Five ideas to try while on the H4 visa

When I was on H4 long time back, I was often too caught up in my daily routine to realize what an opportunity being on H4 can be. But hind sight is 20 – 20. And there are somethings I did well, and somethings I didnt – the collection below is what I have learnt from friends who went through a similar period of enforced staying at home and things they did right.

The thing about the H4 is that it sometimes makes you feel powerless. You are lonely in a new country, and want to work to learn more about this world, but can’t. For something as powerful as government regulations, which probably did not affect you to this degree in your home country, is holding you down.

But while you are waiting for your green card, or your H1 B, there is plenty you can do to get ready. The things that were most effective for me were the things that made me feel more ’empowered’ and less dependant.

Here are some ideas:

Imitiate the working life: If you are missing it, why not?

  • Wake up on time, get dressed, have breakfast, etc. But dont just stop at that.
  • Make your ‘To do list’ for the week and day.
  • Write down people you will call or email – may or may not be business related. Even if the volume is low, you are being proactive.
  • Identify some aspects of your career you can work on from home such as sprucing up skills, applying for new courses, or online research.
  • Dont just read and research online, make notes
  • Set networking goals for yourself. This is something I never did but I really wish I had. What a wonderful opportunity to connect when you dont have work pressing you down. Look out for some professional associations.

Learn to Drive: Mobility, even if you need to drop and pickup your hubby to get it is very empowering and gives you freedom. So do get your license. Plus, it will make you feel more at home in this country.

Set Targets: Small ones, big  ones, work ones, home ones. LIke ‘get my license in six months’ or ‘ make blah blah road trips in three months’. Or ‘Exercise an hour each day’ or ‘learn swimming’ or (this is expensive but..) ‘Join the YMCA for classes’.

Take over the finances : I know this sounds alarming, especially for many women who feel that earning is what gives them financial empowerment. While thats true, I think many husbands would only be glad ( though maybe initially sceptical) to hand over the reins of managing bills and investments while they focus on their jobs. Why I like this one is that you begin to immediately make impact on your home bottom line – and that is pretty powerful. You can do simple stuff like:

  • Setting up online payments
  • Monitoring accounts
  • Identifying simple investments

What do you all think of this one? Please leave me a comment on this – I think it can be effective, but am not sure if its practical.

Become a regular at the library : and maybe even Barnes and Noble if you can resist the urge to buy each time. The library is a great resource in the US with free books. Have a book list and reserve the ones the dont have. Both these places are great to spend time in the day.

And of course, volunteer.

I tried to keep this to things that dont cost so much money, except studying and courses, which I think is worth the money always. On H4 I would always use the apartment gym but now I think the YMCA provides great opps for classes in the evenings or day time. Maybe even local (paid) gyms.

Do share your ideas and stories. That inspires me to research more and thats what makes this worthwhile, I think, not me just writing my thoughts :).

 You can use the register link on top to sign up for the site and leave comments and get periodic updates on H4 and other topics. Also, do write in!

Last 5 posts by Amrita Bakshi



39 Comments

  1. Tana

    I think it is laudable that you have been so thoughtful about the effectiveness of using time on the H4 and sharing with others. Your list is really pretty good! Often we think that we are “wasting” our time waiting for something else to happen, but the truth is that every minute we have a choice. You have shown how.

  2. Amrita

    Thank you Tana for your comment. yes, I dont think its wasting the time at all. I think we can turn it into a very productive time.

  3. ARCHNA

    Hey amrita this is Archna
    i gone through ur blog and its awesome really u made my day…..

  4. Amrita

    Archna, thank you so much for your comment. It is good to hear from you. Do keep writing in!

  5. tshah

    Hey Amrita,

    I think the ideas you shared about being more productive while on H4 are great. I have been on H4 for more than a year now & couldn’t apply this time as not many companies are willing to recruit H1Bs (I am a CPA and a CMA). I spent most of my last year studying further. Now, I am thinking on taking up a volunteer job.

    Great ideas.. Thanks…

  6. apm

    Hi Amrita,
    Great work..only few peoples share their experience and ideas so clearly and also in a way to help others..u r realy reaching heights in this.i’m on H4 n would like to do some online course which doesn’t costs much…can u help me in finding universities n some websites asks for address..is it safe to give .jus let me know

  7. Thank you!
    I had been working in the U.S before I got married & thought it would be great to have all that time off. But now that I lost my job and am an H4 wife, I feel that simple tasks like the ones you listed can be so effective!
    It just makes me feel more empowered about unemployed state.

  8. Hey Amrita,

    I have been on H4 for the past 7 months. I am highly qualified and had to give up my flourishing career in the U.K. and settle down with my hubby here in the US. You’re suggestions are simply superb. They are simple day to day activities but could be so useful for some one on an H4. After reading you’re blog am totally inspired and would do as you’ve said to make me feel more confident and make this life worth living.

