Happy 2022, e-friendlies! Hope the first nine days are great or at least hopeful
This morning, a friend, Zanade - the one who gave me the first pandemic opportunity during a long job search, was checking in about how life and career are going in a Black Women Chat (she started it, hit her up if you’d like to join!). Some shared about how their businesses and opportunities to grow are changing, how raising funds is challenging, the loss of clients and need to look in unconventional recruiting spaces, all that. Me? I talked about immigration.
See I am an immigrant. A non-resident immigrant. What that means is, to get and enjoy work opportunities in the Americas and Europe where they are plentiful, I need a visa. Depending on company and country allowances, it can be a student, spouse, work, genius (yes, like really smart people by AngloSaxon standards), rich business having person one, something else visa. If you’re lucky you could get a green card - a long term resident classification that is not quite a citizenship. I should note, we don’t all qualify for the same things, so this is based on my non-resident immigrant experiences (a Tanzanian in the U.S. who’s always been on student visas). Talk to other immigrants, they’ll tell you about their boat.
When I shared my consuming thoughts, Zanade mentioned how a lot of people here may not know this and could help mobilize or think through it if they did. And you know what, she’s right. All employers I’ve had, I had to explain to them what I needed, some even brought a lawyer, and it was always a guided tour of “for me to be able to work here, we need to sign these documents”. There’s always documents lemme tell you. And money, but more on that later. This is an attempt to share and ask the questions that I have to think about everyday. It is one perspective of an immigrant who has (despite everything going on in the U.S.) enjoyed the freedom of speech, expression, and opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable if I hadn’t ventured into this country.
Note: We are all living through a pandemic, and people can only have so much space to care about things that don’t affect them directly. I hope if you’re reading this, you don’t feel guilty if the only takeaway is “oh well”.
Visas in general are like a club pass. They say this person is allowed to enter this place because we reviewed their background, and letting them into our club (country) is not going to harm us. In some cases, it’s a benefit! There is also a closing time component for these club passes. Depending on the geopolitics between the country you’re from and the one you’re going to, the restrictions, approval wait times, and visa durations could change drastically. For example, did you know if you’re from Iran and get a U.S. student F1 visa (as of 2020), you cannot renew it? It’s one and done. My friend has stayed in the U.S. for three years, and only when she got a work visa in 2021 was she able to consider traveling back home. If she had left before, she wouldn’t be able to re-enter the U.S. even though she was enrolled in school and maintaining all the requirements that allow you to have a visa. Yeah
With remote work, there are a LOT of advantages all of us enjoy. As a Black mostly shy and reserved woman, I am grateful to avoid crowds, small talk, oversharing, and microaggressions. It also means I don’t have to physically be somewhere. You see where this is going? That club pass is technically losing the physical access implication.
You can find more about all the variations of non-resident immigrant worker classifications here for further reading
Now we don’t have to rehash the history of U.S. immigration law, but the summer of 2020 had a lot of immigrant students and workers on edge because 45 kept changing things on moods and vibes (and you know, underlying ideologies that shouldn’t exist but they do). For two prominent ones that I’m familiar with, here are some key points to note.
- Work visa holders: the number of H1B (work) visas to be granted in the lottery has consistently dropped. There is also a bill circulating for years that aims to raise the wages that qualify someone to get a work visa to at least USD 100,000 per year (from $60,000). I’ll let you read between the lines about who that excludes. And yes yes, it is a lottery that lasts about two weeks in March or April every year where your company has to sponsor (and pay thousands of dollars for ) you. If you win, you win! If you don’t - try again next year in those days in March/April (it changes)
- With student visas; if you’re studying anything at all and graduate, you can pay (right now) $410 and apply for a one year optional practical training (OPT) student work permit. You might get rejected, you won’t get a refund. If you study anything in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Maths (STEM), you could apply (and pay another $410 ) to get a STEM extension that allows you to work an extra two years. That’s where I’m at right now.
Put all those things together, and here is the basis for the question of this post. What will happen to remote non-resident immigrant workers? Companies are trying to cut costs and laying people off left and right during the pandemic so why pay for a visa employee? Even more if teams can be remote, why would they hire you in the U.S. instead of keeping you at your home country where (at least for me) the cost of living is lower and would justify them paying you much less? Now there are some saving graces here like hybrid work environments that would still justify a visa. Drastically different time zones also add challenges to how teams would work well together.
All of this to say, it is weighing heavy on my mind because as much as I love being close to family, the opportunities are just not there. And at this point of my life/career, I’m too tired and not financially equiped to be the one creating them or convincing people to (selfish as it may seem). And more importantly (for me), the freedom of speech and expression is lost. Even with racism, sexism, classism, ableism, the alternative is many a time, better. So what do you think is going to happen to us non-resident immigrant workers? How is your company handling all these changes and planning for them? Has the remote work movement affected this part of your hiring strategy? Have you been impacted as a worker? I’m curious to hear (@ me) from those who can affect these decisions and those affected (especially more than me) by the evolving workforce landscape with respect to immigration provisions.
For the rest of you, I wish you a great Sunday. Time to go watch Big Ben’s career finale (unless Jacksonville wins which none of us thinks is going to happen )
Update: It’s currently Black Monday. So Jacksonville WON , we get to see Big Ben one more time because the Chiefs sure ain’t gonna lose. Oh and Miami fired Brian Flores