h4 visa career options f1 ead h1b job

H4 Visa: Options to Navigate Your Career in the USA

Should I marry an H-1B Visa holder in the USA if I want to have a successful career in the USA?

I’m paraphrasing the question. But the actual question goes like this:

  • I need to make a decision about marrying a guy (on H-1B) and I have the following questions
    • Can someone tell me how hard it is for H4 Wives to live in the USA?
    • How hard it is to get a job in IT with only one year of Indian experience?
    • Does the career gap in India make it difficult to find a job in the USA?
    • How much time it will take to convert from H4 to F1 if I want to study?
    • How much time it will take to get H1B?

Someone names Gauri asked this question in the Facebook Group. As you would expect, answers were thoughtful to fun, but engaging. It attracted over 350 comments (aka answers, suggestions and experiences).

Here’s some of the answers from the members that should help any H4 Visa holder with their Career choices. These answers are slightly edited for clarity.


Two Options & Potential Problems

  • Path 1: Get F1 Visa: – admission to US university, complete graduate program, and post-masters get Job and your employer files your H1B
  • Path 2: Get H4 EAD: If your spouse would get I-140 approved, you can get H4-EAD, you can work using EAD.

You can get admission to the same University where your husband is working (or in the same city), but again it depends and is wishful thinking.

Getting a job – if during your master’s you study relevant/upcoming technologies and get an internship for similar roles you can get a job. A lot of factors are involved in getting a job but if you have skills that the market wants/desires you can get a job.

Getting H1B – not all employers file for H1B, most large companies do. You need to get picked up in the lottery, and again there are a lot of uncertainties. But if you are in a STEM program you can get 3 attempts to get H1B (at least 3 years)

Potential problems for H4 to F1 (or a Job)

You and your future husband would not be in the same city; it can be a lot of stress.

If you are opting for H4-EAD, there is a high possibility you may not be able to work.
Just stated facts. However, don’t mix marriage and career choices.

You have 1-year of work experience, which means you would be 23 or 24, the US is still a country of opportunity. You would be able to figure out your career, but balancing a career with marriage would be challenging.

Get facts about US immigration and connect with at least 10 different people on both F1 Visa and H4 visa to get their experience.

(You should get a balanced opinion from both sides and factual information)

My 2 cents – the journey can be figured out, what is important is not a journey or destination but a partner!


What to Study while on H4 Visa?

If you’re sure that you want to pursue a career for at least a few years, then my recommendation is to enter an F1 visa to study which would lead to a career.

Staying at home here on an H4 Visa or any sort of non-working visa is completely different than staying at home in India and for most people, very boring.

My mom was bored out of her mind because everybody has a busy life here. Even if you have a company like other women who are staying at home, you’ll get bored pretty soon if you generally enjoyed working a job in the past.

Your best and surest option for what you described in your post is to enter with an F1 visa. Of course, only if you are interested in pursuing a grad study but that’s also the fastest way to get a job here as a foreigner. Plus, you’ll have an independent visa status of your own allowing more options for you both as a couple.

Next, the best is to find a job here and secure an H1b. The likelihood of getting this depends on your field of study. Note that there are plenty of uncertainties surrounding this visa right now especially for non-US Masters candidates.

All that said, H4 is the easiest option with an approved i140 spouse. H4 EAD is has become a long process. If you’re OK with the wait, then this is the easiest option.


H4 to F1: F1 Visa Rejection is a Possibility

My sister was in same situation 5 years ago. So, I will give you two options based on risk of visa rejection and peace of mind. I will NOT suggest you go for Day 1 CPT as there are a lot of issues with that.

Option 1 – Come to US on H4 Visa

Apply for any decent university with a STEM program to convert your visa status from H4 to F1. Don’t go for universities that offer Day 1 CPT just less upfront tuition fee of 15K- 20K instead go for any average university.


Option 2 – Come to the USA on F1 Visa

Once your marriage is fixed, start preparing for GRE and apply to Universities which are closer to where you will live. Give F-1 visa interview at US embassy in India and come to the US on F-1 Visa. It’s a clean solution.

The more upfront investment of 20K-30K you can earn within 6 months of salary. The benefit would be you will 3 years (OPT + STEM OPT) during which you will get a recent runway of time for your employer to file an H1B visa.


