Archive | April, 2009

Immigration Policies and Long-Term Competitiveness

21 Apr

Mr. Mavinkurve, a 28-year-old Indian immigrant who helped lay the foundation for Facebook while a student at Harvard, instead works out of a Google sales office in Toronto, a lone engineer among marketers.
Excerpted from “Tech Recruiting Clashes With Immigration Rules ” by Matt Richtel (New York Times, April 11, 2009)

This Google engineer lives in Canada because his wife does not have a work visa that would make her eligible to work in the US. Every year, many highly talented people are forced to leave the US and return to their home countries or go to other countries because of arcane immigration laws in the US. When immigration bills are discussed, legal and illegal immigration are always clubbed together, which results in the bills not getting the approval of the house and the senate. Nobody likes illegal immigrants in their countries though millions of illegal immigrants have lived in the US for a long time and make an honest living working here.

Every year, thousands of international students graduate from American universities. Some voluntarily return to their home countries, while some are forced to return because they are not able to find an employer who is willing to sponsor a H1B work visa for them. The students get a one year optional practical training period after graduation to practice the skills they have learned in their study programs. This one year period is essentially becomes a narrow window for finding a job. The petitions for H1B visas are filed starting April 1. The number of applications received by the USCIS is much more than the annual quota of 65,000, and this quota is filled within a few days, sometimes on the very first day itself. If someone’s application is not files on April 1, chances are slim that s/he will be able to work in the US.

Silicon valley is long considered a hub of innovation. Sun, Yahoo, Google, Intel, HP, the list of valley companies is endless. These companies started as a typical startup and grew and provided employment to thousands. Many of the founders of these innovative companies were immigrants or children of immigrants. In fact, more than 5o% of the startups in silicon valley were launched by immigrants.  A high percentage of employees, who helped grow these companies, were also immigrants – highly educated, higly talented.

If these talented people were forced to leave the US, it would be difficult to imagine the innovative culture of silicon valley as it is today. If we put everyone in one of five categories, say 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, in increasing order of talent or capabilities, should the companies hire only people with a rank of 5? No, because there would not be that many people available. If companies hire people with ranks 4 and 5, these highly talented employees would help develop new products, create great services, and therefore help grow the companies they work for. These companies would then need more workers and they would be forced to hire people with ranks of 3, 2, and 1.However, if the companies start hiring rank 1, 2, and 3 people before rank 4 and 5, it’s anybody’s guess what’s going to happen to those companies. In the short-term, more people will get employment, but in the long-term, growth will stagnate or become negative, thereby resulting in decreased revenues, layoffs, and rising unemployment.

The Obama administration, by restricting companies that receive federal bailout money from hiring foreign nationals, has created exactly the situation explained above. What these companies need right now is the best people to help tide over the economic crisis. A much less publicized fact is that the USCIS has said that this restriction will be valid for only two years. The impact of this policy is difficult to measure but the damage to these companies would surely be done.

Should the government allow a free flow of immigrants? Of course not. This would lead to chaos and misuse of the system. But allowing the best people to live and work in the US without any restriction would help the country with maintaining the competitive edge, which many believe the US is losing to other countries.

My situation? I have a master’s degree from Stanford University. I’d rank myself 4 (if not 5). I work for a major publishing company and I’m happy with my job. However, if I want to leave my job to take a long vacation or become a stay-at-home dad, I can’t. Because I have a H1B work visa from my company. I can’t remain jobless even if I choose to. I have to be in another job or I’ll have to leave the US. Permanent residency (green card) takes many years to get. My options? I don’t have any.

Additional Readings
What U.S. immigration policies mean to Google
Bill Gates Says Immigration, Education Reform Needed For U.S. To Compete

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New Year Resolutions – Quarterly Review

9 Apr

The first quarter of this year has ended and it’s time to review my new year resolutions and evaluate how I’m doing on each of the resolutions.

  1. Stop procrastinating (this should be priority number one every day of my life) – I’m getting there. Better than before but not yet satisfactory. (3/5)
  2. Spend more time with my kids, engaged with them, not just being home – Started off quite well but lost steam. (1/5)
  3. Resume exercise, after a four months break – Had started hitting the gym three days a week but lost motivation. Have resumed after a break. (1/5)
  4. Write a post on this blog every week and focus on what interests me most – technology-based learning – Getting better and trying. (2/5)
  5. Learn PHP – Changed goal. Learning css-based Web design first.
  6. Learn Economics (I manage the technology projects for Economics in my company so it makes sense to know the subject matter) – Had started but changed goal to learning about the current recession. (2/5)
  7. Work on the prototype for a Web 2.0 learning product – Have started with learning web design. (1/5)
  8. Improve focus (on personal as well as professional things) – Not much improvement. (1/5)
  9. Not waste time (I don’t waste much time anyway but …) – Not sure how I’m doing on this one. Same as before. (3/5)

Overall, my self evalulation resulted in my realizing how poorly I’m doing on my new year resolutions. The good news is that I have not dropped any resolution, which means I still have a pretty strong chance of scoring 5/5 by the end of this year.

Happy Square Root Day

1 Apr

I happened to stumble upon this entry on Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square_root_day. Though I’m late by almost a month, I thought it would be  interesting to cover it in a blog post. The last square root day was on 3/3/09. The next will be on 4/4/2016.

My First Court Case … and a Small Victory

1 Apr

Yesterday, I settled my first court case.  I’d filed a case last month, which was an open and shut case, so the defendant decided to settle it out of court.

I used to live in Sycamore Creek Apartments in Cincinnati and moved out in October 2008. Per the rules, I should have received my rent deposit, an amount of $468 after some deductions, after two weeks. However, I received a letter detailing the deductions and the final amount but not the check. After waiting for a few days, I called up Sycamore Creek and was told that the check had returned because of incorrect address. My address starts with 727 and they had written 272 on the envelope. I gave them the address again and checked the letter I had received. The address indeed started with 272, and the letter reached me, but not the check.

I waited for a month and then called them again. This time I was told that the owner of Sycamore Creek – AIMCO – had sold the property to another business, and AIMCO would send me the check. I again waited for the check and contaced AIMCO. This time, I was told that the funds had been transferred to the new owner, so they should send me the deposit check. The lady at Sycamore Creek was dead sure that AIMCO would send me the money because when I vacated the apartment, the property was still owned by AIMCO. The property manager once told me that I would receive my check within a month, only to be told a month later that the manager had quit her job. And I was back to square one.

I shuttled between Sycamore Creek and AIMCO for a few months more. Then I read a blog post about a small business owner who had sued Google and won. This gave me an idea. I did some research on the Internet and learned about the municipal court in Cincinnati and it’s small claims division. The best part was that I could claim double the amount if the landlord didn’t refund my deposit within 30 days. One morning, I went to the court and submitted a short form along with a payment of $53. The clerk at the counter asked me for a convenient hearing date and put the date after 30 days on the form.

I knew that I would get a call from Sycamore Creek soon. And I did get a call. The new property manager told me that my check for $936 was ready and I can pick up the check any time and sign a releaase form. If I had decided to take them to court, they would have had to pay an additional $53 in court charges. I decided not to take this route. I was getting double the deposit amount anyway, so I took the check and signed the release form.

I enquired about how I could drop the case and was told that I can submit a form or I can just not appear in court in which case the case will be dismissed anyway. I have decided to submit a form. This was all pretty easy and convenient. I don’t know if everyone is aware of this facility that our tax dollars are paying for. I’m glad I’m paying my taxes and the money is being put to good use.