H1-B Workers Hit by Silicon Valley Job Cuts

Silicon Valley is hurting. Intel, Microsoft, and other high technology giants are announcing tens of thousands of layoffs. Unemployment in Silicon valley hit a new high of 7.8% in January, 2009. Many of the high-tech companies rely on foreign-born technologists, particular those from India, China, Israel, Pakistan, Philippines, and other nations. Thousands of these workers are facing the ax, with the H1-B workers particularly fearing the worst.

When times were good, the high-tech companies lobbied for and got over 100,000 yearly H1-B visas approved by U.S. Congress. The largest number of workers who were hired with the H1-B visas were of Indian origin. Some of them suffered abuse at the hands of their employers and the intermediaries who helped place them. "H1-B slavery" was the term used to describe their situation.

Things have changed dramatically in the last few months. And they are going to get much worse in 2009. In a letter addressed to Microsoft, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley has asked the company to layoff foreign workers before laying off skilled American workers.

Today's San Jose Mercury News has highlighted the plight of two Indian engineers on H1-B visas who recently lost their jobs. For them, it's a race against time. They need to quickly find other jobs at a time when companies everywhere are cutting back. Both Jay and Prasad (fictitious names) have advanced degrees earned from elite American universities. And both are facing the inflexible rules of their H-1B work visas.

Technically, as soon as they lost their jobs, they were required to leave the country. In reality, they can probably stick around for a week or two, but not much longer.

There are no statistics available yet on how many of the job cuts have already hit or soon expected to hit H1-B workers. But San Jose Mercury is reporting that this "stark dilemma is being repeated with increasing frequency across Silicon Valley, according to immigration specialists, as companies downsize to weather a punishing downturn. It's a small number compared with the layoffs of H-1B visa holders during the dot-com crash. But the downturn has sent a wave of concern through the community of immigrant workers who hold the visa, which companies use to hire skilled noncitizens."

Dot com bust in 2000-2001 followed by post-911 economic slow-down were hard on H1B visa holders. The running joke at the time was that B2B stood for Back-to-Bangalore, not business-to-business. But, somehow, the smart techies survived and then thrived. Short term, things are going to be particularly tough again. But, eventually, there will be a rebound and the highly-educated and smart people like Jay and Prasad are going to do very well. Their hard work and persistence will pay off. My message to Prasad and Jay is: Hang in there , Guys! Don't give up hope! Things will get better.

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Thousands of Indian illegal immigrants are slipping into Texas from Mexico, according to LA Times:

Reporting from Harlingen, Texas — Thousands of immigrants from India have crossed into the United States illegally at the southern tip of Texas in the last year, part of a mysterious and rapidly growing human-smuggling pipeline that is backing up court dockets, filling detention centers and triggering investigations.

The immigrants, mostly young men from poor villages, say they are fleeing religious and political persecution. More than 1,600 Indians have been caught since the influx began here early last year, while an undetermined number, perhaps thousands, are believed to have sneaked through undetected, according to U.S. border authorities.

Hundreds have been released on their own recognizance or after posting bond. They catch buses or go to local Indian-run motels before flying north for the final leg of their months-long journeys.

"It was long … dangerous, very dangerous," said one young man wearing a turban outside the bus station in the Rio Grande Valley town of Harlingen.

The Indian migration in some ways mirrors the journeys of previous waves of immigrants from far-flung places, such as China and Brazil, who have illegally crossed the U.S. border here. But the suddenness and still-undetermined cause of the Indian migration baffles many border authorities and judges.

The trend has caught the attention of anti-terrorism officials because of the pipeline's efficiency in delivering to America's doorstep large numbers of people from a troubled region. Authorities interview the immigrants, most of whom arrive with no documents, to ensure that people from neighboring Pakistan or Middle Eastern countries are not slipping through.

There is no evidence that terrorists are using the smuggling pipeline, FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials said.

The influx shows signs of accelerating: About 650 Indians were arrested in southern Texas in the last three months of 2010 alone. Indians are now the largest group of immigrants other than Latin Americans being caught at the Southwest border.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an NPR report on the abuse of H1b visas:

If you scroll through the government's visa data, you notice something surprising. The biggest employer of foreign tech workers is not Microsoft — not by a long shot. Nor is it Google, Facebook or any other name-brand tech company. The biggest users of H-1Bs are consulting companies, or as Ron Hira calls them, "offshore-outsourcing firms."

"The top 10 recipients in [the] last fiscal year were all offshore-outsourcers. And they got 40,000 of the 85,000 visas — which is astonishing," he says.

