Many Americans (including us) on occasion get angry over the issue of H1B work visas at a time when unemployment in the U.S. is rising (11% in California now) and approaching 10% in other states.
But what seems like an abstract problem at a distance becomes a disturbing tragedy at close quarters.
We just returned from a visit to a desi grocery store.
As we were making small talk at the Indian grocery store with a desi stranger, we heard a sorry tale. The desi person’s spouse is an SAP consultant on H1B visa with the green card processing in the final stages.
Then disaster struck six months back. Our desi’s spouse was laid off and has been on the bench since.
Being on the bench usually means no salary until the consultant finds a new project.
But finding a new SAP project is easier said than done in the current economic climate. Despite sending over 100 resumes, our desi’s spouse has been unable to find a new project.
End result – Grim financial scenario on the home front.
Bad to Worse
Now add another disturbing element to the no-salary-for-six-months-situation – the desi and spouse are in the final stages of Green Card processing.
A bad situation now becomes terrible.
With the green card processing in the final stages, the desi and SAPouse are scared witless of being labeled illegal and thrown out of the country.
Now comes the real horror of the story.
The desi we encountered at the Indian grocery store told us that to avoid falling into the illegal status trap and losing the right to stay in the U.S., the family is paying $1,775.00 tax monthly on a non-existent salary of $5,775.00.
This payment of $1,775.00 tax every month is being done to maintain the fiction of employment and avoid immigration hassles. The U.S. immigration authority has become very stringent lately and demands all kinds of documentation including tax filings, client lists et al.
Apparently, the desi’s spouse is also paying the tax for the employer’s non-existent income (Indian contractor employers for whom many of the desi SAP consultants work typically retain 15% to 20% of the income of their employees/consultants).
Having run out of options, the desi and spouse are now getting money from India to keep their family in the U.S. going.
How long can they afford to keep the employment farce going and paying tax on a non-existent salary? We didn’t have the heart to ask this troubling question.
While many H1Bs have indeed returned to India, many are unable to do so for various reasons (children’s education and lack of jobs in India too were cited as reasons by the desi we encountered at the store).
It seems many H1B desis laid off from their jobs and unable to get back to India have now taken up low-paying jobs at gas stations, auto garages et al and praying desperately that things will somehow get better (no, we don’t think the U.S. economy will get better anytime soon).
For those desis unable to return to India for whatever reason, the American Dream has now turned into an American Nightmare.