In India, every one thinks America is the land of dreams. There is an illusion of money, richness and freedom associated with the country. The plan is always to complete your Masters, find a great job, work for a couple of years, get married, buy a house and move to India in your old age as a millionaire. That is the American dream. Little does anyone understand the hurdles and hoops one has to jump to ‘find a great job’.
you broke the ocean in half to be here, only to meet nothing that wants you – Nayyirah Waheed
Chicano Park mural
The company (let’s call it C) I interned at welcomed me back after graduation on my OPT (Optional Practical Training). They told me, I would work on my OPT until December and at that point they would sponsor my H1-b. I had no reason to doubt them. I had been treated very well during my internship, I had been given great feedback and they had reached out to me on their own after graduation. November comes around and I bring up the topic of H1-b. They have me apply for a position internally and I go through 5 rounds of interviews at the end of which they told me I was the candidate they would pick. Two days later, however, they come back and tell me they have had some problem with H1-b visas recently and they were unwilling to sponsor any more at this point in time. This was my first job, I had heard of my coworkers having trouble and I believed them. This was in 2013 when immigration wasn’t a problem and there were several other companies willing to hire immigrants.
I began a new job search, went through several rounds of interviews at several companies and was finally hired at another company (let’s call it P). It was a start up with 3 programmers, one HR rep, one project manager, operations liaison and the big boss. I was the eighth employee to be hired. I began work in April of 2014 and understandably the deadline to apply for H1-b for the year had passed. I worked my ass off, I showed initiative, creativity, leadership; I was very enthusiastic. Why wouldn’t I be? It was my first adult job. I loved the work they did, I loved being an integral part of small and close knit team. Everyone was very supportive and friendly. 2015 April, time for my annual appraisal, they were so impressed they promoted me and promised me a $10,000 raise! They even applied for my H1-b. Everything seems great, doesn’t it? Here’s the first red flag I was too blind to see. They did not actually give me the raise. They changed my title, I had more work to do but I wasn’t seeing the money in my paycheck. At one of our team lunches, our operations liaison let slip that they were waiting on my H1-b to be approved before giving me my raise. At the time, I was naive and I trusted them. They were my first company, I had no reason to doubt them. October rolls around and my visa is approved, I get the raise and I am a happy camper.
I continue to work with diligence, I was rewarded with a project that I completed from start to finish, they included me in business decision meetings, I was involved in hiring and training new hires. Here’s a little vague background on P. They have two products – one is a direct contract with the government and the other is an off-the-shelf software product. Obviously, the government contract required security clearance but the software product did not. Besides, it was my baby. I was involved in that product since it’s inception. So, I am staring at April 2016 – two years of being an exemplary employee. I am very happy with my salary and not looking for another raise. I did have another request, though. It was time for them to start looking into sponsoring me for a green card. It’s the natural next step. I have another wonderful annual review and I broach the subject of a green card. Being a startup, they did not have much information about the process. I did my research and provided them with great references and even found them a lawyer. P seemed optimistic about the process.
Another October rolls around, I haven’t heard anything about my green card yet and I believe they are gathering information. Now at this time, I had to visit a friend in a different city. He had been through some tough times, I was going out for moral support for a few days. P has a great work-from-home option and I explained the situation to them. They were quite understanding as I was only going to be gone for about 4 days. I land on Saturday, I have a great weekend. I log into my computer Monday morning and I have a meeting invite from my HR rep titled ‘Projects and Resource Requirements Meeting’ for that afternoon. Suddenly, there’s an alarm bell going off in my brain. I have no idea why, call it sixth sense or intuition but I knew something wasn’t right. I immediately texted one of my best friends and she told me I was being paranoid for no reason. I do have a tendency of overthinking and jumping to the worst conclusions. I am an anxious person and am constantly forming awful scenarios in my head. I calmed down slightly, I reasoned with myself. There was no reason to believe I was going to lose my job, it could just be about starting a new project or launch of a new product or hiring on more employees.
I completed a few tasks for the day, prepared myself for the meeting. It wasn’t a video conference, just a phone meeting. The invitees were my HR rep, my project manager and me. I definitely had prepared myself but there was no way to know I was facing literally the worst day of my life.