H4 Husbands

March 6, 2009

Asha and Ravi were a happy couple. After an agonizing year and a half of misery living as an H4 wife, Asha had finally got her H1 visa. She had found a job with a high school in New York city who filed for her H1 visa. She was lucky and the visa got approved.

She had already been working for a few months now.

Life was all settled and going on nicely. Their combined income afforded them a very comfortable lifestyle. Life was great. They would save for a while, buy a big house in the suburbs with their own garden. Ravi had his Lexus. Asha would get her second love, a Honda CRV. They would have two kids and a dog. If all went well, Asha and Ravi would achieve their American dream in a few years.

All did not go well. Their dream was to come crashing soon.

Ravi’s trading division at Goldman Sachs had been struggling under the weight of the ongoing financial woes. Goldman decided to cut off the aching arm.

Ravi no longer had a job. Ah…the vagaries of life!

They would keep him on the payroll for three months, and he had that much time to look for a job. After the three month period, he would no longer be employed and Goldman would notify USCIS to revoke his H1 visa.

As it turned out, 14 February was going to be D-day. If he did not have a job by then, he would be out of status. If he stayed in the US beyond that date he would be living illegally, and doing that would hurt his chances of ever again getting a US visa, forget Green card or citizenship.

February was ringing in. Ravi had been looking for over two months, but nothing had worked out. At his level there were hardly any jobs out there. For the few ones the competition was intense. With a hundred people competing for each job, the odds didn’t really stack very well in his favor. Employers were beginning to give preference to American citizens. Some were outright refusing to sponsor H1 visas.

Ravi was out for drinks with some of his ex-colleagues from Lehman. Like elsewhere on Wall street, his group had consisted of a lot of immigrants like himself. Swamy was his closest buddy.

Swamy was done with America. I am going back to India man, i made enough money. He was going to leave next month, and take a few months off traveling across the country. For some weird reason, he didn’t seem worried about what he was going to do once he was done traveling. You have gone crazy..why would you go to India?

Ravi couldn’t follow Swamy’s footsteps. He had too much at stake. He had his unfulfilled American dream. He had left India behind for good. Besides, what would he do in India? Who would pay the kind of salary he wanted?

All hope was not lost yet though. Ravi had one more interview lined up with this hedge fund in Connecticut. If that went through, all problems would be solved. If it didn’t work out, there was nothing he could do. Except for that one last recourse.

The interview was on 5th February. On the 3rd he picked up the Wall Street Journal only to read the headline that made his heart sink. His hedge fund had folded. It was gone - buried under the rubble of a few billion dollars of losses.

He picked up the phone and called Asha. It was time to take the drastic step he had hoped he would never have to consider. He was going to call the lawyer and file an application for transferring his visa to H4, as Asha’s dependent. That was the only way he could stay on in this country, and get some more time to find a job.

Ravi was going to be an H4 husband.

Life had come full circle for this happy couple.

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23 Responses to “ H4 Husbands ”

  1. Dinesh on March 6, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Seriously, What is this American Dream? Earn enough money and live happily ever after? What is enough money? I think American Dream is just that, a Dream. Until People wake up from this dream, they are not going to see the reality. Nice story!

  2. amreekandesi on March 6, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    @Dinesh - Indeed. It is just this elusive dream that many aspire to, and god knows how many achieve it!

    And there is probably no ‘enough money’. Men will always want more than what they have!

  3. Smita on March 6, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Hmmmmm…I don’t want to sound like a feminist but why was taking a dependent visa such a drastic step????

    Anyways your story is so true, we all run behind money but it takes just a fraction of second for everything to fall out :-(

    Nice story….

  4. Kavi on March 6, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    H 4 Husband ! H 4 wife !!

    What a tag ! And like Dinesh, i wonder what is this American Dream all about. And in true native style tell you that it is created by hollywood and the media ! And ofcourse, the politicians included !

    “They lived happily ever after” is for fairy tales ! And life is no fairy tale !

    On another note, this narration was wonderful. And showcases what couples go through. Insearch of the elusive A-Dream ! And the dilemmas that traverse their minds and the mental leaps that they have to take !

    And i wonder aloud at Smita’s comment too. Why must it be a drastic step !?!

    Hmm…life !

  5. Indyeah on March 7, 2009 at 8:28 am

    ah… :D
    I err ask the same question as Smita…
    why was it such a drastic step? :)

    and the american dream..cant really comment ..I am sure people do see something there…to each his/her own..

    but the mad scramble for money and more is so true…it can be gone in a flash :(

  6. dinu on March 7, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    touching ………. yes.. can’t comment ..