    I hope we could stay in constant touch through emails, because it’d be my privilege to have a friend like you in my life…Thanks again….:)

  9. Sonia Saraf

    Hi Amrita…I loved your post! Articulate and inspiring!  We’re 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. The alarming number of stories about depression and loneliness experienced by H-4 wives inspired me to find a medium that would 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 on 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 for FREE in the form of an e-book and can be downloaded from the following link:
    http://sharesend.com/i4pvk
    Experience the joy in spreading hope & inspiration through the fortune cookies in my book!
    Lots of Happiness & LightSonia

  10. LilithBlack

    Hi, thank you very much for the rich and valuable info you shared here. I appreciate your good intentions to ease the pain of the miserable H4 dependent existence.
    But let’s face the truth-this a temporary painkiller- a couple of things to do in order to postpone or to avoid the big question: WHAT I AM SUPPOSE TO DO WITH MY LIFE? I can not avoid answering that question. I feel my mission in life completely compromised and demolished and I can’t stand it anymore.

    Let’s go back to the question what are my (or probably our?) survival options here? I have no idea how many people like me are trapped in that position? Probably I am not the only one since in 2005 more than 97 000 women entered USA as H4?

    I am referring to all of you reading that:

    WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM YOUR LIVES IN THE FUTURE? DO YOU USE TO BE DEPERSONALIZED?
    DO YOU USE TO ASK YOUR HUSBAND FOR PERMITION TO DRIVE THE CAR OR TO USE HIS CELL PHONE, BECAUSE YOU CAN NOT AFFORD ONE, OR ASK HIM TO GO TO BUY YOUR ESSENTIAL INTIMATE CARE PADS AGAIN-BECAUSE THE STORE IS TO FAR FROM YOUR HOME AND YOU CAN NOT GO THERE BY WALKING?
    DID YOU GET USED TO LIVE ONLY IN THE INTERNET REALITY-BECAUSE IT IS THE MOST ACCECABLE SOURCE OF TEMPORARY ESCAPE OF YOUR EXISTENTIAL LIFE PROBLEM?
    DID YOU GET USE NOT TO BUY ANY PRESENTS TO ANYONE IN YOUR FAMILY, BECAUSE YOU DI NOT HAS YOUR OWN INCOME?
    DID YOU USE NOT TO SEND PARCELS WITH PRESENTS TO YOUR RELATIVES ABROAD, BECAUSE YOU CAN NOT AFFORD IT?
    DID YOU ACCEPT NOT TO MAKE BIRTHDAY PARTIES BECAUSE THERE IS NO ONE TO INVITE TO?
    DID YOU USE TO STAY MOSTLY AT HOME FOR YEARS AND THE ONLY THING TO ENJOY IS… FOOD…OR FACEBOOK?
    DID YOU GET USED NOT TO CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES AT ALL, NOT TO PUT MAKE UP ON YOUR FACE, TO BRUSH YOUR HAIR?

    Hey, I hope the answers are NO to most of that depressing sort of questions, but –still-please, think at least for the consequences of not having a social security number for many years? For example, I was not able to buy glasses for me, because I needed a SSN to open a payment account for me and I need again to ask my husband to apply….I still had issues and I can not do on line banking, because I do not have SSN. I spent months waiting for renewing a driving license from CA, USA in a Midwest state where I live now, but at least I have it.

    Next question: Who will pay for our retirement? Do you have a retirement plan, or you rely on some kind of life insurance plan? Or your still not get so far to that point? Are you all expecting you or your husband to retire here in USA, or some of us are still considering the option to go back in their countries of origins, and to resume working there? Do you have a back-up plan if something really bad happened?! We are dependent and we must realize that, though it is cozy to argue “it is only temporary phase”, but what if we haven’t got the best scenario for our next phase? And, in general, which scenario is best for you? I will be happy if someone shares her story as well.

    Do you like to stay forever here where your human rights are erased? Do you realize that any pet has more privileges than you have? Are you used to be humiliated in many refined ways? Do you realize that we are here only to nurture your husbands and/or kids? This country definitely wants your husbands, not you! This is the hidden way for pressing foreign families like ours to “choose” to immigrate. It logical-no one could take loans forever for our survival, because living on only one income is impossible? This is how they make us consider changing our status from non-immigration to immigration one. In other words, keeping those families restricted on the edge of the survival makes them to search for even bigger loans for immigration lawyers and immigration fees, in order to remove the restrictions off from their spouse to work. And then after, having in mind that immigration case for family of 4 cost about 13 000$ (about less than ¼ of our total annual income), even though we are not enthusiastic to stay here, we OUGHT to stay as long as we succeed to repay back our loans….it means at least 5 years more!

