Guide to Funding Your H4 Visa Spouse’s Education

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • Dependent visa for family members of H-1B visa holders.
  • Allows spouses and children to accompany and stay as dependents in the U.S.
  • H-4 visa holders can study and work under certain conditions.
  • Study options available with access to in-state tuition fees.

Every year, there are thousands of men and women that move to the U.S. after marriage. Most of them have a great education and some even have great careers back home — but when they move to the U.S., they aren’t able to work. They move here with dependent H-4 visas.

In this article, we will go into details of the H-4 Visa, its restrictions, and what you can do to continue your professional life in the U.S. after attaining an H-4 Visa.

What is an H-4 visa?

An H-4 visa is a dependent visa given to family members of the H-1B visa holders. Only spouses and children of H-1B holders are eligible for an H-4 visa. Parents, siblings, and relatives are not eligible for this. This visa allows spouses to come to the U.S. and stay here as dependents until the respective H-1B visa holder is in the U.S.; if the H-1B visa is not renewed or is revoked, the H-4 visa also becomes invalid.

H4 Visa Application

Before you (or your spouse) will be able to study on an H4 visa, you will need a successful H4 visa application. Let’s take a look at the typical H4 visa process.

How to Apply for H4 Visa

You can apply for an H4 visa with these few basic steps.

  • Apply online – Complete a DS-160 online application and print the confirmation page stating a successful submission of your application.
  • Pay H4 visa application fees – Pay the $190 processing fee for your H4 visa application and keep the receipt as proof of payment in the latter stages of the application process.
  • Compile and submit your application – Compile the required information and documents for your H4 visa application and send it to the USCIS for processing.
  • Visa interview – The USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) will schedule a visa interview with you. Note it in your calendar and bring a copy of your whole application package along to the interview.

H4 Visa Requirements

Remember, you are only eligible for an H4 visa if your spouse or parent is an H1B visa holder. Children are also only eligible for an H4 visa if they are under the age of 21 and dependent on their H1B parent.

Here is a list of H4 visa requirements you need to include in your H4 visa application.

  • Completed DS-160 online application and the confirmation page (bearing the barcode)
  • A valid passport with at least one blank page
  • Two passport-style photographs of the visa beneficiary
  • Payment receipt (for $190 processing fee)
  • Copy of the H1B sponsor’s visa
  • Copies of the H1B sponsor Form I-129, I-797, and Labor Certification Application
  • Pay stubs and tax filing information if your sponsor is already working in the U.S.
  • Children of the H1B sponsor must include a copy of the original birth certificate
  • Spouses of the H1B sponsor must submit a copy of the marriage certificate and any proof of a bona fide marriage like wedding photos and invites
  • People married at a wedding registrar must provide photos of them signing the marriage certificate, a copy of the wedding registrar affidavit, and photos of the ceremony being conducted.

H4 Visa Process

So in short, your H4 visa process will look as follows:

  • Complete online DS-160 application
  • Submit H4 visa application
  • Pay processing fee
  • Attend visa interview
  • Get your visa

Remember, this is a simplified summary. You might have to add a few more steps or details to your process. If you need help with your application, consider making use of an immigration attorney. They’ll be able to answer any questions you may have which relate to your specific case.

What are H-4 visa holders allowed to do?

H-4 visa holders can either study or work in the U.S., but there are some requirements.

Requirements for working in the US as an H-4 visa holder:

  • Without I-140 approval, an H-1B visa holder can only study, and must change their visa to F-1 to go to school
  • With I-140 approval, an H-1B visa holder can work full-time or part-time without restrictions

H4 Visa Study

The good news for all H4 visa holders is that you don’t need to sit around in the U.S. while your H1B spouse works. H4 visa study is possible! Here’s what you need to know.

Can H4 Visa Holder Study in USA

Once you get an H4 visa you get a few privileges along with it. You may stay in the U.S. as long as your sponsor’s visa and your visa remains valid. Most importantly you may also study on an H4 visa as long as your H4 visa is valid. And that’s not all. You can even apply for in-state tuition fees if you study on an H4 visa. Speak to your school’s admissions office and inquire about in-state tuition fees for H4 visa study. You can do all of this without needing to apply for an F1 student visa.

Study Options for H4 Visa Holders

There is no limit on what you can study on an H4 visa. Each school has its own admission rules and regulations. Apply at the ones for which you are eligible and enroll in classes that interest you and that will advance your education.

Some graduate degrees may require you to pass a GRE (Graduate Record Examination) or GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) before you may enroll in the class. Ask your school if they require any similar prerequisites for your course.

Best Courses for H4 Visa Holders

Are you wondering which course would suit an H4 visa study schedule? You can put your time to good use and apply for a college degree like a B.S., B.A., M.S., M.B.A., etc. at most universities. It’s most probably wise to build your resume towards the career you aspire to. But, there is nothing wrong with studying something you simply find interesting. Broadening your skills makes you more attractive to U.S. employers and may help you land a good job in the future.

Scholarships for H4 Visa Students

Unfortunately, there aren’t many scholarships for H4 visa students.Federal Government Student Loans or Pell Grants aren’t available to H4 visa holders. That doesn’t mean you can’t go to your school’s admissions office and ask about any merit-based scholarships or grants available to you, however. Even if you can’t find a scholarship, the good news is still that you pay in-state tuition fees on with H4 visa study. These tend to be 5 to 6 times cheaper than the fees an F1 visa student needs to pay!

How should you decide what school to go to?

