The Life of A Typical Long Distance Couple on H1B Visa & It’s Problems

Guest Author Lifestyle 18 Comments

I got married 5 years ago. My In-laws thought I cheated them.

I’m spending every day, thinking, why did I come to the USA. I’m questioning my decision to study in the USA. I wish to stay anonymous, but I’m real as it gets (& the image on the picture above is not us).

H1B Visa is holding me, my wife and my life as a hostage. And here’s our story. 

The company I work for is in a small town where. The same town does not offer much of job opportunities for my wife who is from a computer science background.

I’m a Mechanical Engineer and in our field, no company decides to sponsor green card right after you start working for them, especially fresher’s or candidates with very less hands on industrial or shop floor experience.

Employers assess your skills and wait until they are happy with your work.  They will not promise to sponsor Green Card on the day you are being hired. There could be companies who do that by weighing in past experience and specialty skills, just that I have never come across amongst my friends circle as well.

Our company has been around for ages (from early 1800’s). They are into Machinery. Machines that crush big rocks.

Rewind Back to 2008

Sit in a time capsule and rewind back to 2008, my parents wanted me to get me married. So under the pretext of higher studies I ran away from horrifying tentacles of getting married at a very young age (23 years of age).

I enrolled in the MS in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, thinking I would place a man on the moon and bring him back!

Luckily not far into the program,  I realized, I could not even work for companies that are in to Aerospace Engineering.

Reason? God did not want me to be born as a US Citizen or a did not give an easy way to get Green Card.

If you didn’t get the joke, most jobs in aerospace engineering fields are open to only U.S. Citizens as these jobs require security clearances. Something I am not going to get anytime sooner. One option, a lucrative one, did seem walk and jog in my mind, which I did not pursue.

Debts, Marriage and Day 1 CPT University

I got married to a beautiful woman. I was on F1 OPT and in 2013, my company applied for my H1B Visa. I was not selected in the lottery and I had only 6 months of OPT left.

Meaning, I would be out of status beyond STEM OPT expiration date.

What do I do? I am married and have a dependent, have educational loan, car payments, rent to pay, insurances, credit card repayments, etc. Financial Commitments!

My credit card debt is from flight tickets, changing tires on my car, changing the complete radiator, attorney fees for my wife’s H4 package, flight tickets for my wife for her trip, medical expenses for my mom. It adds up.

All this on a 5-digit salary. Want to know my Salary as a Mechanical Engineer with Masters Degree? Continue Reading.

Upon careful research, I found it was safe to enroll myself in Day 1 CPT College. Between the time of H1B Lottery results and joining the Day 1 CPT university, many in my family thought I was all a hoax!

OPT, H1B Visa & Lottery

Visa is just visa. Visa is just a ticket to stay in a country.

Little does anyone know, U.S. Visa dictates your life and what you can do about it?

My in-laws even wondered if I cheated by telling I was working in USA. Why? Because my visa STEM OPT status would be expiring soon and unless I stay afloat on another visa, I cannot legally work.

Meaning, I would lose my job! No one understood the problems about the H1B Visa Lottery.

No one had heard of lottery system prior to that even though, there was a H1B Visa Random lottery since 2009.

Day 1 CPT College did help me stay afloat, but it ingeniously racked up my debt too.

I got my H1B Visa selected in the lottery and approved in the subsequent year.

Marriage vs Career vs Relationship

I wanted my wife to be independent and not be dependent on my visa. If I am run over by a beer truck, she needs to have a life of her own and bank balance to survive beyond (touch wood). She got her Masters in Computer Science and currently working on OPT and with her H1B Visa approval in hand and still separated.

  • My wife and I live in separate cities.
  • We meet only on certain weekends.

At first, it was good and now with no clear picture of the future, we are beginning to lose hope.

We are questioning everything. At first, we thought my company would process Green Card and then I can bring my wife on board as a dependent H4 and apply for H4 EAD.

Apparently, ongoing saga between Trump administration, H4 EAD Lawsuit, H4 EAD could be canceled anytime. Although we do see a couple of job openings matching her profile in and around the town, I live, but all require being US Citizens.

Polished way of saying: “We won’t offer sponsorship of transfer sponsored visas”.

How would H4 EAD help? I was going to ask my wife to get H4 EAD, then find a job in any field she likes; not just computers. She could be managing books at a library, or teach finance at the University. She has an MBA in Finance and Masters in Computer Science.

The company she currently works offers zero job security. She is not a contractor. She’s working Full-Time, direct hire position. Unfortunately, she’s in an environment, where employees are fired and hired twice a year.

Mechanical Engineer’s Salary

I get paid peanuts (literally).

I earn a 5-digit salary.

