When a United States pharmaceutical company offered my husband an information technology job in 2008, I was excited to join him in the United States with our 5-month-old daughter. As we boarded a plane from India, I felt like we were embarking on a great family adventure. But when I later learned that U.S. immigration law would forbid me from working, I realized our life here would be more complicated.
In India, I was the lead engineer for a U.S. electronics company, providing technical support to consumers. Becoming a full-time stay-at-home mom in New Jersey was a big change for me. At the time, my daughter and, later, my son were very young, so I was happy to stay home with them. After we moved to San Antonio, I needed to engage my professional side again, so I enrolled in the MBA program at Texas A&M.
While it was a bit worrisome to spend $30,000 on an education I wasn’t sure I could use, I loved learning about how businesses can streamline their systems and provide better service. It was a great relief in 2015 – shortly before my graduation – to find out that I would be able to work. That’s when U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services implemented the Employment Authorization Document (H-4 EAD) for H-4 visa holders like myself. It allowed spouses of high-skilled H-1B visa holders, like my husband, to work in the U.S. I was quickly hired as a banking industry analyst, and it has been a great pleasure to once again exercise my skills and expertise.
But I may soon be forced out of my career for a second time. In February, the Trump administration filed a draft proposal to rescind the H-4 EAD, an action that would drive me and 90,000 other H-1B spouses out of the labor force. If implemented, the rule change would not only suspend the careers of H-1B spouses, the majority of whom are women, it would also be harmful to U.S. employers, who recruit H-1B visa holders because they have essential skills that are in short supply in this country.
H-1B spouses like me also have valuable expertise. An analysis recently published in economic journal Regulation finds that, as a whole, we are highly educated and possess skills that are in demand by U.S. employers. Because our abilities and economic activity actually create employment for others, removing us from the workplace would not produce any new jobs. However, it could result in a $7.5 billion loss to the gross domestic product due to the loss in tax dollars and spending power from H-4 workers.
Research by New American Economy finds that immigrants in general are particularly likely to have expertise in the STEM fields, where U.S. employers face a severe shortage of qualified professionals. Here in Texas, there are 13 STEM jobs advertised online for every unemployed STEM worker.
An NAE analysis finds that immigrants are helping to fill STEM shortages. Currently foreign-born residents are 22 percent of the nation’s STEM workers, even though we are only 13 percent of the population. At the graduate level, those of us on temporary visas are nearly 27 percent of the STEM master’s degree holders and 37 percent of those with doctorate degrees.
Like so many of my peers, I have these skills and I want to continue using them. Without the ability to practice in my field, I will feel lost. I have invested so much time and energy in my career; I can’t imagine all that hard work going to waste. Losing my job would also create financial stress for my family. My husband and I waited to purchase our house in San Antonio until after I got my job because we wanted to make sure we had two incomes before committing to a mortgage.
Our desires are simple. We want to do the work we love and watch our children grow up here in San Antonio, knowing that if they work hard they can realize their dreams. We want to be an ordinary American family.