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Can I work on H4 EAD Receipt, Renewal Pending? 180 Days Extension?

As most of you know, with the New I539 form for H4 with Biometrics, there is a huge delay in the H4 processing times, even if you were to file H4 concurrently with H1B in premium processing. In the past, USCIS was adjudicating the H4 and H4 EADs in premium processing as a courtesy, but this has changed with the new Biometrics process for H4. As many are waiting for H4 and H4 EAD approvals after Biometrics, some are cutting close to the expiry of their current H4 EAD card and not sure, if they can continue to work with H4 EAD in processing and pending with USCIS.  In this article, we will look at the official guidance from USCIS for H4 EAD category, if they can work or not and also, if the 180-day automatic extension applies to H4 EAD holders.

What category of eligibility does H4 EAD Fall under ?

When you apply for H4 EAD, either new or renewal, you fill out the I-765 form and for Question 27 in part 2, for eligibility category you would have entered  (c)(26) like below. Also, if you notice your H4 EAD physical card that you get after the approval, you would also see the category as C26 as you can see below screenshot. This category is the most important thing that determines your ability to work with pending H4 EAD receipt or 180 days automatic extension.

C26 filling out for question 27 answer on H4 EAD
H4 EAD Card Sample C26 Category

USCIS Rule for 180 days automatic Extension for EAD – Does H4 EAD Fall under it ?

USCIS from Jan 2017, implemented automatic EAD extension for certain categories of EAD applications filed using I-765 form. This 180 days automatic extension of EAD is applicable, only if it meets both of the below two conditions.

  • Properly filed the EAD renewal before the expiry of the current EAD Card
  • The applicant EAD category is listed under a category that is eligible for 180 days extension as listed on USCIS website.
    • Here is the EAD Category Codes list from USCIS website: A03, A05, A07, A08, A10, C08, C09, C10, C16, C20, C22, C24, C31, and A12 or C19.  
H4 EAD Category Code on Receipt Notice from Sample Notice

One key thing to note is that, Category C26, which is for EAD application filed by H4 Spouses, is not included in the eligible list for 180 days automatic extension. So, H4 EADs are not eligible for 180 Days automatic Extension. 

Official USCIS Reference that says H4 EAD Category is not in automatic 180 days extension category ?

You can see below screenshots that we captured from USCIS website, that clearly outlines the rule of 180 days automatic extension and the listed categories. You can also check USCIS.gov Official 180 Day EAD Extension Rule

Automatic Extension of EADs USCIS Rule of 180 Days Info
I-765 Categories Eligible for 180 Days Automatic Extension

Also, USCIS has published a fact sheet that confirms that same. You can see the below screenshot on the same. You can check document at  USCIS.gov Fact Sheet on EADs 180 Days automatic Extension

C26 Category Code not in the Fact Sheet for 180 days extension

Also, USCIS has published guidance to employers in their employee handbook on what EAD categories are eligible and what they need to ask their employees and use for I-9 Compliance, for individuals with Pending EAD applications with USCIS.  You can see the below screenshot on the same. You can check USCIS.gov Employers Handbook on EADs for I-9

EAD Eligible Categories for USCIS i-9 Verification

Confusion with  H4 EAD Application Receipt Notice Generic Message on 180 Days Extension

After you apply for H4 EAD, you would get a receipt notice from USCIS that will read something that is slightly confusing and misleading.  This is where many are confused.  Below is the important text and screenshot of H4 EAD receipt notice, where we have highlighted the relevant text.

“…Your EAD renewal is under a category that is eligible for an automatic 180-day extension ( see www.uscis.gov/I-765 for a list of categories);….

You do not receive your renewal EAD before your current EAD expires

Then this Notice of Action automatically extends the validity of your EAD for up to 180 days from the expiration date printed on the face of the card.

