Can H4 Visa Holders Work Freelance?

Updated on April 11, 2024

At a Glance

  • H4 visa holders without additional authorizations cannot work as freelancers in the United States.
  • Freelancing is considered employment, and H4 visa holders are not allowed to be employed in the country without an H4 Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  • To freelance on an H4 EAD, the visa holder needs to apply for an EAD using Form I-765, provide necessary documents, wait for approval, and report earnings to the IRS for tax filing.

The H4 visa has been described as the golden cage. On paper, it seems like a great deal. It allows immediate family members of H visa holders (who are working in the U.S. temporarily) to also live in the U.S. with their families. But what you don’t see at first glance is the many limitations the H4 visa holds. 

Two of the most challenging limitations are that you as an H4 visa holder can’t obtain a social security number, and you also can’t work legally in the U.S. on the H4 visa alone. 

Many H4 visa holders have been asking, “can I do freelance work on H4 visa?”. Freelancing seems like an easy answer to the work problem. You’re not employed by a specific employer but merely providing a service in exchange for money. Especially if you do freelance work for a company that isn’t based in the United States but perhaps based back home. Then you are often not even earning U.S. dollars.

Is freelancing on an H4 visa the ideal loophole? Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. 

Below we answer the question, “can I do freelance work on H4 visa?”.

Can H4 Visa Holders Work as Freelancers?

There are many different facets to this question, but the short answer is no, you can’t.

If you are only an H4 visa holder without any additional authorizations, you are not allowed to do freelance work while you are in the United States. It works just the same as you not being allowed to be employed or work in the United States.

This limitation also applies irrespective of where your clients are located or in what currency you get paid. Even if your client is based back in your home country and pays you into your bank account from your home country, it will still be a violation of your H4 visa.

The good news is, however, just like you are allowed to work in the United States if you have an H4 Employment Authorization Document (EAD), you can also do freelance work if you have an H4 EAD.

What is EAD?

An Employment Authorization Document (also known as Form I-766 or EAD) is a document that authorizes a nonimmigrant visa holder to work in the United States if their visa doesn’t automatically provide for this right. To be allowed to work, you must seek permission from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The EAD itself (a small card) is proof that you have received this permission and that you are allowed to work.

Before 2015, H4 visa holders weren’t allowed to work in the United States at all. After 2015, certain H4 visa holders are allowed to work if they have an EAD. The EAD doesn’t limit you to a specific sector or type of job. You can work in any industry for any employer, and you can even freelance.

The following H4 visa holders can apply for an H4 EAD:

Although there have been many upset and lawsuits around the H4 EAD, the H4 EAD hasn’t been revoked just yet.

So now you know you can freelance on the H4 EAD. But how do you go about freelancing on EAD?

How to Freelance on EAD

Well, you first need to get an EAD. You can apply for an EAD by using Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. You can read more here on how to apply for your H4 EAD.

Here are the two most important things you need to know:

  • It costs $410 to apply.
  • The application takes between 150 to 210 days (5 to 7 months) to process, so apply as soon as possible.

To apply, you will need to provide the following documents:

  • Marriage certificate (proving you are married to an H1B visa holder).
  • A copy of your Form I-94 or Form I-797 (proving you H4 status).
  • A copy of your previous EAD (if you have been issued with one).
  • 2x passport photos (make sure they are in color).
  • Form G-1145 (E-notification of Application Acceptance) if you want to be e-mailed or receive a text message once your application has been accepted.
  • Proof of eligibility by providing a copy of your spouse’s Form I-94 or H1B nonimmigrant passport, prior Form I-94, and current Form I-797 for Form I-129.
  • Copies of your and your spouse’s passports.
  • Either your government-issued ID (with photo) or your birth certificate (with photo) or your visa issued by a foreign consulate or your national ID (with photo).

Once the USCIS has processed your application and have approved your EAD, you can work in the United States! You can work for any employer, but you can also freelance. Remember, your EAD approval notice (Form I-797C) isn’t your actual EAD. You have to wait for your actual EAD before you can start working.

There are many ways to start freelancing in the U.S. You can use freelancing platforms like Fiverr and Upwork. Or, if you already have an established business outside of the U.S., you can continue doing that. With most of the world being online these days, freelancing is easier than ever.

Remember that once you have received your EAD, it is only valid for a specific period. This period is typically one year. If you plan to stay in the United States for longer than this and want to continue doing freelance work legally, you have to renew your EAD before it expires.

Finally, as with any other job, you must remember to report your earnings to the Internal Revenue Service and file a tax return for each year you worked.

Read More

Conclusion

Now you know the answer to “can I do freelance work on H4 visa?“.

Although freelancing isn’t the perfect loophole to earning an income on an H4 visa, it certainly is an option if you can get an EAD. The processing time for an H4 EAD is long, so if you are eligible, apply as soon as possible. 

Remember, if you don’t have an EAD, then doing any form of freelance work, even if it is outside of the country, will technically be a breach of your H4 visa. So rather play safe than sorry. 

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join over 100,000 visitors who are receiving our newsletter and learn more about finance, immigration, and more!
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

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.

Check your loan offer in minutes

Apply for a loan with 100+ partners with one application. It takes only 2 mins and doesn’t impact your credit score.

*checking your rate doesn’t impact your credit score

Get the Checklist