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Laid Off, Now What? (bharathpbhat.github.io)
402 points by bbhat 7 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 362 comments

These are all great tips. It is a really well-written article with great advice. I just come away from this with a crushing sense of depression driven by the following thoughts:

I can't believe this is how the country I live in treats people who bring their high-demand skills here. 60 days or get out.

This absolutely effects every engineer. Even the most racist ones: that there is a bedrock of people they are allowed to treat this way puts a hard ceiling on your own compensation.

My grandparents were labor leaders and I'm pretty certain they'd be ashamed I can't or haven't done more to rectify this.

I can't believe this is how interviewing works in this field. Everyone in every other respectable field (and ones that pay as well or better, and have worse consequences for hiring a "bad fit") seems entitled to some baseline level of respect and recognition for their experience and work. Having some smarmy piece of shit ask questions from Jr.-year computer science should be justifiable grounds for a broken nose.

> I can't believe this is how interviewing works in this field. Everyone in every other respectable field (and ones that pay as well or better, and have worse consequences for hiring a "bad fit") seems entitled to some baseline level of respect and recognition for their experience and work. Having some smarmy piece of shit ask questions from Jr.-year computer science should be justifiable grounds for a broken nose.

This is a little myopic.

Those other fields you don't mention? They use things like education (did you graduate from an Ivy?), connections (do you know these people in your niche field?), certification (do you have the blessing of a known body / board?) or even insurance (you're covered for malpractice if anything goes wrong) as alternatives.

I value software development not requiring those things, and I understand the trade-offs. Yes, I'll have to do a 5-8 hour single day interview that I may need to prep for once every 3-5 years. For 300k+ a year? I'll find a way to deal with it.

>For 300k+ a year? I'll find a way to deal with it.

I would too even for half that but unfortunately, in Europe, lots of the fancy tech corps. are adopting the SV style mult-day take home project/on-site interview grind but only paying $65-85k/year.

I'm still thinking whether I can make it in this field till retirement(FIRE is out of the question at this pay) or if I should just change to something else while I still can.

Edit: correct statement

Multi-day take home projects? Seriously? Just say no that unless they are going to compensate you at contractor rate of at least $120/hour. That is a ridiculous ask, and if all engineers just said no and walked away, they would get what they deserved, only the grovelers willing to say yes.

The all day interview thing is not new. When I finally landed an onsite interview with Bell Labs in 1984, it ran from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM with a break for lunch (that they provided). Every position I have interviewed with since then has been an all day affair.

Remember, interviewing is partly for skills, but mostly for attitude and personality. Are you going to fit with the team?

I pulled in a candidate back in 2000 that was clearly qualified for the job as far as skills, but in the interview, his demeanor was abrasive. He was so clearly superior to anyone else on the team, how could we have the temerity to question his abilities? It spiraled out of control and I had to escort him out of the interview after only two hours. It was awful.

None of the FAANG companies I've worked at have take home projects or multi-day interviews.

I have had multi-day and a take home project for FAANG interviews. Two actually.

These only make sense when the signal to noise ratio gets bad, ie you get too many spammy applications.

I agree. Watching a friend struggle to land a corporate law job has been eye-opening. Maybe some consider it disrespectful of Google to ask computer science questions to an experienced engineer, but at least Google will interview you whether or not you have an ivy-league degree. Law firms are incredibly elitist and not the least bit meritocratic.

Is that really what the field is paying right now? Is that after 5-10yrs or right out of school?

That's for a 10 year veteran in the UK. Programmers are treated like commodity. So much so that I left the UK 20 years ago and haven't managed to find anything comparable to contract rates in North America - certainly nothing comparable to SV or Toronto.

I gave the total compensation ~average for FANGs / large US tech companies as a mid-senior role, which I assumed is what the OP was going for from the tone of their comment.

If you're in a position in life where you need a stable salary (family, children, etc.), you'll do the same amount of prep for a FANG as for a start-up emulating a FANG. Why in the world would I put in effort prepping and take 1/3rd the total compensation is my perspective (yes, I understand the start-up lottery, and disregard it here).

$300K would be a contract rate for someone with 10 years of experience, with your own LLC and insurance.

It is pretty easy to find contract positions for $120 per hour, and higher responsibility/skill positions for $150 per hour. And the LLC and related insurance costs per year are trivial.

On the east coast, skilled software engineers (not programmers, necessarily) with 10+ years can expect at least $140K plus benefits as a full time employee, and it is pretty typical to see $160K.

In SV, SF, NYC, or Seattle, at a top-tier company, after 5 years or so of experience: $300k including equity and bonus is pretty normal. In the rest of the world, not so much.

Visit levels.fyi to get a picture of silicon valley comp levels. With 8 years of exp I was able to secure about 350k/yr this most recent job cycle

> "My grandparents were labor leaders and I'm pretty certain they'd be ashamed I can't or haven't done more to rectify this.

Unfortunately tech unions are typically the ones railing against H1Bs entirely. The mere presence of H1B workers fundamentally increases worker supply (by definition). In fact it was the "US Tech Workers Union" that championed recent actions against H1B workers. And let's be honest they were not fighting to make our lives easier (by making H1B less draconion), only theirs, by reducing the supply of workers.

And while some of them will sugar coat this by pretending to care about H1B worker's conditions and all that, the truth is that as long as the US continues to be a more desirable place to live compared to many other countries, and as long as you need a job to live here, foreign workers will always tilt the equilibrium a bit towards lower wages compared to a domestic worker supply. The true solution would be if you made the path to permanent residence easy for skilled individuals so that they don't need to take these employment decision under duress.

The “US Tech Workers Union” doesn’t appear to be a union at all. It appears to be a subsidiary of the “Progressives For Immigration Reform” non-profit aimed fairly exclusively at the H-1b issue, and the only spokesperson I can see for it is the executive director of PFIR.

So, I wouldn’t take the “US Tech Workers” as being representative of tech workers or tech workers unions without further research.

Funny to see this pop up because I happen to know who is behind this cluster of sites (i.e. https://ustechworkers.com/ https://www.cfpup.org/) and it's basically one super right-wing guy and some wealthy donors. None of these is a real union or even a real community group. It's wealthy lobbyists who want to oppose immigration. I always thought it was really shady.

> It's wealthy lobbyists who want to oppose immigration

That is funny, I would have never thought that wealthy lobbyists would ever be against easy and mass immigration policies to dilute the labor supply. Much better for corporations to hire people who are willing to work either more cheaply or out of a sense of desperation because job demand is lower than the available/willing worker pool.

Do you have a sound logical reason for why wealthy lobbyists would go out of their way to spend money on opposing immigration?

To be clear the person I'm thinking of is not a professional lobbyist, he's a PE investor. I don't know/understand his motivation and have never met him personally, this is a "friend of a friend" scenario.

Follow the money, as always. It's a bit hard to find any solid policy suggestions in the links above amongst all the fearmongering, but I'd wager that whatever their stated aims, they're not really pushing for reduced immigration, but rather for reduced protections for skilled migrants.

The more power employers hold over their skilled migrant workers, the more money they can make (from not only their skilled migrant workers but also from the rest of their workforce, who are now competing with the latter.)

> Do you have a sound logical reason for why wealthy lobbyists would go out of their way to spend money on opposing immigration?


This type of misleading behaviour and false-representation is called astroturfing.

The "US Tech Workers" "union" is actually a front for the John Tanton white nationalist network. It is not an actual union.

It is true that some other unions like the AFL-CIO have historically opposed immigration on these grounds, though.

It isn't about worker supply or wages. It's about workers' relative abilities to stand up for something (anything) versus having to keep one's head down and build whatever evil thing management wants built.

As long as the "risk of having to leave the country" for speaking up about anything is greater than 0% the obviously-wisest thing to do is keep your mouth shut.

It's no single thing because people's decisions are affected by the sum total of their life's balance sheet.

The labor market is something that emerges from the equilibrium of several opposing forces. We as a society decide which causal factors are 'reasonable' and which are 'unfair'.

As a simple example, you could argue that 'the wages for married individuals with kids are depressed due to the massive labor pool of single people in their 20s who can be employed for far less as long as you offer them free food and some cutesy perks like happy hours and pool tables'. Ceteris paribus, and as a pure fact of economics, this is true. Of course if you have a bigger supply of labor and hold other things constant, wages will depress, but as a matter of practical policy, we don't consider it 'unfair' that there exist single people who are competing for jobs that married people are also competing for.

But many people do consider it unfair that there exist Indians who are competing for jobs that Americans are also competing for.

This is a matter of policy and your personal sense of what is fair and what is not, not economics.

Should you have to compete for your wage in comparison to individuals from a foreign country with a much lower cost of living? For the most part you can't change your cost of living. (Yes, you can move else where but the delta between how you you keep/earn is pretty much relative around the country)

Single people tend to be younger and less experienced. They tend to be represented in entry level positions, and get paid as such.

>Should you have to compete for your wage in comparison to individuals from a foreign country with a much lower cost of living?

That appears to be the reality we've been living in for a couple/few decades. Airplanes, container ships, and the internet have made the world a much smaller place.

Not really. The borders still exist and the export controls still exist as well. It's just been tolerated in the last few decades.

> As long as the "risk of having to leave the country"

So, immigration is generally speaking something that corporations are incentivized to want because they get more manipulatible and desperate employees?

Can we just demand that companies that hire immigrants cannot fire or lay off those immigrant employees for some minimum number of years unless they declare bankruptcy? It might decrease the number of immigrant employees corporations would hire but it would simultaneoulsy ensure a huge amount of safety for the immigrants that do get hired (and for their families).

Politically, it seems to be a big crappy case of playing the ends against the middle... The ends being: 1. All the shitty racists lobbying _against H1bs_ because "took er jerbs" on one side. 2. All the shitty FAANG capitalists lobbying _for_ it on the other because they want to keep engineering salaries controlled.

My quick bandaid bill would: 1) Any H1b holder can switch to any job as long as it comes with at least ten percent pay increase. 2) Any H1b holder gets an automatic green card after x years or paid y in federal+state taxes, whichever comes first. 3) Hiring company pays 80pct salary for the extent of the Visa, come hell or high water. You _really_ need that visa? Fine, prove it by taking on more of the risk instead of foisting it on the poor visa holder who came to help you.

> I can't believe this is how interviewing works in this field.

These pressures are why I can barely bother landing a software role anymore.

I'm competing with people that have real pressure to study these algorithm brainteasers, switch into system architecture mode, and then switch into behavioral mode.

"Oh thats cute you spent 45 minutes a few times a week doing a brainteaser? I just did 600 of those in a month, and rehearsed what my quirky but culturally similar hobby is."

the what now?

