H-4 Visa Eligibility and Application Guide

If you plan to join your non-immigrant worker spouse in the United States, the H-4 visa might be your key to living and thriving here. This visa category is specifically designed for spouses and unmarried children under 21 of various non-immigrant H visa workers.

This article will be your complete guide to the H4 visa. Do you wonder what an H-4 visa is and how it works, how long the H-4 visa processing time typically takes, or whether you can work in the U.S. with an H-4 visa?


These, and many more questions, will be answered in the following sections. We’ll also explore the benefits of holding an H-4 visa, including the possibility of working legally in the U.S.

Are you ready to explore your options and start planning your move? Let’s get started!

What Is an H4 Visa?

The H-4 visa is a special category designed for the close family members of individuals holding certain H visas in the United States. These H visas are typically for temporary workers with specific skill sets.

Specifically, H-4 visas are available for spouses and unmarried children under 21 of:

While parents of H visa holders can’t use the H4 visa, they may be eligible for other visa types to visit the U.S.

The Benefits of the H4 Visa for Dependents

The H-4 visa offers a range of benefits for approved dependents. It allows you to reside in the U.S. with the primary H visa holder for their authorized stay.

IMPORTANT! H-1B visa holders’ spouses and unmarried minor children depend on the valid H-1B holder’s visa. If the child ages or marries, or if the H-1B holder’s visa expires or is terminated, the dependent loses their H-4 status as well.

If you want to apply for an H4 visa, you should know that it provides you with the following advantages:

  • You can live in the U.S.,
  • Attend school full-time or part-time,
  • Open a bank account.

Sometimes, dependents with an Employment Authorization Document can legally work in the U.S. The H4 E.A.D. opens the doors to full-time or part-time employment and the ability to start a business.

Another perk? You’ll be eligible to apply for a social security number and tax I.D., making it easier to integrate into American life.

IMPORTANT! There is no quota or limit on the number of H-4 visas issued each year (compared to the H-1B lottery caps in place), so you can apply anytime without worrying about deadlines.

H4 Visa Eligibility: Who Can Apply

The H4 visa allows spouses and unmarried children to join H-1B visa holders in the United States. But who exactly qualifies for this H4 dependent visa category? Let’s break down the eligibility requirements in detail:

Primary Relationship of H4 Visa Applicant to H Visa Holder

  • Spouses: If you are legally married to an H-1B, H-1B1, H-1C, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3 visa holder, you may be eligible for an H-4 visa. Your marriage must be recognized as legitimate by both the laws of your home country and the United States.
  • Unmarried children: If you are an unmarried child (under 21 years old) of an H-1B, H-1B1, H-1C, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3 visa holder, you may also qualify for an H-4 visa.

Eligibility Criteria for Obtaining the H4 Visa

Since eligibility requirements can vary depending on your circumstances, it’s crucial to consult an immigration attorney to understand your case. However, if everything is in order, here are the considerations you must consider when applying for an H4.

The Primary Visa Holder Has a Valid Status

The H-1B visa holder you are joining (your spouse or parent) must maintain a valid H-1B visa status. This means their visa hasn’t expired, they haven’t violated any terms, and they haven’t overstayed their authorized time in the U.S.

H4 Visa Beneficiaries Must Receive Financial Support

The H-1B visa holder must demonstrate sufficient financial resources to support you, as H-4 visa holders generally cannot work in the U.S. without an E.A.D.

The H4 Applicant Doesn't Have a Criminal Background

You, the H-4 applicant, must also pass a background check. A criminal record makes you inadmissible.

IMPORTANT! Additional requirements may exist based on your country of origin and the specific U.S. embassy or consulate handling your visa application. It’s best to research these H4 status eligibility points well and seek professional immigration guidance to determine whether the H-4 visa is the right path for you to join your family members in the U.S.

H-4 Visa Application Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

The H-4 application process varies depending on your situation, but here’s a breakdown of the general steps involved.

Step 1: Check Your Eligibility

Before you begin the process, you must meet the H-4 visa eligibility requirements, as discussed above in this guide. Just as a quick reminder, you can qualify as an H-4 applicant if you are the:

  • Spouse of an H-1B, H-1B1, H-1C, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3 visa holder (with a valid marriage certificate).
  • Unmarried child (under 21 years old) of an H-1B, H-1B1, H-1C, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3 visa holder (with a birth certificate).

