Three Indian women on H4 EAD, who are part of the work force, share their stories.
On February 20, the Department of Homeland Security submitted a proposed regulation to eliminate work permits for H4 visa holders — spouses of H-1B visa holders. It was a clear signal that the Trump administration is going ahead with its plan to revoke the Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) of H4 visa holders, which was granted by the Obama administration in 2015.
Fear and uncertainty have gripped more than 90,000 people — nearly all of them women and a vast majority of them Indian nationals — who will lose, what many call, their basic right to work.
Apart from the laws and regulations, the H4 EAD for these individuals has become an emotional tangle. According to lawyers and counselors, many are suffering from huge psychological and emotional stress due to the ups and downs of their visa status.
To bring the human side of the story, the American Bazaar spoke to a number of people, who have H4 EAD and are currently part of the work force, and asked them how the proposed changes would affect their lives, their children’s lives and their future. We are sharing the stories of three such women. Two of them requested us to use only their first names, while did not want to use her real name.
Profession: Executive in energy industry
I came to the United States five years ago, soon after my marriage, as my husband was living and working in the United States. I left a high-profile job in Mumbai, which involved organizing seminars and researching new growth options for my company. I knew I was leaving my job on a dependent visa, which would restrict me from working. But I was young and hopeful, and, well, in hindsight – stupid. As most new wives in a new country, I experienced boredom in my small, cold suburb near Chicago. I thought of doing volunteer work, but soon realized that my visa would not allow me to do that. But, in 2015, things changed for me. We suddenly had power in our hands, when I received my EAD. I was able to get a job within three months of H4 EAD rule. Yes, I had to pay a price — I was hired on a much lower pay scale than my peers but I had waited enough. It’s been a few years since I have been on the H4 EAD and we never saw this reversal coming. We bought a house and even planned to start a family. If this reversal becomes a reality, my biggest worry is about the monthly mortgage for our home on one salary. I am also not sure if I want to start a family amidst this uncertainty. I am already in my 30s and my doctors advise me to start a family now but how do I explain them my visa status. Apart from personal issues, the H4 EAD has also become a subject of shame and ridicule. A lot of my colleagues know that I am on H4 and sometimes their seemingly “friendly,’ jibes like, “We hope you can work for long” cut through. I am more educated and experienced than my peers at work but you know what, I am paid less. If that’s not humiliating enough, every time I wish to talk about getting my salary re-adjusted, I am reminded about my shaky visa status.
Profession: IT Professional
I came to the United States about six years ago, as a dependent spouse on H4. While we were aware that I could not work, I did not feel bitter about it, as I thought once our Green Card comes through, I would be able to resume my professional life. I used my waiting period for the Green Card constructively by enrolling myself at a university for a master’s program. I did my master’s and gained invaluable knowledge. The Green Card wait was taking long but we were still hopeful and just then Obama era rule of H4 EAD came through, I was so glad that finally I would be able to work. I found a job. Even though it didn’t pay me parallel to industry standards, given my sabbatical, I was eager to take it as my husband had used a big chunk of our savings to fund my education. In between I had two pregnancies, and, due to some complications, a lot of our savings went there, too. Today with my job, I am able to slowly add to our family fund and save for a house and our children’s education. Everyone in our position with a dual income has been able to buy a house. But due to my student loans and medical needs, we made ends meet. Today my job is our family’s security blanket as it gives us the savings and helps me repay my student loans. We want to make America home and both of us are hardworking, highly educated individuals. When President Trump talks about getting talent from abroad, we feel we satisfy all the tick marks. Why is it then that every now and then a question is raised on the validity of our work permits? We are not criminals, we are abiding by the laws of this country. I didn’t work when I was not allowed to, even though it meant that often we had to let go of few luxuries like throwing a birthday party for my 3-year-old, who really wanted a Peppa pig party. We knew we couldn’t afford it then, as we were on one income with student loans and medical bills. But today, my job empowers me to buy that little toy for my boys whenever I feel like indulging them, or to take them for a mid-week ice cream break. It may sound like little things, but these are the small joys that make life worth living. If I were to lose my job, I know we would have to make many sacrifices. I have invested in my education in this country not to sit at home but to work and add to the workforce. What can be wrong in that?
Profession: IT software professional at SBA
I came to the United States nearly a decade ago on H4 visa. Before I came here, I had a bachelor’s degree in computer science. While on H4, I earned a master’s degree in computer science from a university in the Washington, DC, area. After my master’s, I had some job offers from employers who were willing to file H-1B visa for me. But, around the same time, the Obama administration granted EADs to some H4 visa holders like me. Since my husband’s Green Card application was being processed and we were expecting the permanent residence status in the near future, I decided not to go through the H-1B route and, instead, applied for H4 EAD. I was among the first batch of H4 EAD recipients. I have been working for a contractor for the Small Business Administration in the Washington, DC, area for the past three and a half years. If my H4 EAD is revoked, my only option is to go on H-1B visa, unless my husband’s Green Card EAD is approved.