So this is a tricky topic and every time I start writing about it, I stop mid-way. This time, I hope I can gather the courage to go all the way.
I was 17 when I first came to the US to pursue my undergrad at the amazing Indiana University in Bloomington – my parents’ dream to send me to the US became my reality and I loved the reality. IU was this juicy melting pot of international students from all over the world and my development as a human being more so than a professional in those 4 awesome years has set the strong tone for my life since.
My first full-time job was at UBS Investment Bank in New York in 2003. Frankly, it was not an issue at all that I had to be sponsored for an H-1B Visa being an immigrant or international student (the more politically correct term) – maybe it was these big banks which could afford to have teams to process these visas or maybe it was the fact that I was a good student with above-average grades and a couple of internships under my belt. Long story short, I knew it was harder in general to get H1B jobs but never experienced it myself.
Cut to my recent trip to San Francisco in April this year – five specific instances worth highlighting:
- Met a venture capital fund founder who had started his fund to only back companies founded my immigrant founders – sounded a bit weird at first but a 5-minute chat with him made it clear how it was a real problem and stress/ distraction for such founders to navigate visa issues while trying to stay focused on building their startup
- A chat with a Carnegie Mellon final year student who had worked with me in Mumbai and had a life goal to move to the US the last I remembered – he was certain of returning back to India post graduation – reason and I quote: ‘I don’t want to get tangled in the visa thing’
- At a pizza event inside a snazzy Wework, met with a CTO who mentioned how an H1B application for someone they have hired was rejected and she was devastated as the candidate was a gem
- A conversation with one of the top job portal senior execs who casually mentioned how more and more job postings are now specifying ‘no sponsorship’ for visas
- Finally, it was this picture posted on Union Square in downtown (also the theme image for this post) which really has been haunting me ever since I saw it
Individually, all of the above might come across as disjointed, isolated pieces but you start putting them together and the tangible undercurrent hits you. There are obviously macro and political factors beyond one’s control, but what can we do to address this undercurrent with what we can control?
Technology already exists for seamless and connected work from any physical location but our mindsets need the snap. Hear Snehil Mathur talk about her transition from Chicago to Bangalore – thanks to her, I finally have the courage to address this topic.
I realize the topic is a lot more layered and I will address those layers in due course. But for now:
A question to companies: if you could still access the talent you like and need without the headache of visa processing, isn’t that a good thing?
And a question to H1B holders: if you could do the work you love at a job you love, but not be stressed about your legal status in a country, isn’t that a good thing?