22 things you can try while on an H4 visa
When we moved to the US, more than 8 years ago, we came on a J-Visa which included a work permit (EAD) for husband and myself. My youngest was just 1 year old and there were so many things that needed to be learned and to be done that I really could not work. After six months we enrolled the lil’ one in an excellent preschool that became like a second home for us and I could go to West Valley College to improve my English. It was fun going back to school, improving my proficiency in English and my listening skills. I had a great teacher who had lived in Germany for a few years and we exchanged our knowledge about the two different cultures and I was introduced to Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point”.
The older the kids got, the more I wanted to do something else than being the family CEO. I then very slowly entered the working world in the US: I started teaching German lessons for other bilingual German American children and I became a teacher aide at a local Elementary school. For the first time ever I opened my own business and turned my German classes into an official After School Care with camps in the summer. Soon after that I started working part-time at the German International School of Silicon Valley and I was hoping that could turn into a long-term position. But that was after already more than 4 years in the US and since the J-Visa was about to expire, we had to switch to the H visa because you cannot apply for a Green Card when you’re on the J-visa status. Stupid American immigration laws – I can tell you! And now with the new president-elect this is probably not going to get better!
Anyway, we flew to Germany to visit the Consulate of the US of A for the third time, came back with a brand new visa, but witout a valid work permit for me anymore. I can tell you, that sucks when you already could work and you were just about to start your career again and then someone tells you: “Too bad, you’re just a housewife, we don’t want your work force anymore!” So for the last 3 and a half years I couldn’t work in a real job anymore.
That’s when you have to get creative. There are things you can do, some of which I’ve done, some of which I wish I had done. Nobody is perfect and there is no ideal solution if you really miss your profession/career, but you might want to try some of these ideas what to do while living in the US without a work permit:
- Sit down and make a list of everything you like to do or always wanted to do. Because this is the time! Explore your true interests and hobbies. Make the best of it and enjoy the freedom!
- Don’t feel bad about yourself, but rather embrace the time given to you. I didn’t do that enough and I wish I wouldn’t have dwelled so much on everything I could not do, but just enjoy the things I could do.
- Enjoy the time with your kids! Do fun things together. Living abroad can bring your family closer together.
- You can use this time for self-improvement and life coaching.
- There will be times when you feel unsatisfied, maybe bored, frustrated or even worthless. Try not to! It is not your fault that got you into this position and you should definitely not feel bad about yourself.
- Find out about international wives or newcomers clubs. You can find kindred souls and share the ups and downs.
- Do not slouch. Get up in the morning, get dressed and make a list for the day/week. Write down people you will call or email and things you want to accomplish. Even if the volume seems low, you are being proactive.
- Explore the area you live in. Do day trips or just walk through your city/town and discover everything that’s new and different from your home country.
- Take a class at the Community Center.
- Go to College or University. Improve your language skills or just take a class that sounds interesting.
- Learn about the American history/culture.
- Work on your resume/CV for the future.
- Find out how your degree will be honored and update your qualifications to US standard for the time you will have a work permit.
- Network in your professional field.
- You can try to find a job that sponsors an H-1b visa for yourself.
- Get a gym membership.
- Try a new sport and/or sign up for a race.
- Volunteer: in school, for local organizations, at church, … or join a charity. There are endless opportunities.
- Learn or improve your cooking.
- Learn an instrument or join a choir.
- Start a blog. Write or post pictures for family and friends or for the whole world and mostly for yourself. Share your experiences, because you are not alone.
- You can write a book and publish it in a different country. The royalties are considered “passive income”. Read more about 6 legal ways to earn money in the US without a work permit.
Here you can find some information about what you can and can not do with an H-4 visa. Since May 2015, certain H-4 visa holder can apply for an EAD. You can read more about that here. I also found this post about 5 things to boost your career when on the H-4 visa.
With my own experience, good and bad, that’s just my
twentytwo pennies’ worth and I hope it’ll be a help for the one or the other out there.
This post is a part of a series called NaBloPoMo 2016 hosted by BlogHer. NaBloPoMo is short for National Blog Posting Month and it challenges writers and creatives to post on their blogs once a day (at least) for the month of November. You can find all my posts on my blogher page, too. Stay tuned!