Work permits for H4 visa holders will end mental anguish for almost 100,000 spouses in the US

Respite likely for tens of thousands of spouses.

SAN FRANCISCO: The Department of Homeland Security recently issued a press release which brought a collective sigh of relief from H4 visa holders around the country.

The announcement featured the proposed ruling to extend employment authorization to spouses of certain H-1B workers, and a proposal to enhance opportunities for certain groups of highly-skilled workers by removing obstacles to their remaining stay in the United States.

For young women like Reena and Subha (full names not being revealed upon request), cooling their heels at home while their medical and engineering degrees gather  dust on the mantle, this call for change brings them  one step closer to realization of their potential.

When her H-1B visa expired, Subha had to convert to a dependent H4 visa, or the alternative option was to move out of the country, as she didn’t have approved labor certification.

“It takes ages for someone of Indian origin to get an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) through GC (Green Card) application. We have been waiting for an EAD (through my husband) for the last three years. Under current circumstances, there’s a slim chance of it happening in the near future,” said Subha in an interview to The American Bazaar.

Subha talks of scores of women who share her predicament. They feel trapped by what they call, the ‘prisoner’s visa’. They form support groups for one another.

“Some of the women are on the brink of depression”, says Subha.

When the new law comes to effect, 97,000 qualified H4 visa spouses could get EAD immediately and as many as 30,000 in subsequent years. This is a milestone for H4 restructuring; the culmination of the tireless efforts of H4 advocates to gather momentum for their cause.

The H4 issue lacks heavyweight lobbyists to make some noise for them in Congress, so the women (the H4 spouses are predominantly women) have taken on the political activism, running from blog to post, creating forums and documentaries, and campaigning for H4 immigration reform.

Presently, an H4 visa holder is not entitled to an EAD or to own or operate a business venture. A student on an H4 visa is not eligible for scholarships, student loans, nor allowed to take up part-time work. The visa imposes legal restrictions on the dependent, whose status is irrevocably tied to the principal H-1B holder.

The current proposal supporting H4 spouses is just a stepping stone for a wider immigration overhaul. Further administrative fixes for the H4 visa holding children are imperative; provisions which afford them work permits and financial aid for college.

In instances of torture and abuse of H4 dependent spouses, many cases go unreported, as there is fear and threat of deportation or consequently, landing the principal H1B visa spouse behind bars, which would anyway mean financial ruination and eventual loss of legal status to continue living in the country.

Following up with women featured in an earlier story on H4 visa holders, Sana, an engineer from Bangalore, has moved back to India.

Thanafez, who earned her Ph.D. in 2012, fervently hopes that this ruling will pass. She started her Green Card application earlier in the year, and is waiting for her labor clearance any day. The implementation of this rule will help her restart her career, though she is apprehensive about getting  back into the work force.

“I do not know how to explain the long gap in my resume. I probably have to start from scratch and update myself with all the recent developments in the field. My fellow Doctoral colleagues from Aberdeen University often express concern to settle in US when they hear of my situation,” said Thanafez.

As the ruling awaits it fate after the decisive 60 day period of public comments, detractors are quick to point out that the H4 predicament is the result of a deliberate choice of the spouses, who opted to come to the U.S on this visa. The psychological fallouts of these women are relegated as ‘unintended consequences’ of attracting the world’s best and brightest.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton has gone on record to state, “look at who these woman are, they are almost all upper-class women who made a family decision…you had every privilege in India, which is denied to almost all, you do not get special treatment here.”

Well, here are some of the so-called privileges these women faced back home in their quest to earn their ‘free ride’ to the US: discrimination against female education; cutthroat competition from more than 50,000 peers at competitive exams; eve-teasing and molestation in public transportation, classrooms, and work places; and finally making the tough choice between a lucrative career and uniting with her family.

These women are caught between the fickle laws of two countries. Contrary to the public notion, it is not privileges they seek, but a level playing field to contribute to their families and the community.

