An Indian mother shares her poignant story of how unfair immigration laws are wreaking havoc in peoples’ lives.
Unable to visit ailing parents in India and forced to get her daughter admitted in a university outside of the US, a Michigan based Indian woman on H-4 visa had to make a heartrending choice leaving the family’s American dream shattered.
Here she (name withheld on narrator’s request) exclusively shares with The American Bazaar her troubles with the broken American immigration system and how unfair immigration laws are wreaking havoc in peoples’ lives, in her own words:
“My husband came to the USA back in 2005 on an L-1B visa. As my dad had a major surgery, I chose to stay back in India to financially support my parents.
READ: Tired of green card backlog, Indian doctor returns home for good (October 24, 2021)
Meanwhile, my husband’s employer, in Louisville, extended his visa until 2010. Life gave me a hard choice to choose between my elderly ailing parents and my young children and I chose to join my husband and raise my children in the USA.
Myself, my 5-year-old daughter and my 2-year-old son stepped into this ‘Dreamland of opportunities.’
I was on an L-2 dependent visa from 2006 till 2010, but I chose to stay at home to take care of my young children who were struggling to cope up with the new geographical location, new language and climate.
My kids started their kindergarten and preschool in Louisville and enjoyed their childhood growing up with their friends.
Over the course of time, we learnt from US immigration that the road to the future does not lead our family to any permanent status in the USA, so we went back to India for good in 2010.
However, both our children struggled to cope up with the humid climate and a completely different kind of education system. When my kids asked us, ‘Can we go back to our country and our school?’, We tried to explain to them about the immigration policy and uncertainty in claiming permanent status in the USA.
But they were too young to realize the difference between birth country and the place where they grew up perceiving USA as their country and English as their primary language.
A few years later, life again gave us a choice between staying in India or moving back to the USA as the client offered my husband work back in Kentucky.
As my daughter was depressed and my son was struggling with asthma issues due to the humid climate at Chennai, we chose to come back to the USA.
After coming back in 2012, my kids were almost in their high and middle school, so we both decided that we should place our foot firmly in one place where my children could grow without any academic disruption.
As my husband’s L-1B visa was expiring in 2015, he started applying for H-1B visa each year and finally got selected in 2014 lottery. He got a job as a software lead and our family relocated from Louisville to Michigan in 2015.
After a year, his employer filed petition for Green Card (I-140) which was approved in Oct 2016. I got my H4EAD, and began my career from scratch working as a vault teller in a bank from 2017 and reaching as a product manager at an automotive client in Michigan.
From 2015, my husband is still stuck with the same employer, with no promotion in his career. As my daughter was already in high school, we always feared that any move might disturb children’s education.
The mental stress I went through from 2017 to 2021 was irreparable as there was always a threat of H4-EAD withdrawal.
After much struggle I was able to get a full-time job at an automotive company in 2018, but was laid off in April 2020 due to Covid workforce reduction.
My unemployment had put my house in mortgage forbearance for almost a year. I have stopped medical support for my elderly ailing parents due to my financial situation.
My mother, who is currently undergoing dementia, has forgotten that I exist. During each phone call, I give a fake promise that I will be visiting her next week.
I am unable to travel to India to visit my ailing parents as my H-4 extension is tied up to my children’s H-4 extension, which will be void if I leave the USA during the extension process which started in Dec. 2020 and is still going on till date.
While we had been awaiting our H-4 extensions, in March 2021, we came to know that our H-4 extensions application filed in Jan 2021 was lost by FedEx.
We reapplied again all the extensions concurrently by upgrading my husband’s H1B extension to premium processing by paying extra $2,500 fearing that I might lose my job again if my H4EAD was not renewed on time.
My spouse’s H1B extension was approved and extended from March 2021 till March 2024 and our H-4 extension and my H4 EAD is pending since March 2021. I have forced myself to voluntarily quit my job as our H4 and my H4-EAD expired in June 2021.