This is out of control. Yes, I am competing with H1B's that have 60 days to figure it out, no, that doesn't make "immigrants" the problem, this is a symptom of a system broken in several ways, from public policy to tech private sector norms.

And most of these tests are basically bullshit, in terms of real world impact.

What's the contest here? Who's most desperate, most willing to sacrifice their life and health for pennies on the dollar?

Seriously. I'm a middle aged guy with kids and parents to take care of. I'm not in a position to spend 30 hours / week doing bullshit puzzles & memorizing an algo book for crap that is basically irrelevant to my job.

You know what I'm good at?

- Spotting the bug before it happens, by watching how the team interacts and who is checking their work...

- Parsing client requirements and finding what matters

- Duct tape engineering so we can hit a go-live date when everything else is a smoking pile of delayed dog-shit...

- Talking the client into dropping a feature that we can't deliver and pivoting into something we already have...

Generally of far higher value than some brain teasers...

> And most of these tests are basically bullshit, in terms of real world impact.

Yes, that is what's so wrong about it. If the whiteboard leetcode monkeydance was somehow relevant to job performance, it'd be annoying but ok. Given the complete irrelevance, it is just a sign of a profoundly broken industry that doesn't understand what job performance is about.

It bugs me when people say "the bar is high". No, the bar isn't high, the bar is sideways and outside in the parking lot of the stadium.

Personally I have never and will never give a whiteboard algorithm trivial pursuit interview. Doing my small part to bring some sanity here (Silicon Valley). I read the resume and talk about the actual past job experience with the candidate. It works wonderfully well. Never made a bad hire.

I'm good at that too, have none of the obligations you do and am just as put off by it.

The market values my skills, but I have to do this stuff on my own now. You can make more than big tech will pay you by building in the crypto assets sector by yourself. In the recent past it was just side-gig consulting at an hourly rate or trying to do bug bounties.

Now you can just hang out on Telegram or Wechat and learn what people need, get paid completely in Tether from people all around the world. Invest in that ecosystem, or get dollars, whatever you want. No, wait times for anything.

Any tips on where to get started developing crypto assets? Learn how to build Ethereum smart contracts?

The big thing now in Blockchain is DeFi (decentralized finance). People re-invent finance on the Blockchain.

In order you need to learn: 1. Basics of web dev (mostly front, not much backend for Blockchain) 2. Ethereum & Solidity 3. DeFi programming

I run a youtube channel on DeFi and Blockchain development:


I also have courses on how to become a blockchain developer and how to build arbitrage flashloans. I recommend first following my free trainings:



Developing crypto assets is ONE thing and not necessarily the most lucrative - this part is actually very crowded because it is too easy

EVM is good to know for an ongoing career, but more practically building wallets, exchanges, algorithms, trade routing systems, data visualizations, ad space on a website that provides utility, ad space on a bot that shows pricing data to a chat room, a better gui that happens to take a cut of transactions when people use it —- these are all options

so many things, so much, so easy

harder to focus as the space moves at light speed

It wouldn't be so bad if Indians and Chinese could actually immigrate. They have to stay in this precarious H1B state indefinitely, since getting a green card is effectively impossible for people from those countries.

Hell, I'm Canadian and I also bucket into the India group since I was born there. Doesn't seem to matter that I was less than a year old when my parents immigrated to Canada either.

I don't have high hopes for ever receiving a green card: https://medium.com/@happy_sushi_roll/the-endless-wait-for-a-...

yea, its more of a quirk of where you were born rather than nationality though both are almost often the same. I have an Indian friend who was born in Iran because his dad was working there when he was born. He lived in Iran less than a year but got his green card in less than 3 months.

Also because you are a citizen of India no?

I mean, it wouldn't be fair if folks could simply skip the line by going to a third country.

> I can't believe this is how the country I live in treats people who bring their high-demand skills here.

Well, I highly doubt American companies are pushing for this treatment. They benefit the most from getting whoever they want to hire however they want to hire them.

So, you must be implying that this "treatment" is coming from a non-corporate entity?

> that there is a bedrock of people they are allowed to treat this way puts a hard ceiling on your own compensation.

This argument is strange, because you are implying that it is the corporations that are kicking people out. But, I am not sure that aligns with their incentives.

So, if the corporations are not the ones kicking the desirable people out then why would losing that person force them to put a hard ceiling on others potential compensation?

I am not sure I follow the logic.

> I can't believe this is how interviewing works in this field.

I 100% agre. It is broken. But, I also think we are not being honest as to why. If we think logically (and game-theoretically) then it is easy to assume that these corporations have a huge incentive to engage in this behavior. Could it be that they have a sea of choice beyond anything the tech industry has ever had before?

The H1B makes it more difficult to change jobs or negotiate salary. Any interruption to employment is a huge risk to staying in the country. Thus those employees are more likely to accept lower offers and stay in those jobs longer.

E.g. a citizen can decline an offer in order to negotiate it up, but if the clock is ticking on your h1b, then you wouldn't want to get called on that bluff.

The limitations don't seem to dissuade H1b applicants, so companies like that they have more control over those employees without decreasing total supply.

On that last part a Jr. CS question that you maybe not even use in real life for some CS jobs. People forget that not everyone is writing awesome ML things or other awesome things you read about in newspapers. Most of the people are writing CRUD code, do some data transformation , automate so simple office process, etc. Never had much use there of Big-O knowledge....

Does not mean I never used much of this knowledge I have needed at some points. But by that tine I had to refresh the knowledge again...

The problem is that, as an Indian, you will be doing this dance routine for the rest of your life. Sure it is easy to do it when you are in your late twenties, early thirties but once you reach late thirties and early forties, you will not even get any interest from the recruiters.

Ageism is very real in the tech industry and your only options are to either get a green card or move to another country. Recessions and layoffs are a way of life in this country. Sure you survived this one - but may be not the next one or the one after that. Also with each passing decade, it will be harder for you to immigrate somewhere else - partially due to countries like Canada, Australia reducing points past a certain age and partly due to having kids who are used to a specific way of life in the US.

So while your status is safe for you, it is a good time to define the course of your career, because no matter how good of an engineer you are, at the end of the day, you are just a number on a spreadsheet who will be laid off at another recession.

I think the green card option was valid for Indians who came to the country at least a decade ago. It's no longer viable for Indians who are coming to the country now (or came in the past few years). Tying your immigration status to the ups and downs of politics for decades together is a sure-fire way to damage your mental peace.

H1B rules are quite ridiculous (or more accurately, cruel). Do people here know that even this 60-day grace window was only put into place relatively recently by the Obama administration?

Before that, you technically had to leave the country the day you were laid off. Never mind that you might have a house a family and might have been living here for more than a decade. You would officially be staying illegally if you didn't leave right away and it would jeopardize your chances of getting a visa in the future.

It's only through an historic odd mix of good pay and relatively laxer immigration rules that the US managed to attract a large pool of talent in the 80s, 90s and 00s. Students from my college who are about 5-10 years junior to me no longer consider it a viable place to plan a long-term career in due to the extreme precariousness of visa holders' life situations in the US.

Politically speaking we have little to no power in numbers so neither politically party really cares. Typically it's the Democrats who are pro-immigration, but in reality they don't care much about H1B style immigration and are in fact likely against it due to American tech unions hating H1Bs, while we have unlikely allies in some Republicans because our presence benefits big companies. Common sense solutions standard across the world (such as skill-based / point-based systems) are looked down upon, while we keep getting kicked around on the political playground.

> Do people here know that even this 60-day grace window was only put into place relatively recently by the Obama administration?

My worst situation dealing with this was a TN status rather than an H1B, where I was told at a border that I could be ineligible for admission to the US because I had no left the day that I was laid off from a previous position.

I had to tell the CBP officer that there was a 60 day grace period, be told that the internet isn't a reliable source of information, and wait while he discovered this information on their own. Sitting and waiting I literally overheard this person, after learning of this grace period, ask a colleague if they had ever heard of it before. This was at a major Canada/US border crossing.

It is apparently not just people on HN who are unaware of this, but also individuals charged with making US admission decisions.

I feel your pain. I've had the _worst_ luck crossing the US border with a TN. And I'm a white male Canadian, you'd think the racial stereotypes would be in my favour.

Many CBP works simply do not know the rules as you said. I've been pulled aside for 3+ hours. I've almost missed flights even though it's 110% legal for me to be here and work. I was pulled aside for not having an I-94 paper in my passport even though they had switched to a digital system for Canada and Mexico 5+ years ago (aka NO ONE has the paper). I've had border officers give me off hand remarks like "It's a shame an American wasn't given this job" looking at my TN application. All you can say is yes/no sir/ma'am and hope they're not having a bad day and send you back.

Then other days I'm waiting in the line at LAX getting back into the country, they ask where I had been, give me a stamp in two seconds and wave me through. I never know exactly how they're going to react.

It's gotten to the point where I'm treating getting a green card at this point the same way someone treats buying a lottery ticket. If it happens that's great. But if it doesn't I already have a backup plan of banking up all my USD and moving to Europe (my immediate family all live there and I have a British passport from my parents).

The immigration game is all fine and good for me now (29 years old, single, no mortgage and no kids). But even if I make half the amount of money in Europe at 33-35 when I want to start a family would be worth it to know that I don't have to worry about being kicked out the country. I especially feel for my close Chinese friend who can't even re-enter the USA right now if he goes back to China.

> I feel your pain. I've had the _worst_ luck crossing the US border with a TN. And I'm a white male Canadian, you'd think the racial stereotypes would be in my favour

Yes, Non-white people are more likely to suffer from abuse from authority. But if the law doesn't offer strong protections for a non-white person, then no one is safe. And you can be abused by authority no matter how white you are. All it takes is a bad officer having a bad day. I have also spent a few hours in CBP because the officer didn't understand how I changed my visa status. You become an criminal until things are cleared out if you are lucky.

Back in 2006 I was returning to the US, as a US citizen, from a job interview in Kanata(ON), and I was held by immigration for so long I almost missed my flight.

Not sure at all why I was flagged. White, middle aged male, returning to the US after arriving in Canada that morning.

It was a very uncomfortable situation.

Here's a fun one — my (foreign) girlfriend graduated from a US undergrad, and stayed in the country over the summer to begin her US PhD. She was legally covered as being able to stay in the country in both directions by the grace period after/before her undergrad/grad school respectively. When going to the embassy to renew her Visa, she was told she was staying in the country illegally, and the idiots there wouldn't renew the Visa on those grounds. They are literally legally incorrect, but there's nothing you can do with these absolute buffoons, these insipid recipients of a national work plan who are too unpleasant and immovably stupid to contribute to a real workforce.

