What is the H4 Visa?
The H4 visa is a dependent visa for family members of H visa holders. The visa is available to dependents of the following H visa holders:
Dependents eligible for the H4 visa are spouses and unmarried children under 21. Though parents of H visa holders can’t apply for H4, they can travel to the US with other visa types.
With an H4 visa, you can travel to the US and live with the main H visa holder. This visa has many benefits, which include:
- You can live in the US
- 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 tax ID
- You can start up your own business
- You can apply for a driver’s license
There’s no annual quota or cap on the number of people that can apply for an H4 visa. Hence, there’s no deadline, and you can apply at any time.
The following documents are necessary for your H4 visa application;
- Copy of your international passport
- Copy of the principal H visa (approved visa or application if applying at the same time)
- Copy of the international passport of the principal H visa holder
- Two passport size photographs
- H4 visa application confirmation
- Birth certificate for unmarried children under 21
- Marriage certificate for spouses
- A reference letter from the sponsor of the H1 visa holder
- Proof of financial stability
- Application fee receipts
You’ll upload some of these documents during the application process. You’ll also have to take them along with you to your visa interview.
The US Embassy only accepts original documents for visa applications. Other government-issued ID documents may substitute for birth and marriage certificates in some cases if the original documents are unavailable.
Furthermore, you’ll need certified English translations for non-English documents.
H4 Visa Application
The first thing to do is to complete the Form DS-160 online. Provide all the necessary details and upload all required documents. Finally, print the application confirmation page – this is the page containing the barcode.
You have to pay the DS-160 application fee before the embassy can begin processing. Ensure to print the payment confirmation receipt.
Next, you have to schedule a visa interview. The interview will most likely take place in the country you reside in. You can schedule an appointment with any US Embassy closest to you.
It’s important to schedule your interview as soon as you can. You also have to schedule an appointment for biometrics.
If you’re already in the US on a different nonimmigrant visa, you don’t have to file Form DS-160. You have to apply for a change of visa status by filing Form I-539.
The form is available on the USCIS website. You’re to fill the form and submit it at the specified mailing address.
H4 Visa Fees
For the Form DS-160 application, the fee is $160. You may also have to pay a biometrics services fee of $85. If you’re in the US, the filing fee for Form I-539 is $370.
The money you pay for visa applications and biometrics services is non-refundable regardless of the outcome of your application.
Depending on your country of residence, you may need to pay a visa reciprocity fee after your visa interview. Mainly, it’s if your country also imposes additional fees for US nationals applying for visas.
H4 Visa Interview
Your H4 visa interview is a major deciding factor on your visa application. An embassy staff will ask you questions about your application. The interview questions will mainly be about yourself and your relationship with the principal H visa holder. The main reason for this interview is to ensure only genuine immediate relatives receive the visa.
Before attending your interview, try to know as much detail as you can about the principal H visa holder and their work in the US. Furthermore, the answer you give must be true with what you submitted in forms and other documents.
After your interview, you’ll know if your visa application is accepted or rejected. The verdict may not be out immediately. You may have to check the USCIS website regularly with your application number.
Nevertheless, you’ll get a notification from the embassy once a decision has been made on your application.
H4 Visa Processing Time
The caseload of the US Embassy processing your visa will determine the processing time. This is why you just schedule your interview immediately after filing your application.
After your interview, it may take weeks or days for the embassy to make a decision. If approved, they’ll send you your passport with the H-4 visa stamp. For those in the US, changing nonimmigrant status to H4 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 submit immediately.
For H1, H2, and H3, it’s possible to apply and pay for premium processing which will take no more than 15 days. However, this option isn’t available for H4 visas.
H4 Visa Validity
The validity period of the principal H visa is the same as your H visa. H1 visas are valid for a maximum of 3 years, and could be extended for another 3 years if the applicant meets eligibility requirements for visa extensions.
The principal H visa sponsor will include the expiration date of the sponsorship when filing Form, I-797. You’ll also find this expiration date in your passport visa document.
You can renew your H4 visa anytime the principal H visa holder renews theirs. When their purpose of stay in the US comes to an end or the visa expires, you have a 60-day grace period before leaving the US.
This also applies 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 US. If they can’t, you will both lose your status and be required to leave the country.
H4 EAD Application
To be eligible to work as an H4 visa holder, you must be a dependent of an H1B holder. Dependents of other H visas do not qualify.
Also, the H1B visa holder must be eligible to obtain a green card and should file Form I-140 for permanent residence status.
You can apply for a H4 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) once the Form I-140 petition is approved, even if they’re yet to get a green card. Due to priority dates, it can take many years from I-140 approval to green card issuance.
You have to file Form I-765 for the EAD application. The filing fee is $410. You’ll also have 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 Form I-140 before you get your EAD, you lose your eligibility.
On the other hand, if you’ve gotten the EAD already, it’ll stay valid until its expiration date. However, you cannot renew your EAD if the H1B holder doesn’t have an approved I-140.
How can IAS help?
At IAS, we have years of experience helping spouses and children of H visa holders get approved for an H4 visa. We are trained in US immigration law and provide immigration services to support you in your visa application. Our services include:
- Assessing your status & documents to offer legal advice on your options
- Assistance with gathering evidence to prove that the dependent is the principal’s spouse or child.
- Filling the H4 visa application
- Communicating with USCIS on your behalf
Comprehensive immigration advice tailored to your circumstances and goals.
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H4 visa has dual intent, which means you can apply for lawful permanent residence status without it affecting your dependent status.
For faster processing, you may have to first change your H4 to a different non-immigrant status before applying for a green card.
If you are a dependent of an H1B visa holder, then you may not need to bother yourself about qualifying for a green card on your own. If your H1B spouse or parent meets eligibility for a green card, you will also become eligible to apply for and obtain a green card.
No, the USCIS doesn’t H-4 impose any travel restrictions 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 partake in activities your H4 status supports.
You may be eligible to change your status from H4 to H1B if you meet the H1B visa application and job offer requirements. H1B visa requires sponsorship by a US employer with completion of a change of status requirements.