I'm a successful video game entrepreneur. But I can't get an employment visa to stay in the US - Technical.ly

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May 20, 2015 10:30 am

I’m a successful video game entrepreneur. But I can’t get an employment visa to stay in the US

Drexel graduate Arad Malhotra turned down top-paying tech jobs (and a chance at a H1B Employment Visa) to start his own video game company. With federal immigration reform legislation stalling, he will soon have to go back home to India.

Aradhya Malhotra (right) and his team at Skyless Game Studios.

(Photo courtesy of Aradhya Malhotra)

This is a guest post by Skyless Game Studios cofounder Aradhya Malhotra.
Entrepreneurship is an ocean full of violent waves in the form of challenges.

Over the past two years, I have diligently fought these waves to navigate my startup to a point where the shore of success is in sight. However, I recently got hit by a tsunami — the broken U.S. immigration system.

Instead of swimming to my goal, I am now caught in a struggle to escape drowning.

Simply put, I am being forced to hunt for a nonprofit job to stay in the country legally with the risk of significantly hurting momentum for my social impact technology startup — Skyless Game Studios.

Since 2012, there has been a nationwide debate about President Obama’s comprehensive immigration reform. The focus of this debate has been the path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented individuals. While common sense shows there are more pros to doing this than cons, there is a fierce political battle that is stalling and delaying the same to happen.

But the illogical debating on the fate of these individuals is not my primary cause of agitation. It is the fact that hidden in this comprehensive immigration bill is an important provision to support foreign entrepreneurs.

This provision that has bipartisan support creates a framework for foreign entrepreneurs who immigrate to the country legally, and have U.S. venture capital backing or innovative ideas with job creation potential, to stay in the country and invigorate the economy by growing their businesses.

Unfortunately, thanks to the political turmoil and opposition to President Obama’s Executive Action, this provision is stuck in limbo and is causing a lot of pain to hard-working entrepreneurs who are being forced to either drop their dreams to remain in the U.S. or move their companies to other countries.

I’m sure entrepreneurs around the nation can relate to my personal story.

I came to the United States in 2008 as an international student at Drexel University. I graduated in 2013 with a B.S. in Computer Science and a minor in Information Systems.

In April 2012, I partnered up with two U.S. citizens to cofound Skyless Game Studios, an innovative company that designs and develops video games for education, philanthropy and social impact.

When I graduated, I had multiple lucrative opportunities (with six figure salaries) at top companies. They were happy to sponsor me for an H1B Employment Visa, but as tempting as it was as a fresh graduate, I decided to take a leap of faith in the Obama administration, turn down the offers and follow my passion for innovation and social impact. I turned it all down to pursue and accelerate my work as a technical cofounder at Skyless.

Today, we have 20 talented interns (Drexel co-ops) and two permanent employees working with us to create games in areas including anti-corruption, government transparency and autism rehabilitation among others. In fact, because the game industry is so limited in Philadelphia, we have received nearly 700 applications in the past two years and have hired about 40 co-ops to date.

In addition, we are running a ‘game design mentorship program’ for the School District of Philadelphia in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office of Education (under the US2020 program) and are also currently fundraising for our global anti-corruption training efforts.

We are expected to grow financially within the next few months with the intention of expanding our co-op program and creating permanent video game jobs in Philadelphia. There is a huge brain drain problem, indicated by the small game industry here despite having top video game programs at area colleges.

During the course of my work, I have been privileged to be invited to the United Nations as an anti-corruption expert, to receive the Marcum Innovator of the Year Award in 2014 for emerging technologies, be recognized as a Global Social Entrepreneur by Transparency International and also be covered as part of the Forbes Under 30 Summit, an invite-only conference that brought together top young entrepreneurs and leaders from around the world.

Unfortunately, despite all the traction and my vision to advance education using video games, I have less than two months left under my current immigration status, rather frustratingly leaving me without options.

