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I currently am on a work visa with an annual of USD$145K. Unfortunately, HR did not file paperwork on time, and my visa will expire in a month.

I am fine going back, since I can apply for another work visa in the future after a year, and I informed my company as such.

They informed me that they would like me to continue working for them, They would be bound by the same requirement that I have to be outside the country for one year before they can apply for a new work visa for me (which they did not commit to).

However, the first offer they put forward, was a 75% pay reduction (USD$35k) to work in India as they have an office there. I said no to the offer since I can do better back home.

They are now reaching out asking if I would consider working from Canada, but this would entail a > 50% pay cut (USD$65k). I am inclined to say no, since I can do better by returning to my home country.

My thought process is that the work that I am doing has not reduced in value just because I am required to move.

I also provided all the details that were required for paperwork to be filed in a timely manner when requested, but HR did not submit the paperwork accordingly to the authorities.

Is it wrong to expect that they continue my current pay scale if they want me to continue to work for them from a different location due to an administrative mistake ?

Updates:

Thanks for all the answers provided so far, but there were some misconceptions about where I was from and the options available to me.

I am originally from Australia, and as such I do believe I am eligible to re-enter the US after my 1 year gap from a H expiry, and come back on an E3 if I so desire

This is partly why I am comfortable returning to Australia. I do not have to worry as much about the H1B lottery with the E3 option.

I originally entered the US on an E3. However, the company switched me over to a H1B since the E3 was not dual intent.

The only reason I want to be in the US is because my sister lives here, and she is the only family I have. She married an American and got her citizenship a few years ago.

Experience wise, I have over 15 years in the industry.

The lawyers originally did propose the L1 option, and the company initially seemed keen on that approach.

However, in all subsequent discussions with HR, it was not explicitly stated as being the approach, nor do they seem to think it can be done as quickly as the lawyers had proposed would be possible.

I have had conversations with the manager, director and the VP. They reached out to have the conversation in all instances about keeping me.

However, when it comes to the final offer being proposed, it almost seems like HR owns and controls that process.

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    @Jim Clay: Actually the time difference can make things easier, depending on how tightly-integrated your part of the project is. For instance, when I worked with people in Europe, they could test code and send me the results at the end of their day. I could work during my day (Pacific time), and have modifications ready for them in their morning. – jamesqf Jun 1 at 3:48
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    It's not uncommon for the same job to have different pay scales depending on location, even within the US. E.g. I could probably make at least half again as much moving a few hundred miles to the SF Bay Area, but my cost of living would double, and my quality of life would take a nosedive. – jamesqf Jun 1 at 3:52
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    Beware that the L1 visa would not have offered prevailing-wage guarantees and would tie you to that employer (unlike H1B or other work-related visas), so they could have done exactly the same lowball salary thing to you even had you gotten it. Anyway they sound seriously unethical. Time to find a new employer. Also beware the the current H1B lottery setup may well not exist by 2021 (or its timelines, or quotas), if Congress actually changes it. It may be changed to prioritize high-paying offers and discourage low ones, which sure sounds like your employer. – smci Jun 1 at 15:09
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    So, wait a minute. You're Australian, but this company wants you to move to India so they can pay you less money??? Several suggestions come to mind, which (sadly) would no doubt violate the Code of Conduct, good taste, common sense, and the Bavarian Beer Purity Law of 1516. So instead of telling you to do something completely unacceptable, such as pouring a can of Foster's down your managers pants, wishing him or her a cheery "G'day!", and buggering off to the land of Oz, I will instead suggest that you handle this in a calm and professional manner, as I'm sure you will. – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Jun 3 at 3:32
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    Can they not prolong your contract? I don't see why would you want to agree. They should also consider a relocation bonus... They want to put the cost of their mistake onto you. What if you had recurring payments independent of your locale? What's the guarantee they will repair their mistake and not leave you out... why would they if you provide same value for 50% of costs. It's important to assess their negotiating position, they screwed up and want to negotiate. IMHO it's important to treat it this way. – luk32 Jun 3 at 11:10

11 Answers 11

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Is it wrong to expect that they continue my current pay scale if they want me to continue to work for them from a different location due to an administrative mistake ?

Nope, and you should tell them such.

If I were you, I would rather leave to work for another company in my home country versus taking such an insulting low ball offer. They may be trying to see how low you will go, and I would not take a dime less than your current salary.

If you can do better elsewhere in your home country, do it!

