The H-1B visa is the most popular non-immigrant visa issued by the U.S. It is sponsored by an employer and states that the employee can work in the U.S. The visa is issued for a minimum of three years and can be extended up to six additional years. If U.S. authorities issue you an H-1B visa, then you can also bring your dependents along. However, they cannot travel with you on your visa. The H-4 visa, also known as the dependent visa, can be applied to your spouse and allow him or her to travel with you to the U.S.
In 2015, the government began to allow the issuing of Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) to certain H-4 visa holders. The authorization document allows eligible H-4s to work in the U.S. This was a big reform that helped a large number of dependents traveling to the U.S.
Documents and Process to Apply for the H-4 Visa
Now that you know that the H-4 visa is compulsory for your spouse to accompany you to the U.S., let us understand how to apply for the H-4 visa. If you are outside the U.S., you will have to submit your application to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. However, if you are in the U.S. you can submit your application through USCIS or change of non-immigrant status.
To apply for the H-4 visa, make sure the following documents are ready with you:
- Your current as well as old passports. Ensure that at least one page is blank in your current passport.
- Filled Form DS-160
- Receipt to confirm the visa fee payment
- Original interview appointment letter
- Marriage certificate, along with your wedding invitation and original wedding photographs
- Original birth certificate of your child (if applicable)
If not applying for the visa with your spouse, you will need:
- Photocopy of the visa of the primary applicant (H-1B visa holder)
- Photocopy of the primary applicant’s passport
- Photocopy of the primary applicant’s I-129 form, LCA, and I-797 form
If your spouse is already working in the U.S., you will need:
- Pay stubs from the current employer
- Income tax return
- Copy of primary applicant’s work experience letter
- Photocopy of the bank statements
The consulate does not accept any documents faxed or posted directly by the U.S. employer. You will have to compile all the documents yourself when going for verification and visa interview.
The visa interview is not tricky, but it is an important factor in deciding your visa eligibility. You will have to appear for the interview even if you have applied for the visa online. The interview is to understand your relationship with the H-1B visa holder and your intention to go to the U.S. Your interviewer might also be curious to understand if you will be working in the U.S. Prepare well for the interview, and stay attentive and calm throughout.
Getting the visa
Check the status of your application on the U.S. embassy website using your application number. The Embassy also informs you when your visa is ready. After getting your visa stamped, you can book your tickets to the U.S.
FAQs: H-4 Dependent Visa
Q: I have the H-4 visa, and all my documents are verified. Does that guarantee my entry to the U.S.?
A: No. Your entry to the U.S. is decided by the DHS or CBP inspectors.
Q: Can I work in the U.S. with my H-4 visa status?
A: Generally, no. However, certain H-4 visa holder qualify for H-4 EAD. You will have to apply for the EAD, and once approved, you can work part-time or full time. There are some additional requirements to be eligible for EAD:
- Your spouse must be on a valid H-1B visa
- Your spouse must be a beneficiary of an approved form I-140 or Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
Q: I am married and applying for the H-4 visa, but my last name is not the same as my spouse’s. Can I still apply?
A: It is not necessary to have the name of your spouse on your passport when applying for the H-4 visa. Also, it is not necessary to have the same last name.
Q: Can my mother apply for an H-4 visa, as she is alone in my home country and dependent on me?
A: No. If you have an H-1B visa you can only get your spouse or children under the age of 21 years on an H-4 visa.
Q: If I want to study in the U.S., do I need to apply for an F-1 visa separately?
A: You can apply for another visa, but there is no need to. Usually, you are allowed to work or study on an H-4 visa. However, if you will attend a full-time college and work part-time, then you will need to apply for an F-1 visa.
Q: Does my minor child have to appear for the visa interview?
A: Yes, everyone needs to be present for the visa interview. A minor child must be accompanied by at least one parent.
Q: I have a newborn child, and my appointment is fixed for the next week. Is there a way I can schedule an appointment for my newborn?
A: The U.S. consulate makes an exception for newborn babies. You can download, print, and fill the form for your newborn baby.
Q: My child was born in the U.S. Which visa should I apply for her?
A: If your child is born in the U.S., then according to the law, she is a U.S. citizen. You can apply for her U.S. passport.
Q: How long can I keep the H-4 status?
A: You can have your H-4 status as long as the H-1B visa of the primary applicant is valid. The H-1B visa can be extended up to six years, and your H-4 visa can also stay valid for approximately the same time.
Q: Can I apply for an extension with my spouse on an H-1B visa?
A: When the H-1B visa holder applies for a change in the status or extension, the employee submits a Form I-129. The dependents are not included in the same form. You will have to apply separately for the change of status or extension.
Benefits of Staying in the U.S. on an H-4 Visa
You would enjoy certain privileges when you go to the U.S. on the H-4 visa. You can:
- Apply for a driver’s license
- Study in the U.S.
- Apply for an EAD to the Department of Homeland Security, if applicable
- Apply for a bank loan, if required
- Start a business in the U.S. with H-4 EAD
- Apply for a visa status change
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