What is the H4 visa?
For dependents of H visa holders, the H4 visa is available. The visa is available for dependents of the following H visa holders:
- H1B Special Occupation Visa
- H1B1 visa
- H2A visa
- H2B Temporary Worker Visa
- H3 trainee visa
Dependents who are eligible for the H4 visa are spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21. Although parents of H visa holders cannot apply for the H4 visa, they can travel to the United States on other types of visas.
With an H4 visa you can travel to the United States and live with the primary H visa holder. This visa has many benefits, including:
- You can live in the United States
- You can attend schools
- You can open a bank account
- You can work anywhere with an EAD
- You can work full-time or part-time.
- You can get a Social Security number and a Tax ID number
- You can start your own business
- You can apply for a driving license
There is no quota or annual limit on the number of people who can apply for an H4 visa. There is therefore no deadline and you can apply at any time.
The following documents are required for your H4 visa application;
- Copy of your international passport
- Copy of main H visa (approved visa or application if submitted at the same time)
- Copy of the main H visa holder’s international passport
- Two passport-sized photographs
- Confirmation of H4 visa application
- Birth certificate for unmarried children under 21 years of age
- Marriage certificate for spouses
- A reference letter from the H1 visa holder’s sponsor
- Evidence of financial stability
- Registration fee receipts
- You will upload some of these documents during the application process. You will also need to bring them with you to the visa interview.
Only original paperwork is accepted for visa applications by the US Embassy. In some cases, if original documents are not available, other government-issued identification documents can replace birth and marriage certificates.
H4 visa application:
The first thing to do is fill out Form DS-160 online. Enter all relevant information and attach all needed files. Finally, print the application confirmation page – this is the page containing the barcode.
- You must pay the DS-160 application fee before the embassy can begin processing. Be sure to print your payment confirmation receipt.
- Next, you need to schedule a visa interview. The interview will most likely take place in the country where you reside. You can make an appointment with any US embassy closest to you.
- It is important to schedule the interview as soon as possible. You must also make an appointment for biometrics.
- If you are already in the United States on a different nonimmigrant visa, you do not need to complete Form DS-160. You must request a change of visa status by completing Form I-539.
The form is available on the USCIS website. You must fill out the form and send it to the specified postal address.
H4 Visa Fees:
For filing Form DS-160, the fee is $160. You may also need to pay a biometric services fee of $85. If you are located in the United States, the filing fee for Form I-539 is $370.
Money paid for visa applications and biometric services is non-refundable regardless of the outcome of the application.
Depending on your country of residence, you may have to pay a visa reciprocity fee after your visa interview. Mainly, it’s whether your country also imposes additional fees for US citizens applying for visas.
H4 Visa Interview:
Your H4 visa interview is an important deciding factor for your visa application. An embassy staff will ask you questions about your application. The interview questions will primarily concern yourself and your relationship with the primary H visa holder. The main reason for this interview is to ensure that only close and genuine relatives receive the visa.
Before attending the interview, try to know as many details as possible about the main H visa holder and his work in the United States. Also, the answer you give must match what you submitted in forms and other documents.
After the interview, you will know whether your visa application has been accepted or rejected. The sentence may not be issued immediately. You may need to regularly check the USCIS website with your application number.
However, you will receive a notification from the embassy once a decision has been made on your application.
H4 Visa Processing Time:
The workload of the US Embassy processing your visa will determine the processing time. This is why you schedule your interview immediately after you apply.
- After the interview, it may take weeks or days for the embassy to make a decision. If approved, they will send you your passport with the H-4 visa stamp. For those residing in the United States, the H4 nonimmigrant status change may take 9 to 16 months to process.
- The embassy may issue an RFE (request for evidence) on your application which may delay processing. This is if they need additional information, which you must send immediately.
- For H1, H2 and H3 you can request and pay the premium processing which will take no more than 15 days. However, this option is not available for H4 visas.
Validity of H4 visa:
The validity period of the main H visa is the same as your H visa. H1 visas are valid for a maximum of 3 years and may be extended for another 3 years if the applicant meets the eligibility requirements for visa extensions.
The primary sponsor of the H visa will include the expiration date of the sponsorship when completing Form I-797. You will also find this expiration date in your passport’s visa document.
You can renew your H4 visa whenever the main H visa holder renews her. When their purpose of staying in the United States comes to an end or their visa expires, you have a 60-day grace period before leaving the United States.
This is true even if your H1B relative loses their job before the expiration date. During the grace period, they can find a new employer to sponsor them on another H visa application or change status to a different visa if they wish to remain in the United States. If they cannot, you will both lose your status and be required to leave the country.
EAD H4 application:
In order to work as an H4 visa holder, you must be a dependent of an H1B visa holder. Dependents on other H visas are not eligible.
Additionally, the H1B visa holder must be eligible to obtain a green card and must file Form I-140 for permanent residency status.
You can apply for an H4 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) once your Form I-140 petition is approved, even if they have yet to obtain a green card. Due to priority dates, many years can pass from approval of the I-140 to issuance of the green card.
You must file Form I-765 for your EAD application. The filing fee is $410. You will also need to submit documents to reconfirm your relationship with the H1B visa holder.
It takes 90 days to process the EAD. If the embassy cancels the I-140 form before you receive your EAD, you will lose your eligibility.
On the other hand, if you have already obtained the EAD, it will remain valid until the expiration date. However, you cannot renew your EAD if the H1B holder does not have an approved I-140.
Can I change my status from H4 visa to green card?
The H4 visa is dual in intent, meaning you can apply for lawful permanent residency status without it affecting your dependent status.
For faster processing, you may need to first change your H4 to a different nonimmigrant status before applying for a green card.
If you are a dependent of an H1B visa holder, you may not need to worry about qualifying for a green card on your own. If your H1B spouse or parent meets the requirements for a green card, you will also be eligible to apply for and obtain a green card.
Are there travel restrictions on the H4 visa?
No, USCIS does not impose any travel restriction limits on H4 visa holders. You are free to travel in and out of the United States as long as your visa is valid. However, you can only take part in activities supported by your H4 status.
Can I switch from an H4 to H1B visa?
You may be eligible to change your status from H4 to H1B if you meet the H1B visa application and job offer requirements. The H1B visa requires sponsorship by a US employer with completion of change of status requirements.