An H-4 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for the spouses and minor children of all H visa holders—including H-1B for high-skilled workers, and H-2A and H-2B for agricultural and nonagricultural seasonal workers. Though, it is quite rare for seasonal H-2A or H-2B workers to bring family because visa adjudicators treat the family as a potential sign to overstay these short-term visas. Since all H-2 workers return home, bringing family for a few months makes little financial sense when their spouses cannot work. For this reason, H-4s are almost solely the family of H-1B workers.
Dependents eligible for the H-4 visa are spouses and unmarried children under 21. With an H-4 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 H-4 visa. Hence, there’s no deadline, and you can apply at any time.
The following documents are necessary for your H-4 visa application:
⦁ Copy of your passport
⦁ Copy of the principal H visa approval notice (approved visa or application if applying at the same time)
⦁ Birth certificate for unmarried children under 21
⦁ Marriage certificates for spouses
Depending on where you are applying for the H-4 visa, you can either mail them in or take them 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.
H-4 Visa Application
If applying while abroad, the first thing to do is to complete Form DS-160 online. Provide all the necessary details and upload all required documents. Next, print the application confirmation page – this is the page containing the barcode, pay the DS-160 application fee, and schedule the visa interview.
The interview will most likely take place in the country you reside in. You should schedule an appointment with the 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 must apply for a visa status change by filing Form I-539. The form is available on the USCIS website.
H-4 Visa Interview
If abroad, your H-4 visa interview is a major deciding factor on your visa application where 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, you should know as much detail as possible about the principal H visa holder’s work in the US. Furthermore, your answers must be true to what was submitted in forms and other documents.
If you are not told at the end of the interview whether your application is approved, you’ll get a notification from the embassy once a decision has been made on your application.
If you are applying while in the U.S., then you will not be required to attend an interview.
H-4 Visa Processing Time
If abroad, the caseload of the US Embassy processing your visa will determine the processing time. This is why you should schedule your interview immediately after filing your application. After your interview, it may take days or weeks for the embassy to decide. If approved, they’ll send you your passport with the H-4 visa stamp.
If inside the U.S., changing nonimmigrant status to H-4 will take many months to process.
H-4 Visa Validity
The validity period of the principal H visa is the same as your H-4 visa. For example, H-1B visas are valid for a maximum of 3 years, and can be extended for another 3 years if the applicant meets eligibility requirements for visa extensions. So the H-4 visa will follow this as well. When the H-1B purpose of stay in the US ends or the visa expires, you have the same 60-day grace period the H-1B visa holder receives before leaving the US.
As I promised, here’s some bonus information that you may not know about:
There are two requirements that you must meet before getting an H-4 work permit or H-4 EAD.
1. Must be the spouse of an H-1B holder—no other H visa has this benefit, and children do not qualify.
2. The H-1B holder spouse must have successfully filed and received an approval for an I-140 petition in furtherance of obtaining a green card. The USCIS must have already approved this petition. As long as the I-140 has been approved, you are eligible for an H-4 EAD.
In addition to the ability to work once obtaining an EAD, there are a few other benefits to the EAD.
H-4 visa holders who have an EAD can:
⦁ Receive a social security number
⦁ Have no restrictions on employment
The H-4 visa presents a great opportunity for the children and spouses of H-1B visa holders to study, gain experience, and even earn income in the U.S.
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