2/24/2009

First year of a H1B visa worker - A Nightmare


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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.

20 comments:

  1. I am really disappointed to know that still there are people who are willing to come to US on visa. The economy is no good for any1 here.

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  2. Sorry to hear about your story. Anywhere that shady businessmen can skim a buck from someone who is in a bind, they'll try it. Immigrants and USA citizens who don't know the law and their rights will always be easy marks for con men and shady operators. ANY commercial offerings related to US immigrations are likely scams. Unfortunately, there's no US government "help" system to help people through the paperwork process, and so people are vulnerable to being scammed by the con men.

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  3. I gotta be honest with you.. jobs are really hard to find for non-H1B right now. I am surprised the US gives a crap about their own residents to still allow H1B to come over. With millions of layoffs, 10's of thousands of software engineers in the US looking for work, why we are giving up US jobs for H1B or even allowing off-shoring of jobs is horrible. I am all for it when we need it, but right now the US needs to get people working in it's own yard. I in no way mean to disrespect anyone from other countries.. I have friends all over the world. That said, in this time of economic crisis, the US really should put a stop to all foreign outsourcing and H1B jobs until the US economy itself can rebound.

    I am sorry as others have said to see such a crappy situation for you tho. It sounds like you would have done better to stay in India.. the misery you've been through and the low salary.. I can't imagine it being much worse in India. I know some places there are bad, but many places are not nearly as bad and from what I've gathered from some friends there, the salaries are on the rise (or were) and have more than tripled since the mass of Indians that left India to come here to work.

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  4. So, really a tough situation in US for H1Bs as well as native engineers? Hope good times comes back soon...

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  5. I completely agree with all the thoughts on economy and in fact it would make sense for any country to stop immigrant workers to provide jobs to citizens.

    To me making money was a reason but not biggest motivation why I moved to US. I worked with different companies in India but realized that most of the good work was being done in US and offshore team was getting the left over kind of work. May be this was my perception but I have seen this happening even in here when people try to assign some kind of work to offshore teams. I guess there is a human factor involved so I thought of coming in this country. Not to surprise myself from day one I have done better quality of work as per my profile, which is biggest motivation for a tech guy like me.

    I hope I was able to make my point here.

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  6. There are so many problems with H1B I don't even know where to start. First I can sympathize with the many Indian H1B holders that got scammed and then once they realized they were being scammed had no real good option to fix the situation. There are two groups involved. The "consulting firms" that hire and sponsor the unsuspecting the companies that are willing to work with those "consulting firms". They know what is going on yet turn a blind eye to it. It is the inflexibility in the H1B/Green card rules that set the system up to be gamed by those in the know.

    The thing that caused me to give up on the whole H1B program was how tied the visa is to your current employer. If you are to lose your job for any reason, you are obliged to immediately leave the country. For those that have families with them, children in school, forget about wife with job, that is prohibited. But children in school is the biggest problem. At least the INS is some what humane in that they will turn a blind eye to a violation that lasts less than 30 days. I had one silly problem with INS and after that I decided instead to abandon on my own terms rather than risk disruption at an inopportune time.

    As for those people losing their jobs. Again some of this are companies using this situation to game the system. They are either appeasing analysts that are expecting companies to layoff workers or they are retooling with new skill sets. Much easier to cast off the old rather than retrain them. So part of this is action based on skills


    Having worked on TN and H1B all I can say is that the system maybe worker friendly but is family unfriendly.

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  7. AnonymousMay 05, 2009

    Right now there are millions of highly skilled Americans and Permanent Residents that are unemployed. We don't need guest workers taking our jobs here in America.

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  8. AnonymousMay 05, 2009

    It's easy to fix this just go home and don't take our jobs. Thank you and good riddance.

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  9. No one seems to be asking WHY the imported workers didn't perform as promised. In 1998 when we began importing these people from India by the MILLIONS, the economy was BOOMING. Now 10 years of millions of these workers sending our money home and look at the economy. It's the guest workers stupid. Deport them all now - they were only supposed to be here TEMPORARILY. Put Americans back in those jobs and you'll see the econ recover REAL quick.

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  10. Well, Its not as easy as it looks like.

    1. H1B workers are called by business needs not by governments. So now its the businesses who will decide whom to throw out and whom to keep.