As an immigrant in another country (thankfully more immigration-friendly), I completely understand the frustration. I think however we must see beyond the incompetence of some front-line workers and turn the frustration and complaints towards who's running the country and its policies, not providing training and overall setting a bad example on how to treat immigrants (legal or illegal). I've declined good offers to move to the US because of concerns with the immigration policies, which quite honestly are exacerbated by the current administration.


As someone who married someone abroad - moving to them is a far simpler and cheaper process than having them move to you. You may be thinking of the loophole of getting married overseas (which does exist) but the government is pretty strict with the requirements around that.

If you want to do thing legally and immigrate to the US then you'd better have a decade of your life and tens of thousands of dollars to throw at lawyers to guide you through the process.

I'm now a Canadian and I think the process in total (including the marriage certificate since I came over on a Fiancee visa) might have put me back about 1.5k. The process was reasonable, there were certainly requirements but people were available to guide you through it in English & French and, wonderfully, Canadians are quite nice to new Canadians so I didn't get much flack from my new coworkers.

America just doesn't want people to immigrate.

No I'm literally saying marry an american. My wife is from China and I'm from USA. Marrying her ended all of the H1B games overnight.

From what I can see this takes at least four forms, multiple years, and possibly a significant chunk of change to a lawyer. Could you explain the process more since google is telling me it looks like a pain in the ass?

Pretty much any international person can emigrate to the USA by marrying an American. If they're already here on some type of visa like H1B or student visa, just simply upload your passport to NYC's marriage website (or go to Vegas I guess) and get a marriage license. Then have someone officiate your wedding and for a few hundred bucks and maybe 48 hours of planning total you are now legally married.

You can take this marriage to the US government to make an application for a green card for the international spouse, which will be received in less than 18 months typically.

Short answer, find an American (or even just an existing green card holder) that you love, marry them, and now you are able to stay in the country permanently and work in pretty much any tech job you like :)

Oh okay, I was actually looking at citizenship. If you don’t care about being a citizen and just want to work, I can understand that’s an easier process.

I gotta disagree with the "just marry an American" advice; sure, it makes some things easier, but due to a paperwork mistake in 1979 or so my mother-in-law was almost deported two years ago after being married to an American and living in the US for almost forty years (the mistake was a date on a form that no one had looked at for those forty years...). Green card was still quite slow for my dad even though he married a citizen....

Sorry for the lack of clarification. Citizenship would actually come relatively quickly after holding the green card as per normal. I suppose around 5 years is the normal waiting period? You just have to pass a simple test where you memorize key value pairs like "Who wrote the Star Spangled Banner?" "Francis Scott Key"

However American citizenship is of extremely dubious worth, even if you really like to travel like my wife and are limited by travel visa paperwork like with a Chinese passport for example.

Voting is not a particularly useful feature of American citizenship unless you live in a swing state and believe your vote to be important in deciding the fate of our country.

And most jobs that require citizenship like in government pay extremely poorly and have ridiculous arbitrary barriers to entry, namely a security clearance.

5 years is imo really long to get citizenship if you’re working full time, paying taxes, etc.

This suggestion always comes up during presentations from immigration attorneys. They know how fucked up the system is.

It is scary to think about 1) how much control CBP officers have over the fates of people entering the country especially on non-citizen statuses, and 2) how little they know about the rules affecting the latter.

E.g. I've heard of CBP officers not knowing that Canadians don't need to get a visa to enter the US. Also heard of CBP officers not knowing what "Massachusetts Institute of Technology" was on a student's F-1, and had to ask around to confirm that it was a legitimate school. And many more.

This America seems woefully similar to Iran, ngl

I went through something similar but remember the name of the game is to not volunteer unnecessary information.

Did you tell the agent you didn't leave after you were laid off? Or did you just ask for a new TN once you had a new offer?

It seemed to me like being too truthful could hurt your chances more than to just ask for a new visa and let them process the TN as needed.

Some employers wouldn't even report your termination date until some time in the future to give you time to find a new job.

Your point about not offering unnecessary information is, unfortunately, good advice.

In my situation it felt as if the officer was going to every possible length to find a reason to reject my application.

I was explicitly asked why I was no longer with my former employer, what my last day of work was, and what date I had previously left the US to return to Canada. Being untruthful about any of these easily-verifiable points would have been much worse in the long run (since this officer definitely seemed intent on running down every possibility). Honestly I am lucky that I had a proof of my severance agreement, which showed it was not a voluntary departure.

Wow, I must have gotten really lucky I had no such questions and had no way to prove any of them!

You at least were 'lucky' enough to reach the border. I know several people who weren't even allowed to board flights because the airlines run their own small 'judge jury and executioner' system whereby they will refuse to let you board if they feel you won't be allowed at the border. Sure this works for trivial cases like checking Visa stamp etc. but immigration rules are way more complex than that but try explaining that to the underpaid worker at the airline counter while 50 people are lined up behind you and making noises for you 'holding the line up'.

And these actions are taken outside the US (at the home country airport) so realistically speaking you can't even sue them or anything.

I recommend buying a round trip ticket with a return date of two weeks later. That way airlines won't block you out of concern that they will be forced to fly you back at their expense.

You can later cancel the return ticket and apply the credit (minus a fee) to a later trip.

I didn't really get your suggestion. There won't be any 'flying back' coz if the airlines are blocking me, I won't be allowed to board the onwards leg of the journey.

In a lot of cases airlines will block people from flying to a foreign country if they have a one-way ticket because the airline expects the destination country will block the person from entering the country because the one way ticket implies they are not visiting as a tourist.

In that case the airline is required to fly the person back.

This is more common now with various Covid-19 travel restrictions so airlines are also asking for all testing paperwork that is required for the destination countries.

Yeah this is pretty close to my experience. I had a job offer from a US company. I would have been setting down roots in the US - my kids would have been in a US school, my wife would have been giving up her job. We would have been buying a house. But all of that could have been swept away in the course of a periodic half hour meeting with a border patrol agent to renew my TN status. My whole life would be pulled up and me and my family would have had to leave everything behind and return to Canada within days.

It’s just didn’t make sense so we stayed here.

I agree. I think you made the right call. We live in Canada (Ontario). We wanted to move to SF to be closer to family (Mexico) but in the end, even with a FAANG job offer, it was too risky and the current political climate doesn't seem friendly to immigration (even legally). Quite more so for someone from Mexico.

Man, I brought a few Cuban cigars into the US in 2018 and the border agent tore me a new one. Even my confused “But this is legal now...” went unheard until I got through the line to the real customs agent who wondered why I was wasting his time.

Granted, someone working at the US/CA border should know the TN rules, but in general there's so many visa classes and different rules that it's a UX failure if they have to go ask someone about these things. If they put in your passport and type in TN, it should display the relevant rules right on their screen.

That sounds like a good UX if we need to keep things complicated. Maybe we don't need to, though? (https://www.smbc-comics.com/openborders/)

> Typically it's the Democrats who are pro-immigration, but in reality they don't care much about H1B style immigration and are in fact likely against it due to American tech unions hating H1Bs,

Wait, what? Tech unions? I've never seen a single union in my entire 20 year career. I was sympathetic up until you complained about that. What unions?

The H1B stuff goes back and forth politically. If you ask me, if the economy is poor then there's no excuse for encouraging immigration, especially of high paid labor. If unemployment is high, that is (and that's the part that fluctuates). Not to mention H1B is used to reduce wages and dump tech workers when they get old or expensive. However, the uncertainty you describe is intolerable, it should be a clear path and if someone is laying down roots and family, they shouldn't be living in fear. It's obviously a very mixed bag.

The whole argument that Democrats, who have voted for bills that help resolve H1B issues by vast majorities and Obama passed executive actions that among other things allowed H1B spouses to work, provided a grace period, and until Republicans sued and had it rolled back in court allowed for H1 B green cards to be filled from infilled green cards in other categories, don’t really care is a remarkably wrong statement, and explains why politics in this country are terrible.

You literally have 1 side that demonizes a situation, and the other side doing pretty much all the can within the legal powers they have to improve the situation, but “both sides don’t really care”.

It's not that simple. All those democratic actions for H1B you've described are merely tokens when you consider how much attention they paid to undocumented immigrants (DACA). They've completely neglected the kids of H1B workers who have been here decades but have to leave the country when they turn 21. None of what they've done provides an attainable pathway for permanent residency for legal, tax paying high skilled workers from India.

Democratic immigration policies always prioritize family based and undocumented immigration. They have clear electoral benefits from this (see AZ and TX). Reforming H1B and the high skilled immigration system is only an afterthought.

Republican policies have at least put forward some kind of points-based system. They however want to reduce family based immigration which is an absolute no-go for Democrats.

The majority of the illegals pay taxes too.

DACA kids go to school. They graduate from schools here. They serve in military. They pay taxes when they join the workforce.

The majority of Indians/Asians also vote for Democratic candidates. 80+% of Asians voted for Clinton in 2016.

> and the other side doing pretty much all the can within the legal powers they have to improve the situation

Except they aren't. There is a clear 'caste' system when it comes to the immigration Democrats care about. Their primary focus is on immigration across the Mexican border (a lot of which is often technically or borderline 'illegal') which they want to make as legitimized as possible as the Hispanic community is a massive votebank for them. So we have all this noise about DACA and the like.

On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of legal H1B pool is largely an afterthought for them because the Indian and Chinese community in America is not that politically assertive, plus the H1B types can't vote anyway, and are mostly concentrated in places like California / Washington so their friends etc would anyway vote Democrat so who cares.

This is straight BS from my experience. My local Dems are spending time on the Temporary Protected Status groups, especially Liberians who've been here since the 1990s, Haitians who don't have a home to go back to, Nepalese. They've spent a lot of time on immigration from Asia and since we have a large Indian- and Pakistani-American community where I'm from that's been an issue my representatives have worked on. I feel like you have a pretty narrow view -- maybe you're from a place where that's true, but it's not true out here in the rest of America.

Democrats do not desire Hispanic immigration because they're likely to vote democrat. It's convenient but not all convenient things are causal.

By and large Democrats prioritize the most disadvantaged first, and that's poor immigrants, many of whom happen to be coming across from Mexico.

> the most disadvantaged first

How about prioritizing the most disadvantaged _US citizens_ first instead of kicking the stool from underneath them by importing cheap labor?

My dad talks about helping Mexicans pick cotton on his grandfathers farm in Central California. One reason my dad tried to do well as he could in school.

I'm less worried about Mexicans spilling over into California than I am about jobs being off shored to the far east. Clinton lost in 2016 because she and Bill Clinton are poster childs for NAFTA and letting China into the world trade organization.

