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Why children of H-1B workers may now have to leave America

children of H-1B workers

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services receives about 1,00,000 green card applications from high-skilled applicants of Indian origin every year.

Jahnavi Parikh was two when her father Piyush Parikh, an IT professional, moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1999. Jahnavi began school in the US and, later when her father moved back to India between 2004 and 2007, he enrolled her in a Mumbai school. Post 2007, she was once again studying in the US.

Two years ago, when Jahnavi applied for college admissions, she realised that unlike most of her classmates, she was not entitled to any of the scholarships that American students can apply for. “I had been a topper in class and this was a big blow. Even worse was that I couldn’t join any medical course, which is what I had set my heart on. Also, I can’t take up any job assignments in the US, because of my visa status as an H4 dependent child,” Jahnavi told ET Magazine from Atlanta. (Family members — spouse and unmarried children — of an H-1B worker are admitted to the US in the H4 category.) Jahnavi has now joined a second major in management information systems along with her pre-medical undergraduate course at the University of Georgia.

Her problems don’t end there. Jahnavi’s father is on an H-1B visa extension with his employer, a business intelligence and analytics company, having filed his petition for a green card in 2009. Skilled Indian immigrants in green card queues foresee long waits going up to even 30 years or more in some cases.

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Jahnavi turns 21 next year, and will face the issue of “ageing-out”. She will no longer be a part of her father’s green card petition as his dependent.

“My daughter who grew up in America and did all her education here will move to the status as an international student and will have to seek a fresh visa to continue her education here. If she applies for a job, her employer will have to file for a non-immigrant work permit for her, and all this for no fault of hers,” rues Piyush.

Green Card Backlog

Krishna Priya Kunapareddy Chinna, who came to the US 10 years ago for a master’s, is also worried about her daughter, who is 14 and in ninth grade. “When I came to the US, my daughter, Sarvani, was only three. Now as she finishes middle school, I have started looking at career choices for her,” Krishna Priya told ET Magazine from Missouri.

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The H4 Dreamers movement was started to address this issue, with children and their parents beginning to organise by forming alliances and solidarities. The young people in this movement along with their parents are writing petitions and calling their Congresspersons and other legislators so that they can obtain work permits once they age-out.

The issues faced by H4 dependent kids have been grossly underrepresented by both the Indian and US governments and the IT firms in both countries. Yet, some organisations such as the US India Political Action Committee have been working with members of the US Congress to focus on them. It’s up to them largely to ensure that the American Dreamers can bridge the gap with American reality.

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