Ajoy Kumar Singha

It has been almost a month my L1B visa application was rejected. I want to share my experience and feedback on the whole visa application and approval system.

Application Process: Since mine was a L1B visa, my organization scheduled the interview after I filled the online application. The application fee includes two parts – one a demand draft of Rs. 23500/-  ($500) and another demand draft of Rs. 105700/- ($2250). The fee was paid by my organization.

Interview Day: You will see a huge gathering outside the consulate. The security guards will try to drive you out if you reach earlier than your appointment time. At the check point you will need to switch off your mobile phone and submit the security personnel. You will be issued a token number. The first thing they will check is supporting documents for your visa application. Expect few questions on name change, organization name etc. The interviewers at this point will most like be an Indian.
After this you submit the fee at a different counter. Once fee is collected you will be directed to finger scanning section. All the ten fingers are scanned in a scanning device. Here US consulate does not trust any Indians. So the person who will supervise the scanning activity will be an US citizen.
One thing I noticed about those interview windows is that there is glass separator between interviewer and interviewee. The mic and speaker system they have installed to facilitate communication between the interviewer and interviewee is of not very good quality. In a standalone isolated place the system would have worked well but with 100s people standing and seating (and talking) just 5 meter behind you makes the sound of the interviewer less audible. I simply call this #FAIL in twitter slang.
Once your token number flashes in a window you go to that window and submit your passport and supporting document. The interviewer will ask you a range of questions (for L1B visa) like how long you have been with your organization, what is the team size, who is your client, what does your client do, what is your role in the current project and the most important question are what is the special skill that you have and what you will be doing in your client location.
I have been told that I should prepare answers for those above questions and specially the last two questions. Let me explain why these two questions are important.

Question: What special skills do you have?
Why is this question asked: L1B visa is a special kind of visa given to specialized skill professionals. The skills those are not available easily in the US market. So if you are applying for L1B visa you should have special skills that no one in your organization has and the skill that is rarely available in US (at least US consulate think so).
How do companies ask you to prepare for this question: They will ask you to mention the tools and utilities such as “company proprietary tools”, non-existent technologies and virtual roles that you perform.

Question: What will be your roles in client location?
Why is this question asked: They want to see if you are going to do something that cannot be done by the client employees or any US citizen there. If you are going to do very generic roles such as requirement gathering, onsite offshore coordination work then they will not be convinced.
How do companies ask you to prepare for this question: You should mention something that is unique (or at least sounds unique) while answering for this question. Tell them that you are the only person who knows about that tool and nobody in the earth have that skill. So your role is unique.
If you can manage to bluff these two questions you are likely to be granted an L1B visa. If not, they will ask you to apply again for individual category visas. If you are rejected they will keep the visa application fee.

Few observations that I made during my interview process - 
  1. The glass partition at the visa window is bad. The interviewer’s voice is not properly audible to the candidate. They can arrange a head phone with mic instead of cheap speaker system.
  2. There is not enough sitting space for candidates. People standing and haphazardly standing behind the candidates make the interviewer’s voice less audible.
  3. The interviewer is not technically qualified to judge every candidate’s “special skills”. Even if candidate bluffs about a tool called “ASFT” they will not able to able to catch that. (Purely my opinion and the ASFT mean Ajoy Singha Fake Tool).
  4. Visa rejection rate is higher than 90% for L1B these days. Two years back it was not so. I do not remember to have met anyone whose L1B was rejected from my organization during 2006 to 2009. But today I am eager to meet someone whose visa was granted.
  5. High visa fee. US consulate is making big money by rejecting enough number of visas. This helps them fight against Osama and Saddam. Do you want to pay that huge amount for getting rejected?
  6. Why do we require unique skills and tools to convince you? There are enough software projects where a common tool can be used to do unique work. Every software requirement is unique and those can be achieved by common tools. It is the human brain that helps it created. So tool cannot be unique always.
  7. It is almost impossible to convince you about my project and special skill in a 3 minute interview (unless I am Rajanikanth or Digvijay Singh). You cannot judge me whether I have special skill or I am a plain chap with those two questions.
  8. If every Indian applying visa could have been replaced by an American, you would not have allowed outsourcing. We are cheap, disciplined, committed and highly skilled than the billing rate that our organization charges you. That’s why you do or allow outsourcing.
  9. So you think Indian L1B applicants have suddenly become less specialized in their skills in last two years compared to 2006-2009? I can cite numerous people who cannot write a good email in English, who have been granted the same L1B visa during those 3 years. And now you are rejecting every possible application. Can you publish a data how many L1Bs were rejected in last one year/month/day?
  10. You may tell me most of the software work can be done from offshore as we have high speed internet, applications to collaborate real time, video and voice chat, remote infrastructure access etc. Plus we are committed enough to wait for your morning (our mid night) status meeting call. So even without physically being present in the US land we can achieve almost anything in a software project. I have just one question – why was Obama required to be in India when he could have just done a video conferencing with the people he wanted to talk and video recorded the placed he wanted to visit?
I am not writing this post because my visa was rejected. I have many collaborative works to do in India and I am part of many initiatives in Indian software testing domain. Many testers were happy that I am not leaving India. If I had left India, many of my work like my weekend classes, Testing Circus magazine, Testers Monthly Meet (in India) would have hampered. My visa rejection was blessings in disguise. But I feel the whole process of visa application and selection mechanism is wrong. US authorities are doing atrocities that they do everywhere. Let me tell you - Indians are not dogs. We are not beggars. Think about a situation where all Indians working in the US returns back to India and India stops outsourcing business. Will US be able to survive? We are major consumers of US based products ranging from Microsoft Windows 7, Hardware processors, to Cola Cola and Pepsi. If you do not respect Indians, time will come where Indians will produce their own products and US based companies will have hard time saving their ass. Learn lessons from China. So treat us techies as human beings.