> the Indian and Chinese community in America is not that politically assertive

No, but the mega-corps that hire a lot of them are. Very much. And usually lean more towards supporting Democratic politicians to ensure their labor pipeline is kept in place.

I actually don’t know if this is true. Everything you listed about chinese/Indians not voting or being engaged civically applies very broadly to the Hispanic vote also. Hispanic engagement is quite low, because of many immigrants cannot vote (same as Chinese/Indian), Because civic engagement isn’t common (again same) and language barriers. Additionally the idea that Hispanics are a democrat leaning population isn’t true. Many sub populations are staunchly religious (catholic) and would vote to overturn roe v wade same as evangelicals.

Additionally, the focus on DACA and Hispanic immigration may be because of size: Indian and Chinese immigrants aren’t even 5% of the USA out together, while immigrants just from Mexico are a whopping 11% of the USA.

Democrats have worked for _increasing_ the number of _new_ H-1B that are allowed per year, and Republicans have opposed it. Republicans have supported rules which make it more attractive to those H-1Bs who do arrive each year, and Democrats have opposed it. That is my summary of the situation.

Every one of the numerous studies done in this area over the years has come to the clear conclusion that high-skilled immigration produces a net economic benefit to the country and its workers (here's a recent one - https://nfap.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/The-Impact-of-H-...).

Silicon Valley itself wouldn't exist had it not been openly attracting talent from all over the world, and the difficulty in getting visas and residency over the last few years is already showing its effects as more and more major software companies are popping up outside the US.

The study is unconvincing. They mention that fields with more h1bs have lower unemployment. Well no kidding, in demand fields attract more h1bs, it isn't the h1bs making it more attractive.

Another problem with the study. "...the program enables employers to hire foreign workers when they cannot hire U.S. workers"

This is such a lie. My brother has looking for around a year and cannot get his first position. Past few months, looked like I might lose my job do to Covid. I spent a few months looking for a job, but couldn't find one. At the same time 70% of my coworkers are on h1b, often in their early/mid 20s. Absolutely no reason they couldn't hire a domestic worker to do the job. H1B is a scam.

I mean it is economics 101 that H1B's depress wages. I'd say especially since the demand for technology is relatively more inelastic that the increases on labor supply. There is a lot of money involved in masking this fact, but let's agree on something. There is always a tension between what part of economic surplus workers get and what part capital (shareholders) get. The sky high returns on capital in tech are possible in no big part due to the relative ease of bringing in new people. Successful companies will still make money but the actual return on the invesment will depend more on how high of a salary they have to pay. Take for instance FB, they make about 18Bn in net income, have 52K employees. About 350K per employee, imagine suddenly they were facing hiring engineers, they could easily spend a lot more on keeping them, but there's no need. Thanks to their lobbying through FWD.us among others, they can always import more people.

I mean they have desperately tried to get more people into CS, but even that has had little results. Biggest bang for the buck is lobbying and marketing for more H1Bs. What's a couple hundred million here and there

It's not actually obvious in "Economics 101" that wages are depressed by the best and the brightest coming to the US.

What you're not taking into account is the relative efficiencies of scale. When there's more talent in a particular geography than somewhere else, high value global companies can grow in a way they can't elsewhere. A precondition of that is lots of raw material - people - who can be repurposed by the highest bidder. Limit the raw material, and the industry might not even be located on the West Coast.

If supply was enough to depress wages, the US would have the world's lowest cost developers. In fact, it has the most expensive, because of the valuable companies that are able to grow in SV, which each bid up wages.

Economics teaches us about winner effects. The best attract outsize rewards, far larger than their proportional increment in ability or effort. SV attracts the best of the best because it's the best place for such people to be rewarded. It's a virtuous circle in multiple, compounding dimensions.

People are a fixed cost in the economics of software development. That means scale is king; it's the divisor on those costs. Scale isn't just on the sales side, though; it's on the talent side too.

Reducing skilled immigration is the kind of shortsighted approach that kills the golden goose in the long term.

It's not actually obvious in "Economics 101" that wages are depressed by the best and the brightest coming to the US.

These "best and brightest" are unencumbered by student loans and voluntarily put themselves in a very bad position at the negotiating table for the salary. If that doesn't depress wages it's hard to say what would.

I can introduce you to someone who sells Eiffel towers and used bridges. You can trust him. He is my cousin.

Exactly, even though the economies of scale were making the economic value of the company much higher, this extra will just keep disproportionately going to the shareholders. In fact, the bigger the companies, the more power they hold in wage negotiations. Think about an efficient market with many, many buyers and sellers. What kind of equilibrium does it reach? Now think of a few big companies, hiring from an ever increasing supply. The companies grow bigger, but the wage that laborers receive, will decrease. At some point it becomes this question, why should American workers give up an ever bigger part of their wage to shareholders and other immigrants?

In spite of their best efforts, most of the software development still occurs in the US. Think Microsoft hasn't tried to offshore as much as possible to India and China, building dev centers there? Or Google and FB?

Even then, just look at what kind of workers end up being imported through this programs. Not always the best and brightest. Many do entry level jobs not even in software development, for outsourcing companies.

I'm not saying outright ban immigration but better control is needed. (And saying this as a non-American living in the US). Something that struck me as particularly interesting and President Trump recently commented, is how about making companies bid for a fixed number of visa slots. Whoever pays the highest salary, gets the visa. This would certainly make companies be able to bring the brightest, while raising wages in general.

> This is such a lie. My brother has looking for around a year and cannot get his first position.

Anecdotes are not evidence. Maybe your brother is bad at interviewing. Getting the first position is always the hardest.

That's a great angle for looking at - do we have data on the average age of h1bs? How can a young person already have the specialized skill they're supposedly brought in for?

You've highlighted the problem with public discourse in the country. "I'm going to choose to ignore all scientific evidence because my brother can't get a job and it feels like H-1B is the cause" - sadly applicable to any policy topic where politicians & media are taking advantage of people's emotions.

I am not ignoring scientific evidence. I read the paper, it is not convincing. This is not a double blind experiment, it simply looks at data and asserts causes. Take this paragraph:

"An increase in the share of workers with an H-1B visa within an occupation, on average, reduces the unemployment rate in that occupation. The results indicate that a 1 percentage point increase in the share of workers with an H-1B visa in an occupation reduces the unemployment rate by about 0.2 percentage points. The findings suggest the presence of H-1B visa holders boosts employment among other workers in an occupation. The results provide no evidence that the H-1B program has an adverse impact on labor market opportunities for U.S. workers"

There is nothing scientific about this. No experiment was performed. They simply looked at the data, saw there was lower unemployment in occupations with higher percentage of h1b, and then asserted that means there is no evidence that the program has an adverse impact on us workers. They are reversing cause and effect.

You didn't read the methodology. They segmented the data by occupation, and then examined the data per occupation by year.

Do you have a study that shows the adverse impact of H1-B visas on American workers?

> There is nothing scientific about this

Soft sciences are harder than hard sciences to do.

> No experiment was performed. > This is not a double blind experiment

Do you really think experiments are a reasonable approach to political questions?

I too dislike wish-washy science, but there really isn’t much other choice for many real world situations.

Someone above accused him/her being unscientific and they responded accordingly.

I think an equally big problem is that a lot of "scientific evidence" like this doesn't pass sanity checks, and definitions of "net economic benefit" can vary and might not preclude strongly negative impacts to the average US citizen.

It has to be more than just a “net economic benefit” in a country with such large wealth inequality. Something that makes Jeff Bezos $1 billion and costs everyone else $900 million is a “net economic benefit”, but that doesn’t make it desirable for anyone except Bezos.

I've personally been asked to look at H1s instead of local staff to save wages (they cost 1/3). I'm in management now, but when I wasn't, you really would have expected a study to negate my own self-interest as an employee threatened with unemployment, and ultimately negate myself so that tech companies can rake in more profit and ultimately bring the aggregate numbers up (which is the net effect you highlight)?

The main problem with this idea is that high skilled labor is conflated with h1B labor. The H1B system is completely abused by big outsourcing companies like Infosys, HCL,TCS and Wipro. The proof of this abuse is that the average salary from these workers is much lower from non-outsourced H1Bs e.g. microsoft workers on H1Bs.

For example, a few years Disney theme parks laid off all of their IT staff and immediately replaced them with HCL H1B workers for lower cost. Clearly in this case H1Bs were abused to lower salaries of American workers by bringing in low skill (defined by salary) labor.

Immigration isn't inherently bad but the H1B program is deeply flawed (allocations by country, dominance by outsourcing companies, workers being tied to employers)

If I want to hire: A smart graduate from EPFL, Polytechnique or ETH Zurich who interned at CERN and has contributed to the Linux kernel for a software engineering job at a unicorn startup


A grad from a second tier "technical college" in India with a visa refusal rate of ~90% for a job doing manual UI testing and QA for a body shop

my only path forward is H1. They'll both be listed as "computer related occupations" and apply for the same visa in the same quota. Does that makes any sense to anyone?

> The H1B stuff goes back and forth politically. If you ask me, if the economy is poor then there's no excuse for encouraging immigration, especially of high paid labor. If unemployment is high, that is (and that's the part that fluctuates).

Exactly why it should be easy, frictionless, and risk-free to tell on your employer for any labor violation as an H1-B. Make it abundantly clear to the visa holder that if their employer wrongs them in any way, they will pay big time and the visa holder will a. not face any punishment b. will be handsomely rewarded for coming forward.

This is what the unions should advocate for...

I wish there were worker unions in tech.

If economy is down or unemployment is high, is it proprtional to number of umemployment rate in highly skilled workers or other categories? Cause I always understood unemployment numbers include all categories with a majority in low skilled workers. Which means that, it may not be related to H1 visas.

https://ustechworkers.com/ for example.

I don't know what makes something 'officially' a labor union but at least they call themselves that. There was also Washington state Tech Workers Union.

Uh, when I go to that page I don't see the word "union" anywhere on it. I tried searching for "union" on it and didn't get anything either. Where's the union part?

I am truly confused. How did you get the impression they have anything to do with being a union? I don't see the union part, or the members part, or the collective bargaining part; seems to me a union ought to have those components.

That's a front for a network of white nationalist organizations, not an actual union.

do they hold any significant influence? I've never heard of either one. I lived in WA state too.

> Do people here know that even this 60-day grace window was only put into place relatively recently by the Obama administration?

This is what happens when the people making the laws for unique experiences have never been even in the proximity of those experiences. (Well, in this case it's more likely just cruelty.) You get lawmakers who lived a standard life of an upper-class person and don't realize that finding a job isn't as easy as it may seem or as easy as it was 60 years ago. All that talk about "just go in, do a firm handshake and talk to the owner" might seem funny when it's loons on Facebook saying it but when it's what people base their perception of the world and their lawmaking on... that gets disturbing.

