The Backlog

The president says he wants them. Tech companies say they want them. So why are some of the region’s most talented workers waiting a lifetime to gain citizenship.

The cities throughout the Puget Sound region are home to Amazon, Microsoft, and tons of other tech companies—many of which hire a significant number of their employees on H1B visas. These are temporary work permits designed for foreign workers with specific kinds of skills and expertise. In recent years, a vast majority of those workers have come from India. And when they and their employers apply for permanent residency—something that’s legally required after six years on an H1B—that’s when they run into problems. Workers and the companies that hire them are insistent that the system needs to change. Their critics, meanwhile, argue that H1B holders are taking jobs away from Americans and that the current system is more than fair. This week, Seattle Weekly staff writer Melissa Hellmann and H1B visa holder Lokesh Marenayakanapalya discuss the gigantic green card backlog for Indians and the impact it is having on the lives and families of thousands of our area’s tech workers.

Featuring interviews with Melissa Hellmann and Lokesh Marenayakanapalya; performance by Mark Siano.

Music by Leeni Ramadan, Jahzzar, and The Insider

This week’s cover photo is courtesy GC Reforms and was taken in downtown Bellevue during a rally in late February.

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