You may present this Notice of Action with your expired EAD to your employer for employment eligibility verification ( Form I-9) purposes…

Below is the screenshot,

H4 EAD Receipt Notice - C26 Eligibilgy Criteria for 180 days automatic extension

The text in the H4 EAD receipt notice reads that you get 180 days automatic extension, as you filed under a category that is eligible.  But, the reality is C26 category does not qualify for automatic extension. You can check above links and screenshots we have already given. The text printed on the H4 EAD Receipt Notice is generic message that appears on I-797C Receipt Notice for everyone who uses I-765 form to file EAD and NOT customized for H4 EAD holders category. So, do NOT get mislead by the message that you are eligible. If you check closely, it asks to check USCIS website at www.uscis.gov/I-765 to get the list of categories. So, do not be confused.   

What are the consequences of working on H4 without proper EAD Card that is valid ?

Working without proper authorization is considered violation of your US Visa status ( read US Visa vs. Status ). You should NEVER engage in any activity that violates your status in US. It is as same as working illegally without authorization and you may face issues in future. Some employers may not be aware of these subtle rules and may ask you to work without updating I-9, but it is your visa and your status. You will be the one, who will face consequences in the future. It is your responsibility to follow rules to be in proper status.

Common H4 EAD Working FAQs with Pending Receipt

Can I work on H4 EAD Receipt Notice ?

No, as mentioned in article, there is no 180 days automatic extension and you cannot work with the receipt notice of H4 EAD

Can I work, if I see online status of H4 EAD as approved without New Card in hand ?

No, you need the new approved physical EAD card of H4 to work. It is required for I-9 compliance by the employer.

Do I get 180 days automatic extension with H4 EAD ?

No, C26 category of H4 EAD is not eligible for 180 days automatic extension and you cannot work when the application is pending. See above official reference in article.

Can I work with Pending H4 EAD application with USCIS

No, as mentioned above, the H4 EAD category of C26 does not fall under 180 days automatic extension to work when the application is pending.

My Employer said, it is Ok to work with H4 EAD Pending, Can I ?

No, you should not work, even if your employer is trying to support you or say it is fine. It will be your H4 Visa Status that is at risk and you are the one who will be violating status by working on H4 EAD without proper authorization.

What are my options to work with H4 EAD pending with USCIS ?

There are no options to work. You cannot work with pending H4 EAD application. Any workarounds or shortcuts suggested by others are all illegal and you should not engage in anything as such on H4, you will be violating your status in US.

What was your experience with Employers on H4 EAD Expiration ?  Share your thoughts.


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  1. Is there anything stopping me from working for my former employer (outside of the USA) while I have my EAD and I continue to reside in the USA? I am an H4 visa holder until September 2023.

    Is there anything stopping me from returning to my home country to work for this employer for 10 months? I would return before my H4 expires in September 2023.

  2. My h1 expires in aug 2021 and my wife h4 ead expires in aug 2022 . Can she work till aug 2022 or she should wait for new EAD ?

  3. I am on pending H4/H4Ead status applied back in July 2020. My H4-EAD expired in October. I have approved
    I-140 from 2017, can I claim my H1 with premium processing while on pending status?
    If yes, approximately how much time it will take to get H1 with premium processing?

  4. My H4 and H4-EAD are expiring on 12/31/2020 though my husband has a valid H1 till 5/2022. I am currently working on H4-EAD and had H1 in the past.
    My employer is ready to sponsor for a new H1B for me. Can I file H1 while I am in status (before H4 expires) You see any issues here?
    Should I expect delays in spite of premium processing? Does my pending H4 extension case cause any issues. Please advise.

    • Deepz,
      No issues. If you want to continue working that is the best course of action. There can be delays with Premium processing due to COVID…so, plan to stop working after your H4 EAD expires. You do not get H1B status when filed, you need to get the approval to continue working again.

      • Thank you Mr. Kumar. Can I apply for H1B after the current H4 expires? I will be out of status when I am applying but I had h1 in the past. Any issue with that? Thank you again.

  5. This is very helpful! Thank you very much.
    My husband’s H1 got renewed (thanks to premium processing). Now I am waiting for H4 and H4 EAD renewal. My H4 EAD is expiring on December 21, 2020.