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    Agreed. I was in the same situation as the OP when I was looking to move within a multi-national to a different country. They really low-balled me, giving me ~50% of my salary in the original country. I looked for another position in the new country, and got a pay increase instead. – Peter K. May 31 at 13:46
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    @JimClay: Not by 75 percent it doesn't. – Robert Harvey Jun 1 at 0:31
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    @JimClay Depending on what he does, it could remove distractions and allow him to be more efficient. Meaning, by your logic, he might need a pay raise... – WernerCD Jun 1 at 0:53
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    @JimClay It's true that when remote and especially in a significantly distant time zone his productivity will doubtless be less. But that situation was not created by him; it was created by the company, so it seems reasonable that the company should bear the burden of it. – Curt J. Sampson Jun 1 at 3:28
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    I agree with this, but I would add one exception: where the company will have a legally higher benefit obligation then I believe, in this case, it would be reasonable to have a reduction in salary. For example, here in Germany, you would have a legal right to unemployment insurance, pension, and health insurance contributions from your employer, and increased holiday rights compared to the US. – Jack Aidley Jun 1 at 9:03
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Talk to your manager, not HR.

I've seen this happen before, including with an employee I managed. Not everyone wins the H1-B lottery and the best the company can do is to have you work remote in another country such as Canada for 12-18 months. After that period, you can be eligible for an L1 visa or similar, then come back to the United States.

The pay cuts I've observed for transferring from USA to Canada are nowhere near the drop you are describing. But I have a theory about this. Those in the HR department sorting this out - the same ones who incorrectly processed your visa application - are just going off a salary spreadsheet for a similarly titled position in Canada or elsewhere. Something like this may have happened:

Oh your title is Network Operations Engineer here... I don't see a posi... oh wait... we have "Network Coordinator" job title in our Canadian subsidiary... it's probably the same thing...

They have no idea what you do or what you're really worth - but your manager does. He needs to advocate for you.

However, salaries of Canadian IT workers are still less than their counterparts in the United States. And the way the company structures salaries and job levels relative to title can be different. These job title and job level differences can also cause issues when you renegotiate your job back a year later.

In any case, here are a few things you can negotiate for:

  • Ask to be promoted now to a salary you would likely be making in 1-2 years. That should make you eligible for equivalent higher pay in Canada or India. It's still a pay cut when you move, but better than the lateral transfer they are offering now. It's a discussion you'll need to have with your manager who is not use to these situations.

  • Full relocation expenses now and when you come back.

  • Periodic travel to visit the home office to sync up face to face with your colleagues.

  • Seniority time, for such things as vacation accrual, carried over between job transitions. I call this out because these international transfers are often treated as resigning from the main company and getting rehired by a subsidiary company in the other country.

I recommend measuring how much advocacy your managers put in for you and how the situation improves after you negotiate wrt to the above. If you feel like the company is invested in you and invested in bringing you back, then it's a positive sign this could work out.

If you enjoy the job, the company, and the prospects of working in the United States, this could be better for the long term. But only you can decide for yourself if that is true.

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    This is such a good answer, and not just in this specific situation. Nobody is going to advocate for you in any situation unless they depend on you. Anytime your worth is being judged, you better make sure people that rely on you get a word in edgewise. – L0j1k Jun 1 at 12:14
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    I love this answer, I love to add to the usual "HR is not your friend", if situation is healthy "Your manager is." And they are usually better equipped to push for you, and frankly that's what they are for. It makes sense, you are of no value to HR, you are to your manager. HR doesn't care if the project is executed well, manager does. – luk32 Jun 3 at 11:14
  • And your manager is the one who will have to bear the costs of training your replacement (in terms of personnel, etc., at least), and whose team will be most impacted by your departure. Aside from literally your livelihood, your manager is going to be the one next in line with the most skin in the game. – Wayne Werner Jun 3 at 14:07
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Unfortunately, HR did not file paperwork on time, and my visa will expire in a month.

Lesson learned here: NEVER let HR handle an immigration issue for you. I've seen departments even in otherwise well run companies that were impressively incompetent. You need to stay in the drivers seat and check and nag at least once a week.

Is it wrong to expect that they continue my current pay scale if they want me to continue to work for them from a different location due to an administrative mistake ?

