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Stuck in visa limbo, some H-1B workers are moving back to India for a better life

Mani Karthik shows of the website from his home office in Kochi, India.
Aaron Schrank/KPCC
Mani Karthik shows off the website from his home office in Kochi, India.

For decades, California has been a land of opportunity for Indian workers seeking technology jobs, but in recent years, restrictive U.S. immigration policies and economic growth back home have caused many Indian expats to move back to India seeking stability and job opportunities. 

Mani Karthik lived in Irvine from 2013 to 2017 on an H-1B visa, a temporary work visa for foreign workers in speciality occupations. Karthik's employers had filed to sponsor his green card. That would have granted him permanent residency, but after a long wait his green card never came.

"It could be 5 years, it could be 10 years," Karthik said. "You don't know how long that wait is going to be. There's a lot of uncertainty there."

Those long green card wait times are among several factors prompting some Indian skilled workers to leave California and move back to India. Also driving the shift: an uptick in H-1B visa denials and delays, anti-immigrant sentiment circulating in the U.S. and improving job prospects in India — especially in the country's booming tech sector.

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