    I work for non-profit. My employer already reached out to me and is well aware of my situation.

    1. Until what date is it reasonable to wait (& hope) that H4 EAD might come through on time?

    2. What are my options if H4 EAD doesn’t come through on time? Can I stay on the roster, go on leave of absence and get rehired after the approval comes through?

    3. Should I request for H1 filing under non-profit?

  6. H4 EAD validity: March 25 2021
    I765 validity: March 25 2021
    H4 I94 expired on: Jun 12 2020

    H1B & H4 extension applied on March 08 2020 and H1B approved for 3 more yrs & waiting for H4 approval.

    Is it legal to work until March 25 2021?

    Just to give you more context: I have requested immigration team to apply EAD extension along with my H1B & my wife H4 extension and they said “your spouse’s EAD card expires more than 8 months from today, so it is still too early to initiate the EAD renewal. Please reach out again 8 months before the EAD expiration” this was 4 months ago and now I am checking if they can initiate extension & surprisingly they are saying “As the I-94 has expired, the EAD card is no longer valid and she must wait until she receives the new EAD card. ”

    • Ram,
      Your situation is not very common. The rule of thumb is, you cannot work when you do not have status. Usually H4 status and EAD expire at your I-94 expiration. Now, it is slightly grey area…In H1B case, you can work as you applied before expiry upto 240 days… Now, H4 it not clear. You definitely cannot work without EAD card validity…I suggest you speak an attorney and clarify this..

      • Dear Kumar,

        My H4 visa and EAD is expiring on April 29th. However I am not working at the moment. I have still not received my receipt number. But the fedex tracking saying USCIS has received my application.
        Can I still stay in the country post my i94 expiry date? I have a newborn who is only 2 weeks old and doesn’t have a passport to travel.
        Please urgently reply.

  7. H4 EAD expiring end of August. Because of Covid, biometrics is delayed & EAD card will be delayed. Can the H4EAD holder work for a foreign company until the EAD card comes through?
    any suggestions to keep the employment going? has anyone experienced any exceptions with Employers during this COVID situation?

    • Zeva,
      No, it is illegal. You need to resign, that’s the only option. DO NOT try to bend rules and get into issues. Many have lost jobs and it is sad situation… but that’s life…

  8. Thanks Kumar, I have a question, I filed my H1B extension, my wife’s F1 to H4 CoS and H4 EAD together, and requested the CoS to be effective right before her OPT expiration. Now I’ve got my H1B extension approved, but I noticed that the H4 & EAD processing time may take way longer than before, so we are not sure if she can transit from F1 to H4 smoothly without pausing employment. We are wondering if she can still file OPT extension now to get the 180 days automatic extend before we hear anything on her H4 & EAD decision. Do you have any insights on this solution? thanks

    • Shifan,
      If she is still on F1 and valid status, she can. Talk to DSO and then apply for extension. Usually, you will be in previous status until your COS is approved. So, it maybe possible, if you are eligible for F1 STEM OPT. Talk to DSO and also an attorney to be safe. Do update, if any changes.

  9. My H4 EAD expired during lockdown. Primary H1 somehow got an extension with premium processing. No appointment/no offices open for H4 Biometrics during lockdown. Could I quality for 180 days extension/some other temporary extension based on receipt notice. DLs expiring during lockdown are auto renewed till Jul 31st. Any such rule for H4EADs.

    Any thoughts on this would be highly appreciated.

    • Shailee,
      No, H4 EAD category does not qualify for 180 days extension. Check the above article again, it has official info on the same.

      • Is there no covid-19 extensions?

        Nonimmigrants generally do not accrue unlawful presence while the timely-filed, non-frivolous EOS/COS application is pending. Where applicable, employment authorization with the same employer, subject to the same terms and conditions of the prior approval, is automatically extended for up to 240 days after I-94 expiration when an extension of stay request is filed on time.

