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My Immigration Story (ilyasemin.com)
166 points by isalmon on May 27, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 102 comments



This was a great read and hits close to home for me. Not many people realise that getting a visa to live and work in the USA is extremely difficult, if not possible.

I recently did some contracting work for a US based startup. I am based in Australia and the startup was in Seattle. I am in this weird area because I am self-taught and have no college/university degree and fall just under the 12 years required experience to substitute for a degree. The rule is 3 years of proven work experience for every year of a standard 4 year degree. So no visas applied to me I could apply for.

I eventually just took a remote contracting position with the company and flew over for the maximum 3 month stay and travelled around. During my time there I encountered a lot of taxi/Uber drivers who immigrated from various countries and nothing personally against them, but I have a unique skillset that this startup was looking for and was struggling to find themselves and yet it is impossible for me to travel and work in the USA? Once again no offence or ill-will, but how is it possible for someone to move to the USA to drive a cab, but a developer can't actually get a job in the US? Kind of perplexing.

Supposedly the US values highly skilled jobs, but it seems they only class professions like a lawyer, doctor or some other profession that requires an extended period of study as highly skilled. For software development maybe considered highly skilled, but not so much front-end development/Javascript.

Comparatively, Canada make it easy to obtain a work/stay visa for an initial period of 2 years and I believe you can keep extending it. You don't need any academic qualifications or jump through any massive hurdles. Why is the US like this, especially with a close ally country like Australia? It's the same story in the UK, if not, you get even more scrutiny trying to get into the UK for work. But as the author writes, the skilled immigration problem seems to be affect people from everywhere.


I guess it's like that everywhere. I studied in Poland with a friend from Nigeria, and the amount of hoops he had to jump through every 6 months to extend his stay permit was unreal, even despite the fact that he spoke fluent Polish, had a part time job and got really good grades. Each time he was asking to extend his permits, it could very easily be denied for whatever reason and he would have to abandon everything and be flown back to Nigeria. Also, he saw hostility towards him in every office he went to.

Meanwhile, if you're illiterate but from Chechnya, you get a free apartment and welfare checks here courtesy of the taxpayer, because apparently "the situation is political". It's ridiculous.


When it comes to visas everyone wants to be special. Unfortunately the international recognized way of being special is having a bachelors degree. If that wasn't a requirement it would probably be even harder skilled workers to get visas. It sounds like if you work a couple of more years you can apply for an E-2 visa and hopefully avoid the H1-B lottery. That is not a bad position to be in. Considering the outlook for someone wanting to immigrate to the US to drive a cab I wouldn't be very bothered by that either.


Correction, E-3 visa i.e. H-1B for Australians. E-2 is if you want to start a business. Not available to, as in the article, Russians though.


BC degree is a bullshit you can literally buy it in many countries. By buying i mean you pay for tuition and you visit the school for 2 years and then you get a degree. But not only is that very expensive for most of the people in post-soviet countries but also worthless.

They will not teach you anything useful. Not even when you apply for CS. They exploit the post-soviet system.

And there are many good people in these countries. Not exceptional, not 1% of mathematicians,physicists or ninja programmers but better than the average. Yet they did not get a chance.


Actually if we talk about post-Soviet countries some degrees there have value. They teach physics and math really good, otherwise, why would there be so many talented Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian programmers? When it comes to social studies, economics, law, not so much, but if someone got degree from place like MFTI it's probably gives that person more credit that degree from average US university.


I agree. Post Soviet countries had really good education. My Hungarian Bsc level maths/cs degree was way more difficult than my UK masters or my second masters in Belgium. You needed to learn and you had to think, not only buff back the knowledge. Also the competition was quite high. Still, the universities of my masters' are in the top 200 and the Hungarian university is not in the top 500. Well, that's life. But I still was not able to get a visa (to be ontopic).


