Motivations behind Brexit

The United Kingdom decisively voted (52-48) to leave the EU and has now caused massive economic uncertainity at the least. However, the underlying sentiment that drove natives to vote for ‘Leave’ was immigration. Like in America, they “wanted their country back” whatever that meant. In fact, it was nothing but approaching the tipping point of hetrogentity.

Europe has often prided itself on its liberal culture and attitude but just a whiff of immigration in recent years from the so-called undesiable parts of the world shatters that fragile image. Given its colonial past, Europe has never been friendly to other cultures and been accepted in some circles due to its economic benefits. A slight downtick in economic fortunes and like in the U.S., the native rush to blame immigration when in fact, it’s the one of the successes of globalization. Several dog whistles such as “cultural identity” have been used to justify tempering free mobility of people but that’s just a facade of shifting blame for declining economic fortunes on to people you know won’t fight back.

Heck, some people even thought when they’re voting for ‘Leave’, it meant that immigrants would’ve to leave UK. Naturally, the vote has led to several public displays of bigotry and prejudice. The sentiments always existed on the underbelly but it can only be manifested when the bigots feel empowered by people in power to freely express their racism.

It has happened in the U.S. for generations and its an on-going battle every year but so far saner heads have prevailed. UK just let the crazies take control and underestimated the power of hate to get the vote out. People point to the Scandanavian countries as places of bliss in terms of tolerance. I say, give it a few years, let in a few brown people, and then we’ll talk.

[image source: Freestocks at Flickr]

First Impressions

The first thing you notice when you land at Mumbai International Airport is the mad rush and utter chaos of people trying to get home or onward to their next flight. European flights, I can understand but I have never fathomed why flights that take off from Dubai have to land in Mumbai at an ungodly hour of 4am when the two cities are only couple of hours away. As soon as you exit the plane, you walk along a narrow pathway that takes you past the huddled masses behind plexiglass waiting for their departing flights.

The lack of air-conditioning is immediately apparent as you start sweating profusely thanks to the humidity. You exit the pathway to the low-ceiling-ed immigration enclosure where we were thankfully pointed toward the Family/PIO queue. The joy of having no people ahead of us was instantly mitigated by a dour immigration officer who clearly wasn’t pleased to see us back. In spite of being Indian citizens, he asked…no…demanded to see our H1-B paperwork because in his crazy world apparently Indian citizens never return to India for good. Despite seeing we had a wailing baby who was not happy about being herded around in a crowded humid airport at 4 in the morning, the immigration officer took his own sweet time stamping our passport and then shooing us off after he was done. I began dreading making this trip but the worst was not over.

Eager to get our bags and get out to meet our family after this near-24-hour travel, we entered the baggage claim area and we were instantly thrown into this pandemonium where everyone was jostling to get to their carousel. Trolleys were nowhere to be seen and it seemed that all flights from the Middle East had landed at the same time. It wasn’t that there were no airport staff to help out but in order to get their help, you had to grease their palms. My memories of hating all government staff immediately resurfaced but I had promised myself to not get into any tussles especially with a kid in tow. After asking around, we realized that we were supposed to step outside the airport to get the trolleys from the parking lot. If this was the state of security at the airports, you cannot help but wonder the lack thereof on our coasts that let Pakistani terrorists easily enter.

Our bags took ages to arrive as we silently gritted our teeth and tried to cajole the kid but he wouldn’t let up. After getting our bags, we entered the line with plenty of tributaries for the customs and baggage screening. After resorting to classic Bambiya scolding, we manage to snake forward. Usually I breeze through the customs but I forgot that we were flying via Dubai so the leechers that we call our custom officers were out in force. They instantly took us aside spotting the two iPads and a laptop in our carry-on baggage. Apparently, this is the sign of wealth and potential smuggling. I reverted to using Marathi and whipped out the kids’ iPad and showed them how battered and caked in drool it was; hardly something I was trying to smuggle in. After telling them, it was less than $20 and they could have it if they wanted, they seemed to realize this wasn’t someone they were gonna earn their post-midnight wealth off. We still saw other burqa-covered women and their husbands being harangued for their proclivity to hide gold behind their veils. And to think liberals get up all in arms at racial profiling in the U.S.

After walking past the last constable who collected our custom tickets, we finally were united with our family who we later learnt have been waiting since 1am. The kid finally quietened down and joyous reunion ensued.

