the high quality of life people living here enjoy and the beautiful nature and lakes that surround it. Places like Montreal and New York City are a short flight away. Finally, the city has an exciting tech ecosystem with companies like Google, Shopify, Uber, and Amazon. Toronto also has a large number of startups. It was a place that had a lot to offer.
What are the options before H-1B guys besides Canada?
I would say Berlin, Singapore and maybe Australia. Honestly, there are not too many. Problems range from language barriers and a poor tech scene to changing local sentiment. Few places can beat Canada in embracing and celebrating diversity, proximity to the US and a smart immigration system.
Why not India? Do you think an H-1B who’s spent a few years in the US can go back and start a company or do something innovative in India? Why didn’t you consider it?
Yes, that’s a possibility and I know people that plan to come home. However, their families are used to a lifestyle and would seek that in India. For us, growing levels of pollution in the cities bothered us and we couldn’t see our kids going through that.
How does H-1B impact one’s finances and family?
H-1Bs in Silicon Valley are some of the highest paid employees so they do pretty well financially. However, if the spouse cannot work, being a single earner in an expensive destination like Silicon Valley or NYC can be hard. The biggest impact is living with uncertainty, the endless wait for the Green Card and the stresses of dealing with a restrictive visa. Friends with aging parents also struggle as it is difficult to have them living with you in the US and the uncertainty around H-1B renewals also limits travel back home to visit them.
(This article was originally published in The Times of India) See link