H-1B visa, H-4 visa holders’ dilemma when it comes to matrimony

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NEW YORK – Lately, stories on H4 visa holders’ quandary has been making headlines in various newspapers in the U.S. and in India, as the Trump Administration  shows spouses of H-1B visa holders the sign to “next exit”, take away their Employment Authorization Document (EAD), work permit.

The H4 spouses who got work authorizations (and converted their H4 status into H-1B in matrimony and now working) under President Obama’s Administration Executive Order (and their husbands’) lives are imperiled with an “uncertain” future.

Also, every other non-immigrant worker who comes to the U.S. on work-related visas life is imperiled and is in a state of desperation and despondency in their personal lives when it comes to matrimony.

Parents seeking matrimony for their sons and daughters on work visas in the US are exasperated, to say the least, in their never ending search, that leads them nowhere and they simply don’t understand why these highly educated boys and girls with Masters and Ph.D. degrees cannot get married to one another.

Let me elaborate:

  • The dilemma of women on H-1B visa (not transitioning into Green Card (GC)), in seeking matrimony, is that if they marry another boy on H-1B (not transitioning into a GC status, with a Labor Certification approval), the bride will convert into a H4 status, not allowed to work in the U.S. legally, which means she will have to quit her $100K job and “sit on the bench” and no girl earning $120K in the Bay Area is ready to quit her job for matrimony.

Some couples on H1B are getting married, retaining their individual H-1B status, living as “husband and wife”, filing their tax returns separately; however, without notifying USCIS of their “marital” status and filing for a “status adjustment” form.   USCIS found a few cases and the DOS (Department of State) has recently clarified:

  • Undertaking any other activity for which a change of status or an adjustment of status form would be required, without the benefit of such a change or adjustment. This is a clear case of violation of USCIS visa rules, and if caught later on, can be punishable with deportation and/or refusal of re-entry into the U.S. for both the spouses, forever! So many H1Bs have stopped reaching out to H1Bs in matrimony!

Non-immigrant brides have been extremely careful in reaching out to those who are on a straight H1B visa, (not transitioning to a GC – because those who are particularly into their second term of H1B (not having been sponsored for a Green Card) will be seeking exit options to relocate back to India and or to other countries.  If brides seek those prospects in matrimony, they should be ready and willing to relocate to wherever the boy goes ~ often times the H1B brides are just into their first 3-year term of H1B, whereas the prospective husband is into his later part of second H1B extension (because of the age difference between a boy and a girl). This situation presents the brides with a difficult choice to step up to H1B alliances facing an exit option from the U.S.

  • Those boys and girls transitioning onto OPT (Optional Practical Training) visas granted immediately upon (F1) students’ graduation, are not being embraced in matrimony by those on H1B, or H1B-GC, L1 or on GC status, because of uncertainty and fear that if he or she, is not successful in a lottery the first or a second time into a H1B status, will have to return to India for good.

The fear and uncertainty over their OPT visa status is driving away the eligible brides and grooms on OPT from consideration in matrimony.    Besides, as USCIS makes visa renewals tougher, non-immigrant H1B brides from one state are finding it difficult to relocate to in matrimony to another state easily, for fear of losing their job and finding another within a limited, 30-60 day window. So, brides living in the tristate area seek grooms within the tristate, and similarly grooms living in Bay Area are seeking brides living in the Bay Area, and so on.

(c) Brides on F1 (student visa) status again are not preferred, because upon graduation, she will have to slide into an OPT visa status and will have to go through an uncertainty, in a lottery situation, as described under (b) above.

(d) Those transitioning from an H1B into a GC status (with an approved Labor Certification), who could previously get married to brides from India or those here on H1B and get their spouse converted into a H1B work visa, to work legally) and get her a Green Card, under President Obama’s Executive Order, are in a state of “limbo” over the uncertainty that has now imperiled precarious future of H4 spousal visa work authorizations issued under President Obama’s Executive Order.  So the marriages of brides and grooms on H1B with Labor Certifications transitioning from (H1B-GC) are all stalled, awaiting President Trump’s (to be) newly enunciated policy to be announced shortly. If these people are barred from work visas we are going to see lots of “class action suits” which is going to further cause uncertainty and misery in their lives.

(d)  Those in the U.S. on L1, (intra-company transfer visa) – for instance an employee of GE in India whose services are transferred to GE in the U.S. under L1 status – L1 is a non-transferable work visa in the U.S. also face problems. So those on L1 here in the U.S. cannot seek a change of status of an L1 to another category such as H1B, while they are within the U.S., on an L1.   In the event a bride or groom on L1 wants to get married to someone on H1B in the U.S., he or she has to go back to India, resign his/her job, and then re-enter the United States with a H4 visa status (somewhat doubtful if the Consulate will grant one these days), as USCIS here and the American Consulates in India are becoming tough with enforcement and are issuing more and more RFEs ~ so the brides and grooms on L1 are unable to marry, while on their stint in the U.S.  Usually, the employers bring the L1s with a “promise of Green Card” but this is becoming more and more difficult with USCIS stricter enforcement on non-immigrant visas.

(e) J1 visa which is also called “visitor exchange visa” with a 3 year  “shelf life” (extendable to six years in some cases, such as medical doctors completing residency, entering into fellowship), but comes with a caveat provision, that the holder of this classification of visas will have to return to India or another foreign country for a period of two years, before seeking re-entry to the U.S. So more and more boys and girls are definitely avoiding reaching out to those on J1 visas in the U.S. Those who are medical doctors, coming to the U.S. on J1 visas are facing enormous problems in getting their green cards, because they will have to serve for a few years in rural hospitals in the U.S.  Moreover, they go through enormous red tape in getting the Government of India’s NOC (No Objection Certificate) to not return to India, for which, they have to get four Indian Ministry’s approval namely, Home, Health, NRI and Education Ministries.

(f) Brides from India are ready to come to the U.S. and embrace boys who are on H1B status, in matrimony, because they too know that they have to come here under a H4, not legally permitted to work and will have “to sit on the bench” – so the brides from India are also “shying away” from boys in the U.S. on H1B in matrimony.

(g) U.S. citizens who could previously marry those visiting the U.S. on a B1/B2 visitor and work visas are also “shunning” these B1-B2 visiting the U.S., and those brides coming to the U.S. on non-immigrant visas, because the Department of State recently issued bulletin dated September 1, 2017, has lifted an hitherto existing “bar on 30-60 day rule and the Immigration Department now retains powers on adjudication even after 90 days after entry of the beneficiary into the United States. If the USCIS suspects that a change in status of a non-immigrant visa holder has been sought in matrimony to a US citizen or Permanent Resident, to just circumvent the rules, with (a preconceived intent), that petition can or may be denied. The USCIS could take the position that the beneficiary did not disclose his/her intention to get married to a U.S. citizen or a Green Card holder, in her original visa application she made for purposes of traveling to the United States.  So more and more U.S. citizens and Permanent Residents are only seeking those who are U.S. citizens and Permanent Residents, like “themselves”.

(h) US citizen brides (born and raised in the U.S.) also are wary of marrying a man on H1B and other work related visas. These brides have also heard of many cases where the non-immigrant boy on H1B has deserted her after getting a Green Card.

(Sashti Srinivasan has been assisting Hindu and Sikh brides living in the U.S. and Canada in matrimony, through parental-assisted introductions in a noble cause via his initiative, www.globalmatri.org)

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