By Simon Forey
The problem the H1B visa, and hence its derivative H4, faces is that is performs two distinct tasks. And the US has never agreed within itself what its purpose is.
Firstly the H1B it allows US companies to bring in highly skilled foreigners for short term contracts. Perhaps to fill in certain tasks while Americans are being trained for the role. Perhaps to prevent wages spiraling out of control in some sectors. The intention being to allow US companies to have access to the worldwide menu of talented labor, who can come, do the job, then leave.
The second role the H1B visa performs is to entice high skilled aliens to emigrate to the US. By providing a relatively straightforward path for them to try out life in the USA for a few years before deciding whether they want to go through the process of moving permanently and dealing with the ordeals of getting a greencard.
Those two roles pull in different directions.
If the purpose of the H1B is to create a market in skilled but transient workers, then you want to make it difficult for them to put down roots. Ideally you would like then to leave their families behind, so as to concentrate on getting the job done, getting paid then getting out of there. You want them to feel like outsiders, do the minimum possible to make them feel at home, without actually dissuading them from coming in the first place. So the last thing you want is spouses getting into meaningful careers in the US.
On the other hand if the purpose of the H1B scheme is to encourage a Brain Drain into the US, to entice the brightest and best from around the world to leave their homelands and eventually become Americans – then you want to get them to integrate as quickly as possible. You want them to develop as many ties to the US as possible to encourage them to seek greencards and ultimately citizenship. You want to get the spouses into jobs, the kids into schools etc, to give them every reason to stay.
So really once the US decides for itself what it wants its future to look like, questions like this answer them self.