Seattle resident Khili Sharma lost her job recently, while awaiting her H-4 work permit extension. She shares her story with the American Bazaar.
Khili Sharma, a software professional who had a promising career spanning six years, had to give up her job with a leading financial firm recently. The reason: Sharma had been waiting for the extension of her H-4 EAD, and it did not come on time.
“I applied for an H-EAD extension in May 2020 and have been waiting since then,” said the Seattle resident, who is feeling distraught at the interruption in her career. “I haven’t even got a biometrics appointment yet.”
She said her employer had been waiting for her to return to work since September 2020. “I wasn’t even able to give them a timeline because USCIS refuses to do things on time,” she said.
READ: A timeline and history of H-4 EAD (January 27, 2021)
Sharma also tried to call up the USCIS and raise an “expedite request.” The agency allows petitioners to request to expedite the adjudication of their cases under certain circumstances. As the American Bazaar reported, a few have reported success in recent weeks after requesting “expedite request.”
However, Sharma had little luck with expedite request either. “I raised expedite request thrice, however they were rejected within 3 hours without even asking for any supporting documentation,” she said. “I also reached out to tier 2 agents who told me that the California Center processing time is 13-17 months so I should wait.”
Her interactions with the agents at the USCIS were less than pleasant. “USCIS agents are so rude over the phone,” she said. “I kept calling USCIS agents and one of them even told me that I should be happy that the H-1B of my spouse was approved! Can you believe it?”
Sharma also left no stone unturned. “I reached out to the congresswoman but their team did nothing,” she said.
There has been an inordinate delay on the part of USCIS in issuing H-4 visa and EAD extensions due to new requirements put in place by the previous Trump administration — such as a biometrics requirement — and processing delays due to Covid-19. Attorneys say that it may be months, even up to a year, for the massive backlog to be cleared, resulting in many H-4 visa holders losing jobs.
Husband stuck in green card backlog
Khili Sharma came to the United States in November 2019 after her marriage. “My husband did his masters in the US and had been living and working in the US,” she said. “I was in a long distance relationship and in November 2019, we decided to marry.”
The tech professional said she had “a solid career back in India” and “wanted to pursue my career in the US, too.”
READ: H-4, L-2 EAD backlogs may take years to clear out (February 28, 2021)
Sharm, who holds a Bachelor of Technology degree in computer science, said she was a meritorious student who got a job placement from the college.
“In India, I worked as a senior software engineer for IBM, and before that as a software engineer for Accenture,” she said.
Even though, she had a great career path in India, she struggled to find a footing in the US job market.. “Usually most of the software jobs in Seattle are very tough to clear,” she said. “Once in the US, I spent 7-8 months in preparing for software development interviews… I studied day and night to get that job.”
Sharma said consequences of the visa extension and EAD delays are more dire than most realize. “Due to this delay by USCIS, I now have a gap in my employment for the first time,” she said. “I have also incurred a huge financial loss. Not to mention the mental trauma. I was depressed and anxious for 2-3 months and it affected my health in terrible ways.”
Sharma’s plight is made worse by the fact that her husband has been stuck in the green card backlog.
“After coming here and seeing the visa delays, I now realize that people must be in worse situation even after been here for ages,” she said.
Asked about her future plans, she said, “I don’t have any plans except to start looking for options to move to a better country where immigrants are treated with dignity and fairness and well, prepare for interviews again.”
Sharma, dejected by her experience navigating through the immigration system, said she is not sure about her family’s future in the Unites States.
“I don’t see the immigration system getting any better here in the US, so starting a family makes me wonder if it is even worth it,” she said. “I have seen many families under stress because the spouse on H-4 EAD lost their job. Even if one partner is on H-1B the green card backlog is so much worse. You can’t even think of settling down in the US given the circumstances. And this is when you did everything legally, paid taxes and worked hard. My husband’s friend recently got their green card even when their processing date was later than his, just because they are not Indian.”
Biometrics requirement lengthens H4 EAD processing time considerably (August 12, 2019)
Houston law firm sues USCIS over delay in H4 extension, H4 EAD (June 10, 2019)
DHS to introduce biometric system to cut visa overstays (May 26, 2017)