This rant may sound like the typical NRI unloading on India upon landing but I wanted to get it out of the way before I narrated all the good stuff. Fortunately, that bad experience at the airport was the worst it would get. In fact, I don’t think I had any other bad experience in India this time at all. There is an Incredible India past the Mumbai airport gates and we enjoyed it for most part. But I was disappointed in the first impression that Mumbai Airport gives to new visitors even if they are Indian citizens; perhaps more so. If you’re traveling to India via Mumbai, expect what we experienced or even worse. If you don’t then at least you will be pleasantly surprised. Or if other cities are better, land there instead. For what it is worth, departing from Mumbai is distinctly better and you have none of the chaos; at least relatively. Also, strangely, domestic airports and staff is drastically better too; both in terms of experience and people; very punctual too (I flew Indigo to Orissa).

More on the good stuff later.

Primer on H.R. 3012

H.R. 3012 for dummies – and what you can do:

This is for those of you who are in the green card process (especially from countries like India and China) Actually, it even applies to you if you plan to apply for a green card in future through your employer.

(Via aditya’s posterous)

An excellent primer by Aditya on H.R.3012, an immigration-related bill, that will ease a lot of problems and help millions of legal immigrants in this country. However, if you are affected by this bill or know someone who is, we need action on your part in form of letters and phone calls to the Congressmen and Senators and financial contribution to Immigration Voice, who is lobbying for this pro-business bill. Please do your part.

Bone-Headed Immigration Policies

Meanwhile, entrepreneurship is booming in countries that compete with us. And more than half a million doctors, scientists, researchers, and engineers in the U.S. are stuck in “immigration limbo”. They are on temporary work visas and are waiting for permanent-resident visas, which are in extremely short supply. These workers can’t start companies, justify buying houses, or grow deep roots in their communities. Once they get in line for a visa, they can’t even accept a promotion or change jobs. They could be required to leave the U.S. immediately—without notice—if their employer lays them off.  Rather than live in constant fear and stagnate in their careers, many are returning home.

[Source: Why Silicon Valley Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Returning Home]Vivek Wadhwa writing at TechCrunch highlight the singularly important issue that is denting America’s competitiveness yet every Congressman in Washington is obsessed with abortion! Except for this report on Nightly News, the mainstream media seems to be clueless as well as America seems be completely ignorant of this impending crisis toward loss of competitiveness.

I have seen and talked to several people who are in the same boat and stuck in the limbo of long Green Card lines with their current employers whether they are happy or not watching their non-Indian or non-Chinese colleagues climb their career ladders swiftly. This uncertainty not only affects people but also the country as people’s intellectual abilities are often not allocated to their most productive use, economically speaking. In fact, one of the bizarre regulations even restricts the employees from working beyond 40 hours for employers other than those who are sponsoring their H1-B visas. So any kind of startup business or employment an immigrant might wish to pursue in their free time hence adding to the economy and the tax payroll is expressly forbidden and can be considered a violation of their immigration status.

When Thomas Friedman coined the phrase, “The world is flat” or Fareed Zakaria talked about the Post-American World, they not only took aim at America’s clueless at this changing nature of the world economy but also highlighted the growing competitiveness of other nations. These nations in Europe and Asia are smartly tapping into the frustrations of immigrants in America and doing their best to attract them to their borders. Yet with increasing incidences of such ‘reverse brain drain’, American government seems unaware of global realities and instead of focusing on reforming legal immigration, it focuses on exploiting the politics involved in illegal immigration. Earlier America had the standard of life and effectiveness of its government to make those on the fence lean toward its side but other countries including erstwhile developing ones like India and China are fast catching up making the decision to go back much easier.

The question remains, when will America wake up to the realities of the changed economic order and when it does, will it be too late?

H1-B Work Permit Approved

H1-B Approval Notice

When for someone a simple task such as getting an Post-Graduation OPT turned into a mind-wrecking time, this notice is especially sweet. Especially given the fact that it took just over a week after I submitted it. Perhaps USCIS felt a twinge of pity and meted out karmic justice. Or perhaps I should wait until the document is produced and mailed to me.

