The H-4 visa is for spouses and children of H visa holders who wish to travel to the United States with their principal H visa holder.
Those who are granted work visas to the United States often enjoy perks not just for themselves but also for their families.
In the case of the H-1B nonimmigrant visa, recipients may apply for H-4 dependent visas for their spouses and minor children to join them in the United States. This aids in maintaining family unity during a time of great change.
We cover the ins and outs of the H-4 visa category, from how to apply. to the benefits you can expect to receive in this detailed guide.
Spouses and children under the age of 21 of H category visa holders (H-1A, H-1B visa, H-1B1, H-2A, and H-2B) are eligible for the H-4 visa.
People in this category are known as H-4 dependents. While there are many positive aspects to coming to the United States on a temporary H-4 visa, there are also some restrictions that you should be aware of.
While in the United States on H-4 status, you can change your status to that of an H-1B visa holder or apply to adjust your status to that of a green card holder.
H4 Visa Application Procedure
The H-4 visa allows you to either visit or join a spouse or parent who holds an H-1B visa and is employed in the United States.
If you are currently not in the United States under another nonimmigrant visa status, you will need to apply for your H-4 visa at a U.S. consulate
After your spouse or parent’s H-1B visa has been approved, you can apply for a DS-160 nonimmigrant visa via the online system.
Make sure to print out the confirmation and receipt of payment once you’ve submitted the application and completed the filing fee.
Following this, you will be able to make an appointment with the U.S. consulate in your country.
There, you’ll have a private conversation with a consular official who will weigh the merits of your claim.
Furthermore, your H-4 visa status, spouse’s or parent’s job, and future intentions in the United States may all come up in the interview.
If everything goes well at the interview and the consulate grants your visa, they will hold onto your passport and send it back to you along with your H-4 visa stamped inside. If you have an H-1B parent or spouse, you can travel to the United States with them and stay with your family.
How long does H-4 visa processing take?
Processing times for H-4 visas vary widely by nation, so there is currently no universal estimate. Due to the nature of the dependent visa (H-4), the processing period is often tied to the original H-1B visa’s approval.
An H-4 visa will be processed in the same amount of time as an H-1B visa if both visas are submitted at the same time.
If you are applying for an H-4 visa alone, the processing period will vary depending on the U.S. consulate or embassy that receives your paperwork. The processing time will increase if there is a large volume of work being done at that time.
The I-539 petition’s processing time depends on the USCIS service center. Timeframes here can be as short as a few weeks or as long as a few months.
The petition must be submitted far in advance of the expiration of the petitioner’s current status to ensure that the petitioner’s legal status is not jeopardized by a prolonged processing time.
H-4 visa extension
When you want to extend your H-4 status, you must file Form I-539 and pay any associated expenses.
As long as the primary H-1B visa holder is present, the extension petition can be filed concurrently. After the first three-year period expires, the H-1B visa can be extended for up to an additional year under certain circumstances.
Also, please include the following supporting materials with your submission:
- You should bring a copy of your current I-94 card.
- Recent I-94 form for the H-1B employee
- Copies of the H-1B employee’s I-129 petition and I-797 approval notification
- Relationship documentation showing how you are related to the primary H-1B visa holder (spouse, children, etc.).
How to get H-4 visa work permit
You need to do two things before applying for an H-4 work permit or H-4 EAD.
Only spouses of H-1B holders qualify for this incentive. Read our in-depth breakdown of the H-1B visa to learn if your spouse meets the requirements to apply for one.
The only way for your H-1B spouse to get a green card and permanently live in the United States is if he or she successfully files an I-140 petition.
This petition must have been authorized by USCIS. You can apply for an H-4 EAD as long as your I-140 has been accepted.
Forget about getting an EAD if your spouse’s I-140 is canceled before you get one. If this occurs after you’ve already acquired your work permit, It will stay valid until its original expiration date.
