Wednesday, September 18, 2013

H4 visa, a curse - by Rashi Bhatnagar

H4 visa, a curse - by Rashi Bhatnagar Writer hails from India.

She has been residing in the US legally for the last four years on H4 visa. She has a support group on Facebook ‘H4 visa, a curse’ which has members from all over the US and who come from countries all around the globe.

Come October every year, many companies open their gates for newly hired H1B workers, but no attention is given to their families in the US especially the spouses. Majority of them are women folk who follow their highly skilled husbands – doctors, engineers, researchers, scientists. Most of these women are young, well educated, English speaking, full of innovative ideas, ambitious but they are denied right to work, SSN and a long wait (10 – 20 years due to the current retrogression on the visa dates). They can be an asset to the US economy by establishing their own businesses, creating jobs, reducing out sourcing and filling up the demand of high skilled workers. It will give all of us a high purchasing power as well.

US is considered as a land of innovation and opportunities. In order to curb the shortage of high skilled workers in the US, H1B visas are granted to the citizens of other countries for the same. Though H4 visa holders can convert their dependent visas to H1B visas but it has become impossible these days. Five years back, Nikki T, a member of ‘H4 visa, a curse’ group on Facebook, used to work in India with a reputed US based company as a software professional. She got married to a person who was already working in US on H1B Visa. She arrived in US on a dependent visa. Her previous employer in India (US based) was based out of the same city in US where she arrived. She was excited to know that she falls under highly skilled force. In spite of getting lot of job offers from other companies, trying out for a job in the same company, she was disappointed to know that nobody is ready to sponsor a work visa for her. She didn’t lose hope. In spite of having Engineering and a Master’s degree in Management and ample work experience, she enrolled in a reputed state university for a Master’s program. After two years with a successful on job training she could not find an employer who could sponsor her H1B visa. It has only added an unnecessary debt, frustration and disappointment. Her co- workers back home are still working and growing with the same company.

H4 visa dependent kids who are brought as babies legally to the US are forced to go back to their origin countries after attaining 21 years of age because due to the long wait Green Card wait. At the same time passing of the DACA rule has given work permits to the eligible kids of illegal workers in the US.

This problem is not limited to women and kids. Many legal, dependent males are also getting affected by this as well.

Nikki’s husband supports her financially well, but not many of the H4 spouses get lucky with supportive spouses like Nikki. Due to financial dependence, no identity, little awareness, and no support, these women become victims of severe domestic violence and abuse. There is no specific information about H4 visa protection laws, conditions, and work permit problems on any official US immigration websites. Sometimes it becomes very easy for the masses to comment “You know about this visa before coming to the US”.

A person on L1 Visa comes to US and performs similar job duties as an H1B worker performs. But the dependents of L1 Visa holders are immediately eligible for a work permit (EAD), but not the dependents of H1B workers. This difference of treatment does not find any justification in any of the available rules and documents.

Though nobody can give back our lost time, aspirations and dreams, we hope that Immigration Reform will amend the age old laws so that the new aspirants will not suffer like many H4 visa dependents.

(Group member name has been changed due to privacy concern)

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