What is the problem?
In 2015, 125,000 H4 visas were granted to dependent spouses of H1B visa holders in the US. Unfortunately, H4 visa holders (and other dependent visa holders such as TD, E4 and O2) are not eligible to receive an SSN, earn income or start a business. Additionally, H4 visa holders are unable to get a credit card, a cell phone plan or other services requiring an SSN. In some states, they are not eligible for a driver’s license.
Without the opportunity to go to work, significant psychological stresses are present among members of this community: feelings of guilt or laziness; feelings of lack of purpose or value; feelings of undeservedness, isolation, loneliness and depression.
Additionally, within this community, there is confusion around what is allowed and what is not allowed while holding their visa status. For examples, whether or not H4 visa holders can volunteer (they can, as long as it is for a 501c3), whether or not they can apply for their own H1B visas, how long it will take to obtain an employment authorization document (EAD), and what kinds of educational opportunities they are able to undertake. Added to this confusion are the stresses that come from moving to a different country: finding a place to live, understanding how the healthcare system works, getting a driver’s license, setting up a bank account, meeting friends, finding a school for one’s children, etc. Amity has a unique opportunity to provide support to this immigrant population, particularly in the field of mental health.
Mission: Connecting non-working spousal visa holders to community, opportunity and resources to improve mental health.
Vision: To be the first point of contact for resources and support for spousal visa holders (e.g. H4, TD, E4 etc.) relocating to the United States.
How will Amity Visa Spouse Support Network help?
- Facilitate connection
- Encourage opportunity
- Provide resources
- Connect non-profits
- Advocate for change
Amity will host connection events through local Chapters across the USA, facilitating introductions to other non-working visa-spouses who can empathize and understand the dependent immigrant visa lifestyle and frustrations.
Amity will encourage dependent visa spouses to volunteer in their communities and will partner with local charities who may benefit from the expertise and availability of visa spouses to advertise and connect opportunities to the visa spouse community.
The Amity website will include a library of resources on immigration law, mental health, relocation and re-establishment, and culture shock. These resources will include first-person blog articles written by current and previous visa spouses, professionally-vetted how-to articles in the areas of immigration law, income tax filing, mental health care, and cross-cultural communication, as well as state-specific resources relating to obtaining a driver’s license, enrolling children in school, and housing. Bi-annually, Amity will host a “Speaker Series”, inviting guest speakers with expertise in areas of relevance to visa spouses to address attendees’ questions.
While many companies hiring H1B visa workers provide excellent health care coverage, including mental health care support for spouses and children – that is not the case across all employers. Amity will work to create partnerships with American non-profit mental health care providers so that visa dependents can have access to the help that they need. Where possible and applicable, Amity will cover the cost of mental health care counseling to these non-profits.
To fund this program, Amity will request donations from corporate sponsors who hire H1B visa holders as well as apply for grants related to funding mental health care programming.
Advocate for Change
To the extent that it can engage in political advocacy without jeopardizing its 501c3 status, Amity will advocate for changes to the H4 visa program at all levels of government. Amity will reach out to other immigration reform lobby groups such as Fwd.Us and partner with them to provide compelling stories and annecdotes from the H4 visa community to further the lobby groups’ power.