Of the approximately 190,000 H-1B visa petitions submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) this year, only about 85,000 will receive a visa, which means less than half of the foreign workers vying to live and work in the U.S. will be selected through the lottery system.
As of Thursday, April 26, only two of Willmeng Construction’s three H-1B visa hopefuls were selected, and receipt notices were received for Ravi Pinnamareddy and Kishan Vekaria. While USCIS is still sending out receipts, it’s probable that Mladen Zec’s H-1B petition was not selected, leaving the project engineer’s future uncertain. If not selected, Zec would need to leave the country or be entered into a new university’s master program that would again allow him to work in the U.S. for another year until next year’s lottery.
Noting a strong desire to stay in the U.S. at Willmeng and the company’s commitment to hiring the best and brightest minds in the industry regardless of where they are from, Zec says, “I like this company, the vision and how it develops and supports its employees.” Despite “still living on the edge,” he adds, “I have a great time. Working with and meeting the rest of the team at Willmeng everyday has been very enjoyable.”
As Zec anxiously awaits the fate of his H-1B selection, he recalls the reassurance and support provided by Willmeng and its leadership. He describes Willmeng and its employees as “a big family,” providing a needed support system and home away from home atmosphere. Whether it’s in the office, jobsite, industry events, charity golf tournament, company retreat or just out in public, Zec says, “We take care of each other regardless of your position or role within the company.”
Recently, he remembered contemplating his options — return home to his family, try to work in Canada, keep fighting for his H-1B or go back to school in the U.S. — when he received a call from Willmeng President James Murphy, which caught Zec by surprise because he’s not normally in daily communication with upper management. Zec explains, “He reassured me that Willmeng was going to stand behind me throughout the process and beyond, which was a big factor in my decision to stay here.”
Naturally, Zec admits to missing his family — mother, brother, niece and nephew — and friends back in Serbia, but his ultimate goal remains to earn a Green Card and stay in the U.S. He says, “One of the crucial factors for why I want to continue fighting to stay here was the full support from James and the team around me.”
Zec may not know the status of his H-1B receipt notice until July, but has already coordinated a backup plan with the support of Willmeng and Murphy. If Zec is not selected this year, he fortunately had the foresight to sign up for a new master’s program through New England College, which will allow him to continue to work through “Curricular practical Training.” On Friday, May 10, he received his official acceptance documents from the college for his enrollment into its Masters of Business Administration program.