Doesn't matter if it's wrong or right or whether it was an administrative mistake or not. You need to focus on your options. The India option could make sense if the company agrees to let you do this for a year and then bring you back on an L1 Visa (if that's an option). L1s are a lot easier and less of a lottery then H1B. Once back, you can start going for a green card right away (if that's what you want)

Compensation is tricky. If the company has a local office, they probably want to pay you at the local market rate, otherwise it upsets the salary structure in the local office. If that's acceptable for you or not, is your call. Ideally the local market rate reflects the cost of living differences between the countries, so it should not be too much of a value cut, but I agree that 35k feels low. You need to weigh the pay cut against the potential chance to get back in the US quickly and how important that is to you.

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    NEVER let HR handle an immigration issue for you -- excellent point. – Mister Positive May 31 at 13:54
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    +1 for Lesson learned here: NEVER let HR handle an immigration issue for you. I learnt that about 12 years ago and lost about £12k as a result. – Justin May 31 at 13:55
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    Pretty sure that it's the company that has to file the visa paperwork, not the employee. You as the worker, don't have a lot of say in the matter. – Bill Leeper May 31 at 20:42
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    HR is not your friend. Their job is to keep the company from being sued. – Juha Untinen May 31 at 21:07
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    @Vality while the company has to do the work, you are far better off to have an attorney that is working for you keeping after them to make sure it is done, that it is done in a timely fashion and that it is done correctly. Too many companies have their immigration stuff done by an attorney who specializes in something else but "sure, I can do immigration too". You will need the company to agree to work with your attorney, but if they won't I wouldn't trust that they are serious about it. – Colin Young Jun 1 at 2:59
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I read this first as a $35k pay cut going to India, which would have been unfortunate, but there is lower cost of living. But cutting down to $35k is insulting. And less than half the salary going to Canada is insulting both to you and all Canadians.

I’d first talk to people who care about what you do, and not what you cost, like your manager and his manager. If they want to keep you and are told about these ridiculous offers, they might be able to do something to increase it to something reasonable.

Otherwise, if you can get the same or more in India, leave the company.

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    As a Canadian software developer, $65K USD is pretty much the market rate for a junior-mid level developer in Canada (Toronto). Insulting, yes, but true. – Ertai87 May 31 at 15:50
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    @Ertai87: He's making 145k in the US, not 80k, so it's very unlikely OP is comparable to the average developer you're thinking of. – Ben Voigt Jun 1 at 19:49
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    @Ertai87 he mentions 15 years of experience as well... – Leon Jun 3 at 6:08
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    @AlexMillette: Cost of living only applies to living expenses, not to savings and disposable income. A $10k (USD) raise is one city is worth exactly the same as a $10k (USD) raise in any other city. – Ben Voigt Jun 3 at 14:07
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    At 15 years if you're still in a junior-mid level position you've done something wrong with your life. 15 years should be a senior dev for about half your career. – Wayne Werner Jun 3 at 14:10
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Is it wrong to expect that they continue my current pay scale if they want me to continue to work for them from a different location due to an administrative mistake ?

Well the administrative mistake certainly does screw things up.

I assume they are intending to pay you somewhere near the going rate in the country where you would reside. And I assume that for example, they wouldn't want one worker in India making the equivalent of USD$145K, while everyone else there makes 75% less.

Still, this is completely within your control. You get to decide how much it's worth giving up in your salary to stay with this company while they work toward getting you back into the US (if anything).

If they aren't offering what you think you are worth, and what you could get elsewhere, then just say No and see what their response is.

And if it comes to that, find a new job then quit.

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The first thing you may want to consider is how much you want to live in the USA (and/or work at your current company). One thing to include in your calculation is that, if you return to India or move to Canada, quit your current job, and find a new one locally, you may not be able to transfer back to the USA so easily. You may wind up, for example, going to India, getting a $50K USD/year job, but then that's all you're getting unless you do another job search.

The first thing to do is to decide if that's what you want. If you'd like to go back to the USA after a year, ask your company, if you do what they ask, then will they guarantee that they will get you visa status and return you to your previous level of compensation in a year? Don't be committal about it; don't say "If you say you will do this then I guarantee I will do what you ask as well". Just get the information from them, in a hypothetical way, like "I want to know, can you promise me this?"

Once you have that information, then you can weigh that as well: Is taking a pay cut of 50% to work in Canada for a year, plus the promise of moving back to the USA after a year and getting your old salary back, worth it? Or, conversely, if they don't make you that promise, then you have that as well: "Is it worth taking a 50% pay cut when I am not guaranteed job security etc?" (the latter answer is probably no, the former is up to you).