The last four digits are zero and the last digit is a first number above 5 that’s a multiple of 3.

My salary has been stagnant for the past 6 years, even with 8 years of work experience.

I am in no position to ask my wife to leave her career and job to be my dependent. If I look for a new job, my company will slap a legal notice for Non-Competitive agreement.

If I were a US citizen, I could have moved on to some other field or work for federal projects where my skills can be put to use. However, I do not want to leave them either. My plans were to move to our India office.

However, what bothers me is the current visa situation and among other things

  • Mounting Debts
  • Weekend travel expenses
  • Unable to plan for a Family
  • This distance between me and my wife
  • Our aging parents. No one to look after them
  • ROI on housing loans differ for nonimmigrants in certain banks.

I mean, was this all necessary?

Can’t I ask for a salary hike?

Can’t I be happy with single salary?

I work for a company, which sees up and down, with changes in Administration. For last 9 years, we were low. Now we (the company) are picking up. However, a company that helped me with the following:

  • RFE in STEM extension
  • Applied for H1B visa in 2013
  • Applied for H1B in 2014
  • Paid partial fees for MBA
  • Now agreed to do my Green Card (Green Card Process and Steps)

Then, all the paperwork they offer when I am stuck at the US Embassy for Visa interviews. All the help they offered, I am indebted to.

I just cannot walk up to my management and demand more salary. I just do not have the heart to. Hiring me was an expensive affair at least in my thoughts.

All this is a big Eiffel Tower of problems boils down to one reason – H1B Visa.

It dictates when we can live together.

It dictates when we can think of kids.

It dictates even my rate of interest on educational loans, when I had to borrow money from Discover bank for my MBA.

I had gotten married in December of 2012.It’s agonizing when family talks ill about you.

A Big MISTAKE of Coming to the US

I think, I made the mistake of coming the U.S.

I was thinking like any other student coming here from India – Get a degree, Graduate and immediately find a job to work just like how we do in India.

Just, study and look for a job. Unfortunately, reality is different. Just ask anyone who is studying in the USA!

First, study and get a degree. Look for a job that is your field. Then look for an H1B Visa sponsor.

It’s not like in India.

There’s no Infosys and TCS are waiting to recruit 400 Engineers for Civil, Textile, Mechanical Engineering to work in IT services.

Finding a job as an International student is a humongous struggle.

I’m sure you read the following article:

Computer science graduates find employers’ at every corner of America.

Getting H1B is a totally different story though. But students from Non-Computer Science field, find it difficult to land jobs. Not to mention the salary in comparison to Computer Science Graduates.

Did I say I make peanuts after a Masters in Mechanical Engineering?

I’m not sugar coating it. This is the reality. Don’t believe me. Just find an International student and ask

How your job search going?

What’s your overall sentiment about working in the USA.

When I look back, It was my decision to come to the USA. Every decision comes with a package of good and the bad. But, I have vested several years of life here and thought things would get better for myself and my wife. I’m stuck in a limbo, unable to decide what’s next for us.

I wish to stay anonymous, but wanted to send my experience to Raghu to post at Happy Schools. I’m sure many others have similar stories.

Once you get H1B Visa, you are tied to work for the same company, for the same job title for many many years.

Potential students are just looking for what’s next and how do I get there. Those, who are looking at the complete road map from F1 to OP to H1B to Green Card, should probably consider other countries, unless Immigration Laws are changed to support High Skilled professionals.

And don’t get me started  about potential Green Card wait times!

I encourage others to share your stories about STEM OPT, Job Search, H1B, H4 EAD, Green Card Wait times. When I see kids in India spending fortunes to come to study abroad they see only the Dollar to Rupee conversion. But, the reality is different. H1B Visa decides (no dictates) every move of my life today and it’s not easy to get one.

Comments

  1. Wow!! It bring me in tears !!! You got a really big heart , While writing this !!! This is the cycle you mentioned
    > graduation> opt > stem opt> h1b> green card .. honestly I do t even think about Green card !’ Planning to leave right after graduation or intial opt !! Don’t want to get trapped in something similar !! Though I am no one to decide this , it’s almighty who choose the path for us . But surely I will do efforts and leave .
    I suggest you to look for jobs in some other countries . Don’t get involve in monkey race of green card , Family is first !

  2. Just come for masters at age of 22 use all 3 years of opt earn savings up to 30 lakhs go back to India before marriage
    That’s the best way now

  3. This is utter bulshit. It was YOUR CHOICE to come down to the states and it came with a price. You are trying to impede in someone else’s economy so you are bound to face those challenges. Merely complaining on how difficult your life has got won’t suffice. Think of so many challenges and politics you have to face in jobs in India and illogical reservation system in government jobs and institutions. In USA you are getting a recognition for your work and the comfort of life. The limitations on dependents is viable considering the plethora of people coming here and settling down like nothing. You always had the choice of staying back in India and betterment of life has its pros and cons. You have to face it.