  10. Just writing to see if anyone has specific guidance on this USCIS news. It’s not really clear whether it applies to certain categories only unlike the 180 day extension. Do you have any info about this? https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/covid-19-delays-extensionchange-status-filings

    • Nidhi,
      There is NO special guidance there. NOTHING has changed. All the old rules apply. That was intended only as a note to file on time and re-iterate the old rules.

  11. Please sign this petition to support the 180 day automatic extension for H4 EAD, please share it with your circle. In this tough times if we stand together USCIS might consider a temporary relief.


  12. Hello Kumar,

    Thank you for this helpful article. My spouse has EAD valid until April 2021. I have changed jobs last September and had the new employer apply for H1B, H4 and EAD for my spouse together. Immigration attorney at the time didn’t state EAD has to be applied only within 6 months to us. Should I expect EAD application to be sent back? Please advise.

    • Harsha,
      In fact, there is no rule telling that EAD has to be applied only 6 months before expiry, it is usually done around 6 months timeframe as practice…so, hard to say. The 6 months rule applies for H1Bs. Hopefully they process it. Do update here once you hear anything for community benefit.

  13. This is a very helpful article. Thank you so much for writing it.

    I am in similar boat. My current EAD is expiring on end of January and I am waiting for my EAD to renew, which could be after January. I work at a small firm who are not aware of H4 EAD related situations and I want to abide by law and not work during the entire time in between.

    My question is, can I just go on leave of absence (or leave without pay) while I am waiting for my EAD to renew and come to my hand? Or do I have to resign from my job and then rejoin later?

    Thank you so much in advance.

    • Zalak,
      Well, some have taken full leave of absence without pay and joined back…Some have quit the job and rejoined latter…The logic is employer need to maintain I-9 compliance, if you are working for them, I am not sure how that works…This is slightly grey area…If you have an option to quit and re-join, that would be ideal as that is very clear…but, the option of going on paid leave is not fully clear…talk to an attorney on this.

  14. Dear Kumar and Team,

    Thank You for taking time to answer many questions. I have a question to ask.

    My H1B Status is active and Valid till September 2022 and I am in the US
    I received the H4-EAD for my Spouse which is also Valid till September 2022 since I have an Approved I-140


    If I switch to a new employer what will happen to the H4-EAD that was issued ? I see there isn’t any clear explanation about this as it only says that I will have to maintain my H1B Status as the H4 & H4-EAD is purely depended on my H1B Status.

    I did some research on this and found the following explanation… Does it mean that even if I change my employer the my spouses H4-EAD will still be valid till the end of your H-4 EAD validity period which is September 2022


    The requirements explicitly state that to be eligible for an H-4 EAD the H-1B spouse must have an approved Form I-140. If for whatever reason the USCIS revokes this petition, you would not qualify. However, you still have the potential to qualify if your spouse received an extension on their H-1B status under section 106(a) or (b) of AC21.
    If you have already received your H-4 EAD and your spouse’s I-140 is revoked, then your employment authorization will remain valid until it expires. When you reach the end of your H-4 EAD validity period, you will only be able to renew it if your spouse has an approved I-140.
    If your spouses loses his or her H-1B job and falls out of status, there is a 60-day grace period with which a new H-1B job can be acquired. After that, both you and your spouse will be considered out of status and your EAD will be invalid.

  15. I am on H4 visa. My last H4 EAD had expired on Aug 31, 2019. My application for EAD renewal was under processing at that time. I did not know the rule and I was under the impression that I can continue to work for 180 days while my renewal application was getting processed.

    My employer did not ask for the renewed EAD even after the old one got expired. On Sep 10, 2019 I came to know from a friend that it is not allowed to work once EAD is expired. At that very moment I decided to stop working and I conveyed the message to my employer. I again started working on Oct 17, 2019 when I got my renewed EAD.

    I already got paid for the 10 days I worked after expiry of my previous EAD.

    Please advise what can I do next to rectify the unintentional mistake. Thanks.