Its not an act of omission, this is a result of compromise with factions that don’t want immigration at all. The fact it discourages people is a feature not a bug.

If you immigrate, you emigrate. If you successfully immigrate (let's say in the U.S.), you have skills sought there. Those skills are probably also in demand in your origin country. You'd stand even more of a chance to be one of a few in your home country, gaining status, gaining visibility, turning the tide.

I know I'll probably be flagged for this question, but still: why do this? Why not help your origin country with your knowledge?

Genuine question, since I had the same decision to make and chose to return, in order to help locally.

> Those skills are probably also in demand in your origin country.

That's not guaranteed to be true. Take finance - if you want a career in this field there's only a handful of cities where it makes sense to live and work: London, Singapore, New York, maybe Tokyo.

An exotic derivatives quant won't find much demand for their skills in, say, Almaty.

Similarly, tech workers benefit from being in tech hubs (SV being one example). Oil engineers need to be around oil rigs and so on.

Moreover, standards of living are different in different parts of the world. Levels of corruption, infrastructure development, civic engagement etc are much worse in some places than others. You may have had the foresight of choosing to be born in a well developed country, but many have not.

I think the future of tech work will be distributed and remote.

My priority is providing for myself and my family, not some abstract entity to which I'm linked only through an accident of birth.

If a country offers better work conditions, a better salary, less risk of economic turmoil, better health care, etc. then I'll take the opportunity if it presents itself. I've done it twice and would do it again.

It's not any different to taking a better job offer, whatever that means to you.

> Why not help your origin country with your knowledge?

I moved from Canada to the US in 2007. Things were different then, and the opportunities in the US were unique (I joined Amazon). The longer you stay, the harder it is to return: your network changes, you get used to life in the new place, etc.

I will say that I’ve pondered the question of moving home nearly continuously since moving here and there always seems to be a compromise that we’re not ready to make yet. In the case of Canada, it was often the housing prices in the places where we’d like to live.

You can't think of a single reason why somebody might choose to leave the country they live in, aside from the most obvious one which would be because they could be earning more and be able to obtain a much higher quality of life?

Here are a few others:

- being in a persecuted group that is at-risk or discriminated against in their country of origin (due to religion, race, sexuality, gender, etc.)

- being from a country with a high homicide rate, or some other high risk of violence or danger

- wanting to provide a better education and quality of life for their family

- escaping abusive family or relationships

- Wanting to access companies or institutions where the skilled worker feels they can have a much larger impact through their work

This list is just scratching the surface...

What knowledge? The knowledge people gain by working at a foreign software company? Let Albert Einstein work as a delivery driver in Mumbai and he's going to accomplish nothing. Everything is relative and depends on the given situation.

You can get better value for your skills and objectively achieve more results by moving to a place with a more developed ecosystem for your industry.

Because most of the world does not have the infrastructure that the US has, and so they wouldn't be able to benefit society (as a whole) nearly as much.

Because some people are queer or from other minority communities within their home country (e.g. Dalit in India), and would be subject to discrimination, including and up to murder, in their home countries. Asylum only covers the most extreme cases and not the day-to-day discrimination that minorities face worldwide.

Because freedom of movement is an inalienable right that comes with being a human, and borders are inherently oppressive.

Because most of the world is a harsh, dangerous place, and supporting the decisions individuals have made to stay or get out, given the circumstances they're in, is inherently a moral good.

The distance between the political class and everyone else is shocking. This brings to mind the time that Obama was trying to cut 529 tax breaks and even Democrats were like "Dude, wtf!"

For many of them it's been too long since they've had normal people problems. For immigrant experiences the gulf is even wider.

I fully support immigration reform and expedited citizenship for skilled workers. I empathize with you. I have a lot of friends from school who have to deal with this, and it sucks.

On the other hand, the H1B system isn’t supposed to import fungible labor. These visa are supposed to be for highly specialized labor — highly specialized to the point that the openings are rare. It’s hard to fault an abused program for being inconsiderate of a problem it wasn’t supposed to solve.

The nature of the H1B being tied to a single place of employment is ludicrous though. It enables a power dynamic where these workers are basically indentured servants. This dynamic is a detriment to both these workers and their native counterparts.

Once an H1B is offered it should remain in place for some set time period, with procedures in place to address fraud either in the case of the company or employee.

This is the singular easiest change that would make lives for H1B employees easier. Even immigration-averse countries like European ones work this way.

Give us a general work visa that let's us work for N years instead of making us puppets of the company we are currently working for.

Isn't a H1B visa literally for a single job that's not able to be filled? It's not a work permit for working any specialist job, companies need to justify the need specifically

Can we stop pretending that's true? Like there are really jobs that are sooooo unique that NO Americans have the skills and only some foreign worker unicorns can fulfill them?

H1Bs are just skilled worker visas, let's stop with the charade that they're anything else.

If you want to stop that charade, you need to admit that H1Bs are frequently abused and are used to depress the salaries of American workers.

> If you want to stop that charade, you need to admit that H1Bs are frequently abused and are used to depress the salaries of American workers.

100% agree, which is why I'm saying they shouldn't be tied to a single employer, which just helps employers in general acquire a more compliant, docile work force.

I agree with this, but the best way to fix that is to remove some of the restrictions on the H1b workers so that they are not as easy to exploit.

I also favor dutch auction allocation.

That, and ban all of the body shops using them.

BTW, I have worked somewhere where H1b was knowingly abused and used to reduce the average wage.

There is a wide gap between the two extremes of "H1B is merely abuse" and "H1B is only for Nobel prize type savants".

Do you know there is no general work visa at all in America, whereby a skilled person can come based on their merit and work in the US?

> Do you know there is no general work visa at all in America, whereby a skilled person can come based on their merit and work in the US?

There are a whole lot of (both immigrant and non-immigrant) work-related skill-based visas in the US immigration system. It's true there is no one generic such visa, but that's because the US immigration systems doesn't use a small number of broad visa types but a large number of hyperspecific ones.

You are correct that there is no geneneral non-immigrant work visa but there are general skilled immigrant visas (EB1A and EB2-NIW).

The point is that if that particular job disappears, the visa holder, a human being, often with family, is put in a difficult circumstance which requires adjustment.

Yes, it disgusts me how some of our fellow engineers are controlled and manipulated due to their visa status. Meanwhile, non-H1B engineers can speak out about anything, and become uncooperative when asked do something perceived as idiotic, immoral, or even possibly illegal. I've seen other folks go ballistic on conference calls and emails due to one ridiculous thing or another. When you basically have a knife hanging over your head... potential deportation, disruption of your life and your family's... it is very different. You can't take those risks.

> This dynamic is a detriment to both these workers and their native counterparts.

Yeah, but it's great for the large companies hiring them.

> These visa are supposed to be for highly specialized labor — highly specialized to the point that the openings are rare

This is not true. The H1B program is intended to "allow U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. A specialty occupation requires the application of specialized knowledge and a bachelor's degree or the equivalent of work experience". Ie, it is intended to boost the economy by allowing in skilled college-educated immigrants. There's no requirement that they have to possess unique/extraordinary talent, or work in jobs where "openings are rare".

You're probably mixing up the H1B program with the EB1 program, which is indeed intended for immigrants possessing "extraordinary ability". The intent and requirements for H1B are far simpler

This is simply not true. What you're talking about is the intent of the O-1 and EB-1 programs, not H-1B.

Even when you have a supportive (non-exploitative) employer it's an unbelievably precarious position (personal story time!).

In order to renew an H1b visa [1], immigrants have to go to a US consulate, which do not exist within the borders of the United States so leaving the country is required. For the vast majority, this is a day trip to Canada or Mexico or a small vacation to visit family in their home country so it's not really an issue. However, sometimes, the consulate will pull shit like a "State Department Security Check" because the subjects worked in an institute that happens to have a research nuclear reactor - nevermind that it's one of the largest scientific institutes in the world or that their fields of expertise have nothing to do with nuclear.

The immigrants, if they chose to go to Canada or Mexico (as most do due to cost), are likely at this point stuck for months as undocumented immigrants in their new host country - unable to work with existing mortgages/apartments/cars/obligations to pay for in their old life, hotels and living expenses to pay for in their new life, and barely a month worth of sick time and vacation. Bonus: most of the things they could do to mitigate the disaster could jeopardize their permanent residency application. As far as I know, these standoffs usually end when the employers sue over the renewal or dump the employee completely in which case their entire lives have to be packed up and moved but they can't enter the United States to do so. Bonus #2: if both parents are working, they likely have separate H1b visas that won't clear together - family separation time!

As you can imagine, going through this series of events is devastating, especially for children who have zero insight or control into the process. Cruel is an understatement.

Edit: [1] See comment below, this applies to applications going through consular processing, which is a crucial detail

In order to renew an H1b visa, immigrants have to go to a US consulate

I think you may be confusing 2 things. H1 Validity and H1 Visa. You can extend your H1 from within US and most people do. No one is forced to go out and come back.

However, to extend H1 Visa, what you say is true. The difference is that visa allows you to go out of US, and then come back in, and for you to come back in, you need a visa that is valid at the time of entry.

However, if you wanted to stay in US without going out and keep on extending H1 (to the extent allowed by law), you can.

I'm not confusing them, I just oversimplified the interaction between the petition expiration date and the I-94 expiration date. I forgot to add that my comment above applies to applications that go through consular processing though, which is a very important detail.

H1b applications processed by consulates don't receive an I-94 which means that the application is "approved pending a visa stamping". The new work authorization isn't active regardless of whether they are already in the United States legally or not, until the person leaves the US and goes to a visa stamping at a consulate.

You are describing the happy path for tech workers, but in my experience (90s Soviet block exodus) most families had to go through consular processing because it places a smaller burden of proof on the applicant vis a vis things like legal status in the United States and their home country. Lots of families from the Soviet block had a hard time assembling the required documentation in the chaos of the 90s and anyone who overstayed a H1b or student visa even a day because they wouldn't or couldn't uproot their families has to go through this process.

I am not trying to describe the happy path in any way. I have gone through a 4 year L1A green card which my colleagues got it in 10 months and I have been without advanced parole for 13 months which implied if I left the country due to any reason, I could not come back. And my experience too was in a different decade, no need for me to cover up the warts. It is quite an experience each interaction with the then INS taking over 3 months when the entire last stage should have completed in 3-4 months.

What I am describing about H1 is standard (majority) operating procedure. Yes extending H1 visa outside of the country is a pain, but extending H1 while being in US is not such a big pain, and most of my colleagues do that. Of course there does come a need for people to visit to their origin country once in a while, and yes that's when it becomes a lottery.

