Soundarya Balasubramani: Helping ambitious talent break the visa stalemate and achieve the American Dream

Soundarya Balasubramani
Soundarya Balasubramani

When Soundarya Balasubramani moved to the U.S. from India and completed her Masters at Columbia University in 2019, she encountered an impossible task – navigating the challenging immigration landscape of employment-based visas. 

The challenges she faced along the way has shaped her journey from quitting corporate life to taking a leap of faith to become an author and entrepreneur. Now, she helps thousands of students and professionals navigate the complexities of the American immigration system, through her community & book: “Unschackled”.

Soundarya's journey of persistence and grit culminated when she secured her O1 visa in 2023. The O-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals and entrepreneurs with extraordinary abilities in science, business, art, education, athletics, or the motion picture and television industry.

This is Soundarya’s story of resilience, courage, and giving back to her community.

Student Soundarya

Soundarya is helping address a major challenge faced by the Indian professionals and student diaspora in the United States: the outdated and slow-paced immigration system. Immigration process for Indian students from F1 student visa to employment visas can be daunting and time-consuming process. As of April 2024, more than 1 million Indians are stuck in employment based green card backlog, and in most cases the wait time can extend to multiple decades.

An Unexpected Beginning

Soundarya never dreamed of starting a community to help immigrants obtain talent visas. Her journey began with an excruciating 2.5-year ordeal to secure her O-1A visa as a solo founder. When she left India to pursue a Master of Science at Columbia University, she had no idea she would return as a writer. Always an overachiever, Soundarya graduated at the top of her undergraduate class, earning a gold medal for the highest CGPA in her department. Her excellence continued in grad school, where she received an "Outstanding Student Service Award" from Columbia.

As an international student in the U.S., Soundarya faced numerous challenges. "You land in a new country, and within a month, you start networking and meeting people, wearing suits and introducing yourself. It was intimidating for someone like me who was very introverted," she shares. To cope with this, she turned to writing. "Every month at Columbia, I wrote an article capturing the lessons and raw moments of being an international student. I later published these 16 articles as a short, free book on my website," she explains. Titled "Walking Left to Walking Right," the series explored her experiences at university.

After graduating in March 2019, Soundarya had joined Salesforce as an Associate Product Manager but soon realized she wanted to pursue writing full-time. By January 2021, she was exploring different immigration options, eventually applying for the O-1B visa as a writer in education. Though her application was initially denied, Soundarya did not give up. She returned to India in December 2022 to build her company, and by September 2023, she had her O-1A visa approved as a solo founder.

Discovering a Passion for Writing

Soundarya's love for writing began during her undergraduate studies at the National Institute of Technology in Tiruchirappalli. "I wrote an article simplifying Einstein’s theory of relativity, which garnered great feedback. This encouraged me to continue writing," she recalls. 

In her college days, Soundarya's writing resonated with many. After publishing her third article, a fellow Indian student approached her in the library to express how much they enjoyed and related to her work. Today, Soundarya is the author of two published books. Her first book, "Admitted," guides aspiring students through the process of studying abroad, from choosing a university to preparing resumes, attending interviews, and securing scholarships. "Admitted" became a best-seller on Amazon India, read by over 3,000 students.

Admitted Book

The idea for her second book, "Unshackled," emerged as she confronted immigration challenges soon after starting her job at Salesforce. Within a year, she knew she wanted to quit and become an entrepreneur. This led her to explore various immigration pathways, including the O-1 visa, IEP program, and cap-exempt H-1B.

Unschackled Book

From Corporate Life to Author & Entrepreneur

After quitting her job, Soundarya joined a three-person startup to pursue her vision. A LinkedIn post about writing a book on immigration unexpectedly reached over 1.5 million people, drawing hundreds of emails from students facing similar issues. "Unshackled" blends real-life stories of immigrants with tactical advice on navigating the U.S. immigration system. Co-authored with U.S. Immigration Lawyer, Sameer Khedekar, the book was funded through a successful crowdfunding campaign and a grant from Emergent Ventures India.

Writing had always been a side hobby until Soundarya decided to take the risk and quit her job. "There were many moments during the creation of 'Unshackled' when I would pause and think, 'How did life get so good that I get to work on something I care so much about as part of my job?' It was surreal," she says. "Unschackled" was published in July 2023, and the book launch event was attended by Doug Rand, Senior Advisor to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Based on her experiences, Soundarya encourages others to always follow their passion, emphasizing the importance of considering long-term fulfillment over short-term fears.

Building a Community

Now Soundarya has taken her work beyond the book to building a community.

In August 2023, Soundarya launched, a community helping ambitious and talented visa aspirants in the United States. With over 15,000 members signed up for its newsletter, the platform offers resources and support for ambitious immigrants. 

"At, we help you escape the H-1B lottery and empower your career with a talent visa," she explains. Soundarya also founded Curious Maverick, LLC, embodying her curious and imaginative nature. Through these platforms, she continues to guide and inspire immigrants, turning her own challenges into a source of strength and support for others.


Soundarya guides talented and ambitious professionals from the Indian student and professional diaspora in USA through the O1, EB1 and EB2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) visa paths. The O-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals and entrepreneurs with extraordinary abilities in science, business, art, education, athletics, or the motion picture and television industry. The EB1 visa is an immigrant visa classification with three sub-categories: EB1A for individuals with extraordinary abilities, EB1B for outstanding professors and researchers, and EB1C for multinational managers and executives. The National Interest Waiver (NIW) is a subcategory of the EB-2 green card that allows highly qualified foreign nationals to self-petition for a green card without a job offer or labor certification. 

Podcaster Soundarya

Soundarya's journey from a young professional to an author and entrepreneur is a testament to resilience and determination of the Indian diaspora in USA. Her story serves as an inspiration to many, proving that with passion and perseverance, one can navigate even the most daunting challenges and emerge victorious.

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