    • Well, talk to your attorney, if something needs to be done…As it was really short amount of time and as there is really not much you can do about it now, you can ignore it…Usually, when you travel out of the country and re-enter all your status related things get cleared out…so, you can consider doing that…either case, talk to your attorney of your spouse and seek advice. Also, update here for community benefit.

      • Hi Nani/Swathi

        Any update on working for some days after H4 EAD expiry? Does one need to take any specific step to rectify?

  16. Hi,
    My current H1b visa expires on November 23rd 2019 and my spouse H4 status is also the same which is Nov 23rd 2019, but my spouse EAD expiration date in Dec 2020 which is more than her H4 expiry date and currently she is working.
    I just applied for H1b extension in premium processing along with H4 extension and H4 ead extension and my H1b has been approved till May 2021, I am still waiting for my spouse H4 and H4 Ead to be approved.
    Can my spouse continue to work on her H4 ead as the expiry date is till Dec 2020 or doe she have to wait for the new H4 and H4 ead to be approved and then work?
    Thanks, Please Advice

    • If her EAD card is valid, she can continue to work until the EAD card validity date, though her current application is pending. Once the card expires, she need to stop working. Read above article on the reason.

    • This happened with my wife couple of years ago but our lawyers suggested that as long as you have physical EAD card in hand, you are eligible to work. It is a glitch at the end of USCIS’s system when H4 is delayed even after H4 EAD’s arrival. But, in general terms as per our lawyer, H4 EAD gets approved only when H4 is approved. So you should be fine. Congratulations and Good luck! We are still waiting for my wife’s H4 EAD renewal and hope it comes soon so that she can join back to her work.

  17. Hi Kumar

    Is it advisable after my H1B gets approved I can send my wife to India and get H4 stamping and then file her H4 EAD once she is back in USA? Will her H4 EAD application gets processed faster as she already have H4 stamped?

    please advise

    • Yes, that’s better idea, if you can. Well, maybe slightly better, but hard to say…You can check USCIS website for the current processing times.

  18. Hello, Thanks a lot for this article. Can we support the company’s work without pay while the EAD application is pending? The company is in a critical phase in the project and I am a key resource.

    • I understand. Legally, you cannot be employed in US, even without pay. The moment you work, your employer has to maintain your I-9 and be compliant.
      You should never engage in anything that violates your status.

  19. Hi ,

    I have a H1B and H4 valid till feb 2020. I am planning to file extension.

    My spouse H4 EAD is valid till Aug, 2020.

    Can I file H4 EAD extension with H1B and H4 extension applications?

    Thanks & Regards,

  20. Hi, Is there any justification as to why H4 EAD, the C-26 category, is not eligible for the 180 day extension, while others are? I am sure that USCIS always has a definitive purpose for every thing to do 😉

      • Thanks Kumar..

        But in my case, my spouse H4 EAD has six months more validity than H4.

        H4 Validity : 02/2020
        H4 EAD Validity : 08/2020

        I am planning to file H1B and H4 extension in september 2019.

        My concern is, whether I should file for H4 EAD extension along with my H1B and H4 right away OR wait till march and only file 180 days before the expiry of current EAD document?

        If we will apply H4 EAD now what are the complications expected? Can USCIS will reject current H4 EAD or I can we get RFE for new application.

        Please suggest before taking any step.

        I am referring below link for them



        • No, you can apply now as part of your H1B extension, that is pretty normal. It talks about I-129 form that you cannot apply before 180 days, that’s it. It is a general practice to apply for H4 and H4 EAD along with H1B extensions, so nothing to worry, go for it.

          • Thanks Kumar for your inputs.

            Please refer below URL:


            “You will not be authorized to work until USCIS approves your Form I-765. Once your employment authorization is approved, the expiration date on your EAD should be the same date as the expiration date on your most recent Form I-94 indicating your H-4 nonimmigrant status. You are only authorized to work through the expiration date on your EAD. If you still will be eligible for work authorization after that date, you should file for a renewal EAD by submitting another Form I-765. You cannot file for a renewal EAD more than 180 days before your original EAD expires”.

