For four years, Sameer and Pragya Goyal lived the Indian American Dream.
Newly immigrated from India to the U.S., the Goyals both worked for Amazon, notching six-figure salaries in their 20s. They lived in an apartment in downtown Seattle with floor-to-ceiling windows that afforded a precious glimpse of an inlet that flowed out to the Pacific Ocean. On weekends, they went on hikes or gathered with friends on the rooftop deck of their high-rise, playing board games as they ate and drank on the ample terrace that was outfitted with large television screens and fireplaces that came alive at the touch of a button.
This spring, though, Sameer, a software engineer, and Pragya, who worked for Amazon’s Alexa team, bade farewell to their American idyll and journeyed back to India, making a reverse migration that is increasingly common among Indians of their generation. Many who repatriate are lured by a vibrant startup scene in India that is drawing unprecedented capital from venture and private equity firms and is buoyed by an effervescent market for stocks. But they are also disenchanted with what they perceive as America’s bleak and hopeless immigration landscape, where the wait times for green cards are tortuously long, and the limits on launching startups for newcomers are highly restrictive.
The exits by people like the Goyals are signs of a broad societal shift, one hastened by the pandemic—a Great Immigrant Resignation that is making it ever harder for tech companies to recruit and retain foreign-born talent. “This is the main threat to America now,” said Sarah Cone, founder of Social Impact Capital, which provides seed funding to startups and counts among its limited partners Peter Thiel, Marc Andreessen and Rob Hayes. “We certainly don’t make all the smartest people in the world but for a long time the smartest people ended up in America.” Losing technically competent people, she said, “is terrible for American competitiveness.”