Nope, the US does not have a skills based migration system. It's entirely family based. Opposite of Australia, which is built around skilled migration and does not give preference to family members. It's ridiculous, we turn our backs on the highly skilled in order to admit someone because they are the parent or sibling of a US citizen. Why should we import parents with no guarantee they will do anything but need expensive Medicare and Social Security in old age?


> Nope, the US does not have a skills based migration system. It's entirely family based.

This is false. The US has both economic and family-based components of the immigration system, and the former part includes subcomponents for which special skills are a key factor.

> Why should we import parents with no guarantee they will do anything but need expensive Medicare and Social Security in old age?

Social Security eligibility and benefit levels are based on payments made into the system during working years.


It's pretty easy to qualify for Medicare. You can just live here for a few years.

It's not false. There is no skilled permanent migration system like what Australia has. Over there, you can get permanent residence by being young, educated, skilled and proficient in English -- without a job offer. There is no such method here in the US. In addition, our temporary work visas are extremely limited and cumbersome and capped. The system clearly favors "family reunification" over skills.


> It's not false.

The two sentence unit I responded to ("Nope, the US does not have a skills based migration system. It's entirely family based.") is false.

Its possible to define "skills-based migration system" in such a way that the first sentence alone is true, and it might even be reasonable to do so; you'd have to use an entirely unreasonable definition of "family based" for the second half to be true. There are family-based, employment-based, and diversity-of-origin (which is also skill-based, in that it requires either a specified level of education or a specified level of work-experience is selected employment areas) immigrant visa (which seems to be what you are referring to as "permanent migration") categories.

> Over there, you can get permanent residence by being young, educated, skilled and proficient in English -- without a job offer. There is no such method here in the US.

On a diversity visa, you can get permanent resident status by being educated or skilled in particular jobs without a job offer here -- you don't have to be young, but you do have to be from a country with a low level of immigration to the US.

> In addition, our temporary work visas are extremely limited and cumbersome and capped.

Most (temporary or permanent, including most family-based categories) visas are cumbersome and capped. But I'm not sure why you address only "temporary work visas" and continue to pretend that permanent immigrant visas are only family-based, when that is not accurate. There are immigrant (permanent) employment-based visa categories, as well as non-immigrant categories.

> The system clearly favors "family reunification" over skills.

OR, given the permanent employment-based visa categories -- and ignoring diversity visas for the moment -- perhaps it just prefers actual employment as the concrete evidence of useful skills.


Diversity visa is your example, really? Diversity visa is completely random, that's what it's called the lottery. It has nothing to do with your skills. It's all chance.

Employment based immigration requires an employer sponsor to file a petition. Does not refute my point that there is no independent skilled permanent immigration scheme.

"Entirely" is an exaggeration but the system strongly skews to family based migration. This is not a wild assertion, it's widely known to be true.


> Diversity visa is your example, really? Diversity visa is completely random, that's what it's called the lottery.

All the quota-limited immigration visa categories are distributed, among those qualified, by lottery. Diversity visa aren't called "the lottery", the process for assigning all quota-limited visas is called that. The diversity visa is expressly skill-qualified, permanent, and independent of employer sponsorship.

> Employment based immigration requires an employer sponsor to file a petition.

True. For most employment-based categories, though there are several exceptions.

> Does not refute my point that there is no independent skilled permanent immigration scheme.

"independent" was never stated previously. The original claims were that there was no skill-based permanent immigration system and that it was all family-based. Permanent immigration to the US is not all family-based, as there are family-based, employment-based (most categories of which are skill-qualified), and diversity (which is skill-qualified) immigrant (permanent) visas.


Ok, for others who might be interested in immigrating, a few other things that I learned from my experience:

- If you already are done with your studies, look for jobs at educational institutions. Universities, research laboratories, think tanks. They are exempt from the quota and can hire at any time of the year and outside of the quota.

There a few downsides. First, most of the openings at these institutions will require some kind of grad school. Second, these institutions are not known for paying the same salaries as big name companies in Silicon Valley. Third, you can not transfer the visa to another company, so if you get an offer from another company that does not share the quota-exempt status, you are back in the position of waiting until April and hoping the new employer doesn't fuck up the application and that there aren't 10 gazillion other applicants from IBM, Google, Infosys, Tata and the like.

