In December 1992, future Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella married his wife, Anu, who still lived in their native India.
And then, things got complicated.
“It was a happy time, but the complications of immigration would soon prove a challenge,” Nadella writes in his new book, “Hit Refresh,” which officially releases on Monday.
At the time, Nadella had just started as a technical evangelist at Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters. He had been in the United States since he entered graduate school in 1988. Importantly, he enjoyed permanent resident status, meaning he had a “coveted” green card.
Following the wedding, Nadella intended to bring Anu over to the US to live with him. The problem was, the immigration authorities rejected Anu’s visa application — there was a long waitlist for the spouses of permanent residents, Nadella writes. She was able to get a short-term tourist visa, but had to return to India before long.
Microsoft’s immigration lawyer suggested an ingenious but extremely risky manuever to circumvent that waitlist. If Nadella gave up his green card, he could reapply for a H1B skilled worker visa. Unlike a green card, an H1B visa is temporary and must be renewed. However, H1B workers could bring over spouses, no waiting required.
“Such is the perverse logic of this immigration law,” writes Nadella.
So in June 1994, a year into this mess, Nadella went to the US embassy in Delhi and asked to give back his green card to a “dumbfounded” clerk. “Miraculously, it all worked,” writes Nadella, and the family was reunited. Nadella would go on to eventually obtain his American citizenship, which he holds today.
However, the story has kind of a funny postscript: Nadella’s unconventional immigration move did not go unnoticed by his colleagues at Microsoft.
“What I didn’t expect was the instant notoriety around campus,” writes Nadella. “‘Hey, there goes the guy who gave up his green card.'”
More recently, Nadella has engaged President Donald Trump on H-1B reform, pushing to tamp down on loopholes in the system and making it easier for companies like Microsoft to bring over qualified talent.