WOODSIDE, NY– When Pasig native Rita Lactaoen came to the US as an H4 dependent of her husband in 2010, she knew she would not be allowed to work legally.
What she did not expect is that living in the US without the permit to work would be too tough for her and her family.
“Nasa bahay lang ako, umiiyak nga ako minsan. Para akong mababaliw kasi siyempre sayang yung panahon. Tapos nagpe-prepare ako ng baon ng mga anak ko. Pag pumasok na sila nandun lang ako mag-isa so sayang yung opportunity,” Lactaoen said.
H-1B temporary workers like Mang Louie Lactaoen can bring their spouses and children with them under the H4 visa category but it is illegal for dependents to seek employment while in the US.
“Elisa,” an H4 dependent spouse requested Balitang America not to reveal her identity for personal reasons.
Like Rita, Elisa came to the US under an H4 dependent visa in 2009.
“Alam kong hindi pwede magtrabaho pero hindi naman kasi yun ang number one na inisip ko eh, inisip ko yung mabuo kami ng family,” Elisa said.
Elisa, who was a former teacher in the Philippines has tried different ways to get a teaching job in New York, but failed to do so because she does not have the papers to prove her eligibility to work in the US.
She said while teaching is good for her soul, she needed the extra money to send her kids to college.
"Elementary up to high school it’s okay, sagot ng gobyerno pero pagdating nila ng college mag-aaral na sila, kailangan may pera ka para sa kanila. So masakit yung puntong yun na hindi makapag-aral yung mga anak ko dahil kulang ang pera," Elsa said.
But there’s good news for the estimated 97,000 H4 spouses like Rita and Elisa in the US.
The Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday that under a new proposal, H4 visa holders may be eligible to get an Employment Authorization Document or EAD card provided they have started a labor certification process or a green card application – a change of status to become permanent residents.
New York immigration lawyer Felix Vinluan said, “I think they are also targeting H-1B beneficiaries of the STEM categories. STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. Yun yata eh kasi they would like these people in this H-1B categories to remain in the country.”
Back in April, the White House announced that several proposals such as this one is being considered to make the US more attractive to talented high-skilled immigrants who will contribute substantially to the US economy, create jobs and enhance American innovative competitiveness.
“Alam ko namang kaya ko, eh. Minsan nga, naisip ko na sumulat kay President Obama to inform or para malaman niya kung gaano kahirap sa aming mga H4. Na meron naman kaming i-co-contribute at kaya naming mag contribute dito sa inyong bansa,” Elisa said.
“Unang-una, pumasok naman kami dito as legal. Yun nga lang, H4 hindi siya pwede magtrabaho,” Louie Lactaoen said. “Lalo na yung asawa ko. Accountancy siya, so gusto niya ma-iapply yung napagaralan niya dito kasi para sa akin maganda yung ginagawang move ni Obama.”
A notice of the proposed rule will soon be published in the Federal Register.
The Homeland Security Department encourages the public to comment on the proposed rule through www.regulations.gov.
Meantime, the US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who recognizes the extraordinary contributions immigrants have made to America’s economy, says that the US needs to do more actions like this to retain and attract world class talents to America.