The H4 visa is a US dependent visa that is issued to the spouse and children of H-visa holders who want to accompany them to the US.
Do I Qualify to Apply for the H4 Visa?
To be eligible to apply for the H4 visa, you have to meet either one of the conditions:
- Be the spouse that holds one of these US Work Visas:
- H-1B visa
- H-1B1 visa
- H-2A visa
- H-2B visa
- H-3 visa
- Be the child under 21 years old of an approved H type visa holder. Children of H visa holders who are over 21 years old cannot apply for the H4 visa.
H4 Visa Application Process
You need to take the following steps when applying for H4 visa:
You will need to fill Form DS-160 online. When you start your H4 visa 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
H4 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 file the DS-160 form, schedule an interview appointment with the U.S Embassy from which you are applying for the H4 visa. The sooner you schedule your interview, the faster will you complete the whole H4 visa application. When you schedule your interview, you will get a letter of confirmation, which you need to save for later.
Compile the document file
Besides the standard required documents for any US non-immigrant visa, you must also provide the following documents when applying for the H4 visa:
- Photocopy of the primary H visa holder visa.
- Photocopy of your spouse’s/parent’s I-129 form, I-797 form, and the Labor Certification Application (LCA).
- A copy of your spouse’s/parent’s passport with a clear, identifiable photo.
- Your spouse’s/parent’s letter of employment in the U.S.
- Copies of your spouse’s/parent’s letters of previous work experience.
- Recent pay stubs and tax filing information, if your spouse/parent is already working in the U.S.
- If you are the child of the H type visa holder, submit the original birth certificate.
- Marriage certificate. 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 and 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 H4 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 H4 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. The Embassy will notify you once they process your H4 visa. If you have been granted the H4 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.
If you are outside the U.S, you will need to submit your application for H4 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 H4 visa application through the USCIS.
Keep in mind that having an H4 visa or any U.S visa types does not guarantee entry to the U.S. That decision is up to 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.
H4 Visa Processing Time
The processing times for the H4 visa are different from country to country. Since your H4 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 H4 visa will be up to the U.S Embassy and the workload that they have.
How Long Can I Stay in the U.S With an H4 Visa?
When you apply for the H4 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 H4 visa will also be valid for 3 years. That is the length of time that you can to stay in the U.S.
Can I Extend my H4 Visa?
If your spouse or parent applies for an extension, then you are also eligible to apply for an extension of the H4 visa. You can do this 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
H4 Visa Interview Questions
When you attend the interview for an H4 Visa, the consular officer will ask you several questions. The interview might be quite stressful for many, despite that the questions are quite basic and simple. That is why you should prepare the answers in advance.
Following you may find the questions that are usually asked during an H4 Visa interview.
Questions about you and the reason you are applying for an H4 visa
The US authorities in charge of issuing visas are interested to know more about you, the reason for applying for a visa, and more. They may ask the following questions to every H4 visa applicant:
- Which type of visa do you want approval for?
- Why are you applying for an H4 visa?
- Why do you need an H4 Visa?
- Did you make this appointment for the interview? Did someone else make the appointment for you?
- How did you obtain all the documents required for the H4 Visa interview?
- If your spouse is already in the United States, why are you choosing to apply for a visa now?
- Why are you applying for a visa now when you have married over a year ago/some time ago?
- What do you plan on doing in the United States?
- Are you planning to get a job in the United States?
- Do you have any family members living in the United States?
- Which city/town are you currently residing in your home country?
- Do you live with your family or friends?
- Whom do you plan to reside with, in the United States?
- Who will financially support you during your period of stay in the United States?
Questions about your marriage
The interviewer will ask you several questions about your marriage. This includes questions on how you met with your spouse and about your wedding. Give correct information for each question without hesitating.
- Can you show me a document that legally states your marriage to the H-1 Visa holder?
- When did you first meet your spouse?
- Were you engaged before getting married to your spouse?
- How long have you and your spouse been married?
- Was your marriage, love marriage or arranged?
- Was your marriage registered? Do you have any proof of this?
- What is the date of your marriage?
- Can you show me some of your wedding pictures?
- Can you show me your wedding invitation?
- Who paid for your wedding, and how much did it cost?
- What is the duration for which you have been married to your current spouse?
- After marriage, did you go for your honeymoon? If yes, where?
Questions about your spouse
The third part of the questions is about your spouse. The interviewer will ask you questions about her/him in order to figure out if the spouse already in the US can maintain you financially, is they have a stable job, and if they intend to remain in the US for long.
IF you are not sure what your husband works, or who is their employer, obtain more information in this regard. You should be fully prepared to answer each question, or else you may lose the chance to get the visa.
- What is your spouse’s date of birth?
- What university/college did your spouse graduate from?
- In which month and year did your spouse get approval for the H-1 Visa?
- What is the highest degree of your spouse?
- What is the name of the company where your spouse works? Where are their headquarters located?
- What does your spouse do at his/her job?
- How long has your spouse been working in the US?
- How long has your spouse been working for his/her current employer?
- What did your spouse previously work?
- What is your spouse’s annual income?
- Can you provide a bank statement of your spouse’s bank account?
- Has your spouse obtained a green card?
What am I Allowed to Do in the U.S With an H4 Visa?
Apply for a change of status
H4 visa holders can 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.
Get a Green Card
Also, many H4 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 H4 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 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.
You can 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 as an F-1 student, then you could get the F-1 visa, instead of the H4.
Open a Bank account for H4 visa holders
You can open your own H4 visa bank account like any other immigrant or citizen of the U.S with any banking institution. The procedure is easy and you can open it by providing your passport and local ID card.
Get a driver’s license
H4 visa holders can apply for a driver’s license in the U.S. If they pass the necessary driver’s tests, they get the right to drive.
Get ITIN number for H4 dependents
If you are not working as an H4 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.
Work with an H4 visa
Before 2015, H4 visa work was prohibited. However, after 2015, H4 visa holders are allowed to work based on conditions specified by the H4 EAD program.
H4 EAD Program
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 U.S 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 U.S and employ people.
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 U.S with an H-4 visa.
- Form I-797 and Form I-539 which prove your stay in the U.S 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.
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 U.S 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 U.S 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.
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 U.S 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 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 U.S. 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 U.S 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.
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