H4 to F1 or H4 EAD – Requires Planning and Preparedness

You can also discuss the same questions with your future husband and get to know his plan/situation as well.

The answers to these questions largely depend on his situation/preparedness than anything else.

Most of my friends had a plan for their spouse in terms of a Masters Degree, future job, focus areas that might benefit the spouse’s background (of course at the discretion of the spouse’s interest/willingness).

Securing professional and financial security is obviously one of the top priorities, and most of the guys have a plan for it (there could be some without it. Talking to your future spouse might help to know better).

Apart from his immigration status, equally important are the person’s future insight and practicality in dealing with these issues.

H1, H4, H4 EAD, I-140, GC are documents that just provide some assurance to continue working, but unless the person is practical and has proper planning, none can assure a good future.


H4 to 120K Job on Amazon

My friend has the same situation as you before. This is how she got her 120k job. I don’t know if it works for everybody but it might be some options.

She applied for a Day 1 CPT school with an F1 visa. When you apply to Colleges please check their CPT program, not every school has a friendly policy.

The cost was like 14k a year or 16k year tuition and got her computer science master’s degree.

While studying Masters she had applied for some related part-time job which is legal because of the CPT program. It covered parts of her tuition fees.

Then she had join the bootcamp which was free to train for computer skills, coding, interview skills helped her with resume and all things and guaranteed for a job.

She paid a percentage until she got a job. So basically she paid nothing. The Bootcamp arranged several interviews for her. She got an offer on Amazon with 120K salary package during the quarantine.

She told me that company can help her with this year’s H-1B Visa draw.

It took her 2 years because she has to complete the degree in 2 years which was brutal, she has to do at least 5 Leetcode a day (which is not easy).

She wants to give up every single day at that time. What she told me was, it’s totally a big decision for her to chose it at the beginning and luckily it works well.

Just some ideas to share hopefully works for someone who wants to do Computer Science jobs.


Life and Relationships Over Career and H4 Visa

It’s disheartening to see such a mindset about a marriage where it reduces to transaction-based.

If you really want to base the next 50 years of your life based on geography?

If these are your concerns and you feel that you won’t have a career in the US which could support him, you can ask him whether he is ready to move out of the US if things don’t work out.

The US is not the only country and there are ways to settle down in many other countries if you both really wish to.

Having said that, when I was doing my Master’s, three of my classmates were women who came on an H4 visa and stayed here for a few months and then converted to F1 Visa for their masters.

Post F1 Visa you are independent and your visa and career are in your hands.

Forget marriage, if you wanted to come in as a student right now, would you feel comfortable with your profile? If not then post H4 to F1 it may not change much. The only thing is if your husband to his networks may be of extra help or his support can help you put get extra time for job hunting.

Even if you get a job, there is no guarantee you will get an H1 or other visa. What will you do then? I think you should probably focus on what you guys are willing to do then. If you differ in opinions there then you’d have to think about it.

Don’t just think about rosy picture. Take chances and probability into account (after all, H1B Visa is based on lottery).


GRE & Masters Degree Option for H4 Visa Holders

Preparing for GRE takes 5 to 6 months, considering you have either strong English and Maths background).

Your GRE score will be valid for 3 or 5 years. So admission into the choice of the university takes 1 year to 2 years at max.

If you want to pursue a career, do not depend on the H4 visa status. You can certainly get married and change to F1 from H4 Visa. Many students do that.

Also, you need to be on F1 status for at least 2 semesters as an on-campus full-time student to be eligible for OPT. So you have to plan H4 to F1 transition accordingly.

One mis-step can take you to square one (like F1 Visa denial or Change of Status takes too long).


The Reality: Not Easy

Just stating the reality, my friend has been sitting at home for the past 8 years (since 2012) because her husband couldn’t get picked in the H1B lottery after his Masters degree.

He had to go get a Ph.D. to continue his journey in the US.

The wife supported him, but at the expense of her being tied to home. Studying in the US is a huge investment too, and they couldn’t take the burden of husband and wife being in college debt.

My take is unless your potential match has I-140 approved, your journey in the US would be a HUGE struggle (unless you decide to get a degree and decide to stay on your feet).