Travails of Getting an OPT/EAD card

Previously I mentioned the change in my academic status when I finally defended my doctoral dissertation. I will officially graduate in August. In the meantime, I had been furiously seeking a full-time position post-graduation and was offered a research position in a research institute in College Station. But as with all international students, I was first required to get approved for the Optional Practical Training (OPT) period during which I could work full-time and transfer from being a student to a professional. Although I hadn’t graduated, doctoral students can begin work provided they have completed their coursework and have set a defense date for their dissertation. Having defended in the first week of May, I was all set to begin work around mid-May. But then nothing ever works out that smoothly for me.

I applied for my EAD (Employment Authorization Document) or OPT in the last week of March and my application was received by USCIS on March 30th. The official time to get your card is 90 days although almost no one takes that long. I had received my EAD after my M.S. in 35 days and I expected it to take as long if not sooner considering USCIS had tripled their fees. So I informed my employer that I would be able to begin in mid-May which would be about 45 days from my application date. But that didn’t happen.

I still wasn’t too tensed up since my employer did not seem in any particular hurry but as day 75 approached and passed, I began to panic. We had already signed a rental lease for a new home and would be moving soon. We were dipping into our savings now because essentially I had been out of work since mid-May when my I-20 expired so I was no longer eligible to be a graduate research assistant, a job that earned me my livelihood through my Ph.D days. And to complicate things further, if the card was approved and sent after we moved, it would be returned and the wait would be prolonged for an indefinite time. The International Office at Texas A&M provided little assistance or context in terms of other students statuses. The only response they had was that we can step in only after the 90th day, when the deadline from USCIS lapses; no mention of what they would do or whether they could expedite the process in any way.

We decided to take matters into our own hands. Ash and I scrounged around various immigration message boards and forums for possible solutions. We found that a particular batch of applications, those between March 26th and 30th had been interminably delayed. Those who had applied before and after that period seemed to have gotten their cards with 45-50 days. In fact, another desi student who was also offered a job by my employer and he applied for his OPT in mid-May and got it approved within a month. In fact, the USCIS status update website couldn’t even find my application and I had to call customer service to stop freaking out. In fact, even calling the customer service phones is slightly tricky. Forget listening to the options, simply call 1-800-375-5283 and hit 1-2-3 as soon as you get the welcome message. That takes you straight to a human. The CS rep. confirmed that my application was in the system although pending and admitted that their website was seriously backed up. That explanation proved to be of little consolation since people who had applied much later than me could see their case status online.

The two websites that proved to be of immeasurable help were:

The first website, Track It, is a crowdsourced tracker for all immigration-related applications like I-485, I-140, H1-B, N-400, and of course EADs, OPT or otherwise. It helps you track the average times for other applicants and processing times of various service centers. Just as my luck would have it, the generally fast Texas Service Center proved to be really tardy this year. It also eases your tension a little by helping you share your frustrations and concerns with other people in the same boat, no pun intended to Cubans. It helps you get an idea of the various stages of the application process e.g. how many days does it take to get your card in hand after it has been approved?

The process if your application passes the 90-day deadline is extremely hazy with conflicting reports in the forums. One person suggested waiting as long as you can and calling USCIS every week pestering them to expedite your application. Another suggested, taking an InfoPass appointment to the local USCIS office and making an in-person request. People had tried both methods with similar results so it is pretty random. As my 90th day approached, I did take an InfoPass appointment in the San Antonio office which was the recommended office for my zip code although the one is Houston was much closer.

On my 79th day I called USCIS and asked them to expedite my application. Upon asked why, I told them that I have a job offer and wanted to start ASAP. The International Office at TAMU insists that such a request makes no difference and sending your offer letter with your application doesn’t help although in certain cases according to forum members, it has. Also, since I was moving, I called USCIS again on the 84th day to change my address. International offices in almost all universities scare you by asking you not to move during your OPT application since it will delay your process but in my experience, it is all bunkum. But you have to change your address before your application is approved otherwise your card is sent to the original address (nope, USPS does not forward your mail since the letter comes with a ‘Return Service Requested’ stamp). In my case, I was lucky to have submitted my change of address in the nick of time since it takes 2 days for the change to percolate from the National Center to Regional Centers (don’t ask why!). Attribute it either to my expedite request or my address change, the case status website suddenly started showing my application although still pending.

