In July 2012 I decided to move to the US. It took me 427 days of waiting as I gallivanted around the world digitalnomad-style. I finally moved here in September 2013.
What took me so long was that you can’t just decide to live in the US. Duh. You need to get a visa first. There are many visas to choose from, but after months of going back and forward with my lawyers we settled on the H-1B.
But with the H-1B there is a schedule you need to follow. Get the application done and ready, submit it on April 1st and then wait. There are more people applying than the 65,000 quota allows, so after a few weeks you get notified if you got the lucky ticket. After which they review your application and hopefully you get approved. But then you have to wait for the new fiscal year, which starts in September.
After living with the H-1B for a year I decided it’s time to go back doing more than one thing. As I was googling around about US company registration rules, I found that H-1B visa doesn’t allow immigrants to have one. It’s not a strict ban, but everyone agrees that one shouldn’t do it. Well, that’s going to be a problem. It was only then I started researching more about the limitations of this visa type (a mistake I’m sure many have made), and found that it is incredibly unfair to a person.
You can very easily find yourself on a one-way flight back.
It’s a visa which is attached to a particular company, which means like the Tarzan you need to make sure there is one to take you. If you get fired - go home. If you ask for more money, but get denied - find another company to take on the visa for you.
H-1B gets you access to the US, but it doesn’t give you any security.
This wasn’t what I wanted, so I made a plan to either get a better status or move somewhere else, even if that took months of legal work again. Luckily I was able to get myself the O1 visa (having gone through this my advice is to talk to an immigration lawyer and see what visa types are possible).
H-1B has been exploited by many companies. Hiring thousands of people, especially from India, bringing them over to the US and putting them in a position to either work for a salary way below the market rate, or go home. There are just as many honest companies bringing in great talent, but out of the tiny quota allowance at least half is underpaid staff.
So as I’m reading the currently-popular articles on US immigration and H-1B visas in particular, I can only add that it’s a flawed system. The quota is too small, resulting in a lottery. The requirements are too lax, creating an opportunity to import thousands of underpaid employees. The power is all in employer’s hands, making one unable to bargain or do something else. And in the end it doesn’t have a clear path to citizenship, leaving people waiting for many years.
Fundamentally this visa is outdated. It doesn’t provide the sort of security and flexibility most people want from their jobs. And maybe it shouldn’t, maybe US doesn’t want people immigrating. But for as long as it does, I’m hoping new immigrants realize the flaws I talked about (the new government is going to bring some changes, hopefully reducing the abuse rate). As far as I can see, US would benefit a lot from bringing educated and skilled people, choosing to stay here long-term.
H-1B is a bad deal.
*all illustrations done by Frits from hikingartist.com