The year was 2014. I had just moved to the United States from India and was incredibly excited to advance my studies and then pursue a job. In the beginning, clearing my license exam (National Physical Therapy Examination NPTE) was the ultimate enabler, and then the next step was finding someone who can hire you and sponsor your H1B visa. I was able to eventually find a company to sponsor my visa and started working sometime in 2016.
From an outsider’s perspective, everything was going well! Despite my success early on, I could never quite shake the voice that was looming in the background of my subconscious, reminding me of the one caveat to any of these exciting new developments. The voice I am referring to is the H1B visa itself, an immigration nightmare that became the sole reason why my happiness and life-satisfaction were severely curtailed during my time in the USA.
Although the application process is cumbersome and counter-intuitive, the wait times, which can take upwards of an entire year, are especially burdensome. Fortunately, my application was approved after the first round. It was only after approval that I became fully aware of the tangible limitations that exist with the H1B visa.
I felt as if I was playing an arcade claw machine, seeing countless job opportunities through the window yet unable to grasp them. Although there was an abundance of desirable positions I would have loved to take, many employers simply could not afford to wait for the visa transfer process.
Additionally, the visa limited my ability to execute numerous business and investment ideas that my entrepreneurial spirit was craving. Worse yet, travel breaks were unauthorized during the application filing period, and I wasn’t able to take long enough breaks from my job to make the trip back to India.
As a result, I went as long as 3 years without seeing my family – the people who matter most to me. This period of absence from my family is not unique, as I know countless individuals on H1B visas who have reported even longer periods away as they waited upwards of 4 years for application approval.
The experience overall truly had me feeling as if I were a caged bird, reminding me of the following Shane Arbuthnott quote: “And when you are kept from your home, no matter where you are, you are in a cage.”
And then the wait from H1B to get a green card is just unjustifiable. All this started taking a toll on my mental and physical health. The uncertainty of what is next, confusion and anxiety kept piling up and it was time for me to make a decision between my peace of mind and money.
To be clear, I want my readers to understand that I appreciate the financial freedom that was offered to me through the visa. At the same time, I felt as if I was constantly giving away pieces of myself for nothing in return. My goal for anyone reading is to simply understand the facts. Every year, hardworking, motivated individuals set sail for the USA on H1B visas.
If you are thinking about applying (or if you know someone who is), please send them this blog post to spread awareness. Immigrants bring a wealth of education and skills to the table. Without major immigration reform, the US will continue to miss out on thousands of would-be contributing members of society who are stifled by the current immigration system.
PS: This is my personal journey that doesn’t mean everybody would have faced the same scenarios.