H-1B: The voices behind the visa

The H-1B visa is such a heated topic, its impact on individual high-tech workers often gets lost in the debate. Here, five people tell their H-1B stories in their own words.

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Sekhar J.

'Consultancies are 90% of the problem.'

I came to the United States in November of 2007. My H-1B was sponsored by an Indian consulting firm. They have an address in Washington, D.C. They tell the clients they have a guest house there, but really it's just a post office box.

I was coming from Bahrain. They gave me a Skype number to call in on for an interview with the client. It was five o'clock in the morning. They told me to say I was already in Washington. The client was in San Antonio. They thought I was already in the country on the H-1B.

I cleared the interview and came into the country. The consulting firm told me to stay in a hotel one night in Washington, then the client paid for my ticket to Texas. I hated the feeling that I had lied, so I told my boss after a few days. He said, "It doesn't matter as long as you're good in your work. If we like you, we'll convert their H-1B to our H-1B."

At the consultancy, if you get $100, you have to pay $40 to them; it's a 40-60 split. Their policy is that they hold one month's salary. I talked to my friends. They said it's the way these companies run; it happens other places. But after two months I was still not getting payment, and my own money was running out. I said to them, "Give me my salary, give me some money," and they said, "We will when we see the money from the client."

I told my boss, and they agreed to hire me and sponsor my H-1B. They said, "Tell us how much you're getting from the consultancy, and we'll pay you that." That's good because there are benefits, which the consultancy doesn't pay.

When I told the consultancy I was resigning because I was not getting my salary from them, they said, "We will deport you." I was new in the U.S. and didn't want any legal tension. I saw so many things like this happen in Bahrain. In the end, my company handled everything, which was very good fortune for me. They paid almost $20,000 to settle the issue.

I have a better life here in the United States, and I tried to pull my brother here. I paid another consultancy firm almost $4,000 to bring him here. At the last minute, they said, "We cannot get a client letter" [showing he had a job waiting, which is necessary for H-1B approval], but they didn't return my money. This money was a really big amount for me. I was very angry at that time, but I couldn't drop everything to fight this. I didn't want to have to pay a lawyer and lose more money.

The consultancies are 90% of the problem. Definitely there should be a proper audit, where they show the money received from the client, show the money they pay us. Every six months or quarterly they should have to send a salary list to the government.

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