These circumstances have forced me to ask an important question that resonates with entrepreneurs across the nation: is the United States losing its spirit of entrepreneurship? I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

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Aradhya Malhotra

Arad Malhotra is a social entrepreneur and video game producer based out of Philadelphia. He is the cofounder and Director of Technology at Skyless Game Studios, a startup that designs and develops games for education, social impact and philanthropic causes. He is also a business advisor to multiple early stage technology startups including Mixotype, Glidewith.us and the venture backed Drone advertising company, DroneCast.

  • jakeleone

    He is unable to get an H-1b visa because the Offshore Outsourcing companies have stuffed in a excess number of requests in order to force a lottery.

    Most random access H-1b visas are used by Offshore Outsourcing companies to destroy jobs in the United States. Blindly increasing the number of H-1b visas will only increase job destruction in the United States.

    This guy helped create 20 part-time jobs, great, but Offshore Outsourcing companies routinely destroy thousands of jobs each month.

    Get Smart, ask for reform of the Green Card system to include entrepreneurs. The Outsourcers don’t like the Green Card because it creates a truly Free Market in the United States.

    If you are a libertarian, you have got to be for Green cards not the Indenturement Visa.

    • Manny

      This is so true.
      The best solution would be to restrict H1B visas to companies that are headquartered in the United States. I have a friend who worked in IT at a large US bank – She was laid off and replaced with 3 outsourced workers from a foreign firm, who work for minimum wage and to add salt to the wounds, she was coerced into training all her replacements as part of the terms of severance.

      • FastForwardAfter

        The best solution would be to scrap the H-1B program. If you don’t qualify for the O-1 visa for extraordinary individuals, you don’t need to immigrate here on a work visa.

  • Peter Verkooijen

    The fact is that there is no way to legally emigrate to America as a self-employed entrepreneur, unless you bring a million dollars. The original American Dream – come to America with nothing, bootstrap a better life for you and your family, rags to riches – has been outlawed.

    Federal immigration reform does absolutely nothing to solve that. Immigration has become a partisan political football, exploited by both sides for narrow electoral gain. America has become an inward-looking Welfare State obsessed with total population control.

    • jakeleone

      18% of the worlds working population wants to come to work in the United States.

      Top Reasons:
      – High value of the dollar
      – Moderate climate
      – Adequate housing
      – Good infrastructure
      – A Free Labor and Business Market, with little to no corruption brought on by organized crime

      How much of that will stay intact if if 18% of the worlds working population moves to the United State? None of it.

      How much of that is created by good government, a lot (but not all).

      And do these people want to come to the U.S. to share in paying the national debt? No, they want a totalization agreement that means they can move back to their home country when they sicken of the actual cost to provide that quality of life.

      All countries have an immigration policy. All countries limit immigration. That’s what citizen enfranchisement is all about.

      What China, India, and Mexico need to realize is that because they do not allow Foreign Direct Investment, their currencies are going to forever be worthless and their people to be chronically under employed.

      We can’t solve that problem from inside the United States.

      The reason why people from India, China, and Mexico are willing to dump themselves into the American labor market at less than a living wage, is the same reason why people in Greece want to move to Germany. They want to earn a more, and then take that money and go wherever they can get the most for it. If that’s a post E.U. Greece great. For many diaspora workers in the United States that means remittances back home, and eventually land, businesses, and houses back home (and home isn’t the U.S.).

      And that’s one problem (among many) with an open door immigration policy in a world that refuses to have actual free trade.

      It results in an overvalued dollar, that never equalizes (like it should in theory) with the currencies of other countries. In Affect the only thing the U.S. can trade is foreign direct investment and national debt.

      Another factor that we have seen is that automation tends to increase government (maybe not in size of currency, but in terms of its overall affect on the economy). Regulation is data driven. People can pay taxes, because they overproduce. All people, even the most hardened capitalists, want police, fire, and roads. The majority of these services are not pay-as-you-go because we all recognize that not all of us can live at the level necessary to afford them with our own means. And that goes especially for the working poor who are new to our country.

      I say, India, China, and Mexico, like the communist governments did for decades, go ahead stay poor. Or wake up and realize, that if you would allow foreign direct investment, not only would more of your people become employed, your land would become more valuable, your currencies would be worth more (and so insulate you from oil price shock, in a energy dependent economy).