Then one evening of the 87th day, I got an email notification saying, that my application was approved and card production was ordered. Hallelujah! I have never experienced a bigger sense of relief and it was approved on the day after the address change had supposedly propagated to the Texas service center which was good because I was going to move the next day. My employers were equally relieved and had even prepared a long letter that I planned to overnight to USCIS requesting expediting my application and citing potential financial losses for them. Thankfully, I didn’t need it. The following week I received another email notification that my card has been mailed and I received it the next day…at my new address.

Thus concluded my ordeal at an otherwise mundane immigration procedure that is generally smooth for most. Coincidentally, my application was approved on the day Obama gave a speech promising changes at the USCIS where he promised increased funding for quickening the application processes for legal immigrants. But honestly, I don’t know what worked, the expedite request, the address change, or heck, even Obama’s speech; somehow my application was retrieved a few days before the deadline and approved post-haste. With all attention focused on illegal immigration, legal immigrants often get a raw deal and being a non-voting group, we have effectively no control over our fate and no way for government bureaucracy to be help accountable. We have no choice but to be patient and rest our fates at the mercy of the already-burdened bureaucracy. Strangely, I have never heard of an OPT being declined which begs the question that why do we need it in the first place much less take three months to process and if, like the I-20, it can be generated by the university itself.

Anyway, this rant turned out to be longer than I expected but I wanted to vent my frustrations and perhaps, will help a random Googler understand he or she is not alone in the frustrating wait for the EAD.

PS. I received a notification in the snail mail a week after I received my card that my request to expedite was being considered and I would hear about it in 14-20 days. And it was forwarded from my old address. So much for being consistent and reliable. Sigh!

Update 1:
Surprisingly, I got my H1-B petition approved in just over a week.

Update 2: My second H1-B petition took just under two months, about average time, but since I was eligible to work as soon as USCIS received my petition, it wasn’t much of a problem.

Desis to blame for the ban on foreign workers amendment?

In response to this post on decision of the government to ban foreign workers from bailed out companies, a reader writes:

The biggest problem [regarding H1-B visas] with big companies, is that they are just too big and these things just pass under the radar. Most of people working here are desis, and desis won’t complain against their own managers / colleagues for practicing this, simply because it doesnt affect them. The biggest problem with big companies like (insert big tech company name here) is that there is just way too much power with managers. Once the chain of desi managers is built from VP – Director – Senior Manager – Manager, then its almost impossible to break the chain.

What’s worse is the amount of regional groupism that exists in these companies beyond these H1 issues; we have teams of 14-20 people where in every single member of the team is from one region (Read: Chennai, or Hyderabad). Team meetings are sometimes conducted in regional languages; I fail to understand how is it possible that an entire team of managers and his reportees manage to be from one geographical area from India.

Desi politics and bureaucracy rule in this part of the world – just like working in desh. If you don’t lick up to your boss, however good you may perform, you are always an underachiever – on the other hand if you are boss’s best buddy, you can sail through. Your promotion depends on “visibility” and “impressions” on other managers, not your performance. Staying late is a good sign, but not getting your work done before time.

For an average American, all this comes across as really dubious and shameful. There’s a reason why there is a developing sense of anger against Indians, especially amongst educated & qualified Americans. It has been years of such lousy behavior that has engulfed at least the Bay area, and dangers to take over the IT sector completely that is making Americans treat Indians with contempt and anger. I sometimes don’t blame them. If I were in their shoes and had to watch this kind of charade everyday at workplace, I’d ask my senator and government to stop hiring foreigners too.

I believe that this is a technology industry experience. Do any of you also working in the industry have similar experiences? What about other industries? If you think commenting can be dangerous to your employment, write to me and I will exclude all personal details, like I have done with the above email, before I share.

Banning Foreign Students from American Banks

Bank bailouts are giving the U.S. Congress the chance to attach several conditions that banks otherwise wouldn’t accept. But given the fact that bank executives and financial wizards screwed up so bad, it might seem alright for the government to teach them a thing or two. One might argue that government should not tell banks how to run their private business. In most cases they would be right except that these banks have run their own business without any interference and dug themselves deep taking all of us with them. But that doesn’t mean that the government overnight knows any better. In fact, in these partisan times, any conditions attached to the bailout money has to be thoroughly examined for political motives unrelated to business efficiency.

