I came to the United States in 2006 to join the physics PhD program at the University of Southern California, directly after completing my undergraduate degree in physics from IIT Kharagpur, India. I have been focused on this goal since high school in order to study in one of the top US universities that leads in cutting edge research, and offers a chance to work with faculty members who are internationally acclaimed for their academic contributions. The six years at the Graduate school at USC was the most challenging and enjoyable experience that helped me grow in life, learn about different cultures, and make new friends. My American friends were surprised when I shared with them stories which are a testimonial to the unfair and complex state of the present immigration system. For example, several technology workers are posted in Canada offices of U.S. companies only to work around the limits of the immigration law, thereby forcing workers to stay away from their spouse and family. Or the brain drain caused by similar visa restrictions – talented and highly educated immigrants leave the United States to start their businesses in another country.
Those stories have now become a reality for me too… After graduating from USC, I started my career as data scientist in the R&D lab at FireEye. In this job, I use big data and machine learning techniques to detect malware, classify malicious content, and create reputation systems. The algorithms I develop are deployed in various products that help our customers defend their companies against cyber criminals. I am fortunate to have opportunities that help me build my knowledge, skills, and expertise which together make me employable in today’s technology industry. However, in spite of my capabilities, my ability to work in the U.S. is quite restricted by the H1-B work visa that allows me to work for three years only.
I applied for an H1-B visa in 2014, and was lucky to have won the lottery that decides the fate for all H1-B applicants! The next step is applying for a Green Card, or permanent resident card which can take up to 10-15 years (after receiving an H1-B) for Indian residents, based on the country quota.
My wife Paromita Ghosh graduated with M.S. in Communication from North Carolina State University in 2010. She is working on an H1-B visa too. Due to our restrictive visa situation we currently live in different cities, and see each other over the weekends. We enjoy our work and are thankful that we can make meaningful contributions in our areas of expertise, yet it is sometimes hard to shake off the frustration that comes from the awareness that even after achieving graduate degrees from top universities and mastering valuable skills, the U.S. government stringently restricts our access to work because we were born in another nation. Our situation is not an isolated case – many of my friends from other countries experience the same frustration while looking for work opportunities.
The present immigration system interferes with my career goals too— I would like to start my own company in the Bay Area after working for about five years – however, the current immigration system doesn’t exactly support my plan! I am not interested in waiting for 10 years to get my Green Card to start a business. Living in Silicon Valley, I realized some of the best minds in technology are here, and the chances of getting Venture Capital funding is also quite high despite the competition. I would really like to launch my startup in the U.S. but there are too many barriers to fulfill that ambition at the moment.
If the proposed immigration reform bill passes, it would remove many of those restrictions – a PhD degree from one of the top universities will make me and many others in similar situations, eligible for a Green Card almost immediately. This will also provide spouses (on H-4 visa) the right to work, thus solve the problem of couples who are living apart for their career. In addition, immigration reform will also benefit millions of undocumented immigrants by giving them the right to live a life of dignity and safety.
Immigration reform will not only benefit the immigrants, but also boost the US economy which will ultimately help everyone. Why must we wait longer to make a decision on immigration reform? The time is now, pass the immigration reform in 2014!