- One hack: consider first moving to Canada. Their immigration laws are much saner in the US and are more merit- and qualification-based than the US. With a simple job offer you can get a resident visa in Canada. After 2 years as a resident you can apply for citizenship. And Canadian citizens can work in the US, under the TN visa.

With this you avoid all the crap about the H1B lottery and have a stronger position to work in the US after ~3 years. If I ever plan to be in the US again in the next 3-5 years, I would actually move to Montreal first.


+1 on the Canada hack. Canada now has an "Express Entry" process for skilled workers that grants permanent residence in months 6 months or less. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/express/express-entry...

However, applying for a Work Permit is still rather cumbersome (which is typically the first step after the job offer and before Express Entry) I just went through this process with an employee. While there is no arbitrary quota, the process does take between 3-6 months.

But overall the path to citizenship is much shorter than in the US.

And Canada has public healthcare. So, no need to worry about healthcare while you're self employed.


It will take 6 months before you're covered by a provinces health plan.


For Canada hack - you might actually like it better in Canada than in the US. I first moved to Canada after finishing my graduate studies in the US about 15 years ago with the plan to go back in a couple of years.

I liked Canada so much that I decided to stay here (Toronto, Ontario) and have been happy about my decision ever since.

Yes, taxes are a little bit higher, but the place feels saner and safer. Various levels of government are supportive of new businesses (lots of incentives, grants, R&D support programs), especially in technology sector.


The pay is terrible though.


After the PR via Express Entry which takes, say 1 year, you wait 3 years (recently changed by Harper[1]) before you can apply for Citizenship and then it will be almost a year after that when you get the citizenship (27% get in 12 months, 54% in 18 months). So you are easily looking at ~5 years from application. Then you need to find someone who will file a TN visa for you.

[1] http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/citizenship/become-eligibility....

[edit: to reflect express entry does not require 1 year of working in Canada]


The Canada part is misleading. It takes about two years to get PR (similar to green card) in Canada via Express Entry (well, technically 6 months to 1 year from the time you apply to CIC, but because you virtually need a work visa or provincial nomination to acquire enough points for entry, it takes an extra 1-1.5 years). You need to wait 4 years after getting PR to apply for citizenship. It takes about two years to get granted citizenship after that, but they are trying to reduce it to one. So the whole process takes 6-8 years not 2.

With that said, the immigration laws are indeed saner and merit-based.

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/times/perm-ec.asp

http://citizenshipcounts.ca/citizenship-act-changes


You may be right. I do remember looking at the process through Quebec, which seems to be a little different.

When I was more seriously looking, though, I read enough about it to make me pretty confident it could be done in 3-5 years. Of course I was starting with the assumption that I could get the job offer while I was living in Boston and enter Canada for job interviews as a visitor.


The Australian work visa is even friendlier than the Canadian one. I'm not sure how the Australian citizenship process works but it used to be you could apply for permanent residency shortly after going there for University. I think it's a bit stricter now but worth looking into.


Yeah, Australia also has a very good immigration policy. I seriously consider applying after I finished college in Brazil.

But the hack I described is as a way to possibly end up living in the US. Being an Australian citizen doesn't help much there, while being Canadian does.


Sorry, I meant, as an Australian citizen, you're eligible for an E3 work visa to the United States. You need a bachelor's degree in the relevant field or equivalent work experience, companies just have to spend 20 minutes filling out an LCA and prove they're paying prevailing wage (none of the "prove an American can't do this job" song and dance that makes the H1B so expensive), the quota is so ridiculously high it will never be reached and it's 2 hours at a US Embassy for a 2 year visa.

The only downside is it's a non-immigrant visa so you come in on an E3 then convert to a H1B at your leisure and apply for a green card.