Life in the US is NOT ALL rosy, it can get lonely and depressing especially if you don’t want to be stuck at home after marriage!


The Reality: It’s Brutal

Hi, if I’m being brutally honest, it’s not easy.

If your husband has an I-140, you qualify for an EAD — which per current USCIS processing times could take more than 6 months.

I’m not sure what field you’re in, I’m a journalist and I’ve spent a few months waiting on a status change. It’s not a good look into my specific industry, but I’ve heard that folks in STEM have it a little easier.

I’d also add that while you wait for a visa or an EAD, there is very little you can do. If you have a pending visa application with USCIS, you can’t leave the country unless it’s approved, or you risk a denied application.

You can volunteer for a charity or take non-credit classes that don’t need a visa. You’re essentially dependent on another person — quite literally the terms of the H-4.

Unless something is done to fix the application process at USCIS, you’re going to be in for a long wait getting a work permit, or changing from an H4 to an F1.

I would read up as much as you can about the current immigration system and decide if living here is worth the paperwork and oftentimes, stress.


For H4 Visa Holders Patience is the Key

I have been in the same boat some 5 years ago.

Although I do think that getting a job, living in the US on a visa is not as easy and the process is not as smooth but if you are confident about your skills and work hard, you can get a job on H4, I did and a lot of my friends did too.

With time and simultaneously you can look for other options too i.e., if your employer is supportive they sponsor and file for H-1B, or you can apply for Masters and F1 visa and then eventually to H-1B.

If your partner is supportive and you are focused on your career, you can do anything.

Depends on your mindset. It’s already a great start that you have started looking into your options before getting here. Patience is key!


Career Gap Can be Overcome on H4 Visa

  • If newlywed, you can get a better understanding in the initial stage as it’s just two of you.
  • In the present situation with working from home, you will also have a company and you won’t be alone. If and when things return back to normal, then you have to be alone and it becomes boring and tiresome as it’s not easy.
  • You can enroll in some courses online/certifications/ keep yourself up to date.
  • F1 or H1 it’s tough as it’s really lottery-based. Some might not like to handle the visa process – opportunities are less compared to EAD. H4 EAD has more opportunities.
  • I know friends who have a 5-10 years career gap and getting hired full time after a few months of the contract job.
  • H4 to F1 Conversion:
  • 6 to 8 months after enrolling to college as i20 is required. Sometimes it takes a little longer
  • H1B Lottery – if you are not lucky, no one can answer that. Some have applied for 4 – 5 years in a row.
  • Give it a good thought. It’s better to be aware of what you are getting into rather than things coming as a surprise.

There are plenty of opinions and experiences shared with answers from variety of folks. Few has easy path, others waited for several years.

The key here is planning.

Know your paths.

Yes, it’s paths.

Don’t plan for just one route. With Immigration, always have Plan A and a Fallback Plan B and C.

For example your Plan A could be:

  • Come to USA on H4 Visa
  • Apply to Universities
  • Get Admit and Start School

Read this – H4 to F1 Visa Conversion, F1 Stamping Interview and Timeline

This sound easy on the paper. When you get into the details, your have to look at lot more facts.

  • How to change to F1 Visa
    • By Change of Status or
    • F1 Visa Conversion
  • What is the Processing Time for H4 to F1 Change of Status
  • When can you go for F1 stamping?
  • Where to go for F1 Stamping?
  • What if F1 Visa is denied?
  • What is F1 is denied and you are closer to graduation?
  • Should you go for Stamping in Canada or Mexico or India?
  • When do you plan to start a family?
  • How are you going to pay for the degree?
  • If you go for stamping, who will be your sponsor?
  • What will you answer for “Why H4 to F1 Visa, why not study on H4?”

That’s how your scenario will look when you actually get into this process. The questions you need to ask will vary base don your family and your situation. There is no one size-fits all option.

Ask the right questions, create a plan that bets works for your family.

Expect what changes are going to come?

For instance, you start a school in your city and your spouse need to move to different city. How does your plan change?

Above all, if there is a will, there is way.

At the time of this writing, as others have stated, a path from H4 to F1 to a Job exists and it takes time, preparedness, effort, and sacrifice.

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