Hira's a professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He's also the son of Indian immigrants and has a personal interest in questions of labor flow across borders.

For the past decade, he's been studying how consulting firms use temporary work visas to help American companies cut costs. He says they use the visas to supply cheaper workers here, but also to smooth the transfer of American jobs to information-technology centers overseas.

"What these firms have done is exploit the loopholes in the H-1B program to bring in on-site workers to learn the jobs [of] the Americans to then ship it back offshore," he says. "And also to bring in on-site workers who are cheaper on the H-1B and undercut American workers right here."

The biggest user of H-1B last year was Cognizant, a firm based in New Jersey. The company got 9,000 new visas. Following close behind were Infosys, Wipro and Tata ‑‑ all Indian firms. They're not household names, but they loom large in tech places like the Seattle suburbs.

Cutting Costs

Rennie Sawade, a software designer with 30 years of experience, grew up in Michigan — watching the decline of the auto industry. And so, he went into computers in search of a more secure career. But that's not how it turned out.

"Basically, what I see is, it's happening all over again," Sawade says.

Programmers like him tend to be freelancers, or contract workers, and the big consulting firms are the competition. Sawade remembers when he almost landed a plum job at Microsoft.

"I remember having phone interviews and talking with the manager, having him sound really excited about my experience and he was going to bring me in to meet the team," Sawade recalls.

And then: nothing. He called his own placement agency to find out what happened.

"And that's when they told me, 'Oh, they hired somebody from Tata Consultancy.' And they actually told me on the phone, the woman I was talking to said her jaw just dropped when they found out how little Microsoft was paying this person from Tata Consultancy to do this job," he says.


http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/04/03/176134694/Whos-Hiring-H1-B-Visa-Workers-Its-Not-Who-You-Might-Think
Riaz Haq said…
Toys ‘R’ Us Brings Temporary H1B Workers From #India to U.S. to Move Jobs Overseas. . #outsourcing http://nyti.ms/1PNxnyi

When Congress designed temporary work visa programs, the idea was to bring in foreigners with specialized, hard-to-find skills who would help American companies grow, creating jobs to expand the economy. Now, though, some companies are bringing in workers on those visas to help move jobs out of the country.

For four weeks this spring, a young woman from India on a temporary visa sat elbow to elbow with an American accountant in a snug cubicle at the headquarters of Toys “R” Us here. The woman, an employee of a giant outsourcing company in India hired by Toys “R” Us, studied and recorded the accountant’s every keystroke, taking screen shots of her computer and detailed notes on how she issued payments for toys sold in the company’s megastores.

“She just pulled up a chair in front of my computer,” said the accountant, 49, who had worked for the company for more than 15 years. “She shadowed me everywhere, even to the ladies’ room.”

Continue reading the main story
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By late June, eight workers from the outsourcing company, Tata Consultancy Services, or TCS, had produced intricate manuals for the jobs of 67 people, mainly in accounting. They then returned to India to train TCS workers to take over and perform those jobs there. The Toys “R” Us employees in New Jersey, many of whom had been at the company more than a decade, were laid off.

A temporary visa program known as H-1B allows American employers to hire foreign professionals with college degrees and “highly specialized knowledge,” mainly in science and technology, to meet their needs for particular skills. Employers, according to the federal guidelines, must sign a declaration that the foreign workers “will not adversely affect the working conditions” of Americans or lower their wages.

In recent years, however, global outsourcing and consulting firms have obtained thousands of temporary visas to bring in foreign workers who have taken over jobs that had been held by American workers. The Labor Department has opened an investigation of possible visa violations by contractors at the Walt Disney Company and at Southern California Edison, where immigrants replaced Americans in jobs they were doing in this country. Four former workers at Disney have filed discrimination complaints against the company. The companies say they have complied with all applicable laws.
Riaz Haq said…
For US Visa, Over 2-Year Wait For New Delhi, Just 2 Days For Beijing
There's an appointment wait-time of 833 days for applications from Delhi and 848 days from Mumbai for visitor visas.

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/us-visa-appointment-wait-time-the-shocking-difference-for-indians-3387535

Indian visa applicants require a wait-time of over two years just for getting an appointment, a US government website showed, while the timeframe is only two days for countries like China.

There's an appointment wait-time of 833 days for applications from Delhi and 848 days from Mumbai for visitor visas, shows the US State Department's website. In contrast, the wait-time is only two days for Beijing and 450 days for Islamabad

For student visas, the wait time is 430 days for Delhi and Mumbai. Surprisingly, it's only one day for Islamabad, and two for Beijing.

Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, who is in the US, yesterday raised the issue of visa applications backlog with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The top US diplomat said he's "extremely sensitive" to the issue and that they are facing a similar situation around the world, a challenge arising due to Covid.

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/wait-times.html
Riaz Haq said…
#US #tech #layoffs: #Indian #H1B workers face painful exit from the US. Companies have not released India-specific numbers but #SiliconValley-based immigration attorney Swati Khandelwa says "it's hurt the Indian community particularly hard." #Amazon #Meta https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-63658535

Layoffs across the tech industry, including at firms like Twitter, Meta and Amazon, have affected a significant number of Indians working in the US who are on visas like the H-1B. California-based journalist Savita Patel speaks to workers who are facing the prospect of being forced to return to India if they don't find another job.

Surbhi Gupta, an Indian engineer working in the US since 2009, was surprised that she was laid off by Meta this month. "I was performing well at work," she says.

On 9 November, Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, announced it would cut 13% of its workforce - the first mass lay-offs in the firm's history which resulted in 11,000 employees losing their jobs.

"None of us slept that night," Ms Gupta says. "At 6am, I got the email. I couldn't access my computer, nor the office gym. It felt like a break-up."

Ms Gupta is likely to be a familiar face for Indians. Winner of the 2018 Miss Bharat-California contest, she was featured most recently in the Netflix show Indian Matchmaking.

Now she is among thousands of educated and skilled immigrant workers fired by US tech companies this month.

Most of them work in the US because of the HI-B visa. It's a non-immigrant visa that allows firms to employ foreigners for up to six years in positions for which they have been unable to find American employees.

It also allows holders to apply for permanent residency in the US and buy property in the country.

Ms Gupta says she worked very hard to build a life in the US for "over 15 years".

Her visa now hinges on finding her next job.

Worldwide, more than 120,000 tech workers have lost jobs as a result of cutbacks by US tech companies, according to the Layoffs.fyi website, which tracks tech job cuts.

While companies have not released India-specific numbers, San Jose-based immigration attorney Swati Khandelwa says "it's hurt the Indian community particularly hard."

"We saw an uptick in calls for consultation," she says. "Everybody is anxious, even those who have not been laid off fear that they might be [fired] later."

For Indian tech workers, the layoffs do not just mean seeking new employment but also finding employers who are willing help them continue with their work and pay for the associated legal costs.

"If a new employer is unable to transfer your visa petition in 60 days, the remedy is for people to leave [the US] and re-enter for work after the paperwork is complete," Ms Khandelwal says.

"But the practical aspect is that people will get stuck in India as there are not many visa stamping appointments available in consulates," she says.

Wait times for a visa appointment at US consulates in India have reached 800 days in some cases.

This is why the layoffs have come as an unwelcome surprise for Indian workers.

Sowmya Iyer, a lead product designer at the ride-sharing app Lyft, says she was part of a team that "had internally taken steps to maintain the fiscal health of the company".

But Ms Iyer found herself among hundreds who were laid off at the company this month. "We had not expected it to hit us," she says.

The mass layoffs feel like a "tech pandemic," she explains. "Both my friend and his wife lost their jobs on the same day. Everyone is in the same boat - reaching out, exchanging condolences."
Riaz Haq said…
#India's #visa temples attract #Hindu devotees aspiring to go abroad. These temples can be found in almost any Indian city with a #US consulate – 104.5 WOKV

https://www.wokv.com/news/world/indias-visa-temples/UL6DOVPCITX7RTECQF2UXUBURE/


CHENNAI, India — (AP) — Arjun Viswanathan stood on the street, his hands folded, eyes fixed on the idol of the Hindu deity Ganesh.

On a humid morning, the information technology professional was waiting outside the temple, the size of a small closet – barely enough room for the lone priest to stand and perform puja or rituals for the beloved elephant-headed deity, believed to be the remover of obstacles.

Viswanathan was among about a dozen visitors, most of them there for the same purpose: To offer prayers so their U.S. visa interviews would go smoothly and successfully. Viswanathan came the day before his interview for an employment visa.

“I came here to pray for my brother’s U.K. visa 10 years ago and for my wife’s U.S. visa two years ago,” he said. “They were both successful. So I have faith."

The Sri Lakshmi Visa Ganapathy Temple is a few miles north of the airport in Chennai (formerly Madras), a bustling metropolis on the Coromandel Coast in southeast India -- known for its iconic cuisine, ancient temples and churches, silk saris, classical music, dance and sculptures.