      In short thanks for making all that stuff and being our wage slaves for decades. But don’t think you can then dump all your workers here.

      Please try a different, more original route, of allowing foreign direct investment. One thing I do know, most established tech companies are make hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit per employee. And they are not hiring because they already have a cash cow. If you would actually compete with us, then it is very likely that you’ll drive hiring here. After all competition with SAP drove hiring at Oracle.

      Engineers in any country, are worth their weight. They are, by an large, in the U.S. and abroad just hard working people.

      • Peter Verkooijen

        If the 18% most ambitious, initiative-taking people in the world were allowed to build their lives in America, a next American Century would be secured.

        But OK, you want America to be like the next Soviet Union. 70 years of stagnation and decline it is for you then. Have fun with your bankrupt Social Security and entitlements.

        • jakeleone

          The U.S. has been letting a million people in a year, and we have been steadily going into debt.

          And no, the U.S. cannot support a population of 1.3 billion people. There simply isn’t enough water, land, and resources. China is choking in smog right now, do Americans want that? No. In India sewage runs through the center of the Shanty town that supports Bangalore, do Americans want that? No. China and India can have that. China and India have sold their people a lousy deal, by not allowing foreign direct investment, which would dramatically increase the employment level, and more rapidly get more people out of poverty.

          But what do I care? If they like it that way, stay that way as long as you like. Just don’t visit your Social problems on us. And the principal social problem these two countries have is overcrowding. They need infrastructure, they need sanitation, they need the highways. These are (typically) Government provided items, and that takes taxes on business and labor.

          BTW, Social Security has been parasitized for decades. It they would stop borrowing from it, we wouldn’t have to worry about it. Stop trying defend the world from its own insanity, start educating the women in Pakistan, and we would never have had to fight the wars with the idiots. Who, BTW, came in on a student visa to do their suicide plane attacks.

          The U.S. spent trillions on two major wars and decades of hyper defense spending. The biggest problem in the United States is the amount we pay for the foreign defense of the business interests of corporations.

          These are choices of how the U.S. is spending its capital the same as when a person decides to buy a big flat screen TV instead of buying insurance for their house. But it is a big reason why we are running a huge deficit. And yes, if that continues we will be in default. But shortly after that the dollar will plummet, the U.S. will nationalize energy resources, and the economy will then recover. We should be more like the Europeans, and not give a $#@$ about other nations, just let them work it out, it is far cheaper.

          When we fought the communists, the communist governments go stronger. Communism of the mid-20th century, was 90% a reaction to the fear of foreign invasion. When we showed the Communists our economic system, specifically when Boris Yeltsin visited a Houston supermarket, they started to envy us. And that caused the leadership in those countries to realize that capitalism can motivate people to work harder.

          If you think the U.S. is like the Soviet Union, you are living in an alternate universe.

          • Peter Verkooijen

            “And no, the U.S. cannot support a population of 1.3 billion people …”

            That sums up your attitude. In the olden days people took care of themselves. Now Americans apparently assume that welfare is provided by “the U.S.”, the State, the Government.

            Immigrants don’t expect or ask for “the U.S.” to support them; they just want to have a fair chance to work and build a life, build businesses, create jobs.

            What happened to the God-given right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?

            Physically the American continent has plenty of water, arable land, resources and wide open space to sustain 1.3 billion people.

            Your debt problem was not caused by immigrants; that is the natives living beyond their means, consuming more than they produce, artificially propping up their standard of living. If you really believe you can keep that going by erecting a wall around your continent, you are in for a surprise.

            I’d say, tear down this wall.

          • FastForwardAfter

            One million legal immigrants every year is not a wall. Nowhere else does this.

