The human face of H4 EAD: How fear, uncertainty taking emotional and financial toll on lives

Image via

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.

Anu, 32
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.

Anita, 36
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.


  1. H4 visa is dependent on H1 visa holder. With H4 EAD, the dependent visa became stronger than the primary visa- how ridiculous!
    With no Labour Certification required for H4 EAD- it is hard to say how many are working where. There is no data to prove if it helps or hurts US citizens- the only data being 90,000 EAD has been issued.
    Instead, uscis should ease the H1 visa and get rid of LCA requirement for H1 only after 140 is approved. Otherwise it leads to indentured servitude- a form of slavery in modern times.

  2. Agree with you Raj. My wife married me just to come to US, she came with me to NY on H4, got a job on EAD in Florida, left me and started dating an American coworker of hers, and few months later sent me divorce papers….how opportunistic.

    Couple of friends of mine also are facing similar plight from these spouses who are marrying just to exploit H4 EAD. Literally it broke down my marriage, and I was this idiot husband who bought into her BS…” Oh honey, but I am going to Florida to earn for both of us and secure our future”…well said..

  3. I am sorry, You people need to understand, that You are not voters of this country, and you are not citizenship and we will not give away American jobs to foreign nationals any more, we are are sick and tired off Indians coming and taking Jobs in Information Technology Field, you people need to go home. If tables were turned and India was in the USA place, And Americans were coming and taking Indian jobs, you will feel the same.

    • Mr Bob,
      Why do you target women on H4 spousal visa if job retention for US workers is your issue? You should target H1b visa. I have no problem in terminating H1b visa completely or for IT work or for wherever you feel US workers are disadvantaged. What I do have a problem is with you going after women, making them vulnerable & exploitable. What kind of sadistic policy is this? Take whoever or no immigrants at all. But those who you take, accept they could be married, with kids & if you let the primary applicant in (on visa that is dual intent) then provide the family security, dignity & respect & if you cant dont admit the primary applicant. No problem with that. Be fair and just people not cowards who go after innocent & vulnerable women.

      • Tanay Mishra

        Whoa, relax. You use strong words to show off, what?? Your English language skills?? Where exactly is Bob making this a women’s issue? Its obvious you’re on a different trip altogether to conclude anything in what he said is ‘sadistic’ or points to vulnerability of women. Obviously you don’t understand the meanings of half the words you write. Sure enough there are plenty of indian men on H4B visas, happily piggybacking on their wives. And you just read about the “marriage dumpsters” the well-mannered and amiable indian women who marry their spouses EXCLUSIVELY for coming to America, just to promptly dump them soon after arrival.

    • Sorry your marriage didn’t work out. Doesn’t mean you should hate the entire H4EAD program. I know a few men who came to US via H4 and got their job using H4EAD.

    • Sorry Bob. We H1B visa holders have passed through the US immigration system to be here. The process of getting a H1B visa is pretty laborious. There is a bizzare lottery system instead of a skilled based system (like in UK and Australia). We get through interviews and keep updating tech skills. We pay taxes, we follow every rule and some of us who apply for green card hope and dream to become legal citizens of United States. You might “feel” irritated by our presence, but we haven’t anything wrong, except to hope for a better future in the land of the freed.

    • Mr. Bob,

      Please go to department of labour website and look at the current H2B visa application numbers.
      Why are you not doing anything about it? We Indians are not eligible for this visa category at all. Trying to target only Indians and certain people is pure discrimination. Title VII prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based upon protected characteristics regarding terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. You guys are clearly violating it.

  4. I think end of H4 EAD is actually good for Indian marriages, as now marriages will solely be based on non-materialistic parameters and not in a dream that the spouse can piggyback on husband/wife to grow one’s career in US. All the spouses who are marrying for the wrong reasons will be now out of picture.

    Also from an American worker standpoint it creates more jobs locally which benefits US and reduces unemployment.

  5. Tanay Mishra

    Honestly, I really don’t care about the so-called plight of these H4B EAD or whatever they’re categorized as – did they ever blink or spare a thought when they replaced someone in the job he or she had held for years??? And when are you going to stop patronizing all the FOBs as if their rights are superior to everyone else’s?? I realize none of the rags published by the Indian lobby here have any editorial value whatsoever, but still if anyone is putting the least bit of thought into putting this out, keep in mind that there’s 330 million Americans that are not only opposed to the whole H1B cottage industry but who are acutely aware of the job-stealing role that indians play whatever country they migrate to. Enough is enough and if you can’t publish a fair and balanced piece that takes into account the woes faced by the other side, then stop publishing altogether – you don’t have much mainstream acceptance anyway.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.