Indentured Servitude

Why would anyone in modern high-tech society even consider to be the employment side of indentured servitude? For money, power, and greed, of course.

Over a dinner conversation, I learned, first-handedly, that a company just erected a policy that they would not enter the permanent residence process in less than a year after an employee has obtained his or her H1B visa.

Having the H1B visa is a critical step in obtaining permanent resicence in the US. USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, formerly INS) granted these visa by lottery. Statistically, about 30% of the applicants received this status. (233,000 applied for 65,000 quota. There are another 20,000 for people with advanced degrees.) So an aspiring high-tech worker needs to manage to stay in the US for possibly 3 years to get this visa.

From the immigrating worker’s point of view, this company’s policy essentially lock him in for 2 to 4 years: enter the country with another working visa, wait for the April H1B lottery, wait a year to start the process. If did not get the visa, wait another year to try again. During these years, he basically cannot change job. If he got fired, deportation came swiftly. Simply put, this policy is a form of indentured servitude. It incites only bitterness.

And it is completely not necessary. For the rest of the employees, majority of them, the employer must manage their growth, pay them fairly, and provide a productive working environment lest losing them to other companies. Employees generally change job only when mis-managed. Treating some of them as slaves is not good management.

My general practice is treating the sponsoring of immigration process like any large, one-time benefit expenditure, such as relocation expense reimbursement or tuition reimbursement. The employee, in exchange of the receiving the benefit, must agree to stay for a duration of time (typically a year), otherwise, he or she must pay it back.

The difference between slavery and a contractual agreement is in the fairness of those options that either side to exercise.

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