29 Comments

  1. I completely agree. But, this is not just an issue with H4 visa holders… I left a lucrative career in India for marriage and moved to US. I am a “non-IT” professional with over 8 years of work experience and a postgraduate degree(from India), however, it has been more than a year and I am still without a job even though I have a green card.. I Have applied to more than 100 jobs, but I haven’t received a single call for a job interview. .. my work experience is at par or in some cases better than what is required… Although I have worked with MNCs, it has been in India… At one end companies in US say they are an equal opportunity employer..but at the other end, a person like me who has enough credible experience does not get a decent job offer just because my education and work experience is from India… I am most often left with only two options either join a company as a fresher or pursue further education in US (which is mighty expensive and still does not guarantee a job).. I guess only those who experience a similar situation will understand how depressing it is to have moved to a country where recruitment has such preconceived notion and a biased approach…

  2. What about millions of unemployed high skill Americans and their families who lost their jobs because they were replaced by guest workers?

    Pitty party for bored and “almost depressed” H4 visa holders who came the US. They knew coming into the country that they were not legally able to work. If you don’t like it, leave.

  3. I am sorry that you are not able to find a suitable job and re-pay your education loan by yourself. I think its hard to be dependent on your husband even though you are qualified enough to work. I am newly married & will be moving to the US on H4 shortly. I am a career oriented person & i know its going to be very difficult for me to stay at home. I started my career as a campus hire in one of the Big 4’s and the idea of being not able to work and earn for myself scares me. However, I am looking into other alternatives- most of which are mentioned below. I am supporting several NGOs in India through my company. I am looking forward to volunteer and also try converting my H4 to H1 simultaneously. But, what bothers me more is that while L2 folks can work, why not H4 ?

    • Hi, Can you please let me know how are you going to convert your H4 visa to H1? and also what volunteering options you have? I am going to get married and will be moving to US. I am looking for options to get my H1B so your answer will help me find a solution.

      • ollieallears

        You have NO volunteering options – except now and then help sort cans/boxes at a local food bank. But ‘meaningful volunteering’ is forbidden.

        Converting your H-4 to an H-1B is a pipe-dream.
        1. You need ALL of the following:
        – a US job offer.
        – a job for which a bachelors degree is mandatory,
        – you must have at least bachelors level,
        – the co. offering the job must be H-1B worthy,
        – you must have worked at least two years from the last five in a job like that or very similar.
        – co. must prove you are the exact person for the job based on your education/experience.
        – co. must wiling to pay for the H-1B procedure, filing fees, lawyer, etc.
        – the co. must be located in the area where you live.

        In reality 80% of the H-1B visas are issued to males. Women with the proper degrees, who held high tech jobs in country of origin, find that they are NOT hired in the US for similar work.

        The number of H-1B workers is capped on 65,000 (with 20,000 visas extra for workers with US Masters Degrees).
        So many petitions are filed that the visas are given out in one day (April 1st) and often part of the issues are allocated by lottery.

        Most co.’s doe not ‘waste’ H-1B petitions on females.

        • You are comments are offensive to all females. Don’t put these rubbish statistics.

          In reality 80% of the H-1B visas are issued to males. Women with the proper degrees, who held high tech jobs in country of origin, find that they are NOT hired in the US for similar work. — One of the most rubbish statistics.

          Prove that this is the case, from USCIS website. I have seen a lot of female H1B.

          Who said, when you male applies for H1B, they have 1st priority than female. 100% sure, US govt will never do like this.

          I think, you are in own small world.

    • ollieallears

      You cannot volunteer outside of sorting cans of food at your local preferable faith-oriented food bank.
      If you want a future stay in your own country.
      The US does not give any opportunity to the wife of an H-1B visa holder.
      You will be punished severely for your husband’s audacity to ‘steal a US jo’.

      In case you were not told: the H-4 gives you only the right to conjugal visits. Not to build a life in the US. That is not going to change.
      Too many employers profits from this scheme.

