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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily

The H4 Visas' Curse

by Shah Peerally, Esq.

President Obama in his remarks in El Paso last May said, "In recent years, a full 25 percent of high-tech startups in the United States were founded by immigrants, leading to more than 200,000 jobs in America." This was echoed, in the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which stated in its report, "Highly skilled immigrants create jobs, they do not take jobs." More recently, In a State of the Union address, President Obama again observed that "Innovation is what America has always been about. Most new jobs are created in start-ups and small businesses."

Do such statement sound hollow in the face of what is increasingly becoming one of the biggest potential dangers to American economy, the lack of growth in different sectors fueled by in house talent. When president Obama talks about 'contributing to the nation and about partnering in crises, isn't he forgetting about tapping the huge latent talent that the US is practically sitting on?

Yes, we are talking about the H4 visa holders, a frustrated hungry lot of people, who have the talent and the education to prove themselves and add to the economy in whatever way possible, and yet they are barred from doing so. Unknowingly aren't we growing a nation of brooders, men and women who are a highly dissatisfied lot? There's no peace at home for their partner's either and the future of such families not too difficult to comprehend. Sooner or later, the family would seek greener pastures and seek destinations where their services are better utilized and their life on an average much better because they could chose to work as they wanted to.

Let's say there are about 65,000 H1 visas issued, in the country. If 50% of these applicants are married, there are about 32,500 people, who are on H4 visas. To this number add the amount of people who are already in the States on an H4 visas from the previous years. Given that the validity of the H4 visa is linked to that of the term span given to an H1 visa holder, on an average a person is living on H4 Visa for 6 years in the US. As such at any given point some 100,000 people are stuck with an H4 visa and an idle mind.

It may be noted that amongst a chunk of the H4 visa holders, there might be many who would want to turn entrepreneurs and in turn create jobs for many. By denying work permits for H4 visa, is the Government wise in its decision?

Here is a message from Rashi, one of the many, who has signed an online petition for allowing those holding H4 visa's to work:

I am on an H4 visa, an H1B visa dependent. Many of us came to the US because companies in America need the services of our spouses. Unfortunately the H4 visa holders are not allowed to work and it is unbearable situation for many.

These are my views:

1. A person who comes here cannot sit idle.

2. It is only normal that the spouse follows because no culture in the world encourages a married couple to stay apart unless separated or divorced.

3. Majority of these highly skilled workers marry a intelligent spouses with a lot of potential.

H4 visa holders are denied to work or operate their own businesses.

H4 visa holders are denied to work. They are not actually allowed to earn any kind of income through work. Many are very talented and can generate income for themselves, help the US economy with taxes and provide employment to US workers. Why H4 Visa holders have no incentive to go to school?

Many H4s get themselves enrolled into prestigious colleges and even get professional licenses but never get a chance to even apply for a job. So, why would someone put an effort and money in even studying?

Due to financial dependence, lack of motivation, loneliness many H4s are victims of domestic violence.

With open economies, the only way to growth and stalling or even stopping unemployment is to encourage entrepreneurship from different sources. In restricting how people lead their lives and ways of supporting themselves, the Government would not only be stemming an intellectually stimulant and educated population but giving rise to an increasingly discontented workforce, much of whose family might come under the category of the disgruntled lot.

Koshy George, has this to say of the H4 visa fiasco.

I see plenty of young smart people, highly educated, brilliant innovative minds, well versed in the English Language, Very Knowledgeable spouses, here in the US, living & wasting away their talents. Their Crime? An H-4 visa status that currently keeps them from being in Gainful Employment? How terribly sad! On the contrary if they are permitted to work, Companies & Society stand to be enriched by granting them the privilege to work. Granting that permission also adds $$$,$$$,$ at least more to the Exchequer AND many of them bring valuable expertise AND are not going to be much of a deterrent to the Current unemployment challenges either, pragmatically & realistically speaking, I should like to think. BUT who cares…….right! That is sad & that tide needs to change to the betterment of Our Economy.

Even till a few years ago, there were many the H4 visa holders, who saw no problem in marrying someone with an H1B visa. Confident about the fact that because of their work experience in IT companies in India or other South East Asian countries they would eventually acquire a good job in the US, after a minimum period of wait. Some of these people would also apply for H1B visa themselves. But in recent times, the wait has just got longer and longer. This leaves people frustrated and most of these qualified people feel it is a waste of their time and energy and at times frightening to be relying only on one's spouse for their living.

Additionally the new H1B visa rules since 2011 have further complicated the situation, since it impacts those with H4 visa hoping to convert too.

With new H1b rules memorandum and additional requirements that are needed for H1B visa petition, there question on everyone's mind is , "How does one find a good H1B visa sponsor who can could at one time arrange for H1B visa sponsorships. The new rules have practically made them incapable of filing for an H1B visa petition. Once the scope for finding H1B visa sponsors becomes limited, most employees, especially those with good technical expertise would be looking away from the US as a destination for lucrative employment. This in turn would affect the economic growth and gainful employment of the highest level of minds which could have contributed to the nation's growth.


About The Author

Shah Peerally, founder of the Shah Peerally Law Group PC, is an attorney licensed in California. Shah practices immigration law anddebt settlement. Under his guidance, the Peerally Law Group has represented clients from all over the United States constantly dealing with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) and Customs Border Patrol (CBP) under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Over the years, the Shah Peerally name has stood for excellence and dedication in the field of law, rated 10 out of 10 on the award winning legal site Avvo.com. His work has been featured by media houses like San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, US Fiji Times, Mauritius Le Quotidien, and Movers & Shakers amongst many other International names. Mr. Peerally and his work have even been highly spoken of by Congress women Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Lee.

Apart from his numerous pro-bono works as part of legal clinics in churches, temples and mosques, Shah Peerally also produces a weekly radio show on KLOK 1170 AM giving free legal advice to callers on various legal angles in a one-on-one format. Adding a visual and entertaining element to immigration law education, Shah Peerally also produces short films and video blogs explaining and expounding on various current and serious issues in American immigration and family law. The subjects of Shah's films and video are wide ranging, from dealing with marriage interviews to a video called "How Is an Immigration Interview Typically Conducted at the USCIS", now boasting over 21,000 views on Youtube alone.

Shah Peerally is a name that stands for integrity and passion for justice in the world of law.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.


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