My daughter will be aging out this month, as her H4 extension is also pending along with mine. She was unable to apply for upcoming grad school to switch from H-4 to F1 visa which will lead her to self deport to India after Dec 2021.
My younger son, who is currently a senior at high school, was unable to apply for his upcoming college as his H-4 visa is also pending.
Around 11 expedite requests were raised till now and all were denied by USCIS stating the reason that our application is within the processing timeline.
I have tried raising expedite request through senators and through CIS Ombudsman office stating the FedEx lost reason, but all of them replied with the same reason saying that my application is within the processing timeline.
If we were born in any country other than India, the wait time for our green card would not be a decade long. Many who started their career later than my husband, are already citizens here in the USA by acquiring their GC through their country of birth, but our family is still stuck.
After crossing six months of filling date, I raised a service request online in USCIS website to expedite my H4 extension and I got an RFE (Request for Initial Evidence) for my H4, which states that all H4 dependents of same H-1B family, in same non- immigration status should be claiming the same validity date.
The H4 RFE also gave me two options:
— Withdrawing my 20-year-old daughter’s H4 application from my primary application, so that myself and my son would get H4 validity till March 2024 (till spouse H1B valid date)
— Don’t withdraw our daughter’s H4 application, so that all three of us would get our H4 extended only till my daughter’s ages out in Dec 2021.
If I choose the first option, me and my son’s H4 and my H4EAD would get extended till March 2024, but my daughter would go out of status from June 2021 till Dec 2021.
But If I chose the second option, all three of us will be getting same H4 validity till Dec 2021, but my career will be in question as I can’t join any job with only two months left in my H 4 EAD validity.
Again, life gave me a choice between my daughter’s life or my career. With no choice left, I have responded to RFE accepting option two to save my daughter from not going out of status in her visa status from June 2021.
I wasn’t aware of this ‘Aging out’ regulation listed in RFE at all till I received RFE. Now my daughter has only one choice left – leaving the USA, parents and friends and self-deporting to India where there are no immediate relatives other than our old, aged parents who still rely on our paycheck.
My husband, who is a diabetic is struggling to manage his single income to meet the expenses of our family.
In this digital world, USCIS still maintains a paper filing for H4EAD extensions and takes longer to send receipt notices, biometric appointments and H4 visa approvals.
I still could not understand why H4 dependents needs a separate processing time when their primary applicant H1b visa is already approved.
When the economy is getting better after a long hit from Covid, USCIS still sticks to the same reason: Covid backlog, which is unacceptable.
Is there any fault for being a legal dependent in this country for almost two decades and going through mental stress waiting for H4 Visa and H4EAD extension every time, eagerly watching GC visa bulletin every month with the dream of expecting our GC priority date to become current and along with it getting separated from my children when they turn 21 years of age?
I am struggling to come out of depression and have been prescribed anti-depressant medicine by my physician.
All this happened because I am just dependent on my husband’s H1B visa, who is a tech employee, have worked hard and have contributed to the uplift of this country’s economy.
I do not have any further hope on myself or on my career down the road. I don’t see any further progress in getting a green card in the near future also.
After every 3 years- during the H1B, H4 and H4EAD extension, living with fear and uncertainty have crushed my self-confidence. Currently I am waiting for RFE approval and our H4 extension with short validity till Dec. 21, forcing me to reapply to wait endlessly.
Explaining to recruiters about my career gap had already created a dent in my resume as I was unemployed twice in a row from 2020 due to Covid lay off and now due to pending H4 and H4EAD.
My daughter will be leaving our family and exiting the USA when she turns 21 after Xmas holidays and unable to plan for my son’s college admission in the US.
Our H4 dependents’ legs and hands are tied up with spouse H1B extension, US Immigration regulations and EB2 green card backlog.
This is the price I paid for being a L2/H4 dependent in this ‘Dreamland’ where acquiring a stable employment and permanent status in the near future is also in Dreams now.