Everyone has heard of the H1-B visa for those who wish to work in the United States, but there is another “shadow” visa that has until now not received much attention, and that is the H- 4 visa.
The H-4 visa, derisively called the “Golden Cage” visa by its holders, is a family visa chiefly used for spouses of H1-B visa holders. The historical problem with the visa has been that it carries almost no benefits to the holder. It only allows for a temporary visit with one’s spouse. The biggest complaint is that H-4 holders may not work in the United States, but all that is about to change.
According to unpublicized provisions in the executive action of President Barak Obama, H-4 visa holders will, starting this year, be permitted to seek employment. This is great news for spouses, about 80% of whom are married to skilled tech workers and are often skilled themselves.
There are a few restrictions however. The H-4 seekers spouse has to be seeking green card status or who have extensions that stretch past the usual six year H-1B.
Life can be difficult for H-4 visas and many complain of feelings of isolation and increased dependency as they become exclusively reliant on their spouses for all for all of their needs. Often spouses do not speak English and are not acculturated to western ways, and won’t ever have a real opportunity to learn these things. Domestic violence can become a problem according to activists.
It goes without saying that many women are breathing a sigh of relief over the measure. “It makes you feel like a real human being,” said one thankful hopeful.