F-2 and H-4 Visa Holders Need More Options

Posted on 05/18/2015

I came to the U.S. from England ten months ago to join my husband Mike, who is completing his MBA at Stanford University. Mike has a computer science and consulting background, but his love for technology started from a very young age (he built his first computer when he was 8 years old!) – so having the opportunity to learn and gain experience in the heart of Silicon Valley was a lifelong dream for him and we were both thrilled at the prospect of an adventure in California.

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Mike and I maintained a long distance relationship during his first year at Stanford as I was completing my masters in Human Resources in the UK. We got married in the summer of 2014 and I joined Mike in California on an F-2 spousal visa. The U.S. F-1/F-2 visas are for students and their dependents, but one of the restrictions of this visa is that I am not permitted to work while we are here. I planned to obtain a visa that would allow me to work and continue with my career, as I have nearly seven years of work experience, and before moving I had researched the demand for HR professionals in the area and it seemed strong. However, I soon learned that finding a job wasn’t going to be the challenge. Instead, the challenge would be getting a visa to allow me to apply my skills in the workplace and contribute to the U.S. economy.

The best visa for me to apply for was the H-1B, which allows foreign nationals to work in the U.S. for up to six years. In order to apply for an H-1B, I would need an offer of employment and sponsorship from a company – and I quickly found that the lengthy and expensive H-1B application process deters many companies from hiring people like me.

H-1B visas are issued based on a hugely oversubscribed lottery and there is no way to guarantee success. The companies I hoped would sponsor me reserve their H-1B visa applications for people with technical skills and wouldn’t consider sponsoring someone in human resources. Even though there is demand for people with my skill set, I haven’t been able to apply for a visa and I feel a great deal of uncertainty about my career.

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But this isn’t just my story, it’s Mike’s as well. I’m thrilled to say he has accepted a wonderful offer with a company in Silicon Valley and has been able to apply for a H-1B. Yet even with everything in place, we are still waiting to hear whether he has been successful in the lottery and cannot plan for our future while the uncertainty hangs over us. If Mike’s application is successful, I will move to an H-4 visa as his dependent. Though H-4 visa holders cannot currently work, President Obama’s executive actions on immigration will soon allow H-4 visa holders to apply for work permits.

Living with such a high degree of uncertainty about how long we will be able to stay in the U.S. affects many aspects of our lives. For example, we would like to buy a home here and put down roots as a family, but our uncertainty about our visas means we can’t commit to investing in a home. From an economic standpoint, these restrictions seem incredibly limiting – both to us and the local economy – but the real damage is the knowledge that we can’t build our life here together with no idea what might happen next.

This post was written by Helen Howard, a Silicon Valley chapter member. Find your FWD.us chapter here

Schulte: “Deeply Disappointed by the Passage of the Brooks Amendment"

Posted on 05/14/2015

Washington, DC – Todd Schulte, President of FWD.us, released the following statement on the passage of the Brooks amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act:

“We are deeply disappointed by the passage of the Brooks amendment. House Republicans have been saying over and over for years they want to help DREAMers. This is one very small, very bipartisan step to do just that.

So here’s our question: Republicans have had control of the House for over four years – how much longer do DREAMers need to wait for legislation and for a broader effort to fix our broken immigration system?

This should not have been controversial and there is absolutely no reason to wait.”

Statement: Let DREAMers Serve

Posted by Todd Schulte on 05/14/2015

Washington, DC – Todd Schulte, President of FWD.us, released the following statement today ahead of the House vote on the National Defense Authorization Act:

“Creating the opportunity for DREAMers to serve the country they love in uniform represents a commonsense step forward. Today the House of Representatives may vote on an amendment that would strip out language asking the Secretary of Defense to consider allowing DREAMers, undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children, to serve in our country’s military. This language passed the House Armed Services Committee with strong bipartisan support and is an important and promising step toward fixing our broken immigration system. We strongly believe that immigration reform should allow people to come forward, achieve their full potential, and fully contribute to our society.”

Why I Work at FWD.us

Posted by Ellie Caple on 05/11/2015

At FWD.us, we often hear from partners in the tech community about their frustrations with government and policymakers. We understand feeling this way. Tech workers spend their days creating innovative approaches, discovering nimble and elegant solutions to everyday problems. Meanwhile government can often seem slow moving, unwieldy and unwilling to change.

Studies show that the number of Members of Congress that overlap on the political spectrum has declined dramatically in the last fifteen years.

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Despite the urgent issues plaguing our country, polarization seems to prevent movement toward any kind of resolution. Perhaps it’s this disillusionment that has led to decreasing voting rates among young people.

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As a 24 year old, I understand that frustration. It’s hard to feel like I have any impact on how our government functions. Major parts of my life are dictated by men and women who don’t know me from Adam. My friends in tech feel particularly disillusioned – they have fantastic ideas for how to fix the bugs in our government, but don’t have a vehicle through which to reach their lawmakers.

So that’s why I work at FWD.us.

Because of this organization, I am able to make sure that my voice and the voices of people around me can be heard. By using FWD.us’s Push4Reform technologies, by working in tandem with our organizers, I finally feel like government is listening.

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FWD.us was founded by leaders in the technology community to give our values a voice in American politics. We use technology to enable more people to participate in our democracy and advocate for policy change. In our chapters, our members brainstorm solutions, and educate the public and elected officials on important issues like comprehensive immigration reform. We put our innovative skills to work to make government function more efficiently.

For more information about getting involved with your local chapter, check out your chapter’s homepage.

Ellie Caple is a Policy Associate at FWD.us.