What is an H-4 Visa?

What are the requirements for an H-4 visa?

H-4 visa attorney summary: Spouses and children under the age of 21 of H visa holders are eligible for an H-4 visa.

Detailed explanation from employment-based immigration lawyer:

To qualify for an H-4 visa you must be either the spouse or child under the age of 21 of an H visa holder. H visa holders whose family members may apply for an H-4 visa include:

  • H-1B specialty occupation workers who hold at least a bachelor’s degree
  • H-2A temporary agricultural workers
  • H-2B temporary nonagricultural workers
  • H-3 trainee or special education exchange visitors

The H-4 visa is closely linked to the principle H visa holder’s status. This means that your H-4 visa is only valid until your principle H visa holder maintains her H status. If the principle H visa holder loses her status, you will lose your H-4 status as well. If the principle H visa holder extends her H visa status, your H-4 status will extend as well.

If you would like to know whether you qualify for an H-4 visa or if you would like a personalized employment-based visa USA strategy, contact our employment-based immigration lawyer.

What may I do as an H-4 visa holder in the US?

H-4 visa lawyer summary: An individual in H-4 status may reside, study, and in certain limited circumstances work in the US.

Detailed explanation from employment-based immigration attorney:

Your H-4 status allows you to reside in the US until the date indicated on your I-94 card. You may also study in the US. This means that you may enroll in an academic program, whether that’s a high school, language school, technical college, bachelor’s, or a master’s degree program. If you are the dependent spouse of an H-1B visa holder with an approved I-140 petition, you may also apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) which grants you permission to work in the US. Find more information about the H-4 EAD below.

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What is the H-4 visa application process?

H-4 visa attorney summary: You may apply for H-4 status with USCIS or for an H-4 visa at a US consulate or embassy.  

Detailed explanation from business immigration lawyer:

If you are in the US in valid status, you may file an H-4 status application with USCIS. In order to be eligible to apply for H-4 status, your H principal must already hold H status or must be applying concurrently for her H status with your H-4 status application.

If you are outside of the US, you must obtain an H-4 visa at a US embassy or consulate. You may only apply for an H-4 visa if your principal spouse or parent’s H petition has been approved. You can apply for an H-4 visa online by submitting Form DS-160 and paying the appropriate filing fee. Please do not forget to print proof of your payment (ideally the payment confirmation page). Once payment is made, you may schedule a specific interview appointment with the US embassy or consulate.

On the interview date, please make sure that you are not late. When you arrive, please make sure to inform the US embassy or consulate staff that you came for an H-4 visa interview. They should point you in the right direction. Then, an official will call you for a one-on-one interview with the consular officer. The consular officer will review your case and make a determination on your eligibility for an H-4 visa. Be prepared to answer questions regarding your H-4 visa application, your H principal’s employment in the US, your relationship with the H principal, and the reasons you wish to relocate to the US.

Once your H-4 visa is approved, the US embassy or consulate will retain your passport in order to process the visa. Your passport with a brand new H-4 visa stamp will be mailed to you once processing is complete.

How long does it take to obtain an H-4 visa?

H-4 visa lawyer summary: H-4 visa processing times vary depending on the US embassy or consulate, or USCIS service center through which you are applying. It is recommended you review the processing times before you file your H-4 application.   

Detailed explanation from employment-based immigration lawyer:

If you are applying for an H-4 visa at a US consulate or embassy, the H-4 processing time will depend on the caseload of the particular US embassy or consulate where you are applying. At busy US consulates and embassies, it may take several weeks or months to obtain an H-4 interview appointment. At smaller US embassies and consulates, you may be able to schedule your H-4 visa interview appointment for the very next day after submitting your application.

If you are applying for H-4 status in the US, the H-4 processing time will vary based on the caseload of the particular USCIS service center processing your case. At the time of writing this article, H-4 application processing is taking between 3.5 and 5.5 months at most USCIS service centers. However, H-4 applications filed with the USCIS Vermont Service Center may take up to a year to be processed.

How to get H-4 work authorization?

H-4 visa attorney summary: You are eligible for an H-4 EAD if your H principal spouse is in H-1B status and your H-1B principal spouse has an approved I-140 petition or was granted H-1B status under certain sections of AC21.

