How to Extend H4 Visa EAD

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • H4 visa holders can extend their EAD by applying for a replacement and following specific steps.
  • They can also benefit from automatic EAD extensions and are eligible for federal unemployment benefits.
  • COVID-19 insurance options are available.
  • Staying informed is crucial for managing the extension process successfully.

H4 visas are issued to legal dependents, usually either spouses or children under 21 years of age, of an H1B visa holder. These dependents can accompany the H1B visa holder to the United States and are also eligible to work after obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the DHS.

H4 visa EAD comes with an expiration date after which you will no longer be eligible to apply for work unless it is EAD extended. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about extensions and the impact of COVID-19 on H4 visa holders.

Can H4 Visa Holders Extend Their EAD?

In short – yes, H4 visa holders, upon satisfying certain conditions, can apply for an Employment Authorization Document to work in the United States.

When you initially apply for EAD, you will be required to file Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) and provide relevant documents. Once the application is complete, you will be eligible to work in the U.S. Like so many other immigration-related documents, though, your EAD card will come with an expiration date, which can be found printed under the “Card Expires” section of the card.

When the expiration date approaches, an H4 visa holder can apply to extend their Employment Authorization Document as long as their spouse still has a valid H1B visa. If your spouse applies for an extension, you become eligible to apply for an extension too. After it is extended, you can stay and work in the United States.

How to Extend H4 EAD

After your work authorization period expires, you can file for an extension of stay or change by filing the required forms. To extend your H4 work authorization, you are required to:

  1. Submit Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status)
  2. Package your H4 EAD Application with Supporting Documents
  3. Mail your H4 EAD Application to USCIS
  4. Receive your H4 EAD Receipt Notice

Under the Special Situations rules, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), at its discretion, will determine whether or not the late filing is feasible.

Automatic H4 EAD Extension

In October 2021, the AILA filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, citing the lack of automatic EAD extensions for H4 and other visa holders as unjustified. In November 2021, the Department of Homeland Security settled the suit and H4 visa holders gained the right to automatic EAD extensions.

H4 spouses will qualify for the automatic extension of their valid EAD for 180 days beyond the date of the EAD expiration if the nonimmigrant spouse:

  • Files a Form I-765 before the current the EAD expires; and
  • Continues to maintain H-4 status beyond the expiration of the existing EAD

The validity of the expired EAD will be extended until the earliest of:

  • 180 days following the EAD expiration;
  • The expiration of the H4 dependent nonimmigrant’s I-94 record; or
  • When a final decision is made on the EAD extension application by USCIS.

For I-9 purposes, an H4 dependent employee may present:

  • a facially expired EAD indicating Category C26, A18, or A17;
  • Form I-797 (Notice of Action for Form I-765) with Class requested indicating (c)(26), (a)(18), or (a)(17) and showing that the I-765 EAD renewal application was filed before the EAD expired; and
  • an unexpired I-94, showing valid H-4, L-2, or E dependent nonimmigrant status

Premium Processing For H4 EAD Extension

At present, there is no option for H4 EAD extension premium processing. A Bill (HR 8337) that included an H4 EAD extension expedited processing option was passed and signed into law in October 2020. In December 2021, President Biden submitted the regulation for OMB review.

H4 Visa EAD Extension Cost

The total cost to file for an H4 EAD extension is $455. This cost is the sum total of multiple smaller costs, which we break down below:

Form I-539$370
Total Cost$455

Difference Between H4 EAD Extension and Renewal

Yes, there is a difference between H4 EAD Extension and H4 EAD Renewal, and these terms can sometimes be used interchangeably but they refer to slightly different processes:

  1. H4 EAD Extension:
    • This typically refers to the situation where an individual already has an H4 EAD and is looking to extend its validity before it expires.
    • The extension is usually aligned with the H4 visa status of the individual.
    • This process is necessary when the H4 visa status is extended due to the principal H1B visa holder’s status extension.
  2. H4 EAD Renewal:
    • Renewal generally refers to the process of reapplying for the H4 EAD after or close to its expiry.
    • It involves submitting a fresh application for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
    • This process is done to continue employment without any break that might occur if the EAD expires.

The key difference lies in the timing and circumstances of each process. An extension is often part of maintaining status continuity without any break, whereas a renewal is a re-application after or close to the end of the current EAD’s validity. In practice, the application process for both extension and renewal can be quite similar, but the terms are used to describe different situations in the visa lifecycle.