If they make this promise to you, get it in writing, as a formal contract, that can be enforced in court should they try to reneg on their responsibilities. It sounds like the HR of this company is irresponsible at best and you should get compensation for their recklessness.

As for the main question, this sounds a bit weird. If you're doing the same job but at a different location, you should get the same pay. I would ask to confirm with them if your responsibilities will change, and if they won't, I would push to make some changes. What those changes are are up to you and may depend on the nature of the work you're doing so I won't suggest anything concrete, but I would push for less pay = less responsibility.

  • +1 for "get it in writing". If you (the OP) allow yourself to be set up it another country with lower pay, and perform well and to the satisfaction of your management, the company has no financial incentive to approve creating a new position for you to return to the US. – traktor53 Jun 1 at 3:05
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    IF you are guaranteed the return to current conditions, AND you like the job, the temporary lower income in a place of lower living costs may be tolerable. – WGroleau Jun 1 at 14:08
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I worked as an expat in a large company for half a decade, and we had lot of colleagues abroad in one or more countries where often there were frequent problems with the work VISA (corruption, quotas, delays, periods of political tension/unrest and so on).

When someone who had been promised a certain salary had to return temporarily for some months to their home country due to work visa complications, they continued to pay the full salary as if the employee was abroad to keep the employee happy and with the company (and fulfil the promise). A period of six months was fairly common, I knew a couple of cases were that period went up to (almost) a year.

I would accept no less than the current salary, no matter what the excuses. After all, it was their fault.

  • I am not familiar with US law. Can they be sued for mishandling the OP papers and/or making him potentially losing money after he changing radically his life over a larger salary promise? My former company was not doing those things out of their blessed hearts. – Rui F Ribeiro May 31 at 23:54
  • @RuiFRoberio - Doubtful, the author has some responsibility in the visa not being approved, it’s their signature on their visa. Sadly they should have never allowed it to expire. Which is the reason others are picking up on that fact (round about way of firing somebody). – Donald Jun 1 at 21:47
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I am ignoring all of the discussion about how to deal with an incompetent HR department (which is an intrinsic part of the question, I agree) to focus on one aspect: It is clear that you feel you are entitled to the same pay for the same work, no matter where you live.

I want to address that assumption.

  1. It may cost them more.

    If you are going to be working out of a home office, and they are expected to supply computers, Internet, furniture, IT support, training etc., it will cost them more than giving you a spare desk in an existing office.

    Local payroll tax rates/superannuation/health care requirements may be different. In any case, they may need accountants and lawyers familiar with the local laws.

  2. It may be lesser work.

    It is more difficult to keep an eye on your attendance, whether you are struggling, your attitudes, how you are treating customers, health and other factors.

    Communication is more difficult, and time-zones mean delays in responses and deliverables - generally quality suffers.

  3. You work product isn't the only factor.

    The amount they pay for employees is not only determined by demand - i.e. how much they need your work product. It is a negotiation that is also affected by how much it would cost them to get someone else to do it and how much you need the money. If you live in India or Canada or parts of Australia, your cost of living will be much lower. You don't need as much money to live the same lifestyle or to save the same amount each month.

    If they paid you the same amount in those countries, you would be financially benefiting from the changed arrangements.

I am not saying that a 50% or 75% pay reduction is acceptable. I don't think the above factors add up to anything like that large a reduction.

I am saying: Ignore the other answers and the voice in your head that says 100% of your salary is the only fair price wherever you end up. Be prepared to budge a little, especially taking cost of living into account.

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It is a simple fact that the same work in different locations commands different rates of pay and cost of living has to be factored into any calculation of a jobs value. Only you can decide if a pay rate in a given location is a good deal for you.

Salary

I would suggest that rather than looking at the absolute salary offers in U.S. dollar terms, you look at comparative salaries in those areas, after tax if possible.

If you are in the upper quartile in the U.S. for instance, then it is reasonable to expect to be in the upper quartile in either Canada or India too. If you are on median salary in the U.S. but being offered upper quartile in India and lower quartile in Canada, then that gives you some idea about how you can expect your standard of living to change as a result of that move.

At the very least, look up the median salaries in those locations, for the work that you do. This should help you make an informed decision and may help with negotiating a better deal.

Cost of living

The cost of living can vary enormously depending on where you live. A salary in one location may include healthcare, in another you might be expected to pay for it out of your salary, while in some locations it not be necessary at all. Tax rates, rent/mortgage costs, car insurance/public transport costs, supermarket prices, inflation, the cost of entertainment & socialising, internet access and mobile phone costs. So many things can affect how much it costs to love somewhere.

