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I firmly believe that comprehensive immigration reform will create American jobs, and I support reform because it is time to fix the system for every hopeful immigrant out there who works hard and desires to make the U.S. their home. Let me tell you why.
I came to the U.S. in 2001 on a student visa to pursue my Master's at the University of Southern California. After graduating from USC, I moved to the Bay Area and worked for several startups. Now, I work for Viralheat, a company I co-founded in 2009. So far we’ve raised $4.25M from Mayfield Fund and hired 17 full time employees, most of whom are U.S. citizens.
Initially, my H1B visa made it impossible to join my own company, even though I had helped start it. Thankfully, my co-founder was a U.S. citizen and was able to move the company forward to where it is today.
Starting your own company is particularly difficult if you have a temporary visa. Most people tend to stay at larger and more stable companies while waiting to get their green cards, rather than starting their own businesses. I had applied for a green card under the EB1 category, but was denied. Luckily, I got approved for an O1 visa, which allowed me to secure the funding that was crucial to my startup.
Even though I now help lead a business, I continue to face problems with the immigration system. Viralheat has a few employees on H1B visas, and we have to spend a lot of time, resources and energy on their immigration paperwork. The green card process requires a lot of careful attention, and being a small company we do not have full time HR staff that specialize in this. It ends up taking up my own time as the co-founder.
I have spent over 1/3 of my life in the U.S. I got admitted to a great college and had opportunities to work with some of the best professors. I moved to the Bay Area, created a network of friends and associates, and even met my co-founder, Raj Kadam, who led us on this wild journey of starting our own company. I think of the U.S. as my home, and I want to continue to work and live here.
I support comprehensive reform because it affects not only my own visa status, but also the status of my employees and thousands of other people stuck in the legal immigration limbo. The increase in H1B visas will broaden employers’ access to talent to help the U.S. economy grow. An easier process to apply for green cards in a reasonable amount of time, and a clear pathway to U.S. citizenship, would facilitate entrepreneurs’ desire to come to America and start a company, and avoid the difficulties that I experienced while starting Viralheat.