What India needs to know about yet another H1B and L1 Bill

Are the H1B visa plans worth it? Are India's startups better?

Are the H1B visa plans worth it? Are India's startups better?
Are the H1B visa plans worth it? Are India's startups better?
This article is my take on the latest H1B/ L1 Bill to limit or stop Indian companies from excessively hiring Indian workers on H1B/ L1 visa. What qualifies me to take my own opinion too seriously?  Quite a few points in my favour:

  • having stood in line for H1B and F1 visa a total of six times across two centers
  • having lived in the US for more than 13 years
  • having worked in one Indian “body shopping” IT company and seen numerous friends and ex-colleagues dealing with them
  • having had to even pay my own H1B fees and my wife’s H4 visa fees as against the company “sponsoring” my employment
  • having waited a long time for that overrated Green Card
  • having seen lesser educated folks get the Green Card sooner
  • residency and amnesty for illegals
  • randomness of green card process
  • uncertainty of the US job market and companies
  • fear of what you would do with your family if you are let go

The Visa Line

Anyone who has waited for Visa in the US consulate in Mumbai or New Delhi or Chennai would know exactly what I mean. Before the appointment system, one stood in line with all papers, with an umbrella & some food. One would wake up at 5:00 am in the morning, say a short prayer and get ready to go stand in the line. Issuance of visa was also largely dependent on the mood of the interviewer.

Standing in the line, I recall a kid from Gujarat who had a loud voice and had University admit from some university in Oklahoma. The kid had all markers to be refused for the visa. He had a B. Tech in Civil Engineering but an I-20 for admission in Computer Science. He had the most annoying attitude and US-bound desperation. He played out all his cards in public. His family had just enough money to get him through one year and there was no way this kid could become a Teaching Assistant or and Research Assistant. As expected, this kid got his turn for visa interview where he made a fool of himself and got rejected. What made things look pathetic was that he begged, pleaded cried for reconsideration and all that the visa interviewer was heard saying was “Don’t waste my time. NEXT”.

Anyone with a little bit of Nationalism and self respect would have been bothered with the visa line, the circumstances under which one had to wait, the attitude of the interviewer, the security and paranoid levels of the security staff and the general writing on the wall “You Goddamn Shameless Indians.” This paragraph is not to be mistaken to mean that Americans think of Indians like those in the visa line. I have been treated very well by most Caucasian, African-American and Americans of other ethnicities. Yes there have been the odd xenophobes but who can blame them? We have flocked their backyard and have started beating them in their game.

Job insecurity and the overrated American dream

The years 2000 until 2003 were the worst in the US job market in decades. The dotcom bubble burst and all of a sudden many people like me were jobless in mass layoffs. Sometimes these layoffs happened to individuals for up to three times a year. 9/11 made things harder for H1Bs and the torture of going through seven rounds of interviews with some nasty interviewers(Indians mostly) in failing startups who were in a better position for a green card, would leave many like me crestfallen. That said, within a two month timeframe after being laid off, one would get a job.

Vultures in the form of Indian IT Companies (One that I dealt with was also run by a former SVP of one of India’s great multinational Software Services Companies) would make the most and take in software engineers from India at $50000 per annum in the San Francisco Bay Area knowing the desperation of the Indian software engineer. With that salary how could one ever make ends meet with a family where the wife was on H4 dependent visa and could not work? I did go for one such interview set up by this “IT Company”. The client is a famous online company whose IT department was filled with Indians. I got to know of a chain of hierarchy where of the $70 per hour, all that came into my hands was $27 per hour amounting to $54,000.00 per annum. The rest of the money allegedly went as illegal “cuts” to many Indian folks in the hierarchy of the company from such “Indian Software Consulting Companies”.

Many Indian IT companies are known to get cheap Indian Software Engineers who slog like donkeys for a pittance. This is certainly not enterprise but exploitation. The option for such engineers to leave the US, return to India with their heads held high is really the honourable thing to pursue. While the H1B/ L1 Bill being proposed is with the American worker and interests in mind, I welcome it to attract young engineers to return to India and try their hands at some IT companies here. Hey no one can kick you out of India for losing your job. No one can exploit you with the threat of your visa status in India, your motherland. It is said that “One rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven and LET ME TELL YOU India is no Hell and USA is certainly no heaven.” Self respect (Swabhiman) should be on one’s mind. India also offers opportunities for many to think outside the box much like she did for me.

