Pallavi BanerjeeJul 6, 2022
The Opportunity Trap
High-Skilled Workers, Indian Families, and the Failures of the Dependent Visa Program
New York University Press 2022
The Opportunity Trap: High-Skilled Workers, Indian Families, and the Failures of the Dependent Visa Program (NYU Press, 2022) is the first book to look at the impact of the H-4 dependent visa programs on women and men visa holders in Indian families in America. Comparing two distinct groups of Indian immigrant families -families of male high-tech workers and female nurses-Pallavi Banerjee reveals how visa policies that are legally gender and race neutral in fact have gendered and racialized ramifications for visa holders and their spouses.
Drawing on interviews with fifty-five Indian couples, Banerjee highlights the experiences of high-skilled immigrants as they struggle to cope with visa laws, which forbid their spouses from working paid jobs. She examines how these unfair restrictions destabilize-if not completely dismantle-families, who often break under this marital, financial, and emotional stress.
Banerjee shows us, through the eyes of immigrants themselves, how the visa process strips them of their rights, forcing them to depend on their spouses and the government in fundamentally challenging ways. The Opportunity Trap provides a critical look at our visa system, underscoring how it fails immigrant families.
Lakshita Malik is a doctoral student in the department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work focuses on questions of intimacies, class, gender, and beauty in South Asia.