Your spouse or parent has just gotten a US work visa. You might be asking yourself whether you are allowed to join them in the U.S. The answer is that you qualify to join with an H-4 visa, if your spouse or parent has been granted one of these US non-immigrant visas:
- H-1B visa
- H-1B1 visa
- H-2A visa
- H-2B visa
- H-3 visa
The H-4 visa allows you to go to the U.S if you are married and can prove your marriage to the person holding an H-type visa. In addition, if you are under 21 years old and your parent has an H-type work visa, you also qualify to go to the U.S with the H-4 visa. Children of H visa holders who are over 21 years old are not allowed to apply for the H-4 visa.
The H-4 visa is completely dependent on the other H type visas. If your spouse has an H-1B visa, then you as their spouse have the same validity and are under the same visa cap as the H-1B visa holder. This means that you cannot stay longer than your spouse in the U.S if their visa has expired.
What are the requirements for the H4 visa?
To be eligible to apply for the H-4 visa, you have to meet either one of the conditions:
- Be the spouse of an approved H type visa holder
- Be the child under 21 years old of an approved H type visa holder
If you are outside the U.S, you will need to apply for the H-4 Visa at the U.S Embassy where your spouse or parent has applied or in your home country if you and your spouse are of different nationalities. If you are within the U.S, you can submit your application through the H-4 visa USCIS.
H4 Visa Application Process
To start off your H-4 visa application, you need to take the following steps:
Applications are done through the same way as any other H type visas. You will need to fill Form DS-160 online. When you start your application, you will get the DS-160 barcode. You need to keep the barcode confirmation page, print it, and bring it with you when you have your interview.
Pay the applicable H4 visa fees
H-4 visa fees are the same as other H type visas. Currently, the application fee for this visa is $190. Pay the fee and save the receipt, as you will need it later during your application procedures.
Schedule a visa interview appointment
As soon as you are done filing the DS-160 form, schedule an interview appointment with the U.S Embassy from which you are applying. The sooner you schedule your interview, the faster will you complete the whole H-4 visa application procedure. When you schedule your interview, you will get a letter of confirmation, which you need to save for later.
Submit H4 Visa Documents
- Your current passport with a validity of more than 6 months after your visa expires
- Photocopies of the first, last, and the remarks page of your current passport
- Any old passports
- One photograph meeting the Digital Image Requirements
- The receipt which proves you have paid the visa fees
- The DS-160 form barcode
- The interview appointment letter
- Photocopy of your spouse’s/parent’s I-129 form, I-797 form, and the Labor Certification Application (LCA)
- Photocopy of your spouse’s/parent’s H type visa
- A copy of your spouse’s/parent’s passport with a clear, identifiable photo
- A copy of your spouse’s/parent’s letter of employment in the U.S
- Copies of your spouse’s/parent’s letters of previous work experience
- If your spouse/parent is already working in the U.S, you also have to submit recent pay stubs and tax filing information
- If you are the child of the H type visa holder, submit the original birth certificate
- If you are the spouse of the H type visa holder, submit the marriage certificate and genuine proof of marriage. Since many applicants try to fake being married to each other, you have to prove that you have married according to your country’s wedding tradition or at the wedding registrar. You can do that through submitting this proof:
- Wedding photographs where you and your spouse are clearly seen in the pictures
- Wedding videos or DVDs
- Wedding invitations
- List of wedding guests
- Receipts for payments of wedding expenses
- Booking receipts of your honeymoon or other post-marriage trips
- If married only at the wedding registrar, you need to have these:
- Copy of your signed wedding registrar affidavit
- Pictures of you and your spouse signing the marriage certificate
- Pictures of your witnesses and whoever was conducting the ceremony
Attend the visa interview
After you’ve applied online and submitted your documents, you need to attend the visa interview. During the interview, the interviewers will try to determine whether your relationship with the H type visa holder is genuine. Amongst common H-4 visa interview questions will also be those relating to your intent for going to the U.S.