I’m not claiming that I will never go to the USA on work. I may if fate took me there. Astrologically I was never supposed to return to India. However, I will go only if I have nothing short of a red carpet welcome and enough safety of the Green Card processing. I did give up my Green Card 5 years ago to return. They must need me. I don’t need them.

Lastly, I’d like to conclude by saying that it is extremely annoying, demeaning and hurtful to my Indian pride that the so called MNCs, Media & even NASSCOM folks beg for reconsideration of the H1B/ L1 limiting bill and cry foul as if it was their God Given right. It is about time that we show much self respect and stop begging for recognition. Do the right thing and it will come. Jai Hind!

Views Personal

Vijay Rajan

Vijay Rajan

Vijay Rajan is a Data Science enthusiast working in Bangalore in the e-commerce space. His interests include politics, software engineering, data analytics, statistics, math, Carnatic Music, cricket & believes in social well being of all. Above everything else he is an Indian to the core.

Vijay has a Bachelors in Electronics Engineering from Mumbai University & an MS in Computer Science from UC Santa Barbara with a post graduate certification in Data Mining from UC San Diego.
Vijay Rajan

4 COMMENTS

  1. Pradip,

    I have read all the comments from Vijay / Rao / Krishnan and here is one from me too. I am not as experienced as you all or atleast like Vijay who has seen the place in and out of US. However, I am a 43 year IT professional and although I had opportunities for US in my early programming days, I somehow couldn’t make it and tried exploring US on H1 the last year (2015-2016) and I really felt or realised many things.
    1. The place is not only overcrowded by Indians but Indians who feel other Indians are dangerous for them.
    2. They are in their own world and can be clearly distinguished from typical Indians in India, in terms of horns they grow over their heads, the way they behave.
    3. They are completely getting groomed to the American life style and have already done or about to say good bye to India forever, whatsoever be the situation in India, some have left their parents and relatives in India, some have taken along with them.
    4. Children are either born there or gone from India and have got a deep taste of the US culture in terms of their lifestyle, language, eating habits, living habits, speaking habits and have picked up things very easily (as children they pick up things easily) including arrogance, independence of thought and speech – although it’s encouraged but not to the extent of disrespecting parents, and I see they are in no way in a position to relocate or situate themselves in India again for this life.
    5. I realised, IT Professionals without hands-on IT skills, 40 plus aged, management professionals do not have anything to keep themselves occupied in US on an IT Job. It’s not easy for management professionals (non-hands-on) to get jobs. There are thousands of illegal jobs being offered and accepted by Indians and those have become the need because these folks have to survive, just because they don’t want to return to India for fear, anxiety and the shame in which they think they cannot show their face back in India to their Parents and relatives.
    6. I also do not understand why people are always thinking or craving so much for the so much hyped Green Card. they are not realising we are born citizens of India and no one puts a rule for our survival here. we can either work or do a business or do what we want and can, the freedom of thought is there. Yes we do not have cleaner lifestyle, roads, infrastructure, corruption, but we do have relatives, near and dear ones next door. Imagine if everyone getting a Visa to go to US, how do we even ever dream about India with all those facilities for which we are running to US today. Indian talent is being utilized as a cheap H1 labor for the development of US, did our folks ever think they could have done it long back if they were so sincere and adapted to cleaner habits as they do now in US? the moment they land in India, they become Indians, they have the freedom to urinate on road sides, spit wherever they want, throw trash on streets. when the same people land in US, they become true americans all of a sudden. if this is the attitude, then we will remain the poor and deprived country for ever.
    Coming back to the GC, why are people behind GC, simple, the GC gives a freedom to work as Independent contractors (without an employer) or set up their own business. but I wonder whats great in that? they wait for almost 12 years to get a GC and by the time they are all in their 50’s, they see their children getting the advantage, but forget to realise that education is not free all the time, after the 12th grade, life is back to normal with extremely difficult situations for an average parent to pay for the higher studies. Is it really worth?
    7. I see a lot of potential now in India in terms of the reforms, changes, attitude, and lifestyle apart from educational transformations, employment opportunities etc. We don’t have to run behind GC or Citizenship. We just have to decide what we want to do and its possible now. I wish the talent that we send out for work for a struggled life, can remain back, Indian government (if not atleast the private companies) can really think of reforming its policies to satisfy the needs of those. I know its a dream and it will take a lot of time, but by that time we would have lost many of our relatives, near and dear ones, families and friends to US.
    8. For all the man years that Indians have spent in US serving the Organizations of US and effort in developing that Country, I don’t see any benefit to India or the families of those serving members in US except for money. We have passed 70 years after Independence and we are still at the same place. Our Indian brothers have already stayed for atleast 2-3 generations there, completely forgotten about this place. What I long for the least is that they should implement and bring a few things to India too, the lifestyle, education etc so the Indians also enjoy all that and don’t crave for other countries. Our cultural bonding, customs and lifestyle are unique to us and people can restore only by living here with those attributes within.

