The H4 visa is issued to the dependent family members of an H1B visa holder (spouse and children under 21 years) who want to join the H1B visa holder in the United States.
How Can I Get the H4 Visa?
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 US Embassy from which you are applying for the H4 visa. The sooner you schedule your interview, the faster will you complete the wholeH4 visa application. When you schedule your interview, you will get a letter of confirmation, which you need to save for later.
Compile the H4 visa document file
You must provide the following documents to apply for the H4 visa:
- Filled DS-160 application form.
- Your valid passport with at least one blank page.
- Two US visa photographs.
- Receipt proving payment of $160 for a nonimmigrant US visa application.
- 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 US.
- 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 US.
- 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 US.
The interviewers will ask what you will do in the US 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 US 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 US.
If you are outside the US, you will need to submit your application for H4 Visa at the US 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 US, you can submit your H4 visa application through the USCIS.
Keep in mind that having an H4 visa or any US visa types does not guarantee entry to the US. 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 US, 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 US Embassy and the workload that they have.
How Long Can I Stay in the US 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 US 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 US.
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 US 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 US 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 US 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 US. If they pass the necessary driver’s tests, they get the right to drive.
Have access to healthcare
Getting health insurance for H4 visa holders will help in managing the costs of health care if someone gets ill or in an accident. However, although not mandatory, most US residents have health insurance anyway, simply because the cost of health care in the US is very high, and people with an average income cannot afford it if they have to pay out of pocket.
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.