This is why I ended up in London - to me it's the next best thing. Being an EU citizen I have equal rights here and employers can't lowball my salary, because they have no such leverage like they do in US with H1-B visa. There's nothing immigration-related looming over my head and working hours are better than in US (from what I hear), so I have plenty of time for starting my own gig on the side initially when I'm ready for it.

The irony is that you can get to US if you have a million to invest (if that hasn't changed yet), but if you have already made it this far, going to US kind of defeats the purpose - "If I can make it there, I'm gonna make it anywhere".


While it's relatively easy for people with an EU passport to move to the UK, the work permit system is just as bad as the H1-B visa system. It's capped at around 20000 applicants per year.

For those with good English and tech skills without an EU passport, Dublin is a fairly good option. The work permit system is reasonable and the demand for skills is quite strong. There are also a lot of US companies with operations in Dublin, which opens the possibility for an L1 visa to get to the US.

I think UK companies should also consider setting up offices in Dublin, so they can get access to talent they can transfer to the UK using the intra company transfer visa, similar to companies in the US having offices in Canada.


There are quite a few international companies with satellite offices in Dublin for this reason, even if they have offices elsewhere in Europe. :)


> employers can't lowball my salary, because they have no such leverage like they do in US with H1-B visa

They have to pay you at least the average wage for your position, experience and area.

At least from the other H1B folks I know, all of them get above average salary. There is a lot of indian body shops doing consulting (infosys, ...) that are super shady, but if you work at a 'regular' US company, you should be fine from what I've seen.


End of the the 90's dreamed of moving to US and even got a possibility. By the time I was ready to it the first dot com bubble bursted.

To be quite honest I only knew US from the movies. Following news and recent developments I'm quite hesitant to move over there. Cops shooting people, riots, NSA tracking,...

My romantic view when I just started working in the dot com boom of US that bubble bursted. This doesn't mean I don't like the US. There are many good things also. In any country there are good and bad things. But I think there are other places maybe as good as the US which are worth exploring.


I used to be the same but after spending 8 months there the food is better in Europe, your quality of life is generally higher, lower working hours and the government system is one that I wouldn't want to support.


Immigration reform for skilled workers will almost certainly not happen as long as Democrats continue to lump in amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants in the same immigration reform bill.

This might not be a popular opinion to spout, but I can't see it any other way. These illegals will almost certainly vote for Democrats. How do you expect Republicans to cooperate to welcome educated workers when you are expecting Republicans to commit political suicide?

US as a whole will hugely benefit from making the immigration process easier for educated workers like many other countries have done (Canada, UK, Germany, Australia etc), but this doesn't seem possible under current political climate.


I think by far, the worst affected group is the Indians (and a close second, Chinese, Mexicans, and Filipinos). For a politician, from a macroeconomic perspective, it doesn't make sense to put these arbitrary bureaucratic roadblocks. There was an excellent write-up in this week's Economist on one section of the skilled immigration: Indian immigrants. http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21651331-india-...

Quoth:

Indians in America are the most promising. They are increasingly prominent in tech companies, on Wall Street and in government, especially in the state department. Around 1% of America’s population, over 3.3m people, are “Asian Indians”. Perhaps 150,000 more arrive each year, and 90% of them stay permanently. Devesh Kapur, who has studied them, talks of a “flood”. He says over half of all Indian-born people in America arrived there after 2000.

From a macroeconomic value addition perspective, this is an enormous tax base which also skews social indicators upwards.


This is an "elite" vs common person fight. Bush 2 and Jeb Bush are for amnesty. That being said from a purely political decision supporting amnesty is generally a loser for Republicans. Their business donors want it but vote wise it seems dumb.


Is there much evidence that non citizens are participating in US elections? I'm sure there are a few people doing it illegally, I mean evidence of 1,000 or 10,000 or 100,000 or millions or whatever it might be.


No, but he's referring to the eventual consequences of an amnesty for illegal immigrants, which would convert them to legal green card holders. After five years of permanent residency, you can naturalize and vote.

