Publication Date

Spring 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Peter Chua


aesthetic labor, coerced volunteering, dependency, H4 visa, highly skilled immigration, motherhood

Subject Areas

Sociology; East European studies; Gender studies


An academic dialog concerning the intersectionality of national origin, economic class and gender, as mutually constitutive elements of migration, set the context for my inquiry into the experiences of wives who are barred from paid labor by their restricted visa status. Guided by grounded theory, I conducted seventeen semi-structured qualitative interviews to examine ways in which a move to Silicon Valley under a restricted visa class changes the self-image of women, and how they evaluate this change. I found that the ambiguous agency construct of women socialized in the Soviet and post-Soviet eras facilitated their choice to migrate despite the visa restrictions. After emigrating, the women tended to embrace values of individualism and self-reliance, which reinforced their professional ambitions. However, the absence of professional options created a split between the women’s lived experiences and their self-representation. In addition, I found that a visa that prohibits employment creates a homogenizing effect on women’s self-images, putting them on similar personal and professional tracks and making their legal and economic status less predictable. These findings suggest that structural strategies might be adopted to help these women reclaim their self-images and exert more control over the selection and pursuit of their goals.