The simple answer to that question is : No. The H4 visa is issued to the spouse and children on the H1 visa holder and the basic requirements of that visa type is that the holder must not seek employment during the stay in the U.S.That said if you are not willing to leave your job or remain unemployed at home perhaps the H4 visa is not for you. Many folks get frustrated and need someone to point them in the right direction. Others lose interest, feel 'cooped in' and just move back to their home country.
Hence it is always a good idea to know what to expect: Working is a big NO on H4 visa. There are no exceptions.
If you are ok with this you should embrace the life on the H4 visa in US with open arms! Research suggests that there are a very high number of stay at home moms (5.6 million) as compared to stay at home dads (165,000) in the U.S. This demographic largely consists of women who stay at home to take care of their families, did not work for the entire previous year and had a husband who worked for 52 weeks (Washington Post, October 2009*).
Even if you are not a mom there are a lot of alternate things to do and with the advancement of technology and communication the opportunities have only quadrupled in the past decade.
Even though there is no research to prove this, the usual life trajectory that any H4 visa holder follows is somewhat like the following:
- Sit at home. Get bored.
- Pursue interests/hobbies.
- Volunteer and get involved in community service.
- Apply for a different visa and work or start a family.
Here is a list of things that you can do. This list is entirely random and is based on my experience with fellow H4 visa holders.
- Study: The H4 visa holder can pursue higher education at any institution of higher learning. There is no restriction on this. Hence if there is a course you fancy or if you are planning to do your Masters you can go right ahead and start the admission process! Many a genius minds have been sculpted during this break. After completing your studies you can switch to a work visa and find a decent job.
- Pursue interests/hobbies: Have you seen the library systems here? Seriously, a library is a book lover's heaven. Get yourself a library card and look for books that interest you if you are into reading and writing. If reading is not your cup of tea you can find classes in dancing, yoga,aerobics, foreign language training, astrology, astronomy, painting, sewing, etc. If you like running, train for Half Marathons. If you like singing get into a community college program.There are a ton of things you can do.
- Volunteer: There is nothing more satisfying than giving back to the community. You can look for volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood. The best places to start are neighboring schools, churches, community halls, and libraries. Nowadays every organization lists volunteer opportunities online. So dig onto Craigslist (Community section. There is a separate section on Volunteers). You can also check listings in your state on Big Brothers Big Sisters (http://www.bbbs.org/site/c.9iILI3NGKhK6F/b.5962345/k.E123/Volunteer_to_start_something.htm) It is always fun to volunteer in local organizations. If you plan to study later you can use the credits you gain from community service at school.
What you can do on the H4 visa is totally on you. Here are some likely scenarios.
- I want to work eventually : If you think that you have to get back to work then look for alternatives in that direction. Study and get a work permit or look for a company that is willing to sponsor your visa based on your skill set.
- I don't care. I have to move back to my country : If you think that you are in the U.S. for a very short time and you definitely plan to move back to your home country try to seize opportunities that would not be available to you in your home country. For example you can travel extensively in the country, try backpacking, scuba diving, para sailing, aqua zumba, belly dancing, etc.
- I want to become become a Crafts Entrepreneur: If you want to pursue and interest and eventually start your own business (once you get a Green Card) work in that direction. Hone your skills and study different crafts. Take a business course.
There are a lot of opportunities and you have to make the most of them while on the H4 visa. Please share other ideas on alternate things to do on the H4 visa on this forum.
* The detailed article titled ' Most Stay at Home Moms Start that Way, study finds' is written by Donna St. George in The Washington Post on October 1, 2009.