This all takes some research, and it helps a lot if you can talk to someone who actually lives in the place you're considering.

Consider how frugal you are

How much you spend verses how much you save will have a big effect on on your salary/living costs calculation. If you save very little, and your salary halves, but your cost of living drops by 75%, you would end up with more spare cash at the end of every month.

If you are saving enough of your salary however, a 75% drop in cost of living will not be able to cover the 50% loss in salary.

Intangibles

Beyond salary and the tangible costs of living somewhere there are other intangible costs. I've always lived in towns and small cities, and I'm uncomfortable with the idea of living somewhere where it would be non trivial to get out into the countryside. Being far away from family and friends, falls into this category.

Only you can decide how much these things are worth to you. It might be much cheaper and easier to visit your sister in America if you are living in Canada than if you are living in India or Australia.

Examples from personal experience

Early in my career I decided that I didn't want to work in London, even though the rates there were, and still are, significantly higher. I didn't want the extra pressure of a city job, or to have to decide between paying sky high rents or suffering a gruelling commute. Even though the extra pay would have been nice, it wasn't worth it for me once I took into account the extra expenses or the inconvenience of living in London.

More recently, a company I was working for invited me to move to their HQ in Switzerland when they closed their UK office. They flew my partner and I out there, showed us where I would be working, the beautiful campus, the excellent standard of living, the awesome views of the mountains from the windows of the office I would be in, but when it came down to the money, it was insulting. They were basically offering me my Oxford wage, to live in one of the most expensive countries on earth. I knew the economics simply wouldn't work out - I would be massively poorer.

For years head office had been complaining that all of their software projects were failing and saying that we were highly valued because our software engineering talent. However, when I saw their offer, I understood why. It was in the lowest quartile of software engineer salaries in the area, way below the median salary. All the decent software engineers were working for companies who paid a decent salary. Obviously I declined their offer and found a better paying job in Oxford. The company didn't recruit a single software engineer from the UK office to join them.

Summary

The point I'm trying to make is that salary is not the only thing to take into account.

If you subtract all of your outgoings from your salary, and you are better off, a lower salary might still be worthwhile. Even if you lose out money wise, you may want to try to put a value on quality of life issues such as stress and environment.

Also, you have nothing to lose by attempting to negotiate. If you go in there with details of how much worse off you will be and how their offer compares to other similar roles in the area, you may be able to increase their offer. It didn't help me in my Swiss salary negotiations, since they refused to even consider a higher salary, but at least I had the information to justify my decision to cut and run.

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Is it wrong to expect that they continue my current pay scale if they want me to continue to work for them from a different location due to an administrative mistake ?

I'm going against all the other answers here - and I'm going to reply yes. Consider if the situation were the other way around; Where you were having to migrate to a place that had a higher average pay for the given job. You'd expect a pay rise before even considering moving.

The question really is it wrong to have to take a pay cut after their mistake - and for that you will have to look at your life plans; where you want to be long term; and how much you want to work for them. From what you've described, your main reason for being there was to be in the US. Now that this is out the question for a year, do you trust them to put it in good time next year?

  • This is not going against my answer, it's my central point. *8') – Mark Booth Jun 4 at 10:27
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You are not wrong to expect core competencies, if they have really fumbled the ball. There may be deeper issues. On the face of it they are negligent and if they terminate you, damages should be assessable.

It is wrong/opportunistic for them to ask for a pay cut. It is possibly unlawful as they should not be undercutting the local US rate.

In fact as they are requiring you to travel, you should be paid a per deim allowance and some expenses on top of your normal salary. Hotels until find somewhere to live, and then something towards your rent.

  • So what is really happening here is they are transferring you to their overseas entity.

Don't sign anything without running it past a lawyer specialising in these cases.

If HR is not competent with the H1B, they will not be competent with the E-3. You may want to check that your company is not being sanctioned for this kind of behaviour already. They "may not be able to sponsor" as the expression goes. E-3 is effectively cost free to them so of they cannot do it something is wrong.

Not that it matters in the current climate, but E-3 visas are supposed to preclude any future migration path (beware of claims to the contrary), and you must leave the country on demand (10 days) if you leave your employer. You'll need to travel to Australia to apply, so there are all costs. But an E-3 also has an indefinite rollover count.

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