He probably should've written 'these former illegals' to be clearer.


Given the partisan drum thumping around the issue, I wouldn't want to guess what someone meant.

(example: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/feb/12/obama-amnest... )


Except for the fact that illegals don't vote, you are right. The problem is that is more politically profitable to keep "immigration as an issue" than to actually work in "The People's" best interests.

Democrats don't want to lose the image of being the welcoming mother, Republicans don't want to lose the image of being the strict but principled father. An immigration law that was based on qualification and possible economic boost by immigrant doesn't help any of them.

Basically this was why I left the US after almost 5 years.


I wouldn't give too much credit to the Republicans here. They aren't interested in immigration reform so much as they are interested in expanding the H1-B program limits as part of their corporate welfare agenda.

I agree with your last statement but I don't think there is any political group who is advocating for making the immigration process easier for educated workers.


Most immigration laws are "stupid" in a lot of ways. It's even stupider when you think about the fact, that specialized and highly skilled jobs are actually harder to work in for immigrants.

Yes, theoretically, the U.S. immigration law (and many other countries', too) favors highly skilled jobs. In practice however, it is far easier for low skilled workers to just overstay a visa. In 2012, the U.S. paid $18 billion to try and enforce immigration laws. Still, there are anywhere between 7 and 30 million illegal immigrants in the country, despite all the effort.

Billions for law enforcement, not a penny for social services...


agreed that most immigration laws are stupid and annoying, but yet US is particularly bad. They're thorough, picky and the requirements are really high. It's also quite expensive


All of this because of the fictional concept of where you were born playing a part in the person you presently are.

This idea of being property of a state (other people) who is responsible for you and to whom you are indebted is madness.

Open the borders and stop this idiocy.


I guess immigration laws are not in place because of that "fictional concept", but rather because those inside the country are so afraid that immigrants would take away from whatever they believe to be entitled to.

I also believe there will come a time, when all industrialized nations will open their borders, at least for honest immigrants. Preferably all those nations at the same time. Already, enforcement of immigration regulation is impossible in many countries. And the extent to which that regulation seems to be working might as well stem from the fact that most people, no matter how poor or desperate actually don't want to leave their home country.


@sneak - you have probably been born into another illusion, the idea that you are free and independent. Now tell me -- where does the money come from?


Philosophers and Economists have battled on that question for centuries now...


Haha, yup. I am just reading Metzinger's "The Ego Tunnel" which contains the latest research on the subject.


What interesting timing - I'm organizing an Immigration-themed hackathon[1] this weekend in SF, and on Saturday morning we'll have a speaking panel called "Immigrant Founder Stories" where founders from 4 startups (big to small) will share about their struggles to gain permanent status in the US, and how it affected them as entrepreneurs.

- Laks Srini, Co-founder & CTO at Zenefits [2]

- Tri Tran, Co-founder & CEO at Munchery [3]

- Silver Keskküla, Co-founder at Teleport (ex-Skype) [4]

- Nikhil Aitharaju, Co-founder at Tint [5]

[1] http://www.up.co/communities/usa/san-francisco/startup-weeke... (Use promo code "hn" for 70% off)

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/24/technology/workers-in-sili...

[3] https://medium.com/@munchery/pitch-your-life-2f170eab933b

[4] https://medium.com/@keskkyla/good-luck-being-born-tomorrow-d...

[5] https://app.fwd.us/stories/259


Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton favor amnesty that encourages illegal immigration while million of people are waiting to come to the US and high skilled immigrants jump through hoops.


US Middle Class real median household income DOWN : https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/MEHOINUSA672N

Cost of employees as percentage of sales down : http://www.philosophicaleconomics.com/2015/05/profit-margins... Specifically : http://i2.wp.com/www.philosophicaleconomics.com/wp-content/u...

labor bargaining power has weakened substantially amid globalization

US citizens not as enthusiastic about more immigration as are the US elite: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100593528

as recently as 2012, 69 percent of those surveyed agree that "we should restrict and control people coming to live in our country more than we do now."

