Rashi Bhatnagar is from India. She has a group on Facebook called “H4 visa, a curse” which has more than 4,000 members who are on H4 visa from all over the world staying legally in the US. It is an advocacy cum a support group. Through this group Rashi has interacted with many spouses on dependent visa. We interviewed her and she tells us about the immigration frauds and other ill practices related to dependent spouses. Here’s the full interview.
Question: Tell us something about yourself.
Answer: I am from India and have been living in the US for the past four years on dependent visa. Back home, I was a lifestyle journalist with a reputed International publishing group.
Question: What made you start the facebook group and what it is all about?
Answer: I came to the US in 2009 on a dependent visa. Earlier months were not that great. Every time, I was continuously asked (directly/indirectly) about my job status by my friends and dependents especially who got lucky with getting an H1B visa or an easy Green Card processing. During many social gatherings, I saw dependents whine about their visa status. I went online to search about this sad visa situation but didn’t find much information even on the official immigration websites. That gave me an idea to start this group. I thought of bringing all the dependents under a common group and let the law makers know about our problems. The group was started with 20 members and now it has more than 4, 000 members from all over the US. Also, I got very disappointed to see that the dependents like L2 and J2 visa holders, legal dependents of – family base visa holders, refugee visa holders, and diversity visa lottery holders get their work permits very easily. Laws should be equal for all the legal dependents.
Question: Why do you think that telling the law makers about the issues faced by spouses on dependent visa can change the situation?
Answer: After coming to the US, I read a lot about the political structure of this country. How the Senate and the Congress works? How Bills get framed? How the state level leaders work? That gave me an idea to connect with the Senators and the Congress men on every state level. In 2011, we had received a reply from The White House as well on a petition which we had signed regarding H4 visa situation. An Executive order Rule has been framed for us; unfortunately, it is been pending. We have H4 visa work permit related provisions in the Immigration Reform Bill as well.
Law makers and many Americans are well versed with H1B or high skill work visa but don’t have any about their dependents situation. Getting connected with the law makers via email, town hall meetings, personal meetings etc is a great idea. I have approached various media organizations for supporting this cause. They have been very supportive. Also, we have legal residency papers, many of the dependent spouses are very smart, have good English skills, wanted to be entrepreneurs so why a long wait of 10 – 15 years to get a work permit. If undocumented ‘workers’ can be on the streets for demanding the citizenship why not legal, smart spouses who can be an asset to the US economy? We just want a chance to stand in the line not the US citizenship.
Question: Through the interactions that you have done through your group what are the various mal practices that you have come across which the spouses on a dependent visa have to face while they are trying to set their career in US?
Answer: I am not an IT or a high skilled worker, so I was unaware about work visa complexities. I had tried for writing and communication related jobs, even got selected but declined due to my dependent visa status. I receive a lot of messages from the members especially high skilled work related degree holders that during the time of H1B filing job consultants openly ask them to fake their resumes by adding false work experience, education etc. H4 visa holders have been asked to pay for their H1B visa filing fees in cash which is a fraud, only the employer has to pay for the same. Sometimes, they have even asked not to visit their home country while working on a H1B visa because they will be caught during the visa stamping because these shady job consultancies don’t provide proper paper work.
Question: What are the various protection laws that according to you all spouses on dependent visa should be aware of?
Answer: Domestic violence and abuse is another major issue. I receive so many messages from H4 visa holders about the same. Few months back, even a member of my group stayed at my place. She was in bad shape because she was badly abused by her highly skilled Phd holder husband who works with a reputed US based company. Now days, many H1B workers are filing divorce in the US and abandoning their H4 visa spouses (especially women) in the US because many states have no fault divorce law which gets an easy divorce if the couple has not been staying together for six months. They don’t have US passports, no permanent US residency, the marriage has been registered in their native country so why a divorce is filed on a foreign soil? Lot of H4 visa dependents go back and file the case in their native countries. These guys never go back for any case hearing. Dependents don’t have money to hire an attorney in the US. Couples with kids are in a bigger mess. In many cases, the H1B spouse threatens the abused H4 visa spouse to go back to her native country alone or give him a divorce (mutually without alimony) after that she can take the baby. According to the law, an American born kid can be taken by any parent out the states only after the consent other parent.
I want the dependents especially who are facing domestic violence to call 911. That is your best friend. Break your silence because you can only change your situation. U visa is another option but it doesn’t work great for H4 visa dependents. It asks so many proofs to prove the domestic violence, takes so much time, hefty attorney fees etc. In the meantime, a dependent is not allowed to work. Which is a big question mark? I think the US doesn’t have any protection law meant for legal H4 visa dependents staying in the US.
Question: Are there any other problems related to those who are on a dependent visa in US?
Answer: Yes. Not only spouses but kids on H4 visa are suffering a lot, who are leaving the US after attaining 21 years of age because of no Green Card. But, the DACA is giving work permits to the kids of illegal workers. Lot of males are suffering as well. We lose our self-confidence, identity and skill set. Several dependent spouses are suffering from mental and physical health problems.
Question: What do you think about volunteering in US while being on a dependent visa?
Answer: H4s can work voluntarily with any non-profit organization or community related non-profit work. They are not allowed to get paid. One can only volunteer for the jobs which are not attached with the pay roll ( eg – If you are volunteering for their IT department and you find other US born workers doing the same job and getting paid, than it’s a fraud) otherwise that organization is committing a fraud because they are using the free services of a H4 visa holder who is also taking off the same employment opportunity from the US born worker. Immigration authorities can also think that a person is getting paid in cash. I came to know from many members that non-profit organizations have exploited them at par by saying that they will file their H1B but in reality they have made them work for many years, applauded their work but never filed a H1B visa. So, be very careful.
Please note: All the information shared about H4 visa is based upon the interaction shared by various H4 visa holders staying the US. Check with an immigration or family base attorney for more clarity about this situation