I came to the United States in 2011 to do Master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of California at Berkeley. There I worked on many projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), projects which are directly related to advancing research and education in the United States. After graduating I was lucky enough to get a visa under the H1-B lottery and started working while contributing to the American economy. My wife also did her Master’s from the University of Texas at Arlington in Biomedical Engineering. But she wasn’t lucky enough to get her H1-B though the lottery. It looked like her advanced qualifications would be wasted. Luckily, the US government passed a regulation to allow H-4 spouses to work. This was a boon for us. Now my wife is working again and feels much more independent. By repealing H-4 EAD there will be many spouses, most of them women, who will have to sit idle whereas they could contribute to the American economy by using their advanced degrees.
The Golden Cage
It was 2 years after our wedding that my husband got an exciting opportunity to work on a dream technology project. This meant a secure future for us. But this also meant that we had to move to the US, and I had to give up my career. I moved here to the US knowing very well that living on H-4 visa in the US meant that I would be living within a golden cage. In spite of having a very understanding husband who was able to provide for a very comfortable life without having a second income, I started to lose my identity and felt like every day went by without a purpose in my life. I volunteered some days of the week and that little social interaction & actually having something to do became the highlights of my week.
My husband encouraged me to pursue higher education. So I started prepping for GRE and TOEFL. After spending almost a year in prepping for tests and college applications, I got admitted to UC Riverside to pursue a MBA in marketing. Though I was happy to start studying, this was very stressful for me as my tuition and stay was going to cost us about 100 K in total. Fortunately during this time, President Obama passed the rule allowing spouses of legal immigrants in queue for green card to pursue jobs.
This changed everything for us. I thanked my stars and cancelled my plans of pursuing school and applied for EAD. It was not easy to find a job as I had been unemployed for a while. After about 3 months I found a job as an allocator in San Francisco. I had a total commute of 4 hours every day. But I was more than happy to do it. I had a purpose in my life. I was learning new things, interacting with people. I earned a living. It felt so satisfying to actually buy a present for my husband with the money I earned. This also meant that we could plan to buy a home and live our own American dream.
We are a very small percentage of the total population. We are struggling to get a job too, it’s not being offered to us on a platter. We also have a huge disadvantage as we have suffered breaks in our careers. And now finally when we have managed to do something, why are they trying to take away this privilege from us? It will be impossible to start all over again when I get my green card.