Step 2: Gather the Required H4 Application Documents

Once you’ve confirmed your eligibility, collect the necessary documents for your H4 status application. These documents will typically include the following (with some amendments):



Completed Form DS-160

H-4 visa application fee payment

Photocopy of primary h-1b visa holder's visa

Photocopy of spouse's/parent's i-129 petition and i-797 approval notice

Photocopy of spouse's/parent's passport biodata page

Proof of financial support

Marriage certificate (if spouse)

Birth certificate (if child)


Verify that your passport has a free page available for the visa sticker

Online Non-immigrant Visa Application Form

Proof of payment for the H-4 visa application fee

A copy of your spouse's or parent's valid H-1B visa

Copies of the petition and approval notice filed by your spouse or parent to obtain their H-1B visa

A copy of the page in your spouse's or parent's passport that includes their photo and biographical information

Documents demonstrating your spouse or parent's ability to financially support you financially (might include bank statements, employment letters, tax returns)

Original or certified marriage certificate copy

Original or certified birth certificate copy


Ensure it is valid for your intended stay in the U.S.

Fill out the form accurately and print the confirmation page containing the barcode.

Keep the receipt for your records.

Ensure the copy is clear and legible.

It is not required if you have an approved Employment Authorization Document (E.A.D.).

Must be valid according to your country's laws

The authorities might require additional documents, depending on your situation:

  • Police certificates
  • Evidence of your ties to your home country
  • Wedding photos and proof (if marriage is recent)

Step 3: Complete the Online DS-160 Application

Access and complete the online Non-immigrant Visa Application Form (DS-160) on the U.S. Department of State website. Provide all the necessary information accurately and submit the form electronically. After submission, print the confirmation page containing the barcode for your records.

Step 4: Pay the H-4 Visa Application Fee

There is a designated application fee for H-4 visas. Pay the fee online or through authorized channels, and keep the payment confirmation receipt for your application package.

IMPORTANT! The current fee to submit the online application form, DS-160, for an H-4 visa is $205. This fee is subject to change, so it’s always best to check the U.S. D.O.S. website for the most up-to-date information.

Step 5: Schedule a Visa Interview

Once you have completed the form and paid the fee, schedule an appointment for a visa interview at the U.S. embassy/consulate back home (or the country where you are applying). The sooner you schedule the interview, the faster your application process will be completed.

Step 6: Attend the Visa Interview

On your interview date, go to the U.S. embassy with all the required documents, the DS-160 confirmation page, and the interview appointment letter. They will assess your application and verify your eligibility and relationship legitimacy with the H-1B visa holder. Be prepared to answer questions about your U.S. plans and ties to your home country.

Step 7: Receive Your Visa

After the interview, the embassy/consulate officer will decide on your visa application. If approved, you will receive your H-4 visa stamped in your passport. You may be required to attend a separate appointment for visa stamping.

IMPORTANT! This is a general guide; some requirements could vary depending on your circumstances and the U.S. embassy/consulate you apply through. If you encounter challenges during this journey, hire an immigration consultant to ensure a stress-free H4 application process.

The H-4 Visa Processing Time

If you wonder how long it takes to obtain your H-4 visa, the answer is not as straightforward as you might think. 

While there’s no set waiting time for H-4 visa processing, you can get a general idea of potential timelines by checking the U.S. Department of State’s visa wait time website.

This resource provides estimated wait times for visa interview appointments at various U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide. Enter the city, then check the table. H-4 visas aren’t explicitly listed, but you can understand the current processing speeds at the embassy or consulate through which you plan to apply. You need to consider that these are estimates and don’t factor in additional processing time after the interview.

H-4 Processing Timeline

Unlike some visa categories with set processing times, H-4 visas’ timelines can vary depending on several factors. Here’s what you need to know:

H4 visas’ processing timelines are intertwined with the primary H-1B visa holder’s status. For example, if you’re applying for H-4 status with your spouse’s new H-1B application, your H-4 processing time might mirror theirs.

If you’re applying for an H-4 visa separately from your spouse (perhaps for a change of status), the processing speed will depend more on the workload at the specific U.S. embassy or consulate you applied through. These workloads can fluctuate, impacting how long it takes to process your application.

