Friday, November 06, 2009

H4 Visa - Perils of Being a Dependent

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This post is by my friend who is in US for the last three years in H4 visa. Lot of people who are in the H4 visa in US can easily relate to her tale. This post will be useful for those who plan to come to US in a H4 visa as a dependent of their spouse who is in H1B visa. On her request I am concealing the identity of the writer.

It was marriage time for me and as any normal girl I was in a state of complete excitement. I was excited about meeting my future husband who is working was in US, whom I have never seen before (engagement was done in his absence), about the marriage function as a whole, meeting all my relatives, the new dresses and ornaments I could wear for the marriage – the list is endless. My fiancée used to call me daily over phone and we talked for hours. In those talks he used to tell about the visa and all those procedures I really never cared to understand. My thinking was that whatever be the visa or how you apply, my life is going to be the same or much better as I was going to US the so called “land of opportunities”.

The complexity of this H4 visa stuck me first before I went to the US consulate for visa interview immediately after marriage. My husband has brought big folder well organized with all compartments well labeled facilitating easy access to his official records such as W2, pay stubs, bank statement etc. He taught me his job profile, what he does everyday in his office and even conducted a mock interview for me before I attended H4 visa interview in US Consulate. I have never prepared this extensively ever even for University exams. I was breaking my head remembering the company my husband works, his job title, understanding his W2 and things like that which I have no clue at all. Finally US consulate issued me H4 visa after asking few questions and if not for the preparation I may not be possible to answer their questions.

I landed in US after a fortnight of marriage. My mother has given me lot of advice of how to be a good wife and one of the advices was to cook good food for the husband “daily”. For me, having never done any cooking in India, but to please the husband decided to venture into the field of cooking. Called my mother the very first day my husband left for work and asked her the recipe for making rasam. I made the rasam the way mother told me but at the end it was burnt rasam that no one can ever eat. Cooking and talking to India are the only things I could do when my husband was away at work. I started having lots of free time with nothing to do. My experiments with cooking were also failing and we ended up eating out more or I ended up eating the food husband made.

This was when one of my friends introduced me to the world of Google. She told me that there are websites that are exclusively for cooking and I started using those to cook like Again I started using other applications of Google like orkut and Youtube thus killing my time. Thus Google became my most trusted companion and I am sure most of those who are in US in H4 visa will agree to that. I just cannot imagine how all I could have spend a day without watching videos in YouTube or logging into Orkut or Facebook or browsing in general.

Within a week a harsh reality struck me – as long as I am in H4 visa I cannot work at all. Yes, my husband has told that to me before marriage but being a housewife in India and US is different. In US till you learn driving and have a car of your own you cannot go out. There is virtually no neighbor to talk to unlike in India where you consider your neighbor as part of your family. More important since you cannot apply for a job you are wasting all your efforts you put in to get all those degrees. When you are in H4 visa getting a job is almost impossible unless you bloat your resume with experience and are ready to lie to the interviewer.

I had a very good job before marriage and that had made me financially independent. Now the worst thing – has to dependent on husband financially for each and everything. I used to get ecstatic even going to shopping in the beginning. I hesitated to buy certain stuff because I felt that I was troubling my husband by picking some expensive stuff. The thought of financial dependence made be pick up the cheapest thing in the store for me even if my husband was ready to buy me something different.

My husband on the other hand was always busy. He was a “sportsaholic”. He watches almost all the games. He watches NFL, College football, NBA, cricket and plays cricket during the weekends. On top of it he watches most of the TV shows. He enjoys going out for football matches and hanging out with friends during weekend. During those initial days I hated watching those football games in TV.

Life was becoming so one dimensional and boring. Getting up in the morning, cooking something, browsing for sometime, waiting for the husband, occasional shopping and then have dinner and go to bed. After few months I realized that this monotonous life will take me no where and decided to change.

I started following the games my husband used to watch and within no time become a huge fan of NFL. I started going out with my husband to parties and started making lot of friends. I learned driving and now I can go anywhere I want without depending on my husband. I have become an excellent cook, that stuff that used to take me more than two hours to cook initially; I could cook in less than thirty minutes. I joined the dance class here and took part in various cultural events. Except for the financial freedom, I enjoyed everything in my life now in US which was not the case even 1 year back. Email This Post

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OpenID vishal12 said...

Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts. But coming to US on H4 visa doesn't have to be this bad. I don't want to point finger at you since I am unaware of the detailed circumstances/limitations that you might have faced. But I will give example of my wife. She came here on H4 visa about three years ago. The first thing she did was complete exams (GRE, TOEFL) and get admission in college for higher studies (M.S.). She finished her studies and not works in a local architecture firm. While she was preparing for her exams initially, she took some photography lessons in local community college. (Yes, I had to give her a ride initially when she didn't have a driver's license, but being a nice husband that I am, I didn't mind at all!)

After only three years, she now feels completely self-reliant and confident.

Now compare this with my own struggle for coming to a new country as a student. I was completely on my own. Didn't have a car, or a driver's license. I didn't know how to cook at all, but had to learn by trial-and-error since eating-out was not an financially not a viable option. Had to work on small jobs (minimum labor) to pay for rent. Ended up with a huge debt because of tuition fees after two years of studies. Even after finishing M.S. had to struggle for quite a long time because the job market was low when I graduated. It took me more than two years to just get out of financial debt.

So life, for someone like me who came to US on F-1 visa, was not easy as well! I don't want to take this farther and say that the "H-4 struggle" pales in comparison with the "F-1 struggle" -- I don't want to generalize these things that simplistically. But I hope that this would help you to get some perspective.

November 06, 2009 10:43 PM  
Blogger NN said...

what a fairytale blah of a post!
Wake up sis, is this what you call independence?!
Hi5 to Vishal's wife tho :)

November 06, 2009 11:45 PM  
Blogger EYE said...

you don't seem to have many issues with living on an H-4 and becoming a good housewife. I think it is your choice. I was on H-4 for an year and I realised that my husband is addicted to gambling. I almost went mad waiting for him to come back home in the night. Not all H-4s have a good time in the USA. The worst thing about the H-4 is that it stops you from exploring your own identity in a new country. There is so much that you could do in a new country but the H-4 ruins all that.

November 13, 2009 1:23 PM  
Blogger funmi said...

I think you have chosen your life style or your husband has chosen for you. You said you have access to google , well the same google that told you that you can't work would also let you know that you can go to school either on the H4 visa or by converting to an F1 (for access to scholarships and the ability to work on campus. Stop complaining you are living the good life. I came to this country on my own and bult a life here with no man .

January 21, 2010 5:31 PM  
Blogger StreetSmart said...

reminds me of a role from movie "FLAVORS" ....there is so much of pain in being idle and getting bored even worse when others(friends and family in India) think that they are enjoying life in US...

January 25, 2010 7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome! Good topic, but will this really work?

February 01, 2010 3:39 AM  
Anonymous Sonia Saraf said...


We all are aware of the identity crisis that many girls experience after they get married and come to the United States of America on a dependent visa, famously or infamously known as H-4 visa, which not only imposes restrictions on working and having an independent source of income, but might also involve an agonizing wait to earn an authorized work permit that renders the official rights to work in America.The alarming number of stories about depression and loneliness experienced by H-4 wives inspired me to find a medium that'll allow me to share my secret of leading a life full of happiness and sheer bliss while being on a dependent visa. And I thought the best medium to deliver my message would be through a book.

My book "H-4 Fortune Cookies" is dedicated to all the H-4 wives who believe that “life is a struggle” in a new country, especially when it involves leaving behind a well paying job, a stable career, or promising educational achievements in their respective home countries. It is for those who believe that they are not free despite living in a free country - “The Land of Opportunity”; that they have sacrificed and surrendered a significant part of themselves to their restrictive immigration statuses. It contains 50 Inspirational Thoughts written by me, who was fortunate enough to have enjoyed every moment being a H-4 wife!

I want to share my good fortune with all the H-4 wives in the form of these 50 Fortune Cookies that stood by me during tough times. I sincerely hope that the thoughts in my book spark a ray of hope in the lives of all those wives who left their homelands to be in a progressive country, yet feel constrained due to their immigration statuses. I deeply desire to liberate all the H-4 wives from their mental inhibitions and inspire them to realize their dreams while being on a dependent visa. Share the good fortune by passing along these fortune cookies that are stocked with a lot of goodness and hope for all those who need a fresh perspective about "life on H-4".

My book is available in the form of an e-book and can be downloaded from the following link:

Experience the joy in spreading hope & inspiration through the fortune cookies in my book!

Lots of Happiness & Light

June 21, 2010 7:01 PM  
Anonymous Arushi said...


This a very nice post and I really like the comments section as well. I guess everyone has a different take on life on H4 visas.

I found this forum really useful for connecting folks like us :

Please continue the good work on this blog!!


December 29, 2010 5:29 PM  

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