Complete Guide to the H4 Visa in the U.S.

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • H4 visa allows spouses and children under 21 of H1B visa holders to join them in the US.
  • H4 visa holders can work, get a driver’s license, open bank accounts, go to school, and obtain a Tax ID and social security number.
  • No cap on H4 visas issued, and since 2015, H4 visa holders can legally work in the US.
  • Process involves filling out DS-160, attending a visa interview, and providing various documents.

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.

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:

  • Work
  • 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.

Benefits of an H4 Visa

Obtaining an H4 visa in the U.S. opens up many doors. Once you arrive in the U.S., you can apply for a driver’s license. You can also open a bank account and apply for loans. Moreover, you can study at one of the U.S.’s many universities and even apply to transition to an H1B visa.

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.

You will also need to complete an H4 biometrics evaluation as part of the application process.

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.

Prior to applying for an H4 visa, each applicant – and this includes children as well – must fill out the form DS 160. You are expected to complete and submit the form prior to your scheduled interview at the Consulate or Embassy.

What If Your H4 Visa Application Is Rejected?

It’s possible your H4 visa application will be rejected. While it would be a letdown, it’s not the end of the road. Check out our guide for what to do in case of an H4 visa rejection.

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 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.

You can learn more about the H4 visa interview and interview questions in our complete guide.

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 of 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

Read More

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is an H4 Visa?

The H4 visa is a U.S. visa issued to the dependent family members (spouse and children under 21) of H1B visa holders. This visa allows them to live in the U.S. with the H1B visa holder.

Who is Eligible for an H4 Visa?

Spouses and children under 21 years of age of H1B visa holders are eligible for the H4 visa. This includes legally married spouses and unmarried children.

Can H4 Visa Holders Work in the U.S.?

H4 visa holders can work in the U.S. if they obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). However, not all H4 visa holders are eligible for EAD; it depends on certain conditions related to the H1B visa holder’s status.

How Long is the H4 Visa Valid?

The H4 visa’s validity typically matches that of the associated H1B visa. It remains valid as long as the H1B visa holder maintains their status or until the children reach 21 years of age.

Can H4 Visa Holders Study in the U.S.?

Yes, H4 visa holders can study in the U.S., either part-time or full-time. They do not need to change their visa status to F1 (student visa) to attend school or college.

How Do You Apply for an H4 Visa?

To apply for an H4 visa, you must complete the DS-160 form online, pay the visa application fee, and schedule an interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country.

Can H4 Visa Holders Apply for a Green Card?

H4 visa holders can apply for a Green Card if they are eligible. This usually involves the H1B visa holder applying for permanent residency, and the H4 dependents being included in their application.

What are the Travel Restrictions for H4 Visa Holders?

H4 visa holders can travel in and out of the U.S. as long as their visa and the H1B visa holder’s status are valid. They must carry proper documentation for re-entry.

Can H4 Visa Holders Get a Social Security Number (SSN)?

H4 visa holders can obtain an SSN only if they have an EAD. Without an EAD, they can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for tax purposes.

Are There Any Restrictions on Employment for H4 EAD Holders?

H4 EAD holders do not have specific restrictions on the type of employment. They can work in any legal job, full-time or part-time, and can also start their own business.

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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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