  2. To the India-born and bred the USA offers a spacious country, of strange and strangers, for strange and strangers, by strange and strangers. Versus the homeland, which offers a sanguine country of known and knowers, for knowns and knowers, by knowns and knowers. Well, this difference is the same with any foreign country, including Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh or Pakistan, though all of the foreign nations may lack the spacious element of the USA.

    This is so for any one moving from their homeland to another’s homeland. A German has the same difference in England, or a Chilean in Uruguay, a Japanese in South Africa, a Scot in New Zealand.

    Immigrants constitute 3% of the world population. Nonetheless that is still 21 Crore humans, seniors, students, infants, uncles and grandmothers, across 200 countries. Seen dispassionately this is about 1 million immigrants per nation. Of course an Iceland with a population of 300,000 probably has fewer than 1000 immigrants. Summarily, immigration is a minor aspect of Mankind’s world society.

    I think an elimination of H/L visas would be good for the world as well as for the USA. It would remove the USA as an outlier in the world immigration business by making immigration to the USA an emotive action. All “good” emigrations and immigrations have been, are and must be emotive, nationalist and sustaining for atleast seven generations of the immigrant’s bloodline.

    Disclosure: several of my cousins have emigrated to the USA and are raising families. I suspect only two of them plan to sustain it for seven generations! I have lived in two countries over annuals and travelled others a bit; they helped me conclude travelling is a waste of one’s short life.

  3. Extremely well written and thank you for expressing so clearly what must be on many software engineers from india’s mind and hearts. This situation will continue to haunt India and Indians for as long as we dont clean up our act at home. Thank you pradip parikh for your insightful comments on Swatcch America. I can readily understand why our Prime Minister would start a Swachh Bharat mission. It always made perfect sense to me from the very first announcement of the same.

    It is also useful to take a historical perspective on this situation. I took some time to study American history and came to realize some interesting facts – america wasnt always this pristine beautiful place over the centuries. In fact, New York in the late 1700s/1800s had filthy, wretched roads with horse dung all over the place. People lived in shacks with dangerous stoves kept warm with wood and coal-burning stoves and life expectancies were in the 40’s and 50’s. America is where it ix now because of immigrants who came in puruit of a freedom that was denied them in their lands of origin. We in India see the end result, but pay scant attention to how America got there. But i think modi understands, which i why i am so optimistic for india’s future. I wash there was a way to educate indianx about the real america…what makes it tick. This would help indians examine their own culture with a critical view to improve things, and help create a new india built on existing good traditions and learning from other cultures that have succeeded. Japan is another example of a society that indisns have much to learn from.

  4. I can, and do, sympathize with the pains of an H1B visa holder experiences that Mr. Rajan narrates here, specially when you have are striking it out in USA with a family in tow. However, I have a different take here to say that this must not be the reason to not avail the opportunity of coming to America if this is a good opportunity to visit USA – or most any countries.
    Living in India only, without the foreign experience, is like living in a well; you limit yourself terribly. People imbibe many things in the course of their stay overseas – even briefly for a year. You start asking yourself immediately why can’t “my India be as good as this country is”. The first thing that strikes you immediately is the Swatchh America. You are impressed by orderly hassle free life, politeness in conversation with strangers or friends or govt workers, the hygiene awareness, the calm interactions among people, clarity in thought communication, awareness of your rights as a human …… i can just go on. it is really a great civilizing influence on you – although we Indians never shy away from claiming the first right to civility, albeit I have no problem agreeing it some of it.
    i would say one or two years of hard work in USA is surely worth all the problems – and more, if there could be – laid out in the article.

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