The H-4 Visa, Explained
Understanding the H-4 visa for dependent spouses and children of certain work visa holders
What is the H-4 Visa?
The H-4 visa is a type of visa issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to dependents of certain nonimmigrant workers, including H-1B visa holders. The H-4 visa is available to spouses and unmarried children (under the age of 21) of H-1B, H-1C, H-2A, H-2B, and H-3 visa holders, and it allows them to accompany the work visa holder to the U.S. and reside there for the duration of the primary work visa holder’s authorized stay. H4 visa holders are also eligible to study in the U.S. and apply for employment authorization, subject to certain restrictions.
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H-4 Visa Eligibility
The following individuals may be eligible for an H-4 visa:
- Spouses of H-1B, H-1B, H-1C, H-2A, H-2B, and H-3 visa holders: If you are legally married to one of these particular work visa holders, you may be eligible for an H-4 visa.
- Unmarried children of H-1B, H-1B, H-1C, H-2A, H-2B, and H-3 visa holders: If you are under the age of 21 and unmarried, and your parent holds one of the above visas, you may be eligible for an H4 visa.
The H-4 visa may also have some additional eligibility requirements:
- Valid primary work visa status: The primary work visa holder must be in valid, lawful status, meaning they have not violated the terms of their visa and have not overstayed their authorized period of stay in the U.S.
- Financial support: The primary work visa holder must demonstrate that they can financially support their H4 dependent, as H-4 visa holders are not allowed to work in the U.S. unless they receive employment authorization from USCIS.
- No criminal record: The H-4 visa applicant must not have a criminal record that would make them inadmissible to the U.S.
It’s important to note that eligibility requirements may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the H4 visa applicant, and additional requirements may apply depending on the country of origin and the U.S. Embassy or consulate where the visa is being processed.
H-4 Visa Cost
The current government filing fee for an H-4 visa is $190. This fee may change at any time, so it is important to check with the U.S. Embassy or consulate in your country for the most up-to-date information on fees to expect for the H4 visa process.
H-4 Visa Timeline
The processing times of the H-4 visa vary across countries. Since H4 status depends on the status of the primary work visa holder, H4 visas tend to have the same processing time as the primary work visa holder’s application.
For instance, if you and your spouse are applying for visas together, and your spouse is applying for an H-1B visa, your H-4 visa may take the same time to process as your spouse’s application. However, if you are applying for an H4 visa separately, the processing time will depend more on the workload of the U.S. Embassy or consulate where you have applied. Additionally, you will likely not receive your H-4 visa until the primary work visa holder’s application has been filed and approved.
H-4 Visa Process
The H-4 visa process may vary depending on the applicant’s individual circumstances, but the application process generally includes the following steps:
- Determine eligibility: Confirm that you meet the eligibility requirements for an H-4 visa as the spouse or child of an H-1B visa holder.
- Collect required documents: Gather the required documents, including a valid passport, nonimmigrant visa application form, and any additional documents required by the U.S. Embassy or consulate where you will apply for the visa. This may include marriage and birth certificates, police certificates, and evidence of financial support.
- Complete the application: Fill out the online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form (DS-160) and pay the visa application fee.
- Schedule a visa interview: Schedule an appointment for a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or consulate where you will apply for the H4 visa.
- Attend the visa interview: Attend the visa interview and provide all required documents and information. The consular officer will review your application and make a decision on your visa application.
- Receive your visa: If your visa application is approved, you will receive your H-4 visa in your passport. If your visa application is denied, the consular officer will provide you with a reason for the denial.
H-4 Visa FAQs
H-4 visa holders are not allowed to work in the United States unless they receive employment authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To receive employment authorization, H4 visa holders may be able to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by filing Form I-765. Once approved, H4 visa holders will be able to work for any employer in the U.S. since the EAD is considered an “open work permit” and unlike the H-1B, not tied to any particular employer or position. Learn more about the cost, timeline, and process for the EAD in Boundless’ guide.
Yes, it is generally possible for an H-4 visa holder to study in the U.S. H4 visa holders are eligible to enroll in academic courses, including colleges, universities, and vocational schools, on a part-time or full-time basis.
Eligibility for an H-4 visa is dependent on the primary H-1B visa holder’s status, so if the H-1B visa holder loses their status, the H-4 visa holder may also lose their status. It may be possible for the primary work visa holder to search for a new employer in this case, and “port” their H-1B status over to a new position. For more information on how to navigate losing your job while on a work visa and next steps to take, check out Boundless’ detailed guide.