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H-1B: the voices behind the visa

Tracy Mayor | Nov. 17, 2010
This article is part of our special report on the 20th anniversary of the H-1B visa, which also includes first-person accounts from five IT workers who have been directly affected by the H-1B program and visual and interactive tools to help you analyze H-1B visa data.

FRAMINGHAM, 17 NOVEMBER 2010 - This article is part of our special report on the 20th anniversary of the H-1B visa, which also includes first-person accounts from five IT workers who have been directly affected by the H-1B program and visual and interactive tools to help you analyze H-1B visa data.

Twenty years into its existence, the controversial H-1B visa for foreign workers in specialty occupations shows no signs of inciting less discord as it ages.

This month alone, debate over whether foreigners are taking jobs from American high-tech workers drove election debate in several key states and framed coverage of Barack Obama's state visit to India, the chief exporter of H-1B workers to the U.S.

The H-1B discussion is always heated and sometimes worse -- racist, elitist, subjective or just plain ugly. Between the minutiae of federal immigration policy debate and the inflamed rhetoric from both proponents and opponents, what's often lost are the stories of real people whose lives have been directly affected by the guest worker visa program.

Computerworld took aim at that imbalance by seeking out IT workers, both international and domestic, who were willing to talk about how H-1B has influenced their livelihoods for better or for ill. To protect their jobs, most of our sources requested anonymity, which we granted after verifying their credentials independently.

What follows are their perceptions of their H-1B experiences, told in their own words. We condensed and edited their opinions for brevity and clarity but did not independently corroborate every claim.

[Related: View maps and data showing the geographic concentration of 2009 H-1B visa applications for tech jobs as a heat map, by city or as a searchable, sortable database. And read H-1B: The voices behind the visa for individuals' stories of how the H-1B program has changed their lives.]

Madhav B.

'If we stopped H-1B, IT would crash.'

I am in the United States on an H-1B. My green card is under process. I originally came on an F-1 student visa.

I did my master's at Texas State University. As an international student, you pay three times the tuition for public university. In India, even if your parents are solvent, you don't ask them for money once you are an adult.

I worked very hard for my master's. I decided in my mind, you have to be top in the university. I had a research assistantship and a dean's scholarship and published three papers before I graduated.

Once my OPT (optional practical training) was done, it took me some time to find a job. An aerospace corporation was interested, but I was told by HR that they no longer hired international students. The policy changed after 9/11. I had no complaint. Those are the rules and regulations, and we have to follow them.

 

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