The Movie “For Here or to Go?” Depicts the Plight of H1-B Visa Workers in the U.S.

Rishi Bhilawadikar screenwrter of the movie, “For Here or to Go” courtesy photo.

Rishi Bhilawadikar created the movie, “For Here or to Go?” to tell the story of H1-B Visa workers in the U.S. living in limbo.

He knows the story firsthand.

For 12 years, Bhilawadikar, a native of India, has been in the U.S. first under a graduate student Visa at Indiana University and later as a technology worker with an H1-B Visa, which primarily goes to highly skilled technology workers in the U.S.

“This is an untold story about immigrants in America,” Bhilawadikar said. “They have a lot to contribute but they are shackled in their ability to do so. “

In the movie, Silicon Valley software engineer Vivek Pandit wants to work for a healthcare startup but his work visa is about to expire. He gets caught up in a paperwork nightmare trying to extend it. The movie shines a light on similar struggles of uncounted immigrants in the U.S., Bhilawadikar said.

In his spare time, Bhilawadikar, who is a senior interaction designer for Gap Inc., completed the film in 2015. The indie-film went through the festival circuit before getting screened in public theaters. It is currently playing at Film Desi Theaters on Research Blvd. in Austin through Wednesday.

The movie has appeared on 35 screens in 12 states, Bhilawadikar said.

“A lot of it is based on my experiences as an immigrant worker,” Bhilawadikar said. “I first came to the Bay Area, and I was being asked to work my master’s thesis on a startup idea. But incubators didn’t have the ability to sponsor Visas.“

The film depicts how challenging it can be to pursue ideas and dreams while being on an immigrant status, he said.

“This is a very significant story that no one has been talking about,” Bhilawadikar said.

He says there is a real “gap of empathy for the immigrant worker.”

And few know how immigration works in the US and it leads to all kinds of discrimination. Bhilawadikar said.

“It locks up human potential,” he said.

The U.S. limits the number of H1-B Visa workers to 85,000 annually and about 100,000 more are reissued or extended.

“China and India received 82 percent of all H-1B visas issued in 2016, according to data from the U.S. Department of State,” according to a story in Recode.

“Their existence is completely dependent on the employer,” Bhilawadikar said. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been here for two years, 12 years or 20 years.”

“My message really is that employers, employees and universities, and organizations need to understand how the laws affect human life,” Bhilawadikar said.

The movie is a call to action to all such organizations that can impact these laws, he said.

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