      I came to the US 20 years ago on an H-4 visa.
      I have never been allowed/able to work. If you haven’t worked for a number of years, you are damaged material. Nobody will hire you.
      Consequently I now at 65, have no Social Security, no MediCare.

      I look back on 20 wasted years and nothing will change anymore in the few years I have left.
      I have been so lonely these past 20 years you have no idea.
      I lost my self esteeem, my health.
      Basically I am waiting to die and hoping that will happen soon.

      • You came 20 years ago, and yet you dont have a Green card, and your H1B beneficiary doesn’t have a GC / US Citizenship yet.

        You have no social security or no medicare ?
        This is really wired.

        Were you legally working in US for the past 20 years. How come, your salary didn’t go to Social security.

  4. They can always apply H1B application. And if they get approved they can work. H4 Work Permit is not the only way.

    I don’t Support this.

    • ollieallears

      If you have no idea what you are talking about stay out of this discussion !

      One canNOT apply for an H-1B visa by one-self.
      See my posting elsewhere.

      • I know what H1B is, and how it is applied. Dont talk rubbish. I am also on H1B, and I know only companies can apply them.

    • ollieallears

      If you have no idea what you are talking about stay out of this discussion !

      One canNOT apply for an H-1B visa by one-self.
      See my posting elsewhere.

  5. Can anyone explain how this is mental torture? marriages are arranged based on either the boy or girl is eligible for an H1B visa status. Dowry or in-liew of Dowry is also based on that. The spouse to be knows this well in advance. Now, once here, it is mental torture. That’s a funny scenario. You want to keep the cake and eat it too. So, how are we to feel sorry for you? Please enlighten.

    • U must be dumb to even talk of dowry and generalize it gosh its ignorant people like you who are disgrace… What do you know that people like me have an advanced degree from a toptier university in US and got trapped here in US in the deepest recession. I have spent a fortune in getting my advanced education and I should be able to repay my loan. Upon that just imagine your skills just volunteering for 10yrs without being able to earn a living for yourself. Darn where is empowerment and equal rights. You’d never understand but be sensitive to everyone’s situation before talking your ignorant rampant words …. else its good to keep quiet. Im sure you yourself are an immigrant in some generation what this new backlash on talented pool. Come on!!!!You don’t have to feel sorry for if i have to write an extremely detailed explanation I’m sure you are yet to come up with more stupid discussion and you for sure are not the one to be enlightened.

    • ollieallears

      Ridiculous ! I was with my husband for 15 years already when he was offered a job in the US. Should I have divorced him ?!

    • ollieallears

      Ridiculous ! I was with my husband for 15 years already when he was offered a job in the US. Should I have divorced him ?!

  6. Just keep looking for an employer that will sponsor a H1B. If you care about your skills degenerating or your resume, there’s volunteer work.

    • Woww what a discovery, really we never new of that while thanks for your free advice practice before your preach

    • ollieallears

      Volunteering is FORBIDDEN. As is starting your own compoany and working in it. As is working for an employer in country of origin while on US soil.

      I had six years of H-1B, plus an exile in Canada when husbands H-1B’s ran out.
      I waited 8 years for the permission to become a real person again. No joy. When I got my Green Card 9-11 had just happened, the economy went south, etc. Nobody hires a 55-year old who has not worked for the last 10 years. It is over !

      Country of the free home of the brave, country of opportunity, second chances and all that other yada yada ? Not for the H-4 visa holder.
      You see it is a conjugal visit only. You are not supposed to live here. No ties with the US allowed.
      My life turned into something similar to The Twilight Zone.

      I wish the US government had shot dead me when I arrived 20 years ago. That would have been far more humane than taking my life away one day at a time !