If your spouse’s employer hasn’t filed for a green card yet, then you can’t legally work with an H-4 visa. Even if the green card is filed, you can only work after your I-140 PERM application is approved. Before I-140 approval, your only choice is to go to school, which could be a good thing if you still haven’t completed your graduate education or if you want to move to a different field. Plus, after you graduate, your chances of finding a job increase significantly compared to if you’ve never worked in the U.S. before.

Deciding what school to go to depends on specific situations, such as previous work experience, type of industry, and availability of funding for school. In most cases, getting a loan to go to a school in the U.S. is really difficult: no banks or credit unions give a loan for education to non-U.S. citizens. They require either a U.S. citizen cosigner or your permanent residency to approve a loan, which is a catch-22 for most individuals.

If you already have funding, then it could be easy for you to choose to go school right away. Just remember that you’ll still have to take standardized tests such as GRE/GMAT/TOEFL. If you plan to start school, you should start studying for them sooner rather than later. Since the scores stay valid for a while, you can always choose to go to school well after taking the exam.

How can you get an education loan on H-4 visa?

As an international student, it is extremely difficult to get a loan in the U.S. This is especially true for people who are on an H-4 visa, as they find themselves stuck in a situation where their home-country banks (usually Indian) can’t lend or have a very lengthy and tedious process to do so, and then U.S. banks don’t give student loans to non-U.S. citizens on a visa.

U.S. banks usually require a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen. Most people either don’t have one or don’t want to ask someone. This is because the loan remains on the cosigner’s profile for a long time until it’s completely paid off.

If you don’t have a cosigner, you can learn more about student loans for international students without cosigners in our guide.

The 2 ways to get an education loan with Stilt as an H-4 holder

Stilt is one of the new companies that has specifically created a loan product for H-4 visa holders. There are two ways to get a loan with Stilt.

1. Spouse as the co-signer

We can grant loans in situations where the spouse acts as a cosigner. Even though other companies require a U.S. citizen cosigner, Stilt can accept a non-U.S. citizen cosigner as a spouse. Your spouse can continue to make payments and save on interest.

2. Spouse applies for a loan directly

If the spouse doesn’t mind applying for a loan, then the process is even faster and the loan will show up on only one person’s credit history.

How does the loan process for H-4 visa holders work?

Stilt’s loan application process is designed for immigrants and visa holders who haven’t had the chance to build enough credit in the U.S. Since the US is a credit-based society, building a good credit score is important and takes a while.

Loan Application Process for H-4 Visa Holders

The application process is fairly straightforward and intuitive for visa holders:

  1. Create an account
  2. Complete your profile — personal, visa, and financial information
  3. Apply for a loan — amount required, repayment term, payment start date, etc.
  4. Get a decision in less than 24 hours

That’s it! Our loans are processed quickly and you can have funds in your account in just 1 day.

Can my spouse apply for my education loan?

Yes, absolutely. Many H-1B visa holders apply for a loan for their spouse since they have a stable job, better credit history, and the ability to pay back the loan faster. We have seen that this allows for a faster turnaround process from Stilt without hassles. In one of the recent loans, a prospective borrower tried to get a loan from India and spent 2 months trying to get a loan. At Stilt, he was approved and had funds in his account in 2 days.

As a general rule, the person with a stable job, higher salary, positive cash flows, and better credit will get approved for the loan quicker and with lower rates.

Do you send the funds directly to the school?

We can send the funds directly to the school if required by the borrower; otherwise, we deposit the funds directly into your U.S. bank account. You can then use the funds for tuition, books, living, and other expenses.

The process of sending the funds directly to the school works better if your school accepts debit cards for payments. We can make a payment with our debit card and you won’t have to worry about anything.

Can a loan be approved before getting an admission letter from school?

If an H-4 visa holder is applying for a loan for themselves, then the loan can only be processed with an admission from the university. Sometimes, we may transfer the funds directly to your school.

If your spouse on H-1B is applying for a loan, then Stilt can approve the loan before you receive a final admission letter. You can keep the funds in your account to get an I-20 approval.

Does Stilt disburse the whole loan at once?

Yes. We finish the complete loan process in a day or two and transfer the funds to your bank account or school. This allows for less overhead and a clear payment schedule for the borrower. If the loan is disbursed over time, it gets confusing in terms of interest charged and payment due dates.

H4 Visa Study FAQs

You may still have some more specific questions regarding an H4 visa study career. Have a look at the frequently asked questions below to see if we can help.

What courses are available in community colleges?

Community colleges serve a wide array of people. They have really interesting courses but it differs from school to school. You’ll have to study the websites of the different community colleges in your surrounding area to see what is available to you.

Is it necessary to convert H4 visa to F1 visa to study in the U.S.?

You are not required to change your visa to study in the U.S. if you have an H4 visa. Having an H4 visa allows you to study within the U.S. without an F1 visa. But you may need to change your visa status if your situation changes. Remember, your H4 visa status is largely dependent on the validity of your sponsor’s visa. Ask an immigration attorney how to complete your studies on a new visa status if you are required to change from an H4 visa.

Where do I get the information about different institutes?

You are already in good company since your sponsor has an employment-based visa. Their skills are required in the U.S. and their work colleagues can help to direct you to possible schools or courses. Otherwise, you can ask friends and family for some recommendations. Look online for schools in your surrounding area as well. You can even look for advertisements placed in your city.

Does my prior education degree count towards the course I want to join?

This depends on whether the course you want to enroll in requires prior knowledge or skills. Courses like an M.S. or M.B.A would definitely require a Bachelor’s degree or training to the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree. Some universities may even recognize the qualifications you already have and grant you some of the modules contained in the course you enroll in.

Just make sure you are adept enough to study in English. Most universities and colleges use English as their language of tuition. Many schools actually require 3 years of English education before they allow you to enroll in their classes.

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