The H-4 visa and F-1 visa represent distinct categories within the U.S. immigration system, each serving unique purposes. Each visa caters to distinct demographics with different emphases on work and education opportunities. The H-4 visa is designed for dependents of H-1B visa holders, and limits the employment authorization to spouses of H-1B holders who are on the green card path and have an approved Form I-140.
Conversely, the F-1 visa is tailored for international students pursuing full-time academic programs in the U.S. F-1 visa holders have the flexibility to work on-campus part-time during the academic year and are eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) post-graduation.
Let’s compare the H-4 visa and F-1 visa in terms of their purposes, eligibility, and restrictions:
• H-4 visa is designed for dependents of H-1B visa holders. Dependents are considered to be spouses and unmarried children under 21.
• Historically, H-4 visa holders were not allowed to work in the U.S. However, there was a regulatory change in 2015 that allows certain H-4 spouses to apply for employment authorization if the H-1B spouse is in the process of obtaining employment-based green card status and has an approved I-140.
• H-4 visa holders are able to attend college and engage in full-time academic studies.
• F-1 visa is designed for international students pursuing a full-time academic program in the U.S. Dependents may join in F-2 status with the ability to attend school on a part time basis, but do not have work authorization.
• F-1 students are generally allowed to work on-campus part-time during the school year and full-time during scheduled breaks. They may also be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completing their studies, and STEM OPT if they major in a science, technology, engineering, or math field.
• The main purpose for an F-1 visa holder is to enroll in academic programs full-time at U.S. institutions.
It’s essential to check with the designated school official (DSO) at the academic institution and, if necessary, consult with an immigration attorney to ensure that all visa-related regulations and requirements are met. Immigration policies can change, so it’s crucial to refer to the most current information provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
As promised, here’s some bonus information that you may not know about.
Here are some short tips for preparing a successful H-4 and F-1 visa application.
Complete and Accurate Documentation
Ensure all required forms are completed accurately, including Forms DS-160 or I-539.
Proof of Relationship
Provide clear and sufficient evidence of the relationship with the H-1B visa holder, such as a marriage certificate or birth certificatess.
Submit proof of financial ability to support yourself without relying on public assistance. This would include evidence that the H-1B holder is employed and supporting you. If you also hold a job, then you can include your employment information as well.
Stay updated on immigration policies and any changes that may affect H-4 visa regulations.
Admission to SEVP-Certified Institution
Secure admission to a U.S. school certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
Provide evidence of your financial ability to cover tuition and living expenses. If a relative or friend will cover the expenses, then you will need to provide their ability to cover the expenses and confirmation of your agreement.
Intent to Return
Demonstrate strong ties to your home country to assure consular officers of your intent to return after studies.
SEVIS Fee Payment
Pay the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee before the visa interview.
Prepare for the Interview
Be well-prepared for the visa interview, knowing details about your chosen program and how it aligns with your career aspirations.
Clear Educational Goals
Clearly articulate your educational and career goals during the visa interview.
Maintain Student Status
Understand and adhere to the rules to maintain F-1 student status during your stay in the U.S.
Always consult with the latest official resources, such as the U.S. Department of State or USCIS websites, and consider seeking advice from an immigration attorney for the most accurate and up-to-date guidance.
Last but not least, be sure to check the caption below this video. We’ve got questionnaires for different types of visas so that we can help you determine which visa is most appropriate for you. And if you’re traveling soon, we also have a list of some of my travel favorites.
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