IMPORTANT! You likely won’t receive your H-4 visa until the primary H-1B visa holder’s application has been approved. Your H-4 processing timeline waits for the H-1B application to clear first.

In short, while there’s no single answer to the H-4 visa processing time question, these factors will impact the time it takes for your application to be adjudicated.

How Much Does an H4 Visa Cost?

The online application for an H-4 visa requires you to submit Form DS-160. For this step, you’ll need to factor in a government filing fee of $205. It’s a good idea to double-check the U.S. Department of State website for any updates to this fee, just to be sure.

How Long Can an H-4 Visa Beneficiary Stay in the United States?

The validity of your H-4 visa is directly tied to the validity of the primary H-1B visa held by your spouse or parent. Here is what you need to know:

H-1B and H-4 Visas Have Mirrored Expiry Dates

The initial H-4 visa you receive will typically have the same expiration date as the H-1B visa of your sponsor. So, if their H-1B visa is valid for three years, your H-4 visa will also be valid for three years. This ensures your status remains aligned with theirs.

You Can Enjoy an H4 Status Grace Period and a Status Change

If the H-1B holder’s visa expires or their employment terminates, you’ll be granted a 60-day grace period. During this time, your spouse or parent can find a new H-1B sponsor or transition to a different visa category to remain legally in the U.S. If they cannot do so within the grace period, your H-4 visa and their H-1B status will be terminated, requiring you to leave the country.

IMPORTANT! Always check the expiration date on your parent or spouse’s Form I-797 (approval notice) to understand how long your H-4 visa will be valid. It’s essential to renew your H-4 visa whenever your spouse or parent renews their H-1B visa.

As you can see, the good news is that you can renew your H-4 visa as long as the primary H-1B visa holder renews theirs. So, next in our guide, let’s discuss the H4 visa extension!

How to Extend Your H-4 Visa

As mentioned, if your spouse or parent applies for an extension of their H-1B visa, you can also extend your H-4 dependent status.

H-4 Extension Application Process

To extend your H-4 visa, you’ll need to file Form I-539. Your application to extend/change your non-immigrant status goes to USCIS.

Before extending your H-4 visa status through Form I-539, you must review the detailed filing instructions (available online) to guarantee you’re using the correct form and following the proper procedures.

While the filing fee for Form I-539 is currently $370, there’s good news! As of October 1st, 2023, USCIS has waived the biometric services fee for all applicants submitting this form.

Supporting Documents for an H-4 Visa Extension

Along with the completed Form I-539, you must submit several supporting documents to USCIS. These documents will help verify your eligibility and dependent status:


Copy of your most recent form I-94

Spouse's or parent's most recent form I-94

Copies of spouse's or parent's H-1B petition and approval documents

Proof of relationship (depending on your status)


Arrival/departure record confirming your current U.S. immigration status

Arrival/departure record confirming their current U.S. immigration status

* Form I-129 filed by your spouse or parent
* Form I-797 (approval notice) issued by USCIS for their H-1B visa

* Spouses: Certified copy of marriage certificate
* Children: Certified copy of the birth certificate

The H-4 visa extension process can involve many challenges and bumps in the road, so consulting with immigration lawyers and experts is highly recommended to ensure an error-free application and avoid any potential delays.

How to Get Your H4 Visa Work Permit

This is the question we get the most when we assist clients with U.S.A. visas: can H4 visa holders work once they arrive in America with their spouses? 

Yes. This is one of the benefits the H4 visa offers to all applicants. As mentioned in this guide, you must focus on an H4 E.A.D. to get legal employment, so let’s see what it entails!

Working as an H-4 Visa Holder: Eligibility and Application Process

You, as an H-4 dependent spouse of an H-1B visa holder, can apply to work in the U.S. if your spouse meets one of these requirements:

  • Has an approved I-140 Form. This petition indicates your spouse is on track for permanent residency.
  • Has H-1B status under AC21 sections 106(a) and (b). AC21 law allows certain H-1B holders to extend their stay beyond the usual six-year limit while pursuing permanent residency.

How to Apply for an H4 E.A.D.