One such pre-condition was the ban on hiring of foreign workers at ailing banks. This led to Bank of America rescinding on it job offers to foreign MBA students graduating from US business schools [hat tip: Rohit]. The politicians on Capitol Hill feel that these jobs should be offered to Americans. Who was responsible for this pre-condition? Protectionist Democrats and the Obama administration? You would be surprised that it was in fact, Republic Senator Charles Grassley and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders (the only Socialist in the Senate) who introduced this amendment to bar people holding H1-B visas from working in so-called taxpayer-funded banks. These senators falsely assume that banks are hiring foreign workers instead of Americans when in fact, the opposite it true. Any desi student knows that U.S. companies are not hiring them because they are cheap but because they are the best people for the job. Processing an H1-B visa in fact entails additional cost that hiring American workers would not. Given the higher proportion of foreign students in graduate programs especially in top-ranked universities, it is not surprising that an American company is more likely to hire a foreign student. Given the so-called abuse of the H1-B visa system by certain large Indian companies, a case could be made to prevent people who haven’t studied in the U.S but even then, it would miss the point of attracting the best possible talent.

As Megan McArdle says:

As a committed free trader–and an MBA who went through the mass layoffs of the last recession–my sympathy is all with the MBAs. These are people who mostly aren’t eligible for scholarships or subsidized student loans; they’ve borrowed or spent close to $100,000 in America to get their degree, many of them in hopes of staying here. They’re intelligent, highly skilled, and promise to be net contributors to the tax system . . . so America kicks them in the teeth and sends them home without a job.

By keeping these students out, America is actually sending skilled human capital away which in turn makes creating and maintaining efficient and profitable businesses all the more difficult. The “Buy American” clause runs counter to every conservatism principle there is given the arguments of merits, free trade (of intellectual capital, and supporting legal immigration; in fact it exposes xenophobic fears that prey on rational sensibilities. It makes a false assumption that there is a pool of American workers who are equally qualified and willing to replace foreign workers.

Do I blame the Obama administration and Democrats for allowing this restriction to stay in the stimulus bill? Of course, I do. Admittedly, people responsible for drafting the bill had to make several compromises to attract Republican votes but I fail to understand why these conditions were not removed after Republicans refused to vote in favor. Political bickering leads to such compromises that have no direct bearing on solving the crisis and merely results in America being less attractive to skilled immigrants and in turn, less competitive in the world arena. This financial crisis will eventually lead to global restructuring following which the intellectual talent and conducive business environment tempered by smart regulation will be key factors in the next emerging economic superpower. Ignoring skilled immigrant talents will only drive them away to other pastures that will be only too eager to accept them. Otherwise you risk America becoming the land of mediocrity and even idiocracy; case in point – this Verizon customer representative and his manager [YouTube link; hat tip: Rohit].

Will they deport Henry Cejudo’s mom?

Olympian UndocumentedAlthough we have had an overindulgence of sappy Olympics background stories, this one is genuine. Henry Cejudo, 21 son of an undocumented migrant or like some like to call them, illegal aliens has just won the gold for the U.S. in the 55-kilogram wrestling event. His immediate reaction – “The United States is the land of opportunity. It’s the best country in the world and I’m just glad to represent it.” His mother worked two jobs to feed a family of six children on her own and Henry himself worked hard as a kid to put food on the family table.

Although his family and friends were in the stands during the final, his mom couldn’t make it understandably considering the country that his son won a gold medal for wouldn’t take her in (although the official reason is she is taking care of her grandchildren). While not condoning illegal immigration, Cejudo’s story reflects the majority of such immigrants who cross the border due to economic hardship and to avail of the opportunities that their native country did not accord them. Nativists would like us to believe that people like Cejudo are criminals and are a threat to the American society. I wonder if Bob Costas will cover this American dream story in tonight’s Olympic telecast.

But the important question here is will Lou Dobbs and his ilk now demand deportation of an Olympic gold medalist’s mom?

Close all airports, says Tancredo

Tancredo has gone wacko. How much more could he be, you ask? Well, when he was running for the Republican nomination he thought the single most important issue in America was illegal immigration. Somewhere down the line, he managed to generalize that to all immigration. In today’s NY Times, he writes in a very brief op-ed [along with other Presidential also-rans] that the United States ought to close its doors and take its welcome mat inside:

What is also missing is a recognition that our borders include our international airports, where tens of millions of tourists and other visitors enter our country on various types of temporary visas — or without any visas if they come from one of 27 “visa-waiver countries.” [source].

