A few times a week in Palo Alto, Calif., a group of about 15 women gather for lunch, or coffee, or shopping. They might prefer to be working, but as wives to Silicon Valley’s H1B visa holders — immigrants who come here to work for tech companies — they are prohibited from doing so. The family member visa, or H4 visa, prevents them from getting a job while they are here, a fact that many of the women told The Guardian leads to frustration, loneliness, and isolation in the Bay Area.
Women make up 90 percent of H4 visa holders in the U.S., and while those who are approved for permanent residency can apply for jobs, the majority of H4 holders cannot. The women who spoke to The Guardian said that many wives are highly-educated, ambitious and uncomfortable with their new roles as housewives.
“I feel guilt,” Heather Zachernuk, a 33-year-old New Zealander whose husband works for Apple, told The Guardian. “So much guilt — for having this lifestyle … for resenting my situation even while it’s also a luxury.”
Zachernuck said she fills her time in Silicon Valley with art projects and online courses. Others volunteer, write blogs, or take up sports. The lunch group in Palo Alto, one of the many support groups that act as “lifeline” for new arrivals, help the women connect to others in similar situations. The groups are especially useful for Indian wives, as 80 percent of H1B visa holders are now used by Indian passport holders, according to the report. Sandhya Ravindran said that the loneliness and resentment she’s felt since coming to the Bay Area with her husband has made her rethink her immigration decision.
“Honestly? If I had known what life on an H4 would be like, I would not have come,” she said.
Read the full story at The Guardian.