To work legally in the U.S. as an H4 visa beneficiary, you must file Form I-765 with USCIS. This form has specific filing instructions, so review them carefully to avoid delays. Here’s a breakdown of the application process:

  • Complete Form I-765 following the detailed instructions.
  • Pay the filing fee. Ensure you use the correct fee and follow the instructions for specific scenarios like filing with Form I-485.
  • Gather supporting documents (see table below).


Proof of H-4 status

Government ID

Proof of relationship to h-1b spouse

Proof of spouse's eligibility (one of the following):

* Spouse's approved Form I-140

* Evidence of spouse's H-1B status under AC21 (if applicable)

Two passport photos

English translations (if applicable)


* Copy of your I-797 approval notice (Form I-539) for your H-4 status extension.
* Copy of your latest Form I-94 showing your admission or recent extension of stay as an H-4 non-immigrant.

* Copy your last Employment Authorization Document (E.A.D.) (if any).
* Copy of the biometric page (photo page) of your passport.
* OR
* Copy of your birth certificate with photo.
* OR
* Copy of a visa issued by a foreign consulate.
* Copy of a national identity document with photo.

Copy of your marriage certificate.

Copy of I-797 Notice of Action for your spouse's I-140 petition.

* Copies of your spouse's passport, past Forms I-94 and current/prior Forms I-797 for their Form I-129 petition.
* Evidence demonstrating the base for your spouse's AC21 extension

Two identical color photographs (size 2"x2") for your E.A.D. card.

If submitting any documents in a foreign language, include certified complete English translations.

If you cannot provide the primary documents listed above, USCIS may request alternative paperwork (secondary evidence) to support your H-4 EAD application. However, it’s important to note that USCIS is not obligated to accept secondary evidence, and it may delay processing or lead to a request for further documentation. Here are some examples of what USCIS might consider as secondary evidence:

  • Receipt number for the most recent extension of stay request filed for your H-1B spouse.
  • Receipt number for the approved Form I-140 petition filed for your H-1B spouse.
  • Bank statements, tax returns, or other documents show you depend financially on your H-1B spouse.
  • Lease agreements, utility bills, or other documents establish your U.S. residence as an H-4 dependent.

What Happens After Your H4 E.A.D. Application?

If USCIS approves your work permit petition, your Employment Authorization Document will have the same expiration date as your current H-4 status. You can only work legally until the E.A.D. expires.

To work after your E.A.D. expires, you must file a renewal application (Form I-765) before expiration. An automatic extension is possible if you file for renewal on time and maintain your H-4 status. However, you should check the USCIS website for the latest information on automatic extensions.

What Can You Do in the United States with an H4 Visa Beside Work

While an H-4 visa primarily functions as a dependent visa for H-visa beneficiaries’ spouses and children, it offers some flexibility for activities. Here’s a breakdown of some key things you can do:

Change Visa Status

One advantage of the H-4 visa is the ability to apply for a different visa category if your circumstances change. If you find an employer willing to sponsor you, you can transition to a work visa like H-2B for temporary non-agricultural jobs. This allows you to pursue employment opportunities that align with your skills and qualifications.

Apply for a Green Card

H-4 visas are considered “dual intent” visas, meaning you can have non-immigrant and immigrant intent. It allows you to apply for a Green Card directly from your H-4 status. However, the processing times for Green Cards based on H-4 petitions can be lengthy. To expedite the process, consider changing your status to an H-1B visa, which is often a faster track to permanent residency.

Education and Training

The H-4 visa grants dependents the ability to enroll in academic programs and courses in the U.S. You’ll enjoy the same educational opportunities as students on F-1 visas.

Banking and Driving

As an H-4 visa holder, you can open bank accounts at any U.S. financial institution, such as citizens and immigrants. The process is straightforward, requiring your passport and a local I.D. card. Additionally, you can apply for a driver’s license after passing the necessary written and practical driving tests.

Healthcare and Taxes

Health insurance isn’t mandatory for H-4 visa holders. However, due to the high cost of healthcare in the U.S., having health insurance is highly recommended to manage medical expenses in case of illness or accidents. If you don’t plan to work in the U.S., you can obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to file your tax returns. If you secure employment, you’ll be eligible for a Social Security Number, which will be used for tax purposes.

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