Switching Visas Helps California Firms Keep Foreign Workers Employed

Posted on Aug 20, 2013

For many foreign employees working with H1-B visas in California, planning for the future is a difficult process. As they have only temporary visas, they are faced with difficult choices when it comes time to send children to school or rent homes for their families.

But some H-1B workers may be able to speed the immigration process by switching their visa classification, getting them a little more security during their stay in the U.S.

Vishal Sankhla, a 32-year-old engineer, originally came from India to the U.S. to achieve a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California. He moved on to a job at Cisco under an H-1B temporary worker visa and was in the country over 10 years before starting his own company, attracting $4.5 million in Silicon Valley investment funds.

Due to the nature of immigration law, visa applicants from countries such as India and China who are educated in the U.S. wait much longer than others for permanent residence. After he was denied a green card, Sankhla is re-trying the process under a new visa: the EB-1.

The visa category is reserved for people with “extraordinary ability” in their field. Although the EB-1 is another temporary visa, it allowed Sankhla to continue with his San Mateo start-up. The research company has 16 employees, most of which are in the U.S. on temporary visas awaiting green cards.

Many U.S. companies rely on H-1B workers for technical jobs, such as retail chain Nordstrom and internet video and DVD rental pioneer Netflix. Major tech firms such as Google and Microsoft, as well as outsourcing companies, pull down some of the largest blocs of H-1B petitions every year.

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