  • Manny

    As a graduate from a top university that needs an employment visa to continue staying in the US beyond my 17 month STEM extension I fully sympathize with your position. I will be forced to leave the country in a few months time as well despite having a high degree of cultural assimilation and academic/professional achievements.
    Unfortunately the US immigration system is broken as you put it – with outsourcing firms mainly to blame.
    A majority of H1B visas are issued to generic workers who are no better than trainees (trust me, I work as an engineer at a large software manufacturer and we recently had our IT outsourced to an Indian firm whose employees were no better trained than college freshmen, albeit with extremely poor English skills). By stuffing in an excessive amount of H1 visa requests these firms (mainly Tata Consulting, Wipro, Infosys and a bunch of smaller consultancies) are able to send in a wave of workers – a clear case of quantity over quality. They do not care which worker gets picked since all of them are generic anyways – If worker A does not get the visa in the lottery they can just send worker B or C – mathematically if they apply for 20,000 visas at least 5,000 will get them. This over-loading of the system where only 85,000 total visas are available forces a lottery.
    And who suffers ? Decent, hardworking international students that dream of achieving the American dream. Students who have spent time, money and effort in gaining highly prized and wanted skills are forced to leave because their employers simply cannot hold onto them. This adversely affects companies as well – there is a severe shortage of highly skilled (read highly skilled and NOT generic IT workers, we have a billion of them).
    There also needs to be a separate dedicated for entrepreneurs that would allow the brightest and most innovative like yourself to stay in this country. I applaud your bravery in not giving up your dreams by not giving up on your startup – I wish the rest of us had the courage to face the unknown like you do right now.

  • minh

    with your skills, you can surely open a business in the more immigrant-friendly environment like Canada, Australia, or Germany. Once the U.S congress figures out that their system is truly broken, the U.S already lags behind other countries in high-tech fields. Facebook already opens its branch in Canada and have brought all the talents who didn’t get through H-1B lottery there. You can do so with your firm :).

    • FastForwardAfter

      It sounds like his business would be just as successful wherever it is. What is his problem with taking the company with him to India? What is the need for him to be in the U.S?

      What am I missing?

      • Invisibility Insight

        I know immigration and residency allowance is a hot-button issue, but one side of this — which could be immensely valuable to this guy — is that he self-started a business that can operate anywhere. It may be less costly to operate it from India and hire on-shore marketing and PR talent that knows best how to hook a specific demographic locally.

  • Ayush Chaturvedi

    I can’t relate more to your situation. As a technologist having created many successful businesses for my employer sponsoring my h1b, I always feel there is so much that people with entrepreneurial spirit have to offer. This country needs entrepreneurs and jobs. Too bad for either sides that the laws are stuck in political debates.
    I think it’s much better situation in India and going back isn’t the end of the road. Venture capital is available much more easily there and the spirit is very entrepreneurial.

  • Ram

    I think somehow nobody understands the rules of immigration into US. You are bringing in far relatives like niece,brother,sister,nephew,uncle and aunty with family immigration over 260,000 per year plus another 50,000 lottery visas we are giving to crap countries. That family based immigration – people wait in their countries for 5 odd years and come here. But when a person who is employed and successful here he doesn’t get a green card for a long time if he is from China or India. These rules need to change.

    • Eugeniu Prodan

      “Crap countries”??

  • jakeleone

    Most of the Random Access H-1b visas are being used by the Offshore Outsourcing companies to remove millions of jobs from the United States. Tell me, Why On Earth, does it make sense for the United States to blindly raise the H-1b cap? When the Offshore Outsourcing companies have millions of “on-paper” qualified workers and these same companies have been shown in U.S. public court documents to have internal programs that discriminate against U.S. citizens based upon national origin? Why on Earth should they even be allowed access to our Visa system as their primary source of workers?

    The zero-IQ whining of the tech worker in this article and all those who mouth, without thinking or researching for a moment, the tired and incorrect line that H-1b is needed by U.S. industry, is adding (if not the main reason) for the job-less recovery in the United States.

    The Offshore Outsourcing companies will continue to stuff in an excess number of H-1b visas requests, because they have millions of on-paper qualified workers. The resulting lottery does not bother the Offshore Outsourcing companies, because if H-1b candidate A or B does not make it in, then H-1b candidate C will do just fine, because they are all just trainees anyway.