Work / study visas are (in my opinion anyway) a significant reason why the majority of post-graduate students are foreign.

Working as a grad student is really a quite poor economic trade off unless you have the unspoken side benefit of qualifying for a visa.

It's basically a form of academic wage suppression.

Visas of many varieties are used for wage suppression.

H1b, for example, is well studied to result in wage suppression.[1]

[1] https://gspp.berkeley.edu/assets/uploads/research/pdf/h1b.pd...

I concur that the H1B rules are awful. We should make it as easy as possible for the best in the world to come here. The laws as they stand directly abuse non-citizens for the benefit of companies, some of which are US based. The H1B holders don’t vote. The beneficiaries of a better system are more indirect, and less likely to make a case. (Most of us benefit when the best talent in the world is free to come here and build/create/pay taxes)

However... The system is arbitrary and can punish people short term. It seems strange to buy a house in a country that can kick you out on no notice through no fault of your own.

> It seems strange to buy a house in a country that can kick you out on no notice through no fault of your own.

OK, it's strange to buy a house. What about marrying and having a kid? Many H1B workers here have lived there for decades (with no realistic hope of a green card in sight). Must we stay childless because we can be kicked out on no notice?

I know your statement is well-intentioned but it comes off as one of those things that's easy to say in 'abstract' but it demonstrates a lack of understanding of actual life situations of people.

I don’t intend to seem callous, so please help educate me.

If you marry a citizen, that accelerated the Green Card. If you marry a non-citizen, your situation is precarious, so why not rent rather than buy?

I’m not arguing that the rules are right. (They are clearly wrong) Just that if you’re ina precarious situation, avoid doing things that make it worse. When I lived abroad, the expats were all aware of being on borrowed time.

I think the world would be a better place in terms of peace and prosperity if people could circulate as easily as money. Unfortunately that’s not our world.

If my posts are wrong or offend I’m happy to delete them.

I am not offended and you have been polite, so please don't remove your posts.

Renting vs buying is fine. We can choose to rent all our lives and frankly in the Bay Area buying isn't even that slam dunk of a decision anyway.

My point was a bit more general. It's very common for people to argue 'technically' about how others should live their lives while missing their ground reality. For instance, it's easy to say "Well technically H1B is not an immigration visa, it's a temporary workers visa so why are you making long-term life decisions while on it". But the ground reality for most Indians and Chinese on H1Bs in the US is that they will never get a green card (permanent residence), and they will spend their whole lives here under H1B, so while the question is well-meaning and genuine, it translates to "don't buy a house, don't get too many possessions, don't marry[1], don't have kids".

[1] Unless you marry a citizen, in which case you are sometimes accused of entering into a 'green-card marriage' and seen with suspicion.

Yeah, my boss is here on an H1B, and has been with the same company for I think 12 years now, even though the company has had many rough years and I'm sure he would have switched jobs already if not for his H1B status.

He's since married and has a kid, used to live in an apartment but now has a house, although he might be renting, I'm not sure.

I started dating and eventually married my wife, got two dogs, and bought a house in just the five years I've been working at the company myself, so a lot of life events can happen in that time.

On marriage - it’s very broken, and abuses foreign workers. And I do get where you’re coming from. My wedding got accelerated by a year or two when my girlfriend has visa issues. (It was still worth it!)

Thanks for engaging politely and directly in a tough conversation.


If you insist on inserting trollbait in a polite and calm discussion, well might I suggest that Americans, at the very least, owe us Thanks for the billions of dollars in taxes Indian Americans pay as the wealthiest ethnic group in the country. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_the_U...

If you continue to post flamewar comments to HN we are going to have to ban you. You've been doing it a lot, unfortunately, and we've already asked you more than once to stop. No more of this, please.


As a guest worker you are not supposed to put down deep roots here. If you want to immigrate you should follow the law and get an immigrant visa. This isn't hard at all. It's just like being a guest anywhere else, you have to follow the host's rules even if you don't like them.

Many people who are in the guest visa apply for and are approved for permanent residency (which is what, I think, you meant by “immigrant visa”). They are simply waiting for years - decades even - for their turn. Life happens while they wait - marriage, kids, house etc - as mentioned by GP.

The term immigrant visa is well defined[1]. If you want to bring your wife and have kids and buy a house you should get an E series visa[2], not an H one. If you choose to go with the H-1B anyhow you are taking your chances and like any chance sometime it doesn't go your way and you have to deal with the consequences.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_the_United_Stat...

[2] https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrat...

One need not have visited the US, or even _be eligible_ to visit the US to own property in the US.

What immigrant visa, exactly? H1b is the pathway to immigrant visa for tech workers in the US. For H1b holders born in certain countries, they have to be on H1b visa to be on the 5-10 year long queue to get the green card.

That's the exactly same thing I said: you need to be on H1b (or other non-immigrant visa but allows dual-intention, for example L1) and wait for maybe years or decades (based on your birth country) to get that.

Here's the current queue size: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/visa-law0/v.... For immigrants born in mainland China, E2's current queue is 4.5 years, for immigrants born in India E2's current queue is 11 years.

There is no mention of H-1B at all on the State Department page I linked you. Where are you getting this from? Sure some H-1B holders manage to later acquire an E visa, but nowhere is it stated to be a prerequisite. Exceptional individuals don't even need a US sponsor to apply.

Sure H1b is not a prerequisite technically. But say you are the employer, you want to sponsor this Indian person's E2 visa, but you need to wait for 11 years before they actually get the visa you sponsored and start to work for you. Now tell me how is H1b not a prerequisite in reality?

If it takes that long it's because the category you're in is heavily over-subscribed and at a relatively low skill level. Using H-1B to do an end run around that is common, but to call it a prerequisite is dishonest. Our immigration system has limits because we believe it is in our citizen's interest. This means not every foreign worker that wants to immigrate is going to get to. US law gives preference to exceptional individuals, because our law is for the benefit of our citizens and corporations, not foreign nationals.

For E1 the queues for China and India born immigrants are still 2+ years long.

Immigrant visa? What is that? I think the conversation is focused on the US. I'm a native-born US citizen, but my impression is that for those who get an H1B, they can apply for a green card and eventually citizenship. However, the path for many is fairly long. Perhaps you are confusing the H1-b and the J-1?

You can read about the difference here[1]. H-1B is a temporary visa and does not entitle a holder to permanent residency. In some cases it's possible for a H-1B holder to be granted permanent residency because it's a dual intent visa, but that merely permits the holder to desire to immigrate. By contrast a tourist visa would be denied to a visitor who expressed the desire to stay permanently.

[1] https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/visa-waive...

> why not rent rather than buy?

Have you ever tried to break a lease on accommodation in the US?

It’s cheaper than unwinding a house, no? Especially if you’re leaving the country.

Not necessarily.

A house is an asset you can continue to own if you leave the country, by renting it. There is no requirement to be US resident or even eligible to visit the US to own property in the US.

Breaking a lease can cost tens of thousands of dollars which is just waste - and if you ever intend on coming back to the country at some point, simply abandoning the lease is not advisable since the impact on credit reporting can be substantial.

So I'd suggest that it's actually cheaper to own a house, and simply _not_ unwind it.

Have you ever tried being a landlord if you are in another part of the same metro area that is only an hour away? I can’t imagine being a landlord dealing with rentals in another country.

This is what management companies are for.

And they take 10%-20% of your monthly rent and at least half of the first months rent of a new lease.

When I was in real estate, the banks would only credit your income at a 75% occupancy rate. It’s hard to break even on an income basis with rental real estate.

When your property is vacant, you’re still on the hook for the mortgage. More than likely, your income is going to be lower when you’re forced to leave the country.

I'm aware - the answer to "Have you ever tried being a landlord if you are in another part of the same metro area that is only an hour away?" is no, but I do from another country, right now, using a management company.

Because they do not foresee their situation becoming less precarious in the future.

AFAIK, marying a citizen gives you a straight path to resident papers and, later, citizenship, in the western world, including USA.

Marrying a citizen, yes. But the chances of H1B visa holders marrying other H1B visa holders (or people from back home) are pretty high given that the elephant in the room is that all of this discussion disproportionally affects Indians and Chinese.

A close friend of mine got married 3 years ago. He is a dual citizen of China and the USA. His spouse is a Chinese citizen.

This straight path you speak of they have been filing paperwork for and fighting for, for 3 years now. I believe he is just in the path to permanently moving to China and revoking his US citizenship status.

Everything about this process sucks. :(

How can your friend be a dual citizen of China and the US, when PRC does not recognize dual nationality?

Strange, my Chinese citizen wife got her conditional green card within ~6 months of application (about a year ago, we’ve been married less than 2 years and she took a few months to apply since her status wasn’t pressing). One thing they ask is if you are a member of the communist party (my wife never was), and I guess if the answer is yes things may be more complicated. I, myself, am a naturalized us citizen (from Eastern Europe, my dad got an E1 in 2001).

> The laws as they stand directly abuse non-citizens for the benefit of companies, some of which are US based.

So let's rein in those companies by giving them a talent pool of people who can't rock the boat too hard without fear of having to leave the country?

We should just have really loose immigration laws that let lots of people in. Never mind the best in the world stuff.

> are in fact likely against it due to American tech unions hating H1Bs

That’s a new one. What are these American tech unions you are speaking of? Googling only brings up a few obscure organizations that I’m sure don’t have much influence with the Democrats.

I had a job offer and TN status with a US company and I decided (last minute practically) not to move to the US for precisely this reason. That I'd have to leave the country on the same day I lost my job. Doing this with a family seemed too risky for me. I'm not sure what my parallel universe life in Seattle would have looked like but I've no regrets staying in Canada.

FYI TN also has a 60 day grace period.

This was prior to the 60 day grace period. I know there's a 60 day grace period these days.

Other than the fact that Democrats have voted for bills solving this issue in both houses of Congress by vast majorities, and the last Democratic President took many executive actions (including the one you mention as well as others that were rolled back by Republicans) there is no evidence that Democrats really care.

What one can expect from going to foreign country? People in mine (or yours) country will try to get as much as possible for free from others.

If someone thinks that some country is composed only from good will and good people, it will be disappointing. There is price to pay for moving, it is not always obvious. I moved to another country and I earn more money than if I would not move, but opportunities that I left back in my country are somewhat biting me back after all those years.

> Typically it's the Democrats who are pro-immigration

Actually its business tycoons who want cheap, abundant labor. Getting the media to frame it as a social issue was genius.

Yes and you cannot expect the Native American workers to sympathize with your plight. The focus is on productivity and the cost of labor and not on humans behind it. The Native American workers had faced it for decades via outsourcing and offshoring and now the pendulum is swinging back to the right again. The rules will be changed ,if needed , for US and it’s citizens to win the game.