    We can still bulsh*t ourselves that this is only “temporary”…but this temporary sounds as it well planned to be “forever”, because it will provide that skilled worker, previously on H1-B and recent green card holder to spend his entire life here. Well, we have been told many times “it is OUR choice to be come here”…but it is still our choice not to stay anymore.
    I do not know about you, girls, but I didn’t have any immigration intentions prior the insight that I am trapped here to live like a happy veggi, enriching the genes pool of the American society and comforting my spouse (not bad, but I can perform better when I feel excited and happy). Here and now- since no one expect me to be a human being, I will not consider my self immigrant here forever.

    There is one more issue to think about:

    For how long we can close our eyes for the painful reality that after spending a couple or years of unemployed we may lose our chances to be ever employed again? I have a doctoral degree. And, I am overeducated for most of the jobs. I graduated in 2009 in my country and now it is my third year after graduation. After that critical 3rd year no one would hire me for a post doc. I will not be able to work my profession anymore. Although I have tried my best to help my self being involved in research, here how my attempts were cut: I am not eligible even to be an unpaid volunteer in the research facilities anywhere here, because of “safety issues” originated from the curse not to be eligible for SSN. Hence-my access to the biohazard lab equipment was denied!

    I have tried to get rid from my dependent status many times applying for post doc positions during the years. I had been through many interviews by phone, or even gave talks in different states. Then I realized that I have less advantages than a person with disabilities, or proven medical conditions: I am a female scientist (well, we still can take this), I am married woman (this is not that good, though), and I even have children (this is even worse), but, OMG-I am on H4 and still dare to pursue a reasonable scientific career?! This was unbelievable naïve! Any other person with work permission, or green card holder, or US citizen will be preferred for the position that I am applying for, moreover, my education is not from USA as well. You know, it is frustrating to be banned form your natural environment-the scientific lab, and all of your skills to be questioned, as you never had been exposed to “dangerous” environment such as chemicals, radiations, or lab animal models? Sometimes I caught myself envy to those small white mice with granted access to the experimental facilities-although their doomed to be scarified, they do not die in vain and if they have the brain capacities they would enjoy the fulfillment of successfully completion of the mission of their poor lives in the name of the science progress.

    Let’s consider than another option: to pretend for a second that I will give up my PhD, I will compromise my goals, I will neglect all my hopes and set up, and I would be agree to work something else. The survival of my family is an issue; I must work in order to pay back all that cosmic debts we asked for to cover our immigration lawyer’s expenses and governmental fees.

    What is supposed to be that job, other from what I am good at? Come on, I am almost 38.
    I do not have other experience and mastered skill, I do not have any other CV but my own scientific one, I do not have any other recommendations for sale representative, or office manager, or, receptionist, or CPA trained babysitter or…whatever?! Should I change my occupation? Should I take additional loans to get another qualification?!

    Even if I get a green card after a year through my husband’s scientific impact as a scientist with exceptional abilities (EB-2 NIW), I am still caught in the unfavorable position-no references from US institution, no experience in USA, and more than 3 years long gap in my professional experience. “Life suspended” is the best expression for those like me on H4. But, you know what?

    I won’t give up, not at all. After all, my relatives promised to send money for me and for my child to pay for our plane tickets to go back in our country. I am strongly convinced that my hubby will follow us when he is done with his projects; restricting a highly educated people like me from being employed and humiliating them is not the best way to welcome and accommodate foreigners with exceptional skills, especially if they are expected their work to benefit their society. This best way to loose them.

  11. excellent post, check out some other options at http://1mantra.blogspot.com/  as well

  12. I do agree with all the ideas you’ve presented to your post. They’re very convincing and can certainly
    work. Still, the posts are very short for starters. May you
    please extend them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

  13. Arnab

    There are two sides to look at expenditures of your life –
    1. Cut it short
    2. Keep it same and increase your income

    If you want to go by the second option, there are several ways to do that without breaking US labor rules. Although many will say that if you are allowed to work, then work more to earn more and keep your expenditure go high, but you have only 24 hours a day that you cannot cross.

    There is so much to say, but a article like http://planningpersonalfinance.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/start-your-own-business-ii/ is worth reading to open eyes for those who just curse their situation for being on H4.

  14. sweety

    For anything we need money. But to go to library to do volunteer work, even if we know driving, we need car. For this again I need to ask my Husband. Only thing he can say is library is this much distance. Going from here to there for volunteer work you are wasting petrol. 

  15. swati

    hi it was really nice reading this post….then again if you have been independent…well educated..well paid in your country…and then suddenly when you come here….theres this big massive vaccum..and u need to push yourself really really hard to start from scratch…this post is quite motivational…i plan to study further like most H4s…wish me luck 🙂

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