The interviewers will ask what you will do in the U.S and see whether you intend to engage in any illegal activities. Prepare for the interview by clearly defining your reasons for going and be ready to answer questions about your spouse or parent. Your interview and application will determine whether you will be granted the H-4 visa or not.
Get your visa
You can check your visa status on the website of the U.S Embassy where you are applying by entering your application number. When your visa has been processed, the Embassy will notify you. If you have been granted the H-4 visa, you will need to go for the visa stamping procedures. The visa stamping will be the last step for you to complete before you can book your trip to the U.S.
Keep in mind that having an H-4 visa or any U.S visa types does not guarantee that you will be allowed to enter the U.S. That decision is up the port of entry officers and the Department of Homeland Security. If they determine that it is safe to let you enter the U.S, you may do so. However, if for any reason they think that you are not fit to enter the country, you will have to return to your home country.
H4 Visa Processing Time
The processing times for the H-4 visa are different from country to country. Since your H-4 status is dependent on the status of the H type visa holder so your spouse or parent, it might take as long as it takes to process their visa. If, for example, your spouse is applying for an H-2A visa and you apply together, your visa will take the same time to process as your spouse’s.
If you are applying separately though, the time it takes to process the H-4 visa will be up to the U.S Embassy and the work load that they have.
How long can I stay in the U.S with an H4 visa?
When you apply for the H-4 visa, you will have to submit your spouse’s or parent’s I-797 form. This form states the dates that the visa of your spouse or parent is valid. Based on this, the U.S Embassy will also grant you a visa with the same validity of your spouse’s or parent’s visa.
So if your spouse has a visa that is valid for 3 years, your H-4 visa will also be valid for 3 years. That is the length of time that you are allowed to stay in the U.S.
If your spouse or parent applies for an extension, then you are also eligible to apply for an extension of the H-4 visa. This can be done by filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. In addition to this form, you will have to also submit these supporting documents:
- A copy of your most recent Form I-94
- Your spouse’s or parents most recent Form I-94
- Copies of your spouse’s or parent’s I-129 form and I-797 form and notice of approval
- Proof of your relationship with the H type visa holder, such as the marriage certificate for spouses and birth certificate for parents
In addition, H-4 visa holders can also apply for a change of status. If, for example, you find an employer who is willing to sponsor your visa, you can file for the type of visa in which you qualify. For example, if you get a temporary, non-agricultural job, you can apply for a change of status to an H-2B visa.
Also, many H-4 visa holders want to know whether they can apply for a Green Card. The answer in this case is yes. Most H type visas are dual intent, which means that you can have a non-immigrant and immigrant status. However, if you apply for a Green Card from an H-4 visa, it might take too long for your priority dates to become current. You might have to wait for years until your Green Card is approved.
A better way to go about getting a Green Card is to change status to another employment visa, such as an H-1B visa and then apply for the Green Card. Your Green Card might be processed faster and you won’t have to wait too long.
What am I allowed to do in the U.S with an H4 visa?
When you get your H-4 visa, you are allowed to engage in the following activities and get these documents in the U.S.
You are allowed to enroll in academic courses or programs. You will have the same opportunities as a student on an F-1 visa. However, if you get accepted to an academic program in the U.S a an F-1 student, then you could get the F-1 visa, instead of the H-4.
Before 2015, H-4 visa work was prohibited. However, after 2015, H-4 visa holders are allowed to work based on conditions specified by the H-4 EAD program. The H-4 EAD is only allowed 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 H-4 visa,
Open a bank account
You can open your own bank account as any other immigrant or citizen of the U.S with any banking institution.
Get a driver’s license
H-4 visa holders are allowed to apply for a driver’s license in the U.S. If they pass the necessary driver’s tests, they are allowed to drive.
Get ITIN number
If you are not working as a H-4 visa holder, you will not be allowed to get a Social Security Number (SSN). Instead, you will get an ITIN tax number. This means that you will still have to file taxes just as anyone with an SSN. If you are employed, though, you will have to get a Social Security Number.