Chasing dreams and dollars: India and the H-1B visa

Google, Microsoft and other tech giants have built gleaming new campuses here. Some of India’s largest outsourcing companies, which provide skilled Indian tech workers within the country and abroad, have set up shop here as well. All are tapping into India’s growing population of young IT and engineering talent, whose members flock here by the thousands seeking work.

On the outskirts of the city, an ancient temple, surrounded by a buzzing market with food and flower stalls, rises on the banks of the Osman Sagar Lake. It is barely 8 a.m., but for hours already, the temple has been surrounded by a swirling mass of petitioners. Hundreds circle it quickly but silently, praying to the Hindu deity Balaji to grant the wish that has brought them here: to obtain a guest worker visa that will allow them to take their high-tech talents to America.

The Balaji Visa Temple is among a handful of such shrines that have sprung up in recent years, offering Indian workers hope of divine help in obtaining a temporary U.S. specialty-occupation visa, familiarly known as an H-1B. Those who receive them can spend three to six years working in the U.S. — a ticket, they believe, to a better, more financially secure future.