Someone I know recently wrote this article and I couldn't help adding my voice to the dialogue. It is a great article that echoes some of my thoughts for the past few years. I was on a H4 during some of the worst recession years and I can relate to the feeling of "not having a purpose". Breaking down, questioning my worth, ups and downs of hope and dejection and feeling like I didn't really belong here were part of my daily routine.
A little background about the H4 first. The H4 visa is one of the most restrictive visas present in the US immigration system. It is granted to dependents of the H1-B visa, which is one of the work visas granted in the US to highly skilled tech and non-tech workers. H4 visa holders cannot work. Period. They cannot start companies, gain financially by free-lancing their work or work part-time to keep up their skills. They can volunteer though, which is a small respite. Essentially, you have a set of highly educated, skilled tech/non-tech workers sitting idle because their visa restricts them from legally doing anything in the country. At any given time, there are at least 100,000* (mostly) women/men in this situation. While a percentage of the people on the H4 accept their fate and just go on with life without the hope of ever doing anything meaningful, a larger percentage is really lost and finds itself without purpose. There have been several cases of depression, suicide and general discontent among this group. And it is a growing problem.
When I graduated in December 2010, I had an OPT and was looking for work in the worst recession to ever hit the US. I had to move to a H4 in 3 months because I couldn't find work in that short period of time that was allowed to me on my OPT **. I also had several extenuating circumstances that forced me to travel to India during this period.
During the first few months of my H4, I was optimistic; always looking at the bright side of things, applying to jobs that matched my very qualified profile, answering the question "What do you do for a living?" with a confident, "Oh, I just graduated. I'm looking for full-time work. Do you have any leads?". When year 2 rolled in, things got a little less rosy. While I was still hopeful, I was also a little wary. I lowered my expectations of where I would or would not work and in what roles. "What do you do for a living?" got answered with a "Nothing". My confidence was replaced with a nagging sense of doubt. Why can't I get a job? Maybe I'm not good enough?
By year 3, I had but given up, except I was lucky to finally find a H1 sponsor *phew*. But I'm not happy about how the factor of immigration has played out in my life. It has single handedly ruined my best laid plans and I'm a planner. Ask anyone. I plan everything. And this H4 mess totally threw a wrench into everything I had planned for. More than anything, it's the unpredictability of what will happen during the next H1 application round that totally messed with me.Anyway, my reason for talking a bit about my story is that I feel there is not enough dialogue wrt this issue among the H4 community. And I have always felt that WE, as a group, can take the frustration that comes out of being in this situation and channel it into something more constructive. There has to be a way to support each other, mentor, pass job leads, celebrate each others successes, even if they are very small. There have to be alternative ways to make things better, because immigration reform impacting H4s is not happening anytime soon (sorry to burst your bubble!)
* Not sure if this number is correct, I'll have to research into this a bit more.
** I know there are ways of getting around this problem, but I chose to go about it the lawful way. And I'm sorry to say that it totally backfired on me.