Your EAD will also be valid if your spouse has more than one I-140 approved with the USCIS.
You may also be eligible if your spouse was granted H-1B status under Sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000. (AC21). Consult an immigration lawyer to find out if you qualify for this waiver.
Similarly, if your H-1B spouse quits their work, they have 60 days to locate a new employer willing to sponsor their H-1B.
You and your spouse will lose your legal status if he or she is unable to secure employment with a new sponsoring employer.
That means you and your spouse must leave the country because your EAD will no longer be valid. Several online resources provide H-4 EAD tracking features. Monitor your submission status using those.
Term of H-4 visa validity
The H-4 visa’s validity is tied to that of the principal H-1B visa holder. The H-1B visa’s expiration date can be found on Form I-797, which H-4 visa applicants must file.
Based on this, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s home nation will issue the H-4 visa with the same validity.
After six years, the beneficiary of an H-1B visa must leave the United States unless they have changed to another type of work visa or obtained permanent residency.
The regulations for H-4 visa holders are identical to those for H visa holders.
Proof of H-4 Eligibility Documents
Spouses and children of H-1B visa holders must provide evidence of their link to the principal H-1B visa holder to qualify for an H-4 visa.
Hence, the following materials must accompany their applications:
- If your marriage certificate was not issued in English, you will need to have a certified translation prepared by a qualified translator and verified.
- Original and duplicate birth certificates for each child
- Each applicant must have a valid passport with at least one blank page.
- Additional evidence of the H-4 spouse’s marriage to the principal H-1B holder.
Examples of such are
- Images and footage from your wedding day in which you and your new husband can be seen clearly
- Downloadable PDF of Wedding Invites
- A photocopy of the wedding guest list
- Bills paid for the wedding and their respective receipts
- Documentation proving the cost of a wedding honeymoon or other post-nuptial events
- Besides, the H-4 spouse will need to provide evidence of marriage if the ceremony took place just at the wedding registrar.
- Certified copy of the marriage license issued by a county clerk
- Marriage license photos
- photographs of the witnesses and the person who conducted it
These are some other necessary documents to gather:
- A properly filled-out DS-160 application
- Two photos for your U.S. visa
- The Visa Interview Confirmation Letter
- Payment confirmations for the US $160 nonimmigrant visa application cost
- A duplicate of the primary H visa
- I-797 Notice of Action and I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker photocopies for an H-1B worker
- a photocopy of the LCA (Labor Condition Application) submitted in support of the initial H-1B visa petition.
- Passport copy for H-1B visa applicant
- Official U.S. job offer letter for the H-1B worker.
- Letter of support from the prior employer of the H-1B worker
- If the H-1B visa holder is already employed in the US, current pay stubs and tax filing information.
- This list is not exhaustive; the embassy or consulate may ask for more paperwork.
who is eligible for H-4 visa?
In general, there are two different ways to apply for an H-4 visa, depending on whether the applicants are already inside or outside the United States when the petition is submitted.
Getting an H-4 visa outside of the United States.
To apply for H-4 visa, a qualifying spouse or child of an H-1B worker must go to the U.S. consulate or embassy in either their place of origin or permanent residence.
The only time they can apply is after the initial H-1B petition has been granted by USCIS.
When applying for an H-4 visa, dependents must do so either concurrently with the primary H-1B visa beneficiary or after the USCIS has given the H-1B visa. These are the standard stages involved in applying:
Complete Form DS-160 online and print the barcode confirmation sheet. It’s required paperwork for your next meeting with the consulate.
Get ready to dish out $190 for the visa application; H-4 visas cost the same as any other H visa. Take a receipt after you’ve paid the fee.
Set up your visa interview appointment as soon as possible after submitting your DS-160 form to the U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country. Appointments move the process along more quickly if they are scheduled sooner rather than later.
You must appear for the visa interview, during which the consular officer will decide whether or not to grant your H-4 visa and will attempt to verify the authenticity of your relationship with the H visa holder.
