26 Jun Living My Indian-American Dream
June 25, 2018
By: Harjit Singh
There’s little security in an H-1B; quitting the company that sponsored you or getting fired can get you ousted from the States. Similarly, after your graduation, you only have 3 months to find the job. If you’re on H4 visa, you are not allowed to work.
I worked on Wall Street, cracked multi-million dollar deals, managed family offices and travelled 30+ countries – all before I turned 35. One right decision of my father made it all possible – the decision of immigrating to America.
I was born in a small village in Punjab, India. I still remember the day I landed in this new country; I was only 5 at that time. Everything was HUGE here – food portions, cars, buildings, bridges, dreams, ambitions, talent, events, stadiums etc. My initial shyness soon gave way to a sense of excitement, wonder, and exploration. My father used to drive a taxi and as you can imagine, our resources were meagre. Despite all the hardships and poverty, I felt welcomed in my new home. The energy and ambition in the air were infectious.
I landed amazing opportunities in New York and made the most out of them. After working on Wall Street and family offices for years, I opened my own investment advisory firm. I was living my dream life. In the summer of 2016, one incident shook me to the core. My dear friend, Rajat (name changed) was leaving the U.S. in a week. Reason? The startup that he used to work for, was shutting down and he hadn’t got a Green Card even after 6 years of staying in the U.S.!
I looked deeper into the problem and found out that situation of millions like Rajat was grim. Rajat was working on H-1B visa, a nonimmigrant visa which is designed to allow the U.S. employers to employ foreign nationals in specialty occupations in America for a specified period. He had applied for a Green Card but it was still in the queue. According to the website of US Department of State, the backlog of Indians on green card queues is 1.5 million. The waiting time for Indians is from 10-15 years to a few decades.
I did more research and found out that H-1B, F1 visa holders, and H4 visa holders are facing an uncertain future in the U.S. If you’re on H-1B, you have to remain dependent on your employer to file your visa (who has to pay upwards of $1000) and renew it every 3 years. There’s little security in an H-1B; quitting the company that sponsored you or getting fired can get you ousted from the States. Similarly, after your graduation, you only have 3 months to find the job. If you’re on H4 visa, you are not allowed to work. That limits your options and is a very frustrating experience.
After navigating through complex visa rules, I found out something called EB-5 visa. Under the programme, investors and their spouses, as well as children under 21, are eligible to apply for a green card, which allows permanent residence if they make an investment of $500,000 and plan to create or secure 10 permanent full-time jobs for US workers. Each year, the US government allocates 10,000 visas for foreigners who invest through the EB-5 programme. Unlike H-1B visa, EB-5 visa is not dependent on employment or educational qualification, and the applicant is allowed to work anywhere in the country. The processing time for an EB-5 application is 18-24 months for approval, and six-nine months for processing of green cards.
I helped Rajat apply for EB-5 visa after he returned to India. His father gifted it to him (yes, one can gift it too!). I was surprised that such a valuable piece of information wasn’t known to most Indians. Soon after, I started my own company with operations in India and New York to help people live a life of their dreams via EB-5 route.
I sometimes wonder what would I be doing had my father not taken the decision to migrate to America. I am grateful for the opportunities that my Indian heritage and American land provided me. You can’t let your dreams and ambition wither away due to policy issues. We live once and deserve only the best. If I, being the son of an immigrant taxi driver, can make it in America – anyone can.
P.S – Rajat got his citizenship last year and I can’t be happier.
Original Post: BusinessWorld