The MSM often only presents one side of the story.

There is NO evidence of US labor shortage. In fact, with stagnant to down real labor prices, the only logical conclusion is that there is a glut.

Corporate and Academic control of more and more guest worker visas is not really a great idea.


Oh man. You really didn't give up, kudos to that. It is such a painful process. I've had a mixed bag of experiences too and just decided to focus on what I have in London and maybe it would work out later but wouldn't get my hopes up. Yahoo cancelled my last round interview because there wasn't enough time to submit for H1-B if I passed :/

For comparison, in the 80's when my father got a job at the FDA, it was signed, sealed, delivered and my family moved in just a few months in the mid of the year, well before all this became so complex. Kicker is I got a Greencard before we moved back, but unfortunately I was too young to realise what this meant or do anything about it...and it expired.


Kudos to Ilya, I love it when it ends successfully.

It is kind of ironic though that eventually he got the Green Card via the DV lottery. Had he been fired without that, it would have been a very difficult stretch to get a job within 30 days.


Through my wife (a Korean immigrant), I've learned about how hard immigration to the U.S. is. We have our own insane story and the short of it is that immigration is an absolute mess.

Considering how many smart and hard working people I've met who came here for college, and considering the outsized success the ones who managed to immigrate here have had, it seems kind of insane that we don't do more to keep them here. The lost tax revenue I can think of from personal connections alone is in the millions of dollars per year -- imagine how much economic activity that is!


It is technically possible for H-1Bs to start their own companies, but the barriers to this are very high, and it's still a very rare option. There was a memo released a couple years back that changed the rules: http://www.murthy.com/2012/12/17/entrepreneur-h1b-petitions-...


Interesting, but still rather convoluted and will definitely require costly legal representation.

US could definitely use some sort of medium-length work visa for startups (as opposed to small businesses/traditional companies).

The distinction between startup (or a company in a desirable industry/sector the country wishes to have more of) versus just any business is important to both stimulate growth and also be a selling point to nay-sayers.


Yeah, I saw that. I wish it would have been several years earlier :) Definitely worth looking into, although I would recommend hiring a lawyer.


Great story. Very impressed by your persistence and creativity, and congratulations on your success.

I think the concept of employers applying for a green card for employees is fundamentally broken. It pits the interests of the employer directly against the employee, since it's in the employer's interest to drag out the process for as long as possible, and reduces job mobility (which brings down wages for everyone) because the green card process needs to be restarted if employees switch jobs midway, before the I-485 step.

A system where any legally employed foreign worker can file for a green card for themselves seems much more sane.

Anecdotally, it seems to me that wages for H-1B visa holders are only lower when the employer files for a visa for an employee who is outside of the country. In my experience as a student who went the F-1 -> H-1B route, salaries are the same whether or not you have an H-1B. The much wider set of employers that you can interview with when you are already in the country probably makes it infeasible for employers to pay their H-1B employees who were already in the US under a different visa less than employees who don't need a visa.


I think you got lucky. Most people that I knew who were on H-1b were getting much less than green card holders of US citizens. I don't have a substantial amount of data on this of course.


Ilya, great story that many of us can relate with. Stories like these (very similar to our personal stories) were the inspiration behind Unshackled. Our goal is to help entrepreneurs / startup teams who are held back from building great companies simply because of their visa. While we couldn’t help you (coz we didnt exist), Unshackled aims to make an impact for many other brilliant people like you. #innovate


I admire the consistency of Ilya's efforts. The US despite claiming the policy of sucking out best Russian brains in reality fails to provide the backing policy for that, and Ilya's story shows very good example. When it comes to software development, I believe the US as a framework, does not really want devs to come and wants to keep them remotely.


Interesting read. I have a somewhat provocative question currently roaming trough my mind - you said that you "really appreciate the opportunity this country gave" to you (which is nice, BTW, but that's from a patient frame), considering now all what you've paid and what you're giving (i.e. from an actor frame), do they deserve you?


