Working in "Silicon Alley"

Posted by on July 24, 2013.

My name is Pato Arvizu, and I'm a software engineer currently working in New York City. I was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, and graduated from ITESM (Monterrey Tech), the largest private university in Mexico and one of the largest in Latin America. I came to the U.S. in 2007 to work for a software company in Texas. Then, in 2011, I moved to New York City to be closer to a tech hub: here in New York, it’s called "Silicon Alley."

I’ve lived and worked in the U.S. for almost 6 years now on a TN visa, but the immigration system has made it difficult. Given the nature of the TN visa, I would be at risk of having to leave this country – and the NYC technology hub – if I were to lose my job. In addition, it's extremely difficult to move from a TN visa to permanent resident status or citizenship. I have considered applying for an H–1B visa, which provides an easier path to permanent residency, but there are risks associated with switching visas.

Pato Arvizu

But most importantly, the TN visa restricts for whom and how I can work, which is a big problem in a technology hub. I’m only allowed to work for the employer who sponsored me, full time, with no possibility of creating a startup, speaking at conferences, consulting, sitting on an advisory board, or any other activity with remuneration. I’ve heard from some lawyers that even volunteer work is prohibited because one can argue that the volunteer is compensated with "personal satisfaction."

I’m a law-abiding citizen, I pay my taxes, and I am a part of a community that I want to make my own. But I can't. I’m limited by an immigration system that was created before the proliferation of modern technologies that require more talent and innovation.

I'm not the only person in this situation. People like me invest our lives, leaving our home countries to come to the U.S. and contribute with our knowledge and experience, and it can all suddenly come to a screeching halt because of our outdated immigration system.

Companies know that the talent market spans the globe, and the demand for talent cannot be met when our immigration system makes it so difficult to come here legally. Several startup ideas have never materialized because they couldn’t be developed here in the U.S., and the talent had to move elsewhere.

Just the fact that I am here, along with many others like me, proves that immigrants are important contributors to the American economy. I am not here to take advantage of the system. I – like so many others – am here to work and contribute.

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