How to Renew H4 EAD

Renewing an H4 EAD involves a series of steps, which are briefly outlined below:

  1. Check Eligibility: Ensure that you are still eligible for the H4 EAD. Typically, you must be on H4 status and your spouse on H1B status must have an approved I-140 or have received an extension under the AC21 Act.
  2. Form I-765: Complete USCIS Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. This form is used to request the EAD.
  3. Gather Required Documents: These usually include:
    • A copy of your current EAD.
    • Two passport-sized photographs.
    • A copy of your H4 visa approval (Form I-797).
    • Evidence of your spouse’s H1B status (like a copy of the spouse’s I-797).
    • If applicable, a copy of the approved I-140 petition.
  4. Fee Payment: As of my last update in April 2023, there is a fee for the EAD application. Check the latest fee on the USCIS website.
  5. Compile Application: Put together your Form I-765, photographs, fee, and supporting documents.
  6. Send Application: Mail your application to the appropriate USCIS address. The address can vary based on your location and whether you are using regular mail or courier services.
  7. Receive Receipt Notice: After filing, you will receive a receipt notice from USCIS, confirming they have received your application.
  8. Biometrics Appointment (if required): Sometimes, you may be required to attend a biometrics appointment.
  9. Wait for Processing: The processing time can vary. You can check processing times on the USCIS website.
  10. Receive EAD: If your application is approved, you will receive your EAD card in the mail.

Ensure that you start the renewal process well before your current EAD expires to avoid any gaps in employment authorization. Keep track of USCIS processing times and any changes in the application process or requirements, as immigration policies and procedures can change.

H4 Visa Unemployment Benefits

If you possess an EAD and were employed as an H4 visa holder, you are eligible for federal unemployment benefits. This is different from H1 visa holders, who can potentially jeopardize their visa status if they are unable to find an employer willing to sponsor them. They do not qualify for unemployment benefits since they do not remain tied to an employer. So being an H4 visa holder, you should check your state’s official website for more information on obtaining unemployment benefits.

While each state’s eligibility criteria are different, the general requirements are:

  • Must have work authorization, either the employment authorization document or EAD card
  • Must have valid work authorization at the time of employment
  • Should have valid work authorization when applying for unemployment benefits

H4 Visa Insurance

There are insurance packages available for which H4 visa holders can apply. Depending on your current circumstances, different options are available:

  • For H4 visa holders currently in the United States, a medical coverage package is the best solution right now. These packages cover unexpected medical expenses, supplemental travel expenses, bedside visit expenses, expenses due to death, and more.
  • If you’re waiting to enter the United States once the travel restrictions are lifted, then you can choose both travel and medical coverage packages. To apply for these packages, please visit the respective company’s website and apply online.

H4 Visa EAD Extension Next Steps

With so many changes happening at once, it can be overwhelming for H4 visa holders to keep track of the H4 visa EAD extension process. But armed with the info above, you should be able to easily manage the process and get your EAD extended.

Read More

Final Thoughts

Extending the H4 Visa EAD is crucial for H4 visa holders to continue working in the US. By following the necessary steps, submitting required forms, and staying updated on regulations, H4 visa holders can successfully extend their work authorization. For further assistance or guidance, consult an immigration attorney or relevant government agencies. Stay informed and proactive for a smooth H4 EAD extension process.

Extending H4 EAD FAQ

What is an H4 EAD?

An H4 EAD (Employment Authorization Document) allows spouses of H1B visa holders to work in the United States. It is available to those whose spouses have an approved I-140 or are granted H1B status under the AC21 Act.

When should I apply for an H4 EAD renewal?

It’s advisable to apply for renewal as soon as you are within 180 days of your current EAD’s expiration date. This helps avoid any gaps in employment due to processing times.

What form is needed for H4 EAD renewal?

Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, is required for H4 EAD renewal.

What documents are needed for H4 EAD renewal?

Common documents include a copy of your current EAD, passport-sized photographs, H4 visa approval notice, evidence of your spouse’s H1B status, and if applicable, a copy of the approved I-140 petition.

Is there a fee for H4 EAD renewal?

Yes, there is a fee for the EAD application. Check the latest fee on the USCIS website, as it can change.

Where do I send my H4 EAD renewal application?

The mailing address for the application depends on your location and the method of mailing (regular or courier). Check the USCIS website for the correct address.

How long does it take to process an H4 EAD renewal?

Processing times vary based on several factors, including the USCIS service center processing your application. Check current processing times on the USCIS website.

Can I work if my H4 EAD expires while my renewal is pending?

No, you cannot legally work after your EAD expires. It’s crucial to apply for renewal well in advance to avoid any gaps in employment authorization.

What happens if my H4 EAD renewal is denied?

If your renewal application is denied, you will receive a notice explaining the reason for the denial. You may consult an immigration attorney for advice on any possible next steps.

Can I travel outside the U.S. while my H4 EAD renewal is pending?

Yes, you can travel, but make sure your H4 status and other related visas are valid for re-entry into the U.S. Keep track of any communication from USCIS while you are away.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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