Sunday, April 27, 2014

H-4 Visa a curse: for the women in U.S.

Guest blogger: Ankit Prakash, LLM student, University of San Francisco School of Law

In today’s world every women has ambition of reaching heights in their professional life. Here is a story which tells you how thousands of women are deprived of what they want to do with their life. I got the chance to meet one of those unfortunate women, as she was a senior from my law school in India who recently relocated to San Francisco after marriage. I am writing about her and how her ambition of growing her professional career was curtailed because of U.S. immigration policy. Her problem is that she is the dependent of H-1B visa holder; as such she was issued an H-4 visa at entry.

She started law school in 2006 in India. Her ambitions were high to become a top legal practitioner in the world. She always aimed high and stood among the top five students in her batch. She was very active with her extra-curricular activities and participated in various national and international moot court competitions. She was convener of the moot court committee and an active member of the placement committee in the law school in India.

She graduated in 2011 with flying colors which resulted in several job opportunities from different companies. She always has been interested in international law and insurance law. She chose to work with the legal team of the leading insurance company in India. She worked hard for a year and during work she applied for her higher studies. Her hard work and dedication gave her a chance to study for a master’s of law in international law in a prestigious university in United Kingdom on a full merit based scholarship.

During her stay in London she met her boyfriend and after graduation from university in London last year,  they married. He got an opportunity to work with a well-known IT Company in Silicon Valley. After, marriage she came to live here in San Francisco on a dependent visa (H-4) because of her husband’s H-1B visa. Even after holding a master’s degree and ambition for better future by herself are in the hands of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, which allow U.S. employer to employ a temporary worker from foreign nation for work in a specialized field. Generally spouses of H-1B visa holders get a dependent visa (H-4). They can go to school and get a degree so that they can work or convert their visa to H-1B. But, H-4s are not allowed to get any kind of student loan so their spouses have to take expensive personal loans to fund the spouse’s education. An H-4 visa holder would be unable to use any scholarship money awarded. They are not even allowed to work while studying, as some F-1 visa holders might. They are allowed on the job training but they are not allowed to work.

The problem is that the majority of H-4 visa holders are women and nobody has ever heard their voices. That is a shame, because talented individuals like my friend could actually help boost the U.S. economy if she were allowed to work. Many H-4s are highly skilled and experienced. They cannot live up to their potential. Policy makers should not forget that Silicon Valley has been bolstered by the sweat and blood of H-1B workers; but H-4 dependents have sacrificed dreams and aspirations. This ineligibility to work should be reconsidered, especially because of the disparate impact on women. Reform could help better their futures as well as the future of the United States.


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