Spouse with H-4 visa without work permit laments lack of community support and understanding.
Ankita Srivastava had to leave her impending promotion and a high-paying job in an Indian IT giant, when she made the tough decision of coming to the US to stay with her husband.
She knew that she would be on a dependent visa initially and would be unable to pursue her career. But she was also at that stage in her life when she wanted to be with her husband.
â€œMy husband was already working in the US, while I had a great career back home. I was due for a promotion from a system engineer to the position of a consultant,” she says.
“We decided to be on long distance relationship for a while as both of us were doing great professionally. But suddenly, I found myself pregnant and both of us decided it was best that we are together.â€
Ankita knew that she would be without a job for some time but was positive that given her skills and experience she would be able to find work. The couple first tried to secure an EAD or work permit for Ankita, but her husband’s company was not filing any new I-140 immigrant petitions for foreign workers for fear of rejections.
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Undeterred, Ankita tried to secure an H-1B visa for highly skilled for herself. â€œI have an electrical engineering from a premier college in India, I had a long experience, I had a strong skill set besides I would notice job vacancies requiring my kind of expertise,” she said.
“However, the road wasnâ€™t easy. Most employers or consultants I would meet would agree that they need an employee with my background but were cagey about sponsoring visas. I tied to refresh my skills by enrolling in short term courses while continuing my job hunt.â€
However, it was during this phase that Ankita discovered that there was an utter lack of support or compassion from within the community.
â€œDuring social gatherings, I would meet other women, some of whom who came to US soon after marriage and had never pursued a career in India. These women vehemently announced that I would never find a job. When I questioned them why, all they could say was â€“ ‘Trump.’
“The other set of Indians I met here were those who were meaningfully employed. When I approached them for job references or guidance, all I got was false promises. They would in fact discourage me and tell me to stop my search.
“It was almost as if these Indian green card holders were so happy to find their route to citizenship, they almost wanted no other Indian to get successful. And this was the most hurtful part.â€
However, Ankitaâ€™s efforts finally paid off and she did find a prospective employer who filed an H-1B application on her behalf. Luckily she also got picked up in the H1B lottery. But this was followed by an RFE or Request For Evidence.
“I was positive that my credentials are accurate and we will get through this. But now my prospective employer would not respond to my query,” she said. “I sent pleading e-mails, I requested, I even explained to them that I have invested all my time and energy on this job offer, but well, they decided not to file a reply.â€
Ankita says that she learnt that in the current immigration atmosphere, a lot of not-so-big employers do not want to defend their employees for fear of attracting negative reputation.
Now, with her hopes of H-1B dashed, Ankita utilizes her time by taking care of her son. Itâ€™s been five years since she is out of the job market.
“It stings when many Indian IT professionals tell me to stop trying now as I may have lost touch with what I once knew,â€ she said. “I try to help people with whatever skills I have. I have often taken cooking classes for my neighbors for free. I knew if I had a work visa, I could be paid for that too.â€
The family is now maxing out of their H-1B visa limit in a few months. â€œWe are going back to India and we may be looking at Australian permanent residency. America is a wonderful place but it has very restrictive policies for high-skilled workers.
“I wish that the high-skilled community apart from just raising voices for green card backlogs also steps in to help and at least support many like them, who arrived here leaving professional lives behind,” Ankita said.
“During my years in the US, I struggled with depression and isolation. Funnily, when you are not employed people also assume that you would not have intelligent topics to discuss” she said.
“My social life got circuited and my professional friends too drifted apart as we now had less in common. Itâ€™s been a tough journey.”
(As told to Zofeen Maqsood. Ankitaâ€™s last name has been changed on her request.)
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