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H-1B Spouses Trapped in Abusive Marriages

Shelters and domestic violence programs are being called by the spouses of H-1B visa holders.  The visa status these spouses have does not allow them to work.

Their legal status and financial status is completely reliant on their abuser.

These women’s stories are saddening.  From being beaten while pregnant, to not allowed to leave the house, to threats of deportation.

An anonymous woman, titled “Nisha” for the news story, said, “How could I press charges?”  She continued, “I wasn’t independent.  I was new to this country.  If I tell you to arrest him, how will I survive here.”

The Obama administration program allowing for these visa holders to obtain work permits was able to help the situation a little, the Trump administration is in the midst of plans to decimate the program.

Since 2015, approximately 100,000 H-4 visa holders have applied to obtain work permits.

The Obama administration program was not perfect though.  The spouse does not qualify for the program until after being approved for a green card.

The work permits allow for financial independence, giving many of these abused women the confidence and financial ability to get away from their abusers—or at least the hope that they will be able to one day.

Nisha said, “When you’re without work or you’re wholly dependent on someone, it becomes extremely limiting…you’re not part of this society.”

The taboos in some countries of divorce make the idea of returning home without your spouse equally as terrifying.  The feeling of trapped-ness only intensifies.

Tejewsi Dodda, an employee in a domestic violence program called Self-Empowerment and Economic Development explains that the “nature of the visa creates a disincentive to report the violence.”

Michael Bars said in a statement for USCIS, “The agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the President’s Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, including a thorough review of employment based visa programs.”

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