End Note - my Indian readers, please feel patriotic and my US friends, please throw tomatoes, chappals and eggs on me in the form of comments. 


Update - US Embassy issued a 3 year H1 Visa to my and my family members. - June/2012
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12 Responses
  1. Rejections of Visa's at such a large scale shows that they are actually interested in Visa fee only.This is a easy process to collect fund without any failure. Thanks Ajoy for sharing your experience and thought.
    What they are looking for......??? Is there any regulatory authority who can take care of these partiality?


  2. Hai,
    In Regection of visa is not a good thing for U.S.
    Giving statements regarding U.S Companies is an easy task but implementing is too hard. If u r really very good enough just show them what you are by introduce a new software/models/a new technology where ever you feel comfortable let them come to you for the new innovation u had made then reject going for U.S giving a huge public statements in international media about U.S, its polocies, etc.. what ever you feel too. this will blame U.S in international market.
    so,
    keep working hard
    from ,
    varun.


  3. An excellent overview of the VISA process. Hmmm just one catch here after reading this post - Pre 2009 & Post 2009 US - And we all know there was only one major political change in US which has lead to a major shift in policy. But I personally like that change & admire the "personality" behind the change :)


  4. Rajat Says:

    nicely written. US are confused people and threatened by us already ;)


  5. Jacho Says:

    Good observation of VISA process .. well.. just one comment, u should have realize before applying for VISA that you are probably better off being in India. Writing patriotic comments after rejections makes me think that "Grapes are sorrow" !! But that is also pretty Indian way !


  6. Its difficult to understand why US feels so insecure when they face competition. Instead of trying to stop skilled workforce from entering US, they should concentrate on improvising their own skills and adjusting their perception of hard work. US is doing more harm than good to themselves by such actions. Its a proven fact, US is not known to play fair and square. US has always been on borrowed money, skills and talent..I hope they do change their outlook for good..Indians rule the IT Sector, for us it will always remain a win win situation... :)


  7. ASH Says:

    I totally agree..100% with all the points mentioned in the observations you made about denying the L1B post 2009.I recently got a rejection on L1B with the answer as "No Specialized skillset" i wonder how can they judge a person in 2mins without even having a technical background.


  8. Bodom Says:

    Ajoy,
    Thanks for the post. I've got the same feeling as I'm applying for the L1B. My story is a bit different, I was in the US 2 months ago with B1, then come back home and now waiting for L1B approval but I would be grateful if they reject my visa. The primary reason is I hate that country, they think we are all beggars...
    I'm so happy that the rejection rate is high, hope I'll get a big NO soon ... Man, this is the first time in life I really desire a rejection, lol
    In my country, there're mils of people beg for staying there but sorry, not for me !!! I'm from Vietnam :)


  9. Santosh Says:

    Nice overview !!


  10. Unknown Says:

    Hi,
    I believe you are frustrated because you feel you are genuine L1 applicant. However, how many L1 applicants are genuine? The rejection rates are higher now because it is being scrutinized to make sure this is a special case. Otherwise, they should apply H1b which is less intrusive.
    Regards


  11. An Indian Says:

    i have just one question.. if a person is applying for an L1B visa, as per the requirements of the company he/she is working with, it means the company recognizes/requires the 'special' skills, right? then why is some other authority in charge of determining the skills of an employee of a firm? thoughts.. ?


  12. Tamizhan Says:

    Hi,

    Your observations are very true. Thousand likes to the last question to Obama.... But there is no use of questioning Obama. Because our companies should have taken some steps against US Visa process. Though every company knows about 90% visa rejection, why are they still processing the visa? If the company stops, then automatically they will think. When we have mistakes on our side, what is the use of complaining them?