  7. Annoymous

    I completely disagree to this … If h4 visa holder is very ambitious and wanted to work and make a career why not apply for h1 and work. they are n number of people who do that. You don’t have to give up your skills to do that. Expired H1 is a different situation. Now with this clause forget about the gap on ur resumes ..that is why consulting companies are here to help people build fake experiences. It would be a back burner for people with real skills because these house wifes would be OK to work for even a 30$ minimum pay in the IT industry as they make 30$ an hr from 0$ an hr which would actually mean the same as outsourcing. !!!!!

    • ollieallears

      You can ONLY apply for a job in your field, you must have worked in a similar job in your country of origin. Also the job must be on the USCIS list of H1B professions: a bachelors degree must be mandatory to do the work.

      Also you must be able to find an employer that is H-1B worthy in size etc.
      And the co. must be located in the same aera as where you husbands job is !

      You are taking complete nonsense.

      • @ollieallears:disqus – you have no idea, what you are talking about. The @disqus_1YyQbjFJfr:disqus said correctly. Have some patience and read their comments. don’t reply offensive to everyone who oppose this rule.

        This rule will create alot of fake resume. All IT Vendors are going to create fake resumes and fake experience.

        I read all your comments to all the people who doesn;t want this rule. Based on your response, i think you also want to create fake resumes.

        If H4 are really talented, they can always apply for H1B. When I say, apply for H1B, don’t at once comment, that they can’t do it there own. When I say, H1B, go through the process for applying for H1B.

        If you are still going to comment about my apply H1B process, then I conclude that don’t know anything, and i have no other choice, than to ignore your comments :-)

    • This is so true! If they really wanted to work. Why is gap in the Resume. The candiadte should have a STEM degree. Candidiates from Medical,Doctorate field only should be entitled for H-4 EAD. Of Course not a software Engineer(IT). Better apply for an H-1B. If you are genuine you will get an H1B; why wait for husband’s EAD. Please save and leave IT.

  8. ollieallears

    I am sorry but how is the proposed rule going to help the majority of H-4 holders ?
    I know from bitter experience that if you have not worked for a few years you are seen as damaged material. No employer will hire you anymore.

    So basically we are cheering for joy for an empty shell.

  9. Piyashi Nag

    All the best to all those h4 visa holders who have been suffering since long years and just waiting to breathe in the open air…I hope our dream would come true soon…..give us one chance and see the difference we make,this opportunity will help us a lot not only financially but socially and emotionally as well….thanks.

    • “All the best to all those h4 visa holders who have been suffering since long years and just waiting to breathe in the open air.” — For all the h4 visa holders, they can always apply H1B and start working once approved. Why they didn’t apply for H1B Work Permit before itself ???

      If they are on H4 Visa for almost 5 years, what makes their experience to current ? How to compare a H4 5 years with H1B Visa with 5 years experience in the fieid / project.

      No Offense to H4 Visa Holders. But, they already has an option to apply H1B petition.

      You have to see from Economical perspective of the Country as a Whole.

      • ollieallears

        80% of the H-1B permits go to males. It is already hard to get an H-1B permit for a male, it is almost impossible to get one if you are a female.

        One canNOT petition for an H-1B by yourself. Only an employer can do that and the emplyer must foot the bill.

        Similar visa holders, E-2, L-2, ARE allowed to work.

        If you have no idea what you are talking about first read up then voice an opinion !

        • Dont bring male and female here or gender category here in this dicussion . Anyone can apply H1B visa through companies, and USCIS doesn’t categorizes as male Vs female.

          Do you have a statistics that shows 80% are male from USCIS? From where you got this weird statistics?

          Stop putting words on others mouth. You comment on male vs female is totally rubbish.

      • ollieallears

        80% of the H-1B permits go to males. It is already hard to get an H-1B permit for a male, it is almost impossible to get one if you are a female.

        One canNOT petition for an H-1B by yourself. Only an employer can do that and the emplyer must foot the bill.

        Similar visa holders, E-2, L-2, ARE allowed to work.

        If you have no idea what you are talking about first read up then voice an opinion !

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