Ah-ha! So America in order to be safe should view all the people coming in at her airports suspiciously even after they have been granted visas by your own government. As for those “visa-waiver countries”, they are supposed to be your closest friends or allies. Dude, your brand of xenophobic policies failed to excite even the bottom half of the conservative wing of the Republican party and you ended up getting less votes than even Ron Paul whom your party passionately hates. As your party folks would say, the market has spoken so slink away.

Fortunately for America, Bill Gates has a diametrically opposite view on immigration and economic growth. Bill Gates rightly points at much needed immigration reform especially in terms of expediently dealing with permanent residency. Thankfully for the country, I’m sure Americans take Gates more seriously than they ever would Tancredo.

Illegal immigrants are terrorists?

Gov.Spitzer of New York finally succumbed to pressure from anti-immigration groups and abandoned his plan to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. While not commenting on his decision to issue a legal document to individuals residing illegally in this country, his intentions to bring them out of the shadows cannot be faulted.

However, the argument offered by anti-immigrant groups against this policy was equally ridiculous. They charged Spitzer with the accusation that he was making would-be terrorists to get identification and thus make the country less safe. Now if I am not mistaken, all 19 hijackers involved in the 9/11 attack were in this country legally and barring couple of them who were overstaying after their visa had expired, the rest had perfect legal status. They hadn’t jumped the border from Mexico but in fact had flown in the country on valid visas. Stopping the terrorists from entering the country doesn’t require you to physically guard your borders but in fact needs you to streamline your immigration process before you hand them a visa. But sadly even prominent Presidential candidates are resorting to this blatantly misleading association that by preventing illegal immigration you are also preventing terrorism.

So honestly whatever the problem people might have with illegal immigrants, terrorism is definitely not one of them. The people have merely been falsely led to believe so. No Mexican or Latin American so far has been accused of terrorist activities. Their illegal status in the country is merely due to their method of entering the country. By denying them drivers licenses issued by the state, we are driving them underground and they’ll get fake licenses from the same place they get their fake social security cards. But that’s another issue. Let us not confuse terrorism with illegal immigration just because it appeals to people’s fear psyche. You just end up looking xenophobic which you just might be.

Update: Watch this insanely stupid ad by Republican Presidential hopeful Tom Tancredo.

Illegal Immigration

Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigrants are suicide bombers?

An American (Native) Indian once advised Herbert Humphrey,”Be careful in revising those immigration laws of yours. We got careless with ours.” I guess ‘blue-blooded’ Americans are taking that advice a wee bit too serious these days. Strangely, in these days of terrorism dominating the national agenda, illegal immigration seems to have crept in the debate as well and some so-called pundits are blurring the lines between the two. Fred Thompson, a possible Republican candidate has the following to say about immigration reform that is currently being debated in the Congress:

“Twelve million illegal immigrants later, we are now living in a nation that is beset by people who are suicidal maniacs and want to kill countless innocent men, women and children around the world” [source].

You might remember Thompson from the TV series Law & Order where he plays a politically conservative District Attorney who often emphasizes the influence of politics in the way his deputies are expected to try legal cases. In making that statement, Thompson tries to play on the terrorism fears of Americans by associating it with illegal immigration. The fear of terrorism that has been successfully inculcated by Bush is now just another excuse to justify any legislation even if the association is tenuous at best. I certainly hope that Thompson means suicide bombers when he mentions suicidal maniacs because it is clearly known that non-Hispanic whites are overwhelmingly more likely to be suicidal than any Hispanic immigrants, illegal or not. Blame depression for that.

But I am sure that Thompson meant suicide bombers which then brings into question how many illegal immigrants have been found to be that – in the United States. Certainly, he doesn’t mean a vast majority of those twelve million illegal immigrants are suicidal for purposes of terrorism or otherwise. So far none of the Hispanic immigrants have been associated with terrorism and their only crime has been to seek a higher quality of life by crossing the border illegally. I don’t think ‘countless men, women, or children were killed around the world’ by those actions. Even if they did I fail to understand how illegal immigrants in America would kill people around the world.

