The H-4 visa is granted to dependents of H-1B visa holders who accompany them into the country for the duration of their stay. In the past year, this visa category has undergone many regulation changes by DHS including extending eligibility for employment authorization (EADs). In late February, the USCIS Director announced that the Department of Homeland Security would extend EADs to certain H-4 dependent spouses seeking employment based legal residence status. This change is anticipated to take effect the end of May, 2015.
H-4 Visa Qualifications
Family members may qualify for an H-4 dependent visa by applying at the US Consulate in their country. In many cases, the spouse of an H-1B applicant will file their application at the same time for concurrent submissions. In order to qualify for an H-4 visa you must be a spouse or child (under 21) of a H-1B visa holder.
H-1B visa dependents can work after submitting the required documents and receiving approval. The documents required for H-4 visa stamping include:
- Form DS-160 Nonimmigrant H-4 Visa Application completed and stamped at the Visa Application Center
- US visa fee receipt
- Visa interview appointment letter
- valid passports
- One photograph per applicant for the application form (2×2 inches square)
- US Visa application receipt
- Proof of marriage (i.e., marriage certificate, photos of marriage, invitations)
- Copies of the H-1B’s documentation including approved I-797, Form I-129, LCA and passport
- H-1B visa holders employment verification
- Pay stubs and income tax return from H-1B holder if working in U.S. prior
To learn what other documentation may be necessary throughout the process, it’s best to contact an H-1B Visa lawyer.
As an H-4 visa holder, you can do a range of things including getting a driver’s license, getting an education, opening financial accounts and eligibility for a Tax ID or ITIN.
If Your Case is Held By the US Consulate
Our office sometimes receives concerns from H-4 applicants wondering what to do if the US consulate holds their case under Section 221(g). First, it’s important to note that this is not an immediate denial, but rather a hold requiring administrative action from the consular office.
Typically what happens is the offers at the consular will return your passport, then you will be required to return with the additional documents necessary. Also note that the application fee you paid for the interview is valid for up to a year until your interview
To learn what other documentation may be necessary throughout the process, it’s best to contact an H-1B visa attorney to learn more about H-4 cases on hold.
H-1B Visa Dependents Can Work– Requirements
It’s anticipated that H-1B visa dependents can work with their EAD authorization cards in late August 26 2015. In order to receive an EAD as an H-4 visa holder you must:
- Be a principal beneficiary of an approved I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.
- Been approved for H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. What this Act essentially does is allow non-immigrants who are seeking permanent residency to stay in the U.S. past the 6-year H-1B limit.
The process to receive an H-4 EAD workpermit is relatively simple. First, fill out Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization plus the required supporting evidence. The filing fee is currently $380 USD. Once you’re granted an approval, the card will be issued within a 90 day window. We anticipate individuals will receive their EAD for H-4 authorization cards by late August.
Why extend these options now?
Here’s what USCIS Director León Rodríguez had to say:
“Allowing the spouses of these visa holders to legally work in the United States makes perfect sense,” Rodríguez said. “It helps U.S. businesses keep their highly skilled workers by increasing the chances these workers will choose to stay in this country during the transition from temporary workers to permanent residents. It also provides more economic stability and better quality of life for the affected families.” Source
Based on information released by USCIS, it’s expected that over 179,000 H-4 visa holders will likely be eligible for permits and an additional 55,000 annually after that. Still not sure if one of your H-1B visa dependents can work in light of the recent changes?
Double Check Your H-4 Visa
After receiving your H-4 visa, be sure to check for any typos or errors involving your:
- Spouse’s name
- Date of birth
- Validity date and type
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- H-1B Visa Requirements
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- H-1B Annual Cap
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