This “visa temple” has surged in popularity among U.S. visa seekers over the past decade; they can be found in almost any Indian city with a U.S. consulate. They typically gain a following through word of mouth or social media.

A mile away from the Ganesh temple is the Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Navaneetha Krishnan Temple, where an idol of Hanuman – a deity who has a human body and the face of a monkey — is believed to possess the power to secure visas. Also known as “Anjaneya,” this god stands for strength, wisdom and devotion. In this temple, he has earned the monikers “America Anjaneya” and “Visa Anjaneya.”

The temple’s longtime secretary, G.C. Srinivasan, said it wasn’t until 2016 that this temple became a “visa temple.”

“It was around that time that a few people who prayed for a visa spread the word around that they were successful, and it's continued,” he said.

A month ago, Srinivasan said he met someone who got news of his visa approval even as as he was circumambulating the Anjaneya idol — a common Hindu practice of walking around a sacred object or site.

On a recent Saturday night, devotees decorated the idol with garlands made of betel leaves. S. Pradeep, who placed a garland on the deity, said he was not there to pray for a visa, but believes in the god's unique power.

“He is my favorite god,” he said. “If you genuinely pray – not just for visa – it will come true.”

At the Ganesh temple, some devotees had success stories to share. Jyothi Bontha said her visa interview at the U.S. Consulate in Chennai went without a hitch, and that she had returned to offer thanks.

“They barely asked me a couple of questions,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised.”

Bontha’s friend, Phani Veeranki, stood nearby, nervously clutching an envelope containing her visa application and supporting documents. Bontha and Veeranki, both computer science students from the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh and childhood friends, are headed to Ohio.

Both learned about the visa temple on the social media platform Telegram.

Veeranki said she was anxious because she had a lot riding on her upcoming visa interview.

“I’m the first person in my family to go the United States,” she said. “My mother is afraid to send me. But I’m excited for the opportunities I’ll have in America.”

Veeranki then handed over the envelope to the temple’s priest for him to place at the foot of the idol for a blessing.

“We’ve been hearing about applications being rejected,” she said, her hands still folded in prayer. “I’m really hoping mine gets approved.”

If she and Bontha make it to Ohio, they want to take a trip to Niagara Falls.

“I’ve always wanted to see it,” Bontha said.
Riaz Haq said…
An Indian-origin Google employee lost job after 11 years of service.
The Google employee says it is difficult to express the pain after layoff news.
The H1B visa holders need to leave the country after 60 days if they job.

https://www.indiatoday.in/technology/news/story/indian-google-employee-with-h1b-visa-lost-job-after-11-years-of-service-says-countdown-begins-to-leave-us-2327310-2023-01-27

Google laid off thousands of employees and the process was not as smooth considering many were locked out of their systems without any notice. While the news of layoff is disheartening for many, the most impacted ones are the employees who got the job on an H1B visa. An Indian-origin employee with an H1B visa who worked at Google for more than 11 years also lost his job and found out about layoff news out of nowhere.

His wife also got locked out of the system and discovered in the morning that her access to any internal resources on the laptop was blocked. He penned down an emotional note on LinkedIn about his good and bad experiences at Google. He wrote that they were in disbelief after finding about the job they lost at the biggest tech company, even after giving many years to the company.

“Two out of the 12,000 Googlers were staring at each other in disbelief in that room while our 2-year-old daughter slept peacefully not knowing (thankfully so) what just hit her family. It’s hard to explain what this feels like, especially when you’ve spent a third of your life at a place that’s given you so much and more that it becomes an integral part of your identity. I spent 11.5 amazing years at Google - staying loyal and committed to its mission and believing in its “do no evil” motto,” he said on LinkedIn.


The laid-off Google employee with an H1B visa also expressed his pain of leaving the country after about two months if he doesn’t get a job in the US, where he is currently living. “The dreaded H1b countdown has begun and I’m starting to look for roles,” he said.


For those who are unaware, H1B visa holders or we can say immigrants, who get a job in the US, are not allowed to stay back in the country for more than 60 days if they lose a job. The H1B visa workers will have to find a new job in about 60 days or they will have to leave the country. The visas are typically issued for three years, and they can get extended depending on the employment.

Google did fire as many as 12,000 employees across globe, but the company has also promised to offer severance pay to the affected workers. The laid off Google employees will get 16 weeks of salary, two weeks for every additional year at Google, and at least 16 weeks of GSU vesting. Google will also pay 2022 bonuses and remaining vacation time. The sacked employees will also be entitled to receive six months of healthcare, job placement services as well as immigration support.

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