    By forcing a lottery, the Federal Government gives the Offshore Outsourcing companies a government provided monopoly on cheap IT and STEM labor in the United states. And shuts out legitimate businesses from reliable access to the H-1b visa system. And a legitimate business is one that will seriously consider the resume of local U.S. candidates first, before turning to the H-1b, b-1, or L-1 systems. The Offshore Outsourcing companies instead, always use the H-1b, L-1, or B-1 (illegally using the B-1) for all their engineering hiring first. And only hire locally if they have no absolutely no other choice. Tell me Why On Earth are they even allowed to use the H-1b system, when they never even try to find local candidates?

    The reason is simple, the Obama Administration is in bed with them. They needed these lousy companies to fix the broken ACA system they delivered initially. There can be no other reason then that and/or payola, bribes, (or do I mean campaign contributions).

    When InfoSys can bring in workers on a visa to do Unix script testing, effectively pushing out a qualified U.S. local worker. And the Obama administration does nothing about it. It is clear, there is corruption in the Obama administration.

    When the Obama administration finds it more important to continue to prosecute Barry Bonds, then try to defend the high-skilled American IT workers at Southern California Edison who were pushed by the Obama Bed Buddies, InfoSys and Tata, then clearly there is bad case of corruption in the Obama administration.

    You can’t begin to care about the plight of the half of American STEM graduates, and the 80% of minority IT graduates that never find a job in STEM or IT field in the United States. Unless you start caring about how the H-1b visa is actually being used in the United States.

    It is mostly being used to destroy jobs in the United States and move whole industries to India, to push out more highly skilled U.S. workers, to allow massive discrimination (at a scale never before seen in the United States) against Americans as an ethnic class. Any administration that really cared about the American people, and not so pre-occupied with the vanity of its “Legacy” would have at least lifted a finger to stop this. The Obama administration is doing nothing.

    I voted for Obama, because I thought the guy had some integrity.

    On the good new, my vote (out here in California meant nothing), Cal was going democratic no matter what. Remember we vote for all the electors to go to a candidate, we do not have a direct civil vote in the United States.

    But also the alternative were no better when it came to protecting U.S. free labor market (you know the one where Americans didn’t have to face discrimination, unchallenged by government) and that worked to disrupt monopolies, and not promote them, like the monopoly the government has given the job destroying Offshore Outsourcing companies). Except that at least Romney knew that China was deliberately manipulating its currency (but did he know that the primary driver of that manipulation is the ban on Foreign Direct Investment into China), I don’t think he understand this (and neither do most people).

    Think about it, the Federal reserve, despite having interest rates at near zero, cannot lower the value of the dollar. And countries that have currencies at parity with the dollar, all allow foreign direct investment (Europe, Canada, Australia).

    Mexico, India, and China all do not allow foreign direct investment. The result is a weak currency. Cheap labor and land in their home countries. And huge influx of immigrants to the United States from those countries. Yes, the majority of the influx of immigrants from China, India, and Mexico are simply because of greed for American dollars. Because those dollars go a long way back home, thanks to the home countries ban on foreign direct investment.

    The E.U. is learning, the hard way, that you can’t have free trade, unless you also have free immigration, and allow foreign direct investment. Without that, you are doomed to a never ending spiral of trade deficits, Government borrowing, high unemployment. The question is can European countries stand to have their cultures diluted (the way the american states have been). Come on, It’s a “Globalized World!”. MuHahahahahahaha!

  • Leo

    Did you try to apply for a green card through the National Interest Waiver (EB2-NIW) category? It doesn’t require sponsorship. The standard is still somewhat vague, but many entrepreneurs are able to obtain it.

  • vaibhav gupta

    It is quite proud to hear such great things came from an indian citizen but why always it has to be in US only at theend…I think you had got a lot of experience doing this,you must have got some great networking also but since you are not able to continue in US why not think it otherwise to go back to india and utilize your skills to increase employment there and start your company there and help in increasing the economy of the country…

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