  4. Hi,

    I am waiting for my OPT having a job offer in hand, the process is too long! Very long further if I look forward for a H1 like most of them(maybe, if I want it! Lol.)
    I understand your struggle but I completely disagree with what you said – little do people know H1 dictates life?! And future?! No, my life and future is in my hand, not under H1.
    This thought is itself demotivating, and everything you wrote dealt with USA. Have you ever thought to give back anything to India? Leave about giving back but at least don’t you think you have a secure life in India? Come on we welcome the whole world and how come you didn’t ever think of settling your life in India having so many difficult thoughts and struggles in your life. I wish you good luck and hope your issues be resolved.

    My suggestion to H1 hunters who are so desperate on dollars is that there is nothing less in India or any other countries, neither will you be lessened living elsewhere, if you are inspired to grow and succeed you will do it even in the midst of any life hardships.

    Thanks.

  5. nobody gives a shit. be a man and find other opportunities. if you cry oh poor me nothing is going to change. everything was a consequence of your decision. it is not like you got yourself into it without knowing anything. who the hell asked you to marry a girl and cause her problems when you yourself don’t have any thikana?
    Pagal aadmi ho kya? yehaan ke rules sadiyon se aise hain.

    it is a poorly written and sad ‘Oh poor me article’. It is not like you are a syrian refugee or a middle eastern refugee who is shunned by all the countries. It is not like your life is dependent on it. If you were in a delusion thinking it was going to be a bed of roses and you can get h1b green card one after another, then you need to wake up. what ever you do is a result of your own actions. why didn’t you choose canada or germany if you were sooo interested in aerospace? In India we have ISRO where there are amazing opportunities.

    take care of your wife , stop complaining and get a life.

    1. Hi Chongla,

      I agree with you, but you have to know the fact that he is blaming how to system is put up. H1-B is based on lottery and he has nothing to do with experience , Green card hopes are mere because of backlog. He can’t go back because of the debts and commitments. Most of the Indians (I say at-least 90%) who comes to US on Master’s barely know what’s the process for green card and life after Masters.

      Even I am in same boat, but I agree that it was our decision to move and we were ready to face any situation.

  6. I feel sorry for you my friend but I also think you are stupid and came here with wrong expectation built up due to western influence. You should have known or researched about the situation before making a decision to come here. In your story above also you seem to be biased towards your career instead you should just sit home and cook for your wife who is far more well educated and employable than you.

  7. Going to a new country has a big learning curve for everyone. I am sorry to read harsh comments for someone already in pain .

    There is a way out of every painful situation. Usually we choose what is least painful and most hopeful for us.
    Solution:
    1.Find small happiness first.
    Eat good food, spend time in nature.
    2. List all good things in life. Eg.
    i. You are employed and have a resume with 8 years experience, ii. masters degree in engineering and management.
    iii. You have a beautiful wife and she is able to survive on her own and supporting you in struggle.

    iv. You both are healthy.
    Go on…
    Now calculate your debt and count how soon you can pay off to be free.

    Check your career options in all countries including India to see what makes best sense. Check what your wife wants to do and make joint decision.

    Don’t be attached to GC. But once your i 140 is 1+ year old you are somewhat secure. Talk to your employer in case you want to take break. Visiting home town and spending some time with parents will surely comfort you and them.

    Life is all about making best out of what you have.

    Bless you…

    1. Priya – People have different way of reacting to others situation. When I read harsh comments, I don’t react to them that they have to review their views. When they face similar events in life, I’m pretty sure how the majority of folks will feel! it would hurt them.

      When it comes to USA, it’s easy to say, “You should go back or India is better”. Would the commenters follow their views! If someone had done it, practiced what they preach, then hats off. Else, I just move-on. Thanks for motivating and caring comment.

  8. Bro. Relax. You got a beautiful wife. Many people never get that. I actually envy you

  9. I suggest you do a Masters or a PhD (I know it’s hard, halfway thru my second masters, married and I hate it) in a discipline that relates remotely to mechanical (or not), but involves some of the latest technologies (AI, ML, Data Science etc) which are sought after in the high tech industries. It’s easy to get your foot in the door that way, and then move to a non-mechanical field based on your experience.

    Back when I was in India, I had this rose colored glasses thinking “I’ll follow my passion, and wont look for pay to decide what I want to do”, came to the US and got a MS degree in a field that was not IT (but it was from the ECE dept of my university). Lucked out by getting into a small company where they couldn’t afford to hire an experienced software engineer and they hired me, mentored me which gave me a decent footing to get into the next job.