I feel it's odd that you capitalized the "N" in "native". I assume you're not talking about these people[0].

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_peoples_of_the_Amer...

> Before that, you technically had to leave the country the day you were laid off

Interestingly enough, there's a very similar system in place in the United Kingdom (Tier 2 General). Not only you have to leave within 60 days after being laid off, but there's also a "cooling-off period" of 1 year, which means that you can't get a new visa during this period and effectively it resets your time until permanent residence, so you have no option but to start over.

UK doesn't have "at-will" employment like the USA.

Their PR system is also time based, which means you don't have to live in uncertainty forever, unlike the H1B which is lifelong temporary immigrant for certain nationalities.

A decade? Have the rules changed over the past 10 years? When I was on an H1B the rule was that the visa was valid 3 years and could be renewed only once for another 3.

How would you buy a house on a H1B? No banks would issue a mortgage to a non-immigrant visa holder.

Two things can be true at the same time. Starting a "resident life" while on a temporary, non-immigrant visa doesn't sound like a great plan; and yes, this visa is horrendous and should be deeply reformed.

There is a loophole in AC21: if you have an approved I-140 then you can extend H-1B indefinitely in 3 year increments. The trick is that I-140, once approved for 6 months, cannot become unapproved via a USCIS memo. So there are now hundreds of thousdand H-1Bs with permanent I-140s getting infintie H-1B terms.

> Never mind that you might have a house a family and might have been living here for more than a decade.

I lived in the US on a temporary, non-immigrant visa similar to the H-1B for six years.

Buying a house and starting a family while on such a visa always struck me as deeply irresponsible. I was reticent to even get a pet. The US immigration process sucks, but it's sucked for a long time, and the extent to which it's going to suck for you in particular is knowable ahead of time. Simply reading the language on the forms you fill out while applying for such a visa makes it clear how the US government regards you[0]. To ignore that and live your life as though you have permanent residency already is to carelessly put yourself (and your family, if you have one) in a risky situation.

I have sympathy for people who find themselves in this position. Leaving the US as a single person with no significant assets was tough enough for me, I can't imagine what it's like for someone who's really put down roots there. That said, if you were living like a "temporary worker in a speciality occupation" you wouldn't have put down roots.

[0] I know a lot of people listen to their employers pie-in-the-sky promises of Green Cards and how layoffs "never happen" and so forth. You're an adult, though. Understand your legal situation for yourself.

> American tech unions hating H1Bs

What the heck is a “tech union”? Who are in one?

nice username.

Staying in a foreign country is a privilege, not a right.

You are baiting too hard

If the Democrats are "pro-immigration", they haven't actually succesfully done much to show it. Generally, not limited to H1B. this country has become very anti-immigration generally, and I hate it.

There isn't really such a thing as a "tech union" in the USA. I don't think very many tech H1B holders are working in areas with any unions. (And if they were wouldn't many union members be H1B holders themselves?)

Actually, I suspect Democrats get more money from tech companies that benefit from H1B hires than Republicans do. Tech companies in the past tend to donate to Dem more than Republican. Of course, the biggest companies, in nearly every industry, donate to both parties hoping to influence whoever is in office.

Perhaps that's what led to the bare improvement to a 60 day period under Obama, who was of course the last Democratic president. The Dems definitely haven't done any more for lower wage or less skilled immigrants, if you think they are somehow helping them but not H1B-type immigration, you are unfortunately mistaken.

DACA was an executive order by a Democratic president.

How is DACA helping people on H-1B? It explicitly _excludes_ legal immigrant children who are waiting in greencard backlogs.

The current state of job interviews is terrible. Just the fact that studying for a few weeks affects their outcome should raise eyebrows everywhere.

And don't get me started on lack of job-related questions, false negatives and having to guess what interviewers want to hear

It seems to be a mostly US-centric thing.

I live in Scandinavia, and I have yet to encounter the levels of rigor I see in the US (tech) interviewing process - which is kind of weird, as we have much, much more stringent workers rights/laws, making it more difficult to get rid of a bad hire.

Sure, US companies, especially in tech hubs, operate on a completely different scale than companies over here - at least in terms of funding/capital, size, and impact; So one might suspect your companies and startups to be more selective. But yet, it seems like a completely different world.

Over here, there seems to be much more emphasis (and trust) on your resume, and the hiring process is more focused on fit. If you have the basics down, most can be thought - but it's pretty difficult to teach culture.

As a counterpoint, I had to intervene when I discovered one of our European offices was interviewing mobile developers with a 40-80 hour take home project. They were not happy when we made them reduce it to a 4-5 hour take home problem.

Same thing in Germany. I've had just a few interviews for the last three jobs. None of them was a multi day (or even one whole day) interview. The max. that was asked was a (really short) coding challenge with a salary at 80k - to put in perspective I pay 600€ / 105m² for rent and live near some big cities in western Germany.

I definitely went through a stupid interview process when I lived and worked in Sweden. "Name and define 5 design patterns", "sort this array", followed by the "personality test". Everyone was nice and all, and I got the job, but it was definitely on par with what I see now in the US.


I hate stupid leetcode based interviews. It's like "gotcha journalism " just to have a justification for a subjective rejection

It's like when as couple of weeks ago some random recruiter was interviewing me and asked "what's your weak point as a manager" ... I was sincere and if course the reason I was rejected is because they are looking for someone who doesn't have THAT exact weakness. GOTCHA!!

I feel that asking candidates negative questions gives you a better idea of a programmers aptitude than asking positive questions. Asking a candidate to give an example of a problem they couldn't solve, what they attempted when trying to solve it, and why they couldn't solve it, gives you an idea of their problem solving process and a real sense their upper limit of ability. Any candidate can gas themselves up and cherrypick some impressive achievements, or provide a laundry list of tools they have "experience" with.

Rejecting candidates based on their response to those types of questions is completely counter-productive. You'll just end up with a bunch of employees who are either liars, or very good at delegating blame. You want employees who take ownership of their work and assigned tasks.

As for programming tasks/questions in interviews. I think that it's important to test applicants' practical knowledge of sorting and other enumerable operations as it's a common task that's often done wrong, often with significant performance impacts. However, requiring a candidate to re-implement a common sorting algorithm for an array of numbers does nothing but stroke the interviewer's ego. The last time I actually had to write a sorting algorithm from scratch was in a 200-level computer science paper.

An actually sane interview question/task would be to ask the candidate to sort an array by an unconventional comparison, using a language's standard sorting functionality.

For example: sorting an array of coordinates by their absolute distance from (0, 0), or sorting an array of RGB colours by intensity. They're problems that a programmer would realistically encounter in a real-life application, and test that the candidate actually understands how to manipulate non-trivial enumerable/comparable data.

Asking candidates to implement quicksort selects for applicants who have a case of Not-Invented-Here Syndrome. You don't want to hire programmers who implement their own sorting algorithms from scratch, there's a >90% chances they'll implement it worse than the language's standard implementation, while wasting a bunch of time that could be spent solving actual business problems, and creating technical debt to boot.

Mind expanding on how a regular senior SWE or analyst interview works? How many stages, what are the questions etc?

The US pays a lot and there's a lot of competition for positions. The H1B system doesn't help that competition. When you have 50 well qualified applicants (ie: could pass most interviews) per position then you need some way to weed out 49 of them. Resumes can be exaggerated and downright lied on so once there's enough competition using them just means you're selecting the best liars/sociopaths.

I think there's certainly some truth to coding interviews being an effective mechanism in shifting hiring towards H1Bs. It's much easier to say that Americans can't do the job when you create a test around studying for 500 hours to memorize hundreds upon hundreds of coding puzzles in order to build up a mental encyclopedia of how to quickly apply your algorithmic "training" to the puzzle of the day.

I'd bet H1Bs are going to be much more motivated to jump through that hoop. Benefits them and the company doing the hiring that conveniently just can't find enough qualified American engineers to do the job.

This is an absurd characterization of coding interviews. I've been on both sides of big tech interviews, and I've been at a few companies. I've seen two extremes. At one end, the company had pretty lax interviews, and I rarely interviewed anyone while I was there. The quality of people at this company was relatively low, from my small sample size of coworkers. At the other end, a company well known for challenging coding interviews, and I regularly interview people. The quality of people at this company was relatively high, again from my small sample size of coworkers.

I think coding interviews are actually working fairly well. They divide people into at least two groups: a first group is people that can pass them without too much trouble, and they mostly seem to get hired, but of course there are mistakes. A second group is people that need to spend 500 hours cramming to appear qualified, and basically are trying to game the system. These people mostly don't get hired, and I suspect also are completely driving the conversation on HN and elsewhere about how coding interviews are a terrible failure.

FAANG nowadays wants you to be able to solve 2 leetcode mediums (or an easy+hard) without errors and with optimal computational complexity in 35 minutes. This is done up to three times so that's six problems and if you miss even one you likely fail the whole thing. To me that's really really hard unless you study to the point of having the solutions memorized. It's not the problems that are difficult per say but the time constraint which means going down the wrong path leaves you with no time to fix things.

I'm not necessarily anti coding interviews, but somehow convincing yourself there is any degree of innate talent is a myth. There is a linear relationship between practice and performance. It's as simple as that. Some people are privileged with better resources to practice more effectively, but at the end of the day, it comes down to who has done it more.

I've worked with people that I consider pretty smart, and they definitely study (and enjoy) the kinds of problems that are given in interviews. 500 hours may be an exaggeration, but I think the idea that this stuff comes naturally to successful people is a bit ridiculous.

I would say I've never met anyone who can "invent Quicksort" without too much trouble. However I've met many people who've memorized it for interviews.

> When you have 50 well qualified applicants (ie: could pass most interviews) per position then you need some way to weed out 49 of them.

No, you don't. Simply hire the first one that's a fit. If all 50 are well-qualified, that means hire the very first one you interview.

Why settle for merely well qualified when you can have the absolutely best?

Because there is no such thing, people don't rank on a linear scale.

> When you have 50 well qualified applicants (ie: could pass most interviews) per position then you need some way to weed out 49 of them.

Do you really? If they're all well qualified, wouldn't any of them do?

Why settle for merely well qualified when you can have the absolutely best?

> Over here, there seems to be much more emphasis (and trust) on your resume, and the hiring process is more focused on fit. If you have the basics down, most can be thought - but it's pretty difficult to teach culture.

That's probably because OP makes triple to quadruple your total compensation at minimum as an L5 ML Engineer at Google.


Total: $356,119

Obviously the salaries are quite different, but at the same time - you're pretty much walking around in golden shackles, no? I can't imagine those salaries being relevant, other than a handful of places in the US.

