First year of a H1B visa worker - A Nightmare
H1B visa worker exploitation is now being noticed more then ever. If you are willing to come to US with a dream of making more money it may turn out to be a nightmare for you. Most of the victims exploited are from India. It has been recently blogged by Brijesh and received lots of attention by people.
I have also been through this phase so didn't want to keep this to myself. Many of my friends who are from India and have come to US on H1B visa have no different opinion about this.
In fact due to our nature of ignorance and fear we have never tried taking action against this.
Few years back when I wanted to work in US ( the reason was to make more money for my family needs) , I started posting my resume on Dice.com. Being Java Developer with good experience many consultants called me for sponsoring H1B visa. None of them cared about my skill set. In fact few of them didn't even take a technical interview.
I short-listed 2 consultants based on my friends reference, where I had to pay $1000 in advance to start processing my visa. Most of my friends agreed that it was a good deal and I went ahead with it.
For salary I was given two options,
1. Fixed salary of $60K/annum. Where company will start paying only after I get a project and company will take care of insurance premium. Employee will get a bench salary when not on project.
2. Percentage based salary on billing rate. This is suppose be bargained based on your skills so I got a 80% offer. In this plan employee doesn't get paid during bench period and insurance in Not paid by employer.
Well, I chose the second option thinking that I will be able to get more cash in hand. My employer asked me to promise that I will stay with him for at least 2 years otherwise I will have to pay the expenses he has done on visa fee.
When I reached US, I was surprised to know that my consultant has one employee who takes care of sales and he doesn't have many clients so I am on my own to search jobs. Again updated my resume for US specific format and uploaded on Dice.com.
This was the worst phase of my life. I received many calls but none of them were clients, they were all consultant who asked me to transfer visa to them. Not to exaggerate, I didn't receive a single call from "direct client" for initial 1 month. This was the time when economy was not so bad. For same requirement I got five to six consultants calling on same day and asking to transfer visa to them.
Every consultant calls themselves as preferred vendor for client. I realized that most of them were not preferred vendors as they forwarded my resume to another vendor/consultant.
Many consultants suggested me to fake resume for getting noticed from clients. I was told that each and every keyword in the client requirements should be present in your resume so that it can be short-list.
A very convincing marketing guy told me: In US even if you have used ball-pen to write, mention it in your resume.
When I refused to fake resume, some consultants didn't forward my resume to the next in chain.
Finally I got to speak to a client and the interview went well and I was offered to join in on contract. I was very happy to just find a client.
I was connected to my client through this big chain of Consultants. Now this was the situation for Me
[Employee (Me) ]-> My Employer (Visa Sponsor) -> Another Unknown Vendor -> A Local Bay Area Vendor -> A Client Preferred Vendor -> [Client]
As per my initial agreement with my employer I was suppose to get 80% of billing rate received by My Employer.
I am not joking, its the fact. I lived with this for almost a year. I had 4 consultants (corp-to-corp basis) taking cut on my actual billing rate (which I never knew how much was it.) . Finally I received somewhere near to $3400/month after tax in bay area. My payroll was delayed by one month for no reason.
I rented a 1 bed room apartment as I was staying with my wife. I started using public transport for commuting to work. There was no way I could afford a car so managed for few months grocery shopping using public transport. I got know about few bachelor friends who shared accommodation with colleague and are able so save money at same salary as mine.
After working for almost a year I got few paystubs and started looking for better opportunity. As many of you may know that H1B visa transfer requires minimum 2 paystubs from previous employer and this is the reason why most of these employers/consultants delay your first payroll.
Luckily I found another Fulltime job. When I informed my employer about switching job they told me that I will have to pay the visa fee. I was feeling helpless despite knowing that its illegal. Some of my friends suggested me to contact Department of Labor to report this. Some people warned me that if I go to Department of Labor then it may appear in my background through my SSN and I may have problems searching new jobs as the future employers will see that in my background check.
So I couldn't gather courage to go to DOL and had to compromise on my money.
My full and final settlement took 3 months to actually settle down. The calculations for my final salary were not done properly and I had to send many mails to the accounts department. They always responded on email saying that we will talk on phone. In fact to my observation they always wanted to avoid any email communication mentioning final settlement amount. After many altercations and annoying discussions I received my final salary. H1B visa fee was deducted from my salary and I couldn't do anything. Even my W2 and final paystubs were delayed.
Finally the first year of nightmare was over for me. In this difficult times I had many friends who helped me and I think of this to be a important learning period in my life. When I think about new workers who may be coming in I have sympathy to them.
It is a widespread perception in H1B workers that initial first year on H1B employment is going to be difficult and you may need to silently follow everything your employer decides to do.
Even this year I am getting mails from few consultants who mention the Visa fee in the processing documents and smartly write that as a employer expense in the document. When you speak to them on phone they will ask you to pay the visa processing fee as a company policy.
I have been to this phase and seeing many friends of mine still going through it even now, don't have clue what can be done to improve the situation without affecting the workers.
Please share your experience and some suggestions on how the situation for future H1B visa workers can be improved.