Detailed explanation from employment-based immigration lawyer:

In order to obtain an H-4 employment authorization document (EAD) you must meet the following requirements:

  1. You must be in valid H-4 status
  2. Your H principal spouse must be in H-1B status
  3. Your H principal spouse must be the beneficiary of an approved I-140 petition or must have been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (AC21)

Once you obtain your H-4 EAD, you may work for any US employer in any legal capacity. This means, as an H-4 EAD holder you are authorized to work full-time or part-time for one or for several employers.

If you would like more information on the H-4 EAD process and requirements, you can read our article here.

Does an H-4 visa lead to a green card?

H-4 visa lawyer summary: The H-4 visa is a dual intent visa which allows the H-4 visa holder to apply for a green card.

Detailed explanation from employment-based immigration attorney:

The H-4 visa is a dual intent visa. Dual intent is an immigration law concept which allows a temporary nonimmigrant visa holder to apply for US permanent residence, also called a US green card. Most temporary nonimmigrant visas, such as E-2, TN, F-1, and J-1 visas, require that the nonimmigrant visa holder intend to return to their home country at the end of the temporary stay in the US. On the other hand, the H-4 visa allows the H-4 visa holder to have dual intent to pursue a green card or return home at the end of her stay in H-4 status. This is a major advantage of the H-4 visa versus other nonimmigrant visa categories.

What is the H-4 to green card process?

H-4 visa lawyer summary: The H-4 to green card process is the same as all other green card processes.

Detailed explanation from employment-based immigration lawyer:

The green card process for an H-4 visa holder is the same as for anyone else seeking to obtain a green card. The following lists the most common steps for obtaining a green card:

  1. The US petitioner, whether it’s a US citizen or US employer, files the green card petition with USCIS.
  2. After your green card petition is approved and your priority date is current, you may file an adjustment of status application with USCIS or schedule an immigrant visa interview appointment with a US consulate or embassy.
  3. Attend your adjustment of status or immigrant visa interview.
  4. Once your green card is issued, you are officially a permanent resident of the United States and may work and reside freely in the US without the need for further visa applications.   

The most common avenues for H-4 visa holders to obtain a green card include:

  • As a derivative beneficiary of your spouse or parent’s employment-based green card petition: Often, the H-1B principal spouse or parent’s employer will petition for the H-1B principal to obtain a green card. The principal employment-based green card applicant may include her H-4 spouse or children under the age of 21 in her green card application.
  • Employment-based green card process: A US employer can sponsor you for an EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 green card.
  • EB-5 investor green card process: If you make the requisite minimum investment in a qualifying US enterprise, you may petition for an EB-5 investor green card.
  • Family-based immigration process: If your spouse or child over the age of 21 becomes a US citizen, she can file a family-based green card petition to sponsor you for a green card.

Our Employment-Based Immigration Lawyer is Here to Help You

Do you need assistance preparing and filing an H-4 application? Our employment-based immigration attorney can devise a custom-tailored H-4 visa strategy and prepare your H-4 application in compliance with all relevant employment-based immigration rules. As an experienced employment-based immigration law firm, Pandev Law has the knowledge and experience to guide you through your H-4 visa process.

Please complete our contact form, email [email protected], or call us at (212) 220-6652, to schedule a consultation with our employment-based immigration attorney.

During your consultation, our employment-based immigration lawyer will provide an honest assessment of your case, and a recommendation for your next steps.

Disclaimer: This blog article is provided by Pandev Law, LLC for general educational and informational purposes only. Although this article discusses general legal issues, it does not constitute legal advice nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented in this article, or elsewhere on this website, without seeking the advice of appropriate legal counsel, or other professional counsel, licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. Pandev Law, LLC expressly disclaims any and all liability with respect to any actions taken, or not taken, based on any content of this article or website. This blog article may constitute attorney advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Adrian Pandev

As the principal attorney at Pandev Law, I have helped hundreds of foreign individuals and companies successfully navigate their journey to the United States. Previously, I served as Trial Attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. Now, I represent foreign investors, founders, and high-net-worth-individuals in business, immigration, and wealth planning matters. I am an early proponent of blockchain technology and serve as strategic advisor to blockchain startups and cryptocurrency investors. Selected to the Super Lawyers New York Rising Stars list 2019-2021. Follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

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