            That’s why I am little worried. I have few scenarios in my mind regarding H4 EAD on which I want some more clarity.

            They are as follows—–

            A) What can be the maximum consequences/disadvantages/implications if we apply H4 EAD extension along with my H1B and H4 extensions?

            B) Can USCIS reject the H4 EAD and take application fees OR send RFE OR put our H4 EAD case on hold? If they put it on hold, when they will resume?

            C)If they reject supposedly, then will there be any impact on our current H4 EAD approval ? Can they revoke or change the expiry date of current EAD?

            E) If USCIS cancel/reject(not process) our new H4 EAD application for extension if we apply now, and if they do, will I be able to re-apply that again on the desired time, that is before 180 days of expiration of my current EAD.

            F) What can be future consequences on my H4 EAD extensions we apply for ?

            Thanks & Regards,

          • As I said, it is absolutely fine to apply, many apply H4 and EAD together when they file for H1B extension, no issues at all.
            Please discuss with your H1B attorney, if you need confirmation.

          • Hi kumar,

            I am in same boat!

            Thinking of filing h1 and h4 together with Amendment + Extension application first and then h4 ead after 1 month to satisfy 180 day rule.

            Can you update what you ended up doing? Did u file all 3 applications together?


          • Sunny,
            I did not file anything, it is the users. I am just giving guidance. It is ideal to file all 3 together in most of the cases…having said that, you can file it the way you said too, it is your discretion.

  21. Hi,

    I need to apply for H4 EAD Extension since my H4 EAD is getting expired in Nov 2019. My Husband has filed an extension for his H1B and my H4.He got the receipt in March.
    1. Can I apply for my H4 EAD Extension with his receipt
    2. How long will it take to get the receipt. Can I work with my H4 EAD Receipt?
    3. When can I expect the EAD Card and Validity will be based on My Husband H1B Period
    4.USCIS will process my Extension only after My Husband H1B Extension got approved.

    Will be really helpful if someone answers my above questions.

  22. I applied H1B ext and H4 extension in Dec 2018 in regular processing and got approved in March 2019. Meanwhile, while waiting on the extension approval, I applied my wife’s H4 EAD renewal (going to expire on March 2019) based on H1B & H4 receipts in Feb 2019. I got the H4 EAD receipt dated March 09, 2019. Since I got my H1B & H4 approval in March 2019, I am waiting on getting EAD approved. Not sure if this is usual these days to wait almost 4 months. I have couple of friends who applied after me at same location and got it approved within 3 months.

    One thing I notice is that, when I check my case at USCIS site, I don’t see my case updated even though I got my approvals in March. Do I need to provide approval copy for H4 in order to process EAD for my wife or does USCIS will get it from their internal records? I am asking because, it doesn’t seem to me that the records got updated as I can’t see my updated status online.

    Appreciate any help !!

  23. My wife’s H4 is pending since December 2018. It was filed along with H1 transfer in California center, which was later on sent to Vermont center in February (1st). H1 got approved in premium on May 29th after RFE, however no update on H4 yet though.
    Can I apply for her H4 EAD with pending H4 I539? I am planning to send receipt notice, and transfer notice along with the application. Please suggest.

  24. Hi Kumar,
    Can my Wife work while H4 EAD is in process? Her EAD will expire in august 2019.She got H4 Approved and received the document.
    or do we have to wait until she get the EAD card ?

    • At least u will be able to work on automatic EAD extension.. u need to call your DMV to find out about driver’s license on just receipt notice.

    • Well, at least for the eligible ones, it gives an option to work….something is better than nothing…can pay for Uber and go to work…Just see the brighter side of it 🙂

    • USCIS website update is not official. As you know there are many times, you see wrong status as well. So, you need to have the EAD card in hand to work. This is for I-9 compliance, employer cannot accept what you see on the USCIS website as official documents


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