The South Asian Times

11 December 2018 10:13 AM

A H4-EAD doctor in turmoil

By Valarie Hansan

After a summer full of fun and laughter, I, Dr. Valarie Hansan (name changed) found myself sitting on the steps outside my house awkwardly dipping my feet in a small puddle of water that the first rains had just formed. At the crossroads of life’s decisions and emotions, I was excited yet nervous, an evening before my flight to USA.  It was 2011, I was in New Delhi, India where I was a practicing Anesthesiologist at a leading hospital for the last 5 years.

Leaving behind a settled life, stepping out for the first time, moving to a new country is always challenging. After 5 years of marriage, we had been blessed with beautiful daughter. It was a long time coming. Taking a 2-year break from work, spending time with my daughter and then pursuing my dream of further training in Anesthesiology in the USA, learning and working alongside the best physicians from around the world, was something I looked forward to.

We moved to Sunnyvale, CA, close to my husband’s workplace, blended-in and enjoyed watching our loving daughter grow. Time flew quickly. In 2013, my husband’s employer applied for an employment based greencard. By that time my daughter was ready for pre-school, and I had cleared all pre-requisite medical examinations, needed to obtain entrance into a residency program. I interviewed at several hospitals but little did I know that my H4 dependent visa would act as a hindrance to acceptance.

I researched and found out, H4 dependent spouses were banned from work in America. Meanwhile I met several immigrants who had come from other countries, had gotten their greencard within a year and were settling into their lives. I hoped mine would come soon. Little did I know due to “country of birth” quotas in the employment based greencard system, my turn was decades away.

This news was heartbreaking. but I did not give up. Soon, I found out, that there were thousands of other H4-dependent spouses, predominantly women, here in the USA for many years leading miserable, depressed lives, banned from work, despite being highly qualified themselves, all because of “country of birth” quotas in employment based greencard. I joined forums and local groups where there were other women like me. Slowly, their voices became my strength, their conviction to find their place in society, my hope, their determination to fight for an identity, my inspiration.  Together we gathered courage to speak up for ourselves in one voice to ask the American people -

Should immigrant spouses be respected or rejected in USA?  Do they have a right to chase their dreams? Do they have an identity their own?

All this while, my husband was extremely supportive of me. Often, he used to tell me, Valarie we didn’t come here for this. Let’s return back to India. We can quickly re-start out lives there. But something inside me didn’t feel right. In these years, I had started reading about people. I read about Rosa Parks, and her inspirational story, fighting for civil rights, fighting for justice gave me strength in my moments of weakness. I decided to fight for my identity.

Then on July 11, 2014, President Obama, after failures of successive congresses to pass legislation to fix “country of birth quotas” in the employment based greencard system; recognizing our pain and agony, provided those H4-dependent spouses with “approved employment based greencard petition” on file a work permit.  

One year later on May 26, 2015, the rule went into effect and the USCIS started accepting applications for H4-EAD work permits.

That sunny Tuesday morning of May 26, 2015 will forever be etched in my mind. It was the day, I cried. These were tears of joy. We offered prayers to Almighty God, thanked him, President Obama and all the people of this great country USA who stood by us, heard our voices, felt our pain and gave us H-4 dependent spouses an identity.

In 2016, I was accepted into a prestigious Anesthesiology residency program in New York.  I am now a 2nd year resident in a 4-year specialized program. My dreams were finally coming true.

Then on Dec 14, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that in light of President Trump’s “Buy American Hire American Policy”, it is considering repeal of the H4-EAD work permit.  In Feb 2018, this proposed rule titled - “Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization“, RIN: 1615-AC15, opens up for public commenting.

Should enacted, this repeal would force me to quit my residency halfway and throw me back in time asking the same question to the American people, that I thought was resoundingly answered!

Should immigrant spouses be respected or rejected in USA?  Do they have a right to chase their dreams? Do they have an identity their own?

Today, I write to urge President Trump, to not repeal the H4-EAD work permit. To allow me and 100,000 H4-dependent spouses, like me, who received the H4EAD work permit, a chance to chase our dreams, a chance to serve and contribute to this great country USA.

Update: 11 Jan, 2018


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