Helen Fu fell in the love with the Bay Area tech world when she participated in summer internships at Facebook and Palantir. When Palantir offered her a job after college, Fu, a Canadian student, entered the visa lottery that allows skilled workers to fill jobs in specialty occupations. She did not win the visa, but she was able to take advantage of another visa for professionals from Canada and Mexico. At the same time, many of her colleagues from other countries weren’t so fortunate. “I’ve worked with so many talented interns from Poland, Bulgaria, England, Singapore or India, but they have to return to their own country,” says Fu. “I think it’s unfair. These people are talented, and the company would benefit from having them.”
Fu would like to see immigration reform that creates a more flexible system, one that allows companies to hire the skilled workers they need regardless of where those workers come from. She also hopes that reform will usher in an era of increased tolerance, something she says the United States could use. Fu was 8 years old when her family moved from Shanghai to Toronto. “In Canada, people seem more accepting of people who are different,” says Fu. “I learned about so many cultures while I was growing up, and had friends from different religions, including a big group of Muslim friends. If you know people on a personal level, it’s not hard to empathize with others.”
I think it’s unfair. These people are talented, and the company would benefit from having them.
But welcoming a more diverse workforce starts with accepting more people from foreign countries who can contribute to the economy. When Fu applied to the H-1B lottery for the second time, she won the visa and started working for Pinterest. She’s grateful for the visa for another reason: She recently married a Brazilian national who is also in the United States on the H-1B visa, and they’ve now both started the application process for their green cards. “We both really like our jobs and want to stay in the United States,” she says. “Without these visas, my life would be different. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy this work environment, and I wouldn’t have met my husband.”