  7. gauri on March 7, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Such is the irony of life. I know a lot of people who have achieved (is that the right word?) the ‘American Dream’. What I can’t help wondering, however is, does the nightmare begin where the dream ends? It’s almost like life becomes so mechanical once you’re at a certain point in it - and then you’re searching frantically for something within yourself, struggling to find some meaning somewhere.

    Scares me. I don’t even know yet if I want to get there. I’m happy now, will I be trading something off? Makes me less ambitious, I know, but so be it.

    Very nice piece. Liked the satirical overtone.


  8. Poonam on March 7, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Well, I wont speak like Smita and Indyeah..

    Though I agree its not a drastic step, but most men view it so. I have seen many a man feeling less about themselves in this season when they were laid off. :( Even wives earning more than them at any point of an evolving career can erode the relationship.

  9. Su on March 7, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Oh! so, is an ‘Indian Dream’ not worthy of an ex-H1’s qualification? I wonder…

  10. xylene on March 8, 2009 at 3:00 am

    well harsh realities of life, even it means the wife losing her job or the husband. I guess whoever is the major contributor doesnt matter, as long as both have a job to pay the bills. or atleast one of them.

  11. anonymous on March 8, 2009 at 4:35 am

    All bright guys and gals who are working in companies like Goldman Sachs, the big Four and other reputed financial firms and got laid off, come back to India. Your country awaits you and needs you. We have our problems but they are OUR problems, we have to solve them. Just as smart and hard working immigrants built America by immigrating from Europe so can smart people build India by immigrating to India and bringing their skills back with them and investing their hard work in the country. Come back to India and be the master of your own destiny.

  12. amit on March 8, 2009 at 5:03 am

    It is scary to wait on the edge of something you can’t control. We all are going through this.
    One more sword on my head. :)
    Nice story!

  13. amreekandesi on March 9, 2009 at 12:20 am

    @Smita & @Indyeah -

    Moving to the H4 visa was a drastic step not because it entailed becoming a ‘dependent’ on the wife, but because it marked Ravi’s failure in his own eyes. It marked the finality of his unsuccessful search, for now. Ravi’s pride was hurt.

    @Kavi - These are the harsh truths of life in America. These stories are happening to many people these days, and it is unfortunate.

    The american dream is just an attempt to live a prosperous life in a nice clean peaceful environment. I wouldn’t say that it is an impossible dream - many people live the good life in this country. Its just that this life comes as a cost.

    Thanks for the compliment!

    @Gauri - Thanks. And yes life is always about tradeoffs. You win some, and you lose somewhere else.

    @Poonam - Thats true…happens often!

    @Su - I wonder so too!

    @anonymous - Thats how many people think today…and many people are indeed returning home!

    @Amit - Thanks. These are scary times…its like no job is safe anymore!

  14. Chirag on March 9, 2009 at 4:09 am

    I echo with Dinesh, wtf, is What is this American Dream? specially an Indian running after the dream looks absurd, them may be I am on the wrong side of fence to judge him .

    Anyways, AD, you do provide a an accurate accounts of things happening in USA. I have heard most of these, outsoucing will be really going to slow down.

  15. amreekandesi on March 9, 2009 at 9:59 am

    @Chirag - Thanks for the appreciation! I just try to bring out the various aspects of life in the US.

    Also. the American Dream isn’t just for Indians. Its for people from all over the world who come to this country in the hope of making it big.

  16. Kaul on March 12, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Lucky, Ravi. At least he could fall back on being an H4 husband. What if Asha didn’t have an H1 — which is the case more often than not? Then he would have to follow the Indian dream, but what about the American nightmare he had gotten himself into. While Swamy had “made enough money”, I bet Ravi had sunk all of his into the “house in the suburbs”, which is worth much less than he owes on it. And if he has not already sunk it, then he is even luckier.

  17. some body on March 12, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    h 4 husband! that’s the grade he gets when is not good enough 4 f, or 4 g! ;-)

    - s.b.

  18. amreekandesi on March 13, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    @Kaul - Welcome to Amreekandesi! Good point you raise…if Asha didnt have an H1, it would have been game over for Ravi, which is happening to so many people these days. A mortgage would have made life hell for him for sure in such a scenario!

    @Somebody - Thats a low-blow ;)

  19. Munish on April 1, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    What if Asha is also laid off! Pack the luggage and bid goodbye to America? Or just stay on to be illiegal and wait for amnesty in near Obama’s completion of a 2nd term!!

  20. dev raj on March 24, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    At least he could fall back on being an H4 husband. What if Asha didn’t have an H1 — which is the case more often than not

  21. KP on November 6, 2010 at 3:34 am

    I have seen many instances similar to the story. Indian MCPs don’t like to be H4 husbands but sometimes there is no other choice. Not much to worry though. He will get green card when his wife’s green card comes, then they will be never out of status and will be citizens in due time and will achieve their american dream.

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