Though it allows the spouse to be with the H1B visa holder, the H4 visa comes with its own set of problems and has as a result been under constant scrutiny and evaluation.
Those who are under an H4 visa holder are not authorized to be employed in the United States unless they can benefit from the new H4EAD laws. For those who cannot get an EAD, they are pretty much stuck with no ability to even be eligible to get a Social Security Number, in spite of paying taxes. However, you can have your own bank account, get a driving license or even do a course. The person is also eligible for an ITIN (Tax ID for IRS Tax purposes)
This has led to the growth of a huge number of people residing in the US but very dissatisfied with their lives. More often than not this leads to more than mere dissatisfaction and spouses are actually taken advantage of once it becomes clear that they are dependent financially on their other half. The fact that they cannot earn for themselves is depressing and leads to lack of self confidence which has its own repercussions. The situation also lead to bad treatment and subjugation of spouses, many of whom have even faced physical violence in such circumstances!
Many a times these souses are as talented as their husbands/wives if not more and yet they are restricted by the rules governing the H4 visa which does not allow them to work. And though there has been plenty of outrage against this strange law, nothing seems to be changing very soon.
The U visa and why is it important
The U visa gives a temporary legal status to people who have been victims of a certain category of crimes during their stay in the US. Recognizing the fact that such victims are often in a desperate situation and need to be financially independent, the State allows them work eligibility in the United States for a term of 4 years.
It may be noted however that the U visa being a nonimmigrant visa has certain restrictions. Moreover, there are only 10,000 U visas that are issued every fiscal year. The family members of the victim may be included in the petition. The list of the family can include, parents (both step parents and adoptive ones), the spouse, children, unmarried sisters and brothers under 18 years of age. In order to be eligible for a U visa, a person must pass through some criteria before the application can actually be submitted. In order to submit the petition for such a visa, the person should have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse due to a criminal activity in certain pre-specified categories. These categories are- sexual assault, domestic violence, rape, trafficking, kidnapping, torture, female genital mutilation, prostitution, incest, abusive sexual contact, sexual exploitation, hostage situations, peonage, extortion, slave trade, false imprisonment, involuntary servitude, perjury or attempt, conspiracy, abduction, blackmail, manslaughter, murder, felonious assault, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, unlawful criminal restraint, or solicitation to commit any of the mentioned crimes.
Once your U visa petition is approved, it automatically grants the applicant work eligibility in the US. Henceforth an Employment Authorization Document is included with all approved petitions, which may be shown to any employer to obtain a Social Security Number in order to be able to start work legally.
A petition for a U Visa must include information on how the victim can assist government officials in tackling crime as well as helping the authorities in matters related to investigation and/or prosecution of the individual(s) who might have committed the crime, against them.
While the U visa is a powerful tool for those on H4 visas holders who are victims of domestic violence, we should not ignore the other use of the U visa. For example, one can be victim of assault or some other crimes and ultimately qualify for a U visa. If you think you are victim of a crime, make sure you report it to the authorities and call a good immigration lawyer to help, it might actually be a ticket to your permanent residence.