    Many years since then, I’m only happy that I moved away from that field for which I got my MS degree.

    In economics there’s a concept called “Loss Aversion”. Basically loss aversion makes you feel emotionally attached to an investment (in my case my non IT engineering degree) and compels you into not looking for something outside that field. Fortunately for me, I was in such a desparate situation, I took up the job at that small company agreeing to work for free, for the first 3 months. I later realized that I did not succumb to loss aversion, otherwise I’d have waste more time looking for jobs in the field I specialized in.

    The earlier you make the jump, the better it is.

    Only other suggestion I can give is to look at Canada, which treats its high skilled immigrants better, than USA (which is extremely cruel to people born in India).

  10. Firstly, the story is definitely relate-able in many aspects…
    But, one thing lacking in this whole ordeal is vision. If you vision and work hard to achieve all is possible. Being positive is the only hope. One drop of negativity will be multiplied and it would take enormous efforts for adding positivity back in.

    All I can say is: Life is hard, systems can be brutal.
    Things that you do defy you and so try to look at a bigger picture.
    Prioritize and act accordingly.

    I am married and in a similar kind of limbo but I made sure my decisions are not going to mess up my future. Whatever happens take responsibility of your actions.

    I hope the best for you. Key to a beautiful life is inner peace.

  11. All these comments are too harsh. You were young and you made a mistake, everyone does it. Learn and move on.

    I am a Mechanical Engineer myself, and never faced any issues with finding new employers after 1 year of work experience in USA. I got calls from every 3rd company I applied for, but only thing which was hampering was my visa status. And yet, there were some companies who are willing to do my sponsorship and give me opportunity to earn up to 6 figures.

    Why are you clinging on H1B? If money is the issue then you need to broaden up your mind, because there is plenty of potential to make lot of money in India too. You may also look for jobs in Qatar, UAE, and SA because they will pay you handsomely if you perform well and you will be out of debt in no time. Qatar has 2022 World Cup coming up so there is plenty of construction jobs there. There are people in Iraq working for shell and making $400,000 a year. There are people in India making Rs. 20 lakh/year by just making YouTube videos using their cellphone.

    So why are you hanging onto H1B? My STEM OPT is running out and a company is ready to sponsor my H1B. I am actually thinking of declining the offer and move back to India, or apply for PR in Canada. I firmly believe that if a person has the skills then he can make money anywhere.

  12. The US does not owe us anything, legally or morally. Education in the US means just that. Education. It is not a pathway to employment in the US. The US Govt is not obligated to give us jobs after we finish our education.

    You keep saying “If I were a US Citizen”. You are not. You knew this before coming here. You knew this after joining school. You knew this after getting a job. If I was Ambani’s son, life would have been so easy for me but tough luck, I am not. Should I complain why I am not Ambani’s son?

    Looks like you value your pursuit of GC and Citizenship more than a family. If it really bothered you, you would have quit (paid off your debts of course) and would have gone to India. You and your wife are highly educated, you would have found decent jobs there, could have bought an apartment on loan and lived together happily. Millions are doing that in India. In your whole story, you are painting the US system as the culprit but the system was in place before you even came here.

  13. Dear Brother and Sister of my Country Great India,

    We all ran to US unable to withstand the pollution and lifestyle and god blessed us through F1 and H1B visa there are millions, who are stuck in war torn country some don’t have eyes and legs and some even don’t have education, I started blaming my country and now i started thanking God because I was not born in a country bombed 24/7 , neither was I was born in a country were children are born abused and obese, I picked up some one saying I have beautiful this and I don’t have that, Its a test from almighty ask yourself instead of crying here in this forum. cry to the Only God in the midnight get up secretly and cry to him not in this forum or to the world you will never be happy, because ‘son of adam’ will not happy if you give him mountain of Gold he will ask for more…. my advice stay calm and smile at yourself and what blessings you have and treat your mother and father well the heaven is under your mothers feat if they raise their hands God will open up doors of Heaven to you in this world and hereafter trust me it works .

    Cheers
    Trying not to be Philosopher here guys.
    🙂 My Goal keep smiling even at the face of death life is short to sit and cry.

  14. I don’t get why you continue to put yourself in a situation that makes you and your family unhappy. It is simple – if you have better options you would have jumped on it already. You and your wife are still making a lot more than an average american household. Take actions to change your situation instead of whining.

  15. Dude People even struggle to get H-1B visa and to get married. You have atleast done these two things, you are ahead of many people already. Forget about Green card. Just try to save money as much as possible and work hard in your job. Better time will come. Stop comparing with other people. Keep on looking for better opportunities whether in other city of USA, other country or back to Motherland India. All the Best and Cheer Up.

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