If terrorists were using the illegal route to enter the country, Thompson would be partly correct to assume so but the 9/11 hijackers entered the country through legal means and if at all, it simply proves how faulty the country’s legal ways to get in the country are. They are trying to fix the illegal immigration issue when in fact, the legal immigration system is broken. Thompson’s words fail at so many levels that it is astounding he wouldn’t have self-corrected it. But his words are reflective of the current crop of conservative presidential candidates. Obfuscate issues by popping in keywords like terrorism or immigration in random statements. I fail to understand why the media would even give any publicity to Thompson who hasn’t yet declared his intention to run for the Presidency. Jump in the race and then make statements so you can be then held accountable, Fred.

Can H1-B and F1 visa holders earn money online?

There are plenty of students and working professionals who are in the United States on an H1-B or F1 visa respectively. As in our recently concluded survey on DesiPundit, we noticed that many such individuals follows blogs closely and are also bloggers themselves. Chances are that they have chosen to monetize their blog either through Adsense or other advertising channels. The question, asked by Confused early Saturday morning was whether such income earned through blogs was legitimate and allowed under our visa status.

He sent me this link that explored the question of earning money via Adsense while being on a H1-B visa. The post cited well-known immigration attorney Shiela Murthy in the context of the 1099 tax form that you get for your Adsense or other online earnings:

A person on an H1B is not allowed to work on a 1099 at all. One who is on an EAD is allowed to work as an independent contractor if s/he is the I-485 dependent on the EAD and not the principal applicant for the Green Card, to be on the safe side. If the total time working was less than 180 days, there is possible hope to obtain the I-485 in the U.S. Otherwise, it adds complications and will not generally allow the person to obtain an approval of the I-485 from within the U.S. You should consult an immigration attorney to discuss this issue since it could have serious consequences.

So basically, if you are on a H1-B visa, you are authorized to work for only one those employers that sponsor your visa. You cannot be self-employed and earn additional income and doing so will render you out-of-status. Note that the I-485 mentioned above is a preliminary step in your Green Card processing. So what about F1 students? I did some digging around since that would directly affect a lot of students that blog and monetize their blogs. One respondent on an immigration visa forum said the following in response to 1099-related question for F1 visa holders:

An F1 visa does not allow you to take off campus employment anywhere or anytime you want. You can only take employment under specific circumstances, such as through OPT or CPT and there are hardship provisions too. But generally, an F1 student cannot simply go out and find employment. This is illegal. I would encourage you not to do this because it is a violation of your status.

That a student cannot work off-campus [during semesters] is common knowledge but is your blog earnings also off-campus? Well, technically it is since you are getting paid as a consultant by another company e.g. Google, Text Link Ads, Yahoo, etc. You can only earn money outside of your on-campus employment if you earn interest off your investments (movable and/or immovable) or savings. Visible Blog recommends another (risky) way by which you can register a company and hire someone at minimum wages to ‘run’ your blog. Your ‘company’ would earn money and you get a ‘passive’ income. However, as the blog rightly mentions, it is a risk. And you definitely don’t want to do that unless you are earning thousands everyday.

So what do you do? Should you yank off your monetizing avenues off your blog? If you hate any kind of risk then probably that is the best thing to do. However, the bureaucratic mess that the BCIS and IRS are, chances are that they never share information. Better still, if you earn less than $600 [per advertising program], you still have to report it. I’m sure most of us don’t earn that much. But if you do, you might want to either remove that option which I understand can be akin to killing the golden goose.

Finally, if you are earning $600 or less per advertising program, you might slip under the radar but understand that it is a risk and it might only be a problem if you are planning on applying for a Green Card later on. This is not legal advice and I don’t profess any deep knowledge on immigration law so if you know better, please feel free to discuss in the comments.

Motivations for Immigration Reform

Immigration has suddenly become a hot button topic in the U.S. political scenario and even Senators from northern and midwestern states vying for the Presidential position are trumpeting their views on strict immigration control. The Democrats have been largely silent or at least ambivalent about immigration control. While most of them believe that the issue is in need of reform, they haven’t expressed any strong opinions about it yet. However on the other side, Republicans either are fiercely voicing their opinions against any immigration or like Bush, trying to sidestep the issue to court the Hispanic vote bank. But what really drives those who oppose immigration or seek harsher penalties? Is it just plain protecting-the-territory or something on the lines of say, xenophobia? Especially against the poor.

Read the rest at Policy Wise.

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