Absolutely. This country gave me more than I gave it back (yet).


Fantastic read, but the punchline is almost like that anecdote about how to make million dollars (you know the one about buying apple for 5 cents polishing it and selling it for 10 cents until the rich uncle dies).

The fastest way to green card in US is genius visa, but you need the credentials to pull it off. It has a ridiculously high acceptance rate I think about 90 %.


As a developer in the Bay Area, I find our lot to be pretty picky about where we work and what we work on. Acquihire "Golden Handcuffs" make us miserable. (What a terrible problem to have, right?) I admire Ilya's persistence in working for $8/hr because he had to. It lends a bit of perspective to hear his story. Thank you, Ilya!


Hi, I am part of a team of three immigrants in the US building an app to help people settle in a new country (initially, the US).

Like Mint.com, Credit Karma, or TurboTax for immigrants, YourOwn.com provides an interactive, gamified tool, with customized action plans and to-do lists, budgets, reminders, community support, and step-by-step guides that help immigrants quickly and easily establish a home of their own in a new country. Our first site will help people move to the US, then we will add other countries. Have a look at http://yourown.com - we will soon launch, by invitation only. Thanks!


As someone who is new to understand the process, it baffles me to see how incredibly hard it is to immigrate to the US, as an entrepreneur. Some of the biggest new tech companies are founded by immigrants. I often wonder how they got into the country in the first place.

The system rewards those under H1B. There is no provision for entrepreneurs. Being a college dropout entrepreneur, from a non-caucasian country, what chance do I have?

I am reading Peter Thiel's book Zero to One. He talks about hidden injustices in our society. This is what comes to mind.


It seems the author spent a lot of time messing with a horrible bureaucracy. Is it an article against the corrupted system written in so elegant manner?


I would not call it corrupted. I would probably call it ineffective.


As mentioned in the article another option is EB-5 investment visa. You need approximately $600k ($500k investment + budget another $100k for regional center fees, lawyer fees, etc). The process is still super slow though, the current average processing time for I-526 application is currently 14 months. I submitted mine in January and was told best case scenario is around 8 months for approval.


If you're not after investors money in SV and plan to just bootstrap your business, what are the advantages of moving to US?


Advantages: Huge density of talent, capital, entrepreneurship, potential clients. E.g. there are regular meetups about every niche technology, where you can validate idea/find initial clients. Even if you bootstrap, you indirectly benefit from your clients having VC money.

Disadvantages: Cost are huge, competition on talent is ultra intense. E.g. if you move from Spain, you need to spend incredible energy and time to get through visa pain.

Is it worth it? Depends on your case. IMO bootstrapping, not so much. VC heavy business, likely yes.


Networking.

I've seen lots of competition to US startups never getting anywhere, while the US ones were pitching their stuff day and night, be it at conferences or the nearby Starbucks.


Amazing story, it's not even the immigration process that caught my eyes, but how you knew exactly what you wanted, kept at it, once you had the chance, you made the move, and 3 years later, you pay more in taxes than you can ever earn working for someone else while employing 30+ others. Bravo!


Congratulations with DV lottery! :)


Thanks. I really got lucky.


nice story! How did you get your first few clients/customers. Did you get investor funding for Datanyze?


It was bootstrapped to a pretty significant (>$1m) revenue and then we raised some money. I'll write about it one day - another crazy story.


I'm looking forward to reading it. Your visa story is well-written.


> I talked to several lawyers and all of them told me that I’d get into trouble if I incorporate a company in the US

Wow, I never knew that. I would never have expected it to matter, since you can incorporate a company in the US while not being in the US, no problem.


Without a US citizenship?


US is actually quite a bit of a tax heaven for non US citizens.

It is easy to incorporate in US and there are various advantages to sheltering your non US generated assets in US. Simple example, think of all those shell corps owning apartments in Manhattan.

I am not sure if FATCA bites back US on this front.


