Improving the Immigration System for the Future Generation

Posted by on December 11, 2013.

jaspreet-photo-250.jpgJaspreet Singh is the Founder and CEO of Druva, a company that provides high-tech IT solutions to businesses around the world. Originally from India, Jaspreet moved to Silicon Valley to grow his business, but experienced some roadblocks along the way. We asked him to share his experience and thoughts on why immigration reform is critical now and why it will help move our economy forward.

FWD.us: Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and why did you decide to start a business in the United States?

Jaspreet: I started my company in India, where I grew up. India is a tough place for bootstrapping your idea, while the United States had a much better market opportunity. While I was bootstrapping the company in 2008 and 2009, I met with investors of Sequoia Venture Capitol. With Sequoia VC's help, we filed a petition to move my business to the U.S. and relocated to the Bay Area. Sequoia helped me hire employees and grow my business rapidly with the relocation. In the past three years, the company has experienced 8-9 times human capital growth.

Most people don't even have access to the resources that I did. I would not have been able to achieve what I have without the intervention of the investors. In fact, the first time I applied for a visa to come to the United States to get an initial feel for the environment, I was rejected.

FWD.us: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as an immigrant in the United States?

Jaspreet: The biggest challenge I’ve faced with the current immigration system was to convince the immigration office I had sufficient business capital and that my startup was creating job opportunities.

The current immigration system does not differentiate between a high-tech, high-skilled worker and a gas station attendant. Every single time I applied for visas, it was super tough to convey that my business was a high-tech start-up. Immigration asked me to send them photographs of different people and of the office to prove it was real. As the founder, I was my own manager, so it added another layer of awkwardness to have to run around and try to get a board member or CFO, for example, to be my “manager” for the visa.

FWD.us: From your perspective, how can our immigration system be improved?

Jaspreet: The current immigration system offers no certainty. Investors had no clue if and when I’d be able to come to the country. It was very awkward for me. Now, the business has employed over 50 people.

Concerning the classification of visas for high-tech workers and people establishing businesses, they definitely need a different category. At one point there was a prolonged discussion in Congress about some sort of start-up visa, but it was never approved. The visa categories aren’t very conducive to the real world. For someone who is already here on an H1-B visa, there is an artificial ceiling placed on them due to the visa restrictions. They can’t start their own thing, they can’t be a founder of a company, or a majority stockholder. This limits innovation. For any knowledge worker today who wants to start his own company or be his own manager, the process is extremely tough and usually involves even more risk than a typical entrepreneur already faces.

FWD.us: Why is immigration reform critical to your work in the tech community?

Jaspreet: Visas are very critical to attract high quality talent to fuel the start-ups here. It remains super tough to hire the caliber of talent needed with the competition in the Bay Area. Also, I think every job that you can’t fill here due of lack of talent is subsequently outsourced, which is an even greater loss for the country.

FWD.us: What motivated you to join this cause?

Jaspreet: I know that compared a lot of people around me, I was lucky to get a visa. To be honest, while the process was tough, I am happy that I’m here and I’m grateful I’ve been given the opportunity. At the same time, I see a lot of my peers who struggled. There are a lot of people working on H1-Bs for companies like Cisco and others, yet because of the H1-B visa restrictions, they can’t strike out on their own, or became majority shareholders in any kind of venture. As a result, I feel like I’ve seen a lot of dreams slashed and I thought I should probably speak up.

FWD.us: Why should people in the tech community join this cause?

Jaspreet: It depends on all of us to do this for the next generation, the people who will follow behind us and further build this country. It’s all of us who have made this country great. We need people to step up now to improve the system for the future.

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