    2. Many h1b holders are going back their countries from different businesses but it will not be as visible as citizens losing jobs.

    3. Another aspect is like this - Businesses will fire people who are not required to them. Therefore they fire non performing people.

    4. H1B is suppose to be skilled labor visa, and in current economy not only highly skilled people are losing job but also low/average skilled people are also losing. So how will we justify job boost for low skilled workers.

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  11. The sad this is only immigrants truly could understand your plight of enduring the US Immigration system. Good luck and I wish you well and I hope your future generations can change the US visa and immigration system from within to stop all the H-1B visa and other abuse. Senators Grassley and Durbin will never understand.
    CJ
    e3visa.info

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  12. @CJ, I agree. Its difficult to empathize about the situation unless someone has really been into it. Senators have enough to do for citizens & the economic problem so immigrants are anyways going to be last in their priority list.

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  13. AnonymousJuly 10, 2009

    Well I have a different take on this. I have worked with People from India for over 10 years in high end ERP systems. I can say this, most of the H1Visa Indian people are un-qualified and have definately over-stated their qualifications.
    Once here, and on a project, other people mostly white experienced consultants help the poor indian consultants get the job done, and train them on various areas where they lied about their skills. Its rampent. There are cases where they do have the skill, then when they do have the skill to do the job, they over-state that skill and end up a manager, or a lead, or a higher level programmer in charge, again needing additional help from the "higher" level skill needed to claim the skill. Its a leep frog approach no matter what. I say Congress should cancel the entire program. And I say charge Fraud against these disgusting people.

    Its bad and its real bad from what I have seen.
    From India, go back to 110 degrees and eat curry.

    bye bye now.

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    Replies
    1. Hi,
      This is a really sad article based on a completely different issue that H1B employees face - instead the conversation here turned into the frustration of residents. I understand your frustrations. I agree that it must have been extremely frustrating and lets pray for all our sake that the economy never goes so down again.
      However, I do not agree with what Mr Anonymous above stated "I have worked with People from India for over 10 years in high end ERP systems. I can say this, most of the H1Visa Indian people are un-qualified and have definately over-stated their qualifications." These people clear interviews and if they are not "qualified", they should not even get the jobs. Also, if you say you have worked with several Indians and they were not "qualified" it jsut goes to show that either you worked on companies that were paying you too low for what you are worth - you should have tried for more challenging jobs; or that you overrate yourself. So much for arrogance!
      Most of these "Indians" who made it to the US (especially the ones who made it to the US in the last decade - during "your time") were the top of their class and the cream students. They are very fast learners and have very good concepts. They are very hard workers and also, have what it takes to get the "job done". I agree with "Expert". Business hires these guys and for a business, its not "white" or "not - white" that decides if a person stays on on the job, its if they are getting their job done.

      Also, most of us prefer the 110 degrees to the stupid cold snow and yes we prefer the cury to your hamburgers. If we get the same money in India, many of us might not be here right now. We get the money based on our skills - so please do not insult that. We do that despite the bad weather and junk food. We work very hard to make this money - for our families. If you overrate yourself so much, you should probably just let your emplyer know that you are doing your work as well as that of your colleague. Ask them to pay you their salary too and do all the job yourself - not confident enough to take that challenge?

      Delete
  14. This website got all the information about the US visas issues who are responsible for the harrasment of many travellers of U.S.

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  15. The best way is to join IBM India, TCS, Accenture India or Cognizant. They will get you to US in no time using L1. Infact their business model is to get rid of all US IT workers and replace them with L1 candidates from India. Because they are big companies, INS doesn't check them.

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  16. Dear Author,
    This is really a good article. I am a journalist I would like to speak to you. Can you email me your contact details? My emails is lookeastpolicy@gmail.com

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  17. Please Can you let me know which group of consultant helped you to find job to sattyman@gmail.com

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  18. @Sarryman - Thanks for your comment. I cam through a consultant based in Connecticut & would not recommend anyone to go with him. I would recommend you to try for some good known consulting companies like TCS, Sapient, etc. Tell them about your interest to work in USA before joining and if they agree for doing H1/L1 visa for you then join in. I think its safest in this market.

    Let me know your thoughts.

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  19. Hi All,Any one Know Avila Solutions, thinking of applying my Visa this year...charging 2500, dey r saying will get after H1 get approved.

    ReplyDelete

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