I enjoyed every line of your story, to be honest I was surprised when I read "my wife" with all this tough work you could still have your own life.


It would not have been possible without her :)


i'm very impressed by your persistence. congratulations.

nowadays, do you encourage or employ people in same situation as you were?


Yes we have a couple of H-1b employees and we are starting to process their green cards now. We also look for people who are willing to take any internship opportunities just like I did back in the days.


nice to hear that!


Skill based immigration and subsequent green card is a story in patience and perseverance. This is a great write-up!


Patience and perseverance is a perverse way of stating it. There are numerous serious problems:

1. Spouse is prohibited from seeking employment unless he gets his own work visa

2. 8 year wait for green card for skilled workers born in India

3. Gaming of the system by Indian outsourcing companies

4. The system (tying visa to employer and procedural inflexibility in transferring it) is such that it indirectly makes the visa-holder indentured to the company

5. Near-blind lottery system that favors outsourcing companies which apply for work-visas in the thousands (at which point, the lottery is a statistical bet for the company).

6. Near-blind lottery system that is heavily tilted against specialized (with a higher degree, for example) skilled employees who are critical to companies: if such a person loses in the lottery, the employer and the employee stand to lose a lot unlike outsourcing companies which operate on a sort of 'wholesale' basis.


Great read, I spent years trying to sort out a US visa but gave up in the end, kudos for your determination!


Thanks. Where did you end up?


Didn't Obama introduce a startup visa a few months ago? What happened to it?


The most recent article I saw on it [1] says that "within the year" Obama is likely to sign an executive order that allows for the founders of funded startups to get visas, dependent on the amount of funds raised. If you raise $200,000 from a qualified U.S. investor you will get a two-year entrepreneurship visa to come live in America. If you raise $750,000 or more from a qualified U.S. investor or group of investors, you will get a green card. As someone who would benefit from this action, it can't come soon enough.

[1] http://www.forbes.com/sites/karstenstrauss/2015/04/08/how-ob...


I don't think raising money should be an indicator here though. For example, we bootstrapped the company till about $1M in ARR, and I know a lot of great startup that were 100% bootstrapped.


In that case you should be able to get an E-2 treaty investor visa fairly easily.


Nice write-up!

What will your advice to someone with similar aspiration from a third world country?


Not OP but I've been on an F1 for 7 years and I'm currently applying for an H1B, but I don't think I was selected in this round.

Anyways, the easiest way would to be enroll in a US university. Most grad programs in STEM will give you significant financial aid if not completely paid tuition. Another way is just applying for a job with a big international corporation and eventually they'll bring you on board. Yet another way is J1 internship which you can use to do an internship here and see if you can find a full time job (much like OP did). And finally you can always just keep applying for the Green Card lottery every year because you never know, you might get lucky. And the smaller the country you're coming from, the higher the chances of getting selected.

Good luck!


I'm a college dropout and I did a startup which is failed miserably. I used to work with various US based early stage startup as a freelance developer. Unfortunately none of them haven't shown any green signs.

Should I finish my degree here or should I start applying to Universities in US? I was also planning to apply for internship in valley startups.

> you can always just keep applying for the Green Card lottery

Unfortunately, my country is not eligible for Greencard lottery.


I don't know that much about it but I would guess a good strategy would be get a decent, presumably bachelors, degree where you are and then apply for a masters in the US.


Was the $8/hour Boston job under the work/travel visa?


It was under J-1 'Internship' visa [http://j1visa.state.gov/programs/intern/]


> I know that hundreds, maybe thousands of people like me are willing to start their companies here in the US, employ people, pay taxes, drive the economy,

It seems they care more and more about megacorp job creators than others.


we need a moratorium on legal immigration--it helps suppress wage growth and drive up housing costs


What drives up housing costs is a lack of houses.


Perhaps US should change that if one does not have a job and started a household by age 30, then they lose their US citizenship. This could motivate some lazy millennials. I recall something similar in ancient Rome.




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