Complete guide to obtaining a work permit for H4 visa holders

You can get the H4 EAD only if your spouse or parent is on an H-1B visa. Otherwise, if your spouse or parent has other types of H visas, such as H-1B1, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3 visa, you are not allowed to work with an H4 visa.

The benefits of the EAD program are immense. Those who have an approved EAD have the following advantages:

  • There is no cap for the EAD, so any spouse of H-1B visa holders can apply and be granted the EAD if they fulfill the requirements.
  • With an EAD you do not need to have a Labor Condition Application (LCA), petition or sponsorship (Form I-129) from US government agencies.
  • The EAD allows you to work in any sector of the economy in any type of legal job, so you are not only constrained to jobs which require extraordinary ability.
  • You can renew the EAD as many times as you need as long as your spouse maintains an H-1B visa status and files for lawful permanent immigration.
  • Those applying for an EAD do not need an active employment offer, but can seek for a job after they get the authorization.
  • If you have an EAD, you are allowed to start your own business within the US and employ people.

Do I qualify for the H4 EAD Program?

Not all those who have an H-4 visa and are dependents of H-1B visa holders are eligible to apply for an EAD. There are two requirements, and H-4 dependents need to satisfy at least one of them to qualify for an H-4 EAD application. The requirements are as follows:

  • The H-1B visa holder must have an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, or be in the process of getting this form approved
  • The H-1B visa holder must have a status approved under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act of 2000. This act is amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (AC21). This act (AC21) allows H-1B visa holders to stay in the US beyond the six year limit if they are seeking lawful permanent residence (Employment Based Green Card).

If the H-1B person has a status granted under the AC21 act, their employer must have filed the PERM Labor Certification and Form I-140 at least 365 days before the employee reaches the 6 year H-1B cap. The H-4 visa holder can apply for the EAD only after this procedure has been completed.

The H-1B person might have filed for the I-140 form, but if it is not granted, the H-4 visa holder cannot apply for an EAD. In addition, if for some reason, the I-140 status if revoked from the H-1B spouse, the EAD will also be revoked from the person holding an H-4 visa.

If the person who has the H-4 status does not fulfill one of these requirements, they will not be allowed to file for an EAD. Even if they try to apply, USCIS will reject them on the grounds of non-eligibility.

How to get a H4 EAD to work in USA?

There is a certain H-4 EAD process that applicants need to go through to get the authorization. This includes filing different H-4 EAD documents and paying H-4 EAD fees. Before you start your application process for the EAD, make sure to first check whether you are eligible for it or not. In case of eligibility, you can then start the procedures to get your EAD.

Submit the necessary documents

These documents are necessary to file for the EAD:

  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
  • Receipt that you have paid the application fees. The fee for applying for an EAD is $410. The payment needs to be made through a cashier’s check directed to USCIS. Unfortunately, there is no option to complete the payments online.
  • Copy of your most recent Form I-94 that shows you are in the US with an H-4 visa.
  • Form I-797 and Form I-539 which prove your stay in the US has been extended.
  • 2 identical photographs which have Form I-94 number printed on the back with a pencil.
  • Proof of your relationship with the H-1B visa holder through submitting a copy of your marriage certificate.
  • A copy of the H-1B visa holder’s Form I-140 (or the approval notice if it has not been approved yet).
  • Copies of the H-1B visa holder’s Form I-129, Form I-797, and current and prior Forms I-94.
  • Copies of the H-1B visa holder’s current and old passports.
  • Proof that Form I-140 or the PERM certification was filed for the H-1B visa holder at least 365 days before their visa reached the 6 year limit. This could be done by submitting copies of correspondence with the Department of Labor.
  • If you want to receive electronic notifications of when your application has been accepted by USCIS, also submit Form G-1145, E-notification or Application/Petition Acceptance. This form should be attached to the first page of your application.