You should also expect to be questioned about your motivations for visiting the United States. You must go into this interview with well-defined answers and adequate documentation where required to increase your chances of being issued the H-4 visa.
Once your H-4 visa application has been processed by the U.S. consulate or embassy, you will get a notification.
In addition, the consulate’s website allows you to enter your application number and view the status of your visa online. If everything checks out, you may finally book your travel to the United States and get your visa stamped at the embassy.
Note that just because you have an H-4 visa doesn’t mean you’ll be welcomed to the United States. The decision to let someone into the country ultimately rests with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the customs agents at the airport or border crossing.
Acquiring H-4 status while already in the country.
The H-4 visa application process differs for relatives of H-1B visa holders who are currently in the United States on another nonimmigrant visa status.
Since a visa is simply an entry document, people technically cannot apply for one while already physically present in the United States.
Instead, H-4 visa seekers should submit USCIS Form I-539, Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status. The application fee is $370, and biometric services cost an additional $85. One I-539 form can cover many applicants; just submit it along with the other materials mentioned above and wait for the USCIS to execute the change of status.
Let’s imagine your spouse or parent is currently working in the United States on an L-1 nonimmigrant work visa, and you’re in the country on an L-2 dependent visa; however, their L-1 visa is set to expire, and they’ve found a new company who will sponsor their H-1B petition.
If you are applying for an H-1B visa as an L-1 employee, you have the option of filing your I-539 application with the USCIS at the same time as the L-1 holder’s I-129 petition, or at any time thereafter.
Also, if the USCIS approves your I-539 petition, they will amend their records to reflect your new status as an H-4.
Keep in mind that a change of status can only be filed for family members who are already in the United States legally and who have continued to act lawfully while there.
Out-of-status individuals, like those who have overstayed their existing visas, are not qualified to apply for a change of status.
The L-2 visa is dependent, much like the L-1 visa, thus when your L-1 status expires, so does your family’s L-2 status.
Moreover, your family may be living in the United States illegally if you do not file Form I-539 to alter their status from L-2 to H-4. Their future chances of being able to live in the United States are put in jeopardy, among other dire outcomes, if this continues.
Please be aware that after obtaining H-4 visa status, your family members must visit a U.S. embassy to have their passports stamped to rejoin the country.
This is because a change of status to H-4 does not provide a visa, they have to go through the visa stamping process before returning. If the USCIS has already authorized the status adjustment, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but it is something to have in mind.
Can I expect any regular questions from USCIS during my H-4 visa interview?
The immigration officer’s focus will be determined by the specifics of your case. The immigration officer would most likely inquire as to the nature of your relationship with the primary H visa holder.
To secure a visa, they need to eliminate the chance of an illegitimate relationship.
Premium processing for H-4 EADs, is it available?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) currently requires 30 days to process Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. The premium processing price for an EAD is an additional $1,500.
H-4 work permits last how long?
As long as your H-4 visa status is active, so will your work authorization. Keep in mind that the H-4 visa’s status expires at the same time as the principal H1B visa holder’s.
After your H-4 EAD’s expiration date, you can only apply to have it renewed if your spouse has a successful I-140.
Legislation passed in November 2021 allows H-4 spouses to receive an “automatic renewal of their employment authorization for 180 days, after the former EAD ends or until the end of their H-4 status, whichever is sooner” if they timely complete an I-765 EAD renewal application and retain their H-4 status beyond the expiration date of the EAD.
Where do you stand in terms of privileges as an H-4 visa holder?
With an H-4 visa, you’ll be able to drive legally, work legally, go to school, create bank accounts, and more.
Since the H-4 EAD program’s future is uncertain at the present moment, living and working in the United States on an H-4 visa isn’t always easy.
The H-4 visa enables children and spouses of H1B visa holders to study, get experience, and work in the United States, although this is not guaranteed and may change in the future.