"It's Like I Am Standing Still": Immigration Regulations and Wives of International Students

Date of Completion

January 2012


Women's Studies|Education, Multilingual|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




This dissertation utilizes a feminist family studies framework to examine the impact of current immigration policies and university structures on the personal, professional and family life of wives of international students. The research process included interviews with thirty-two wives who came to the US on a F-2 visa, along with analysis of immigration and university documents. The results of the study show that for the wives the decision to migrate is strongly influenced by gendered constructions of family relationships. Such migration is often at the cost of their personal networks and professional careers. This study also increases our knowledge of the structural problems F-2 wives face due to their immigration status. Most wives report a pervasive sense of loneliness and social isolation. Immigration regulations, which prohibit wives from accessing educational and employment opportunities, not only result in irreparable damage to their long-term career prospects but also reinforce traditional gender identities within the family. Wives report a significant increase in their burden of unpaid reproductive labor. The opaque nature of immigration regulations and the gendered organization of the immigration process make it difficult for wives to evaluate the consequences of migration prior to arriving in the United States. The findings of this study contribute to the growing body of literature on how family migration to the United States is shaped by gendered institutions. ^