Life of a H4

In recent years, more number of Indian women complete at least a bachelor degree, before their marriage. It is a major improvement for women in our country compared to our previous generation mothers who were denied to even enter the school. Daughters of those mothers become educated and ambitious women pursue a career and trying to make herself independent in all possible ways. She is trying to work very hard to improve herself and our society and she always dreams about reaching top of the ladder by taking one step at a time.
But Indian parents on the other hand are more concerned about their daughters’ marriage since the moment she was born. They think biological clock is ticking for a woman in her 20s who is aspiring her career path, after all we come from the land of child marriages. The transition from child marriage to graduate and aspiring career for women does not happen over the night. Thanks to our leaders and social activists who fought vigorously for betterment of each and every women and thereby achieve a modern society. Our great social reformer Periyar aka EV Ramasamy says “Take away the ladle from hands of women and give her books” so she can become the liberated woman in the society. The way they campaigned to educate and liberate women, I would say definitely we are marching toward succeeding in terms of education and career of a woman. I won’t think I am unrealistic if I say most career aspiring women end up marrying a guy in late 20’s or early 30’s who work in information technology (IT).
Men who work in IT industry in India would like to get onsite opportunity specifically to United States of America. When his name is picked up in H1B lottery, can’t imagine the excitement of going to USA and living the American dream. It is a moment of joy and celebration to pack up.
Everyone has high hopes and excitement for the Land Of Opportunities. As tradition of Indian marriage system, wives are left with no choice but to accompany her husband in H4 visa.
What is H4 visa?
An H-4 visa is a visa issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of H-1B visa holders. H4 is a non immigrant visa like H1B, allows H4 to enter the country and stay here as long as H1B of spouses are valid, use country’s resources, obtain a driver’s license, but does NOT allow you to work and open bank accounts.
After a very long travel of more than 24 hours, we reach American soil with high hopes and dreams. yay I’m in US. Immediately update current location in social media, to friends, family, relatives and everyone with some pride and as a symbol of success. The new home, newly married couple with lot of privacy, bunch of most beautiful places to visit, not to mention about first snow everything makes us joyful and happy. Then slowly reality hits.
The first thing we will notice after coming to US is lack of public transportation. It is mandatory to have car even for short commute.Women who were totally independent back in our homeland would find it difficult to fit in here. When we start complaining about it, we would be asked to get a driving license, of course bunch of advises and lengthy gyans, do this, do that… blah blah blah. Since the woman is in H4, she is not eligible to get Social Security Number(SSN) which is one of the mandatory document to get the driving licence(DL). It makes difficult to get the DL but still with some more time and with additional documents H4 spouses can finally get the DL . Is she ready to commute independent? No, not yet . Of course, she needs a car to move around. The car that is already available is his car and he needs it to go to work. So the only option she has is to get a car for herself. But buying a car does not come cheaper. The car, it’s insurance and other related stuff comes with a heavy price tag. Now family has to think about the budget that they can afford for a “HOME MAKER”. Not to specify, by this time she may become almost familiar on how to stay at home all the time.
The second thing, H4 comes with a strict condition of No Work Permit,which means women on H4 cannot work. Luckily since 2015-16, Obama administration through an executive order allowed spouses of H1B to work with H4 EAD if H1B beneficiaries mostly Indian husbands are applying for immigrant visa through green card process aka permanent residence. Most companies which sponsors H1B would apply for GC only closer to complete of 6 years of H1B. So almost every woman could never think about H4 EAD for at least 6 to 8 years after reaching to US.
This H4 EAD is also not really a life saver for H4 indian women as it comes with it’s own pros and cons. But at least it is a relief. But now Trump administration is trying to revoke H4 EAD. So there goes any dream of career or ambition just like that through the window. No matter what her qualification is or her experience is, the reality is, she cannot work. All her brilliance,talent and skill set just rests at home with her. There are nearly 100,000 skilled Indian women in H4 in US whose skill sets and talents are almost wasted, without a career and no financial independence.
By this time the couple would have started building their own family. With their cute little babies and small kids, here comes additional responsibilities and yes officially she becomes a homemaker which means her responsibilities never ends.
So an educated ambitious woman is forced to become a homemaker and stay home mommy because of the fact that she holds an H4 visa and the chances are so slim for H4 woman gaining her independence back.
So after becoming homemakers what do most Indian women do in their leisure time? Most women start watching the never ending soap operas and they involve themselves in a more spiritual way like conducting poojas, bhajans,visiting temple often because she does not know where else to go or what else to do. Very few women pick up hobbies like knitting, gardening or something to keep them engaged. Yes I can hear you – “why can’t they go for higher studies? Education is always a good option”. Nope, education is very expensive in US. The graduate, post graduate degrees come with a hefty price tag and for foreign nationals tuition fees are very expensive. Almost double even after cracking some tedious entrance exams like GRE/TOEFL/GMAT.
And here comes the million dollar question, why Indian families especially women have to put up with all these nuances when they can have a good shot in their Homeland? The answer from an Indian woman is FAMILY. Of course, kids get better education and healthcare than in home country which means most talented Indian women are sacrificing their identity for better lives of children and family.