And for the price of a small 2-bedroom apartment in the SF-area, you can pretty much buy a mansion where I live.

Then you have things like healthcare, school costs, daycare / cost of raising a child, etc. etc.

The US is a large place, you can save money for a decade in one location and then use that $1-2 million you built up to move somewhere cheap, buy a mansion and not give much a shit for the next 40 years. Taxes are also generally lower so you keep more. Healthcare costs don't matter since your employer pays for that and gives you good health insurance. School/child only matters later, and you can either move away by then or get promoted to making $600k+.

edit: Two engineers together can make $700k+ which is $450+k after taxes per year. After one year and reasonable spending that's enough for a down payment on a house in the Bay Area. Every single year you get enough to pay for 1.5 kid's worth of college education at a top private school. Very few costs actually matter in comparison at that point.

Sure but do people want to actually want to live in those places? My wife and I both live in SF and we were able to buy a house which would be impossible now, but I don’t think we’ve ever cleared more then 250K max combined in actual salary. Now with only one of us working which could drop to zero at any moment it seems a move to cash out our equity in the house and move to Europe is a more feasible option than staying in the US

>Sure but do people want to actually want to live in those places?

I don't see why not. It's not like the Bay Area is particularly great culturally, culinarily or in most other ways. It's a giant suburb sandwiched between a medium sized city and a place that is only technically dense enough to be a city. There's plenty of mid-sized cities and suburbs in the US with reasonable costs of living.

Yeah I don’t know. I think there is a difference between places with reasonable costs of living but I don’t know if those are places where 1-2M is going to last 40yrs. I grew up in Astoria, OR with population of 10k and can say that at least compared to that place SF Bay Area is miles beyond culturally and culinarily. Even Portland seems rather lacking just in the sense that there really isn’t the amount of cultural diversity there as you can find here. I feel like if there is anything I am interested in getting into here there is almost always a club or group of people you can find here that are doing it which wasn’t always the case in other places I’ve lived. On the other hand, if you’re into things like hunting and similar recreational pursuits, the Bay Area doesn’t seem as good as other places where there aren’t as many hurdles to overcome and a lot of people are doing it as well.

I didn't mean you could retire with 1-2 million but simply you could take whatever job you wanted and not worry about major expenses. The person I was talking to mentioned kids a few times so I was talking more from that point. With kids, your free time shrinks dramatically as do your priorities. So hobbies and so on matter a lot less than good schools, stable environment, etc, etc.

In terms of diverse activities I've personally found east coast cities better and most have broader suburbs than the bay area (due to not being restricted by mountains) so it's easier to trade commute against price.

Culinarily, the Bay Area is #2 in the US, behind NYC. In Michelin star rankings it’s top 10 in the world.

Cost of living sucks, it’s why I just moved to a better COL area but damn do I miss the restaurant scene.

Most software engineers I know don't even leave the house much. What's the point of living here if you're just going to watch LoL streams all day in your bedroom?

I live on the other side of the world and my wife and I barely clear $25k

I grew up with a dad working for 70-120k and a mom at home. I can’t even imagine how nice the lifestyles of Bay Area kids are.

As I see it, beyond a certain level money and things don't make you much happier. They just give you a different set of things to feel the same level of happiness about.

edit: This is as someone who has experienced household lifestyles going from <$40k/year to >$250k/year.

I don't agree with you.

I've gone from 0K to 200K in my life and more money is always better, it's more freedom and it's more happiness and there has never been any downside.

Making more money has always made me happier and it's given me the ability to take care of the people I care about.

I want more and if a job comes up tomorrow that will pay me more, I'm there.

> I want more and if a job comes up tomorrow that will pay me more, I'm there.

Tere's diminishing returns on wealth accumulation. You need to give up something to make that extra more. Different people have different thresholds for "giving up" certain aspects of their life.

The kids you are thinking of certainly enjoy nice cars, good food, and so on.

However, the housing stock is mostly old & run down even at two million dollar prices. Not to mention, a kid with two full time Googler parents? They are attending an academically rigorous private school with 3-4 hours of cram classes after, not sipping virgin daiquiris by the pool.

the parenting attitude isnt "we got it made, lets enjoy the good life", it is "i expect you to do even better". also, most kids are not the product of 750k hh income families. the median hh income is about a hundred k.

I’m really referring to the children of Googler parents.

350K is about enough to start considering buying a house in the bay area. Less than that and you have to make big compromises.

The life you can't imagine are all the lucky Engineers to be paid bay area salaries at reasonable cost of living locations like Seattle. You may laugh at me calling Seattle "reasonable" but compared to the bay it is.

Housing prices and the cost of any good school beyond a select few good public ones pretty much brings the lifestyle down to the same level. My friends with kids and solid incomes live comfortably but not extravagantly considering one lay-off can take your income from comfortable to 0 at a moment’s notice.

Judging by the Palo Alto train tracks - it might not be as bright as you might be imagining.

Sure, two engineers together technically can make $700k+, just like runners technically can run a 4 minute mile. You're not talking about average engineers at average companies here, so it's not really generalizable advice.

Not really. Many people earn those salaries for 5-10 years and then move literally wherever they want to raise families.

It’s not hard to save a million or more on those salaries before you turn 30. That’s a lot of freedom.


This is a rather damning statement and it saddens me that wealth keeps concentrating in such small pockets of America.

I'm in Seattle but I have engineer friends in Florida making your salary and they definitely have nice houses.

I live in the northeast - even if I get promoted it’s unlikely I’ll break 200k. Down payment for a house around here is like 150k or more :/

[Edit: Parent commenter has now reworded their comment to remove confusion]

Huh? OP wasn't a rando who just 'studied' for a few weeks and passed. He has been working in Tech for 7+ years [1].

If anything the moral of this story is it doesn't matter that you have a 7 year experience, you still have to do fucking Leetcode for 2 months if you want to get a new job.

[1] https://www.linkedin.com/in/bharathpbhat/

> ... it doesn't matter that you have a 7 year experience, you still have to do fucking Leetcode for 2 months if you want to get a new job

Exactly my point -- two weeks of leetcode do not significantly affect the candidate's ability to perform the job, but it has immense influence on how well s/he'll do in the interview

If that was your point I think you didn't state it correctly. Your original comment makes it sound like you think OP undeservedly got a job merely be hacking through a couple weeks of interview prep.

Edited for what I hope is clarity ;p

I see _some_ potential acceptability to this idea though. There are a few hypotheses for this to be true:

1. If you're not a good programmer even with leetcode practice you can't get good 2. If you're a good programmer with leetcode practice you eliminate anxiety and are able to perform optimally according to your programming skills

Thus, it is definitely semi annoying that you need to "prep" for interviews with leetcode, its not the absolute worst thing in the world. Software engineers in the US tend to routinely forget how good they have basically everything compared to every other profession / nation out there.

This is also coming from and Indian dude currently back in India after a decade of being in the States. I think a 60 day window is perfectly acceptable (not great but not terrible either) for immigrant workers. I'm still glad for the opportunity this gives people. You're supposed to be a smart cookie anyways right? Didn't you know these terms when you started? Perhaps you should have made sure you had an exit plan. It's definitely on you if you come on a h1b and instantly proceed to buy a mansion that you can't sell off and leave nation if needed. Also, people blame their kids for not wanting to move them back to their original countries - I feel like the kids will be alright. It's probably the adults who will despise going back to a "lesser" lifestyle or something.

Being a good programmer doesn't necessarily mean you're good at leetcode and just need to brush up. I don't meet almost anyone who uses DP in their daily life but you can bet your ass you'll run into a problem that requires DP in a FAANG interview. And you better put it on the board in under 20 minutes or you're getting passed for the next guy who did 1000+ problems as their prep. It wouldn't be so bad if being a good programmer was sufficient and you just needed a little bit of brushing up - but the arms race started years ago... So, now the bar is very high.

Leetcode is solving small problems, often with tricks, in a very short period of time. Being a software engineer is solving large problems over large periods of time.

It's interesting, when I tell people they need to be prepared for this bar I get a surprising number of people who just don't seem to want to accept that it's true or flat out claim that it's not true when I know they haven't interviewed in years.

In the past 2 years I've done about 40ish+ interviews at all the big tech co's + smaller-midsize startups and aside from 3 or 4 take home assignments I was given, _every_ interview was leetcode style, to the point where I would just start noting which exact leetcode questions I was asked when friends asked about my experience. The only exception would be 1 or 2 "system design" rounds out of the 5/6 on-site interviews if the company was calibrating me for senior level.

It's bad, but compared to other industries there are some real pluses.

At least you can actually hunker down and do these silly tests. There's a huge amount of advice on the technical stuff.

And yes it means people who have a job already are disadvantaged, but that also means people who have no income have a way in.

In a lot of other industries, there's no real way to boost your game. Often it's purely reputation of your school and previous employers, and your feedback on a failed application is just platitudes. People circle around for ages and never find anything but crappy advice that doesn't work.

It's also a process that makes bias a little bit harder to introduce. If your pal from the country club can't fizzbuzz, it will be hard to convince people to accept him. Not saying this is bullet proof, but in most jobs it's a lot more vague whether someone is terrible.

If only it had stopped at fizzbuzz as a quick check for whether you can meet the lowest bar for coding I think it would still have some merit but it just seems to have gotten out of hand to the point that ability to get a job now is completely decoupled from your prior experience.

It's an arms race. Big name employers only wanted the top 1% of candidates. A bunch of people wanted to get into the top 1% and figured out a way (leetcode, ctci, etc.). And then employers kept only wanting the top 1% - so they just raised the bar higher and higher.

Now we're at the scale where if you haven't done a minimum of 200 problems before any interview round - you're not likely getting an offer from FAANG/etc.

I wonder if anyone at FAANG has figured out that they collectively employ over 1% of the developers in the US.

What they are trying to do is not just practically impossible, it is literally impossible.

Considering that a significant (half or more?) portion of their engineers are from other countries... is it not still the 1%?


It does seem like a US-centric thing. I've faced several interviews here in Australia and the teams care more about how the candidate will fit into the team. Most them sort of assume that what's written in the resume is correct. So the interview process is basically just trying to validate those claims. Also, it's really important to get your references right. But it depends a lot on the companies. Some of them have take home projects and white board problem solving sessions. We don't have anything like the H1B here. Either you're a permanent resident or an Aussie citizen. The only difference being the ability to vote and jury duty. Sure, some of the govt jobs are out of reach for permanent residents. The work visa holders are generally transferred by a company from another country.

> studying for a few weeks affects their outcome should raise eyebrows everywhere

Lol then what do you think about the hefty exams people have to go through in Spain to become a public employee? People spent several years just studying after finishing college just to get a job - for life, that is.

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