Complete Guide to the H4 Visa in the U.S.
Posted by Rohit Mittal
When a parent or spouse obtains their US work visa, many families find themselves dreading the idea of having to live apart from the visa holder. Many H1 visa holders want to stay with their children or spouses, and often, these dependent family members (spouses and children under 21 years of age) rely on the H1 visa holder to financially support them.
Luckily, with an H4 visa, dependent family members can join the H1 visa holder during their stay in the US. By applying for the H4 visa, these family members are granted temporary residence in the US during the time that the H1 visa-holding family member is working in the US.
Here, we put together this guide with all the information you need to know about the H4 visa and how you can apply for the visa. We have also included information on the current state of the H4 visa and some changes that may be made to the visa in the near future.
Check out our video guide “How do I know if I am selected for the H1B lottery?” or read on to learn more!
Table of Contents
What is an H4 Visa?
An H4 visa gives spouses and children under 21 of H1B visa holders the ability to join the visa holder in the US. H4 visa holders can legally:
- Get a drivers license
- Open bank accounts
- Go to school
- Be eligible for an ITIN (Tax ID)
- Receive a social security number
Unlike most other visas, there is no cap on the number of H4 visas issued, and as of 2015, H4 visa holders can also legally work in the US.
There are also no restrictions on where an H4 visa holder can work, which means that approved applicants are not limited to a specific employer and can even consider self-employment. Many H4 visa holders have started their own businesses (with their own H4 loans), and have even hired their own employees as well.
H4 Visa Process: How to Apply for an H4 Visa
To apply for a visa, the applicant must begin the H4 visa process and fill out a DS-160 form online and then attend their visa interview.
H4 Visa Process: H4 Visa Documents
There are several H4 visa documents the applicant must bring to either prove their marital status or their dependency on the primary visa holder (H1B family member). These documents include:
- US visa interview appointment letter (emailed to you when applying for the interview)
- A valid passport
- Copy of the primary visa holder’s passport
- Photograph of the primary visa holder and applicant together
- Passport-sized photograph of the applicant
- Confirmation page of the online DS-160 form
- Visa fees receipt from the relevant bank
- A copy of the primary visa holder’s form I-797
- A letter from the primary visa holder’s employer stating the nature of the relationship between the primary visa holder and employer
- Pay stubs from the primary visa holder’s current place of work
- Original marriage certificate
- Original birth certificates of children
- Often requested but not always needed: a wedding album, wedding invitations, video of marriage proceedings, etc.
Most of these documents are required to prove that the marriage to the primary visa holder is valid. Therefore, any additional documents that will help prove the validity of the marriage would be very helpful in getting your H4 visa approved.
H4 Visa Interview Questions
With so much riding on the H4 visa interview, knowing the interview questions beforehand can help you prepare for this very important step.
Every interviewer is different, and there are no set of interview structures or questions. However, you can expect the questions to usually follow this pattern:
Questions about the visa
- What type of visa are you applying for?
- Why do you need an H4 visa?
- Who filed the visa application and where did you file it?
- How did you receive the documents?
Questions about yourself
- What do you plan to do in the US?
- Who do you plan on living in the US?
- Who will financially support you in the US?
- Where are you staying currently?
Questions about your marriage
- How long have you been married?
- When and how did you meet your spouse?
- Is your marriage registered?
- Did you have an arranged or love marriage?
Questions about your spouse
- What is your spouse’s birthday?
- Who is your spouse’s employer?
- What kind of work does your spouse do?
- Who is sponsoring in your spouse’s H1?
Other relevant questions
- What will you do after your visa is completed/expired?
- Do you know why you were rejected before? (If you have previously been rejected)
These are just a few of the questions your interviewer may ask. You should be prepared to answer at least these questions, if not other questions related to your marriage, your partner, and other personal topics related to visa status. Remember to answer each question truthfully and to show your attachment and dependency on your spouse.
Some people that will particulate in a fake marriage to obtain a visa, so your interview should prove that you are your spouse are in fact married and have a close, loving relationship.
H4 Visa EAD: Can You Work on an H4 Visa
Beginning on May 26, 2015, select H4 visa holders became eligible to work in the U.S. To be able to work, an H4 visa holder must first apply for and be approved for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Additional requirements include:
- The applicant’s spouse must be in the U.S. on a valid H1B visa
- The applicant must be either the beneficiary an I-140 OR her spouse must have extended H1B status
Advantages of H4 Visa EAD
As a result of work authorization, the H4 visa holder reaps a host of new advantages and privileges:
- The H4 visa holder may work either part-time, full-time, or not at all.
- The H4 visa holder may start a business of any kind
- The H4 visa holder may continue eligibility got EAD even if employment is not sought
H4 Visa News: Trump Administration
Visa policy is always changing, and even just until 2015, H4 visa holders were not allowed to work. This change in policy came with backlash from groups who believed that H4 visa holders were taking their jobs, and although most of these criticisms were initially brushed off since Trump’s administration took office, there have been statements released suggesting that there will be changes to the H4 visa EAD rule.
On December 14th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under Trump’s administration published their intent to remove the H4 EAD rule that allowed H4 visa holders to work.
Since December, as many as 130 congress members have signed letters to the DHS in hopes of having a reconsideration of revoking the H4 EAD rule.
As of May 23, 2018, the DHS filed an update stating their continual progress with trying to remove the H4 EAD rule. The removal is in its final clearance stage with the DHS and will be sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) next.
H4 Visa News: Current Status
Currently, it looks as though the DHS is continuing with trying to remove the H4 EAD rule which will prevent H4 visa holders to work in the US. As this change is still being debated, we will have to continue to wait and see where the status of H4 visa holders will be in the near future.
If the Department of Homeland Security’s progress in removing the H4 EAD policy is successful and the policy is revoked, then the USCIS would stop accepting H4 EAD applications altogether. However, existing EADs for H4 visa holders would remain valid until the date shown on the card.
Spouses of H1B visa holders who wish to work in the US could still apply for an H1B visa but would have to undergo the process of applying for that visa rather than the H4 visa. They would need to be hired by a US employer and be working in a specialized occupation. You can find more information on the H1B visa application process in our guide to the H1B visa.
In late September 2018, the Trump administration has stated that it will deliver its decision on whether to revoke H4 EAD working rights and permits from H4 visa holders within three months’ time.
As of mid-January 2019, DHS has filed a motion to put stay on the previously set deadlines to deliver a rule on the H4 workers, as the department lacks funding as a result of the government shutdown.
On February 20, DHS submitted its H4 EAD removal rule to OMB for review, meaning that the Trump administration will officially be eliminating the H4 EAD rule, taking away H4 visa holders’ right to work in the U.S.
A more detailed timeline of the H4 EAD Lawsuit can be found here.