June marks Immigration Heritage Month in the U.S. where we celebrate the contribution that immigrants have made to the U.S.
As part of the ongoing series Keep The Future Here, OpedSpace in partnership with FWD.us brings to light the stories of high-skilled immigrants affected by America’s broken immigration system. Although the current system is designed to provide international students with the best higher education in the world, upon graduation many of these students’ visas expire and they are faced with the possibility of deportation or enduring the long and uncertain process of applying for an H-1B visa. The irony: many of these students are ready and eager to put their education to use in the U.S. and contribute to its economy in industries from technology to finance to engineering. Hear from some of these voices below. If you or someone you know would like to share a story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and tweet @opedspace using #freedom2innovate.
Kartik Mandaville (Delhi, India/Santa Monica, CA)
Like most people, I came to America with the dream to build the next Google. During my first year at Carnegie Mellon, I wanted to launch a startup, and that’s when I realized how broken the immigration system is — the current law doesn’t allow someone like me to earn a salary during my first year as a student. In reality, that means no freelance, no startups, no sales. I was frustrated and, as an entrepreneur, I tried to figure out ways around this barrier, but none of them were feasible.
So, I spent a lot of time learning the immigration system, meeting attorneys, and attending talks by USCIS officials. In my second year of graduate school, I was lucky enough to land an awesome job at Science — a tech studio and received my H-1B before graduation. However, that process had its own share of issues. Among them, I needed a work visa before graduation, had to enter into a lottery system, and to top it off, I initially received a one-year visa due to a “clerical error” and subsequently had to re-apply. This entailed multiple visa interviews and all the hassle that accompanies them.
Following my dreams and the blessings of Science and its founder Mike Jones, I’m now the proud co-founder of SpringRole, along with four other fellow immigrants. SpringRole is a marketplace that helps individuals find jobs through their friends. As the founder of SpringRole, I am constantly faced with the challenges of the immigration system in everything from hiring employees, obtaining visas for current employees, producing e-verifications, and recruiting future hires. With a network of over 8 million candidates, we help established companies and startups grow and individuals to succeed in the job market. To date, thousands of Americans have been referred to jobs through our community. Due to the nature of my business, I am always talking to founders of other companies (many of whom are immigrants who who have created thousands of jobs in this country and have helped grow the economy) and continually hear their struggles in dealing with the immigration system.
With great resources and a bit of pure luck, I was able to start SpringRole in United States after my graduation. But, there are thousands of individuals like me who have had to leave the country and start their companies elsewhere due to the failures of the current system. Immigrants are here to create jobs, not steal them — the sooner Congress understands that, the better this country will be. Every single day immigration reform is delayed, the U.S. misses an opportunity to advance its economy, especially in the tech industry.
Asaf Gilboa (Israel/Cambridge, MA)
I’m an Israeli citizen who has founded and managed a company in the aerospace and defense industry and recently completed my MBA at Harvard Business School. As I look to my future, I hope to leverage my background and education to make an impact on a global level. With the current immigration environment, however, I find it very hard to do so from the U.S.
As I explored career opportunities I found my possibilities in the United States to be extremely limited. The current system requires me to partake in a lottery system in order to obtain a work visa, putting my future in the hands of luck. Even if I do receive a work visa through this lottery system it will not include my wife, who is also a young professional, and will force us to become a single-income household. The visa that I will obtain will be connected to a specific company and will limit my ability to develop and move within the workforce. Furthermore, if I choose to return to my entrepreneurial roots, build a company and create jobs in the U.S., I will be even more limited by the immigration policy. Due to all of the complications, however, I am not even attempting that path here in the U.S. at the moment.
I am currently planning to join the Amazon drone team in Seattle and hoping to work on this world changing technology. Since I did not receive an H-1B visa through the latest lottery, however, I’m not sure how long I have in the U.S. This jeopardizes my chances of staying on the team for a long time. I have a 60 percent chance of receiving an H-1B visa next April. That means there’s a 40 percent chance I have to leave the U.S. This uncertainty is also affecting my wife’s job search as employers are uncertain of her long-term commitment. Furthermore, even if I receive the H-1B visa, my wife will not be able to work under the current authorization scheme.
I find it hard to understand this current structure. I have graduated from one of the U.S.’s most prestigious institutions and am joining one of the world’s leading companies. Yet the U.S. does not seem to want to reap the benefits I can contribute. The current system seems illogical as it creates almost every market failure possible.
To learn more about where your U.S. Representative stands on immigration reform, enter your zip code below.