EAD Renewal

If you have had an EAD before and are only renewing it, you should also submit one of these additional documents:

  • Copy of your previous EAD
  • Your passport, which contains your name, last name, and a picture
  • Your birth certificate with a photograph
  • Your national documents with a photograph or fingerprints
  • A foreign country visa

There are EAD applicants which lack one or more of these documents. In that case, you should be aware that you must file documents which qualify as secondary evidence. Secondary evidence includes:

  • Receipt number of Form I-129 of the H-1B visa holder when they requested an extension of stay
  • Receipt number of the approved Form I-140 of the H-1B visa holder

Since H-4 EAD applicants are foreign nationals, you might have documents that are in your own native language. You should be aware that USCIS or any US agency does not accept documents in a foreign language besides English.

So if you have such documents, make sure to send them to a certified translator and have them translated to English. In addition, the translated documents should be properly notarized so that US agencies can have verifiable proof that they are well translated and not fraudulent documents.

If USCIS approves your application and you are given the EAD, you will receive Form I-766, which allows you to start working. You cannot begin employment if you don’t have a Form I-766.

How long is the H-4 EAD Processing Time?

The processing time for an H-4 EAD is different case by case. If your H-1B spouse has already filed and has an approved Form I-140, the processing time is much faster. If the H-1B spouse is on an AC21 status, then the process might take longer since USCIS will ask for additional documents.

In general, when you file for an H-4 EAD, you can expect to wait for around 3 months or 90 days before you get any kind of response. Unfortunately, the H-4 EAD process does not have the option of paying for premium processing, so all applications take similar times to be processed.

During the time that your H-4 EAD application is processing, it is not recommended that you travel outside the US. The reason for this is that USCIS may send you requests for additional information or will need other documents. If you are abroad, you will take longer to respond to these requests, which will delay your EAD or even give reason to USCIS to completely deny your application.

What kind of H-4 EAD jobs am I allowed to find?

As mentioned, it is not necessary to have a job offer in order to apply for the EAD. So if you have one before you apply, that is perfectly fine, but if you don’t it will not cause you any problems. After going through the EAD application process and getting the authorization, you can start looking for jobs.

You are not limited to the kind of job that you can have. You might work in any sector of the economy as long as the job is legal in the US and you file taxes. You are also not required to have petitions or labor certifications filed on your behalf. In addition, you can work full or part time jobs without any penalties.

However, if you want to get your EAD, but still do not want to start working, that will not jeopardize your H-4 EAD status. You could have an EAD and choose not to work at all. The important factor is that at any point in time that you want to get a job, you could start working immediately without any problems.

Can I Get an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) Automatic Extension?

You qualify for an EAD automatic extension for up to 180 days if you meet the following criteria:

  • You had correctly filled out the renewal form I-765 before your current EAD expired. 
  • Your renewal application belongs to a category eligible for an automatic extension. 
  • Your EAD category is the same as the “Class Requested” filled out on your form I-797C Notice of Action.

Here are the eligible categories for an automatic extension of your EAD as specified by the US government: 

  • Refugee
  • Asylee 
  • N-8 (Parents of special immigrant children who are not yet 21).
  • N-9 (Children— under 21— of immigrant parents or those who possess an N-9 visa). 
  • Nationals of Palau, Marshall Islands, or Micronesia. 
  • A person who was granted withholding of deportation. 
  • A person who holds temporary protected status (TPS). 
  • The spouse of a valid E nonimmigrant visa holder. 
  • The spouse of a valid L-1 nonimmigrant visa holder has L-2 immigrant status. 
  • A person whose application for asylum is pending. 
  • A person whose status of adjustment is pending. 
  • A person who has applied for cancellation of removal. 
  • Creation of Record (Adjustment Based on Continuous Residence Since January 1, 1972)
  • A person whose application for TPS is pending. 
  • Section 210 Legalization (pending I-700).
  • Section 245A Legalization (pending I-687).
  • LIFE Legalization (application of adjustment to permanent residence). 
  • The spouse of an H-1B  valid visa holder.
  • VAWA self-petitioners (Violence Against Women Act)
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