In general, H4 holders, who are spouses of H1B visa holders, cannot work in US. But that changed with H4 Visa EAD rule that was effective from May 26, 2015. EAD stands for Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and H4 EAD essentially gives H4 holders the ability to work in US, if they qualify for EAD based on certain conditions. We will look at the requirements for H4 EAD, step by step process, new guidelines on biometrics from 2019 in this article.
H4 EAD Requirements – Who can apply for it ?
DHS gives employment authorization (EAD) to work in US for certain H4 Visa holders, whose spouse on H1B have satisfies one of the below two :
- Have an approved I-140, which is the immigration petition for foreign citizens to get Green Card or Permanent Residency in USA.
- Have H1B visa status extended for the spouse beyond 6 years under AC21 Act, which allows H1B holders seeking Green Card to work and stay in USA beyond 6 years, if their Green Card or Permanent Residency Application is Pending.
As of today, you can file for H4 EAD, if you satisfy any of the above two conditions. But, this could change in the future as there is a lawsuit going on to remove H4 EAD along with DHS having a rulemaking in process to remove H4 EAD. Check H4 EAD Rule Removal – Lawsuit, Court Updates
Documents Checklist for H4 EAD
You need the below documents and information with you, to file H4 EAD with USCIS.
- H4 EAD Fee : H4 EAD Application Fee check for $410 payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”. You can also money order, personal check or cashier’s check to pay for the fee. If you are filing at USCIS Lockbox facility, you can use credit as well using the form G-1450 authorizing the credit card transactions. No short forms like USCIS are allowed on check, you need to put in full name of USCIS as specified.
- EAD Application form: Completed form I-765, which is the application for Employment Authorization.
- (Optional) e-Notification form : If you want to get electronic notifications for your application, you can use form G-1145. You can use this facility only, if you are filing your application at an USCIS Lockbox Facility.
- Copies of H4 Visa holder’s Govt. issued Photo Identity : Not all of the below are required, you can submit one or more.
- Copy of H4 visa holder’s passport ( Front, Back )
- Copy of H4 Visa Stamp page from passport ( if available)
- (optional) Copy of Birth Certificate with photo in it.
- If you are applying for H4 Renewal, your previous EAD Card copy front and back.
- National identity card from your home country like Voter cards, Aadhar Card ( for Indians)
- Current H4 Visa Status Proofs
- Copy of the most recent I-797A approval form, which is the H4 Approval Notice from USCIS. If you do not have copy of H4 approval, because you took direct H4 stamping and entered US, then you submit only the I-94 copy used to enter US, which can be printed online.
- Copy of I-94 card or electronic copy. Read How to check and Print I-94 Online on DHS Website
- H4 EAD Eligibility Documents : You need to submit H4 EAD eligibility documents of your spouse such as below.
- Copy of primary H1B Holder’s I-140 I-797 Approval Notice
- If your employer has not shared this document, you can use USCIS FOIA to request your I-140 information and attach the same with the H4 EAD application.
- OR Approved copy of H1B Visa beyond 6 Years under AC21.
- H4 – H1B Relationship Documents :
- You need to submit marriage certificate to prove the relationship with H1B Holder. If it is not in English, you need to get it translated to English by certified translator.
- H1B Spouse Documents : You can submit below additional H1B spouse’s documents as supporting information
- Copy of my H1B holders passport
- Photos : 2 color passport photos ( 2×2 inches passport photos ) taken in the last 30 days. You should write your Name, I-94 number on the back of the photo for identification purposes. If pen does not work, use a pencil.
- Additional Supporting Documents :
- Copy of my ITIN number ( Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) of H4 Holder.
Translation of Submitted Documents for H4 EAD :
If you submit any documents like Birth Certificate or National ID as Government issued photo ID or marriage certificate in a foreign language ( other than English), then you need to submit full English translation along with the translator’s certification that says that the translation is complete and accurate.
Process to Apply for H4 EAD
If you qualify for H4 EAD, you need to follow the below process. All the H4 Visa holders, who qualify for this need to do is :
Step 1 : Complete form I-765 – Application for Employment Authorization
You should download the latest form I-765 from USCIS website, along with its instructions, complete the form. Below are some common application completion tips by section of the application:
- Part 1. Reason for Applying :
- Part 2 : Information about you
- Question 2 : If you have other names like different name before marriage or you had different spellings or anything, you should mention it here.
- Question 8 : Usually most of the H4 EAD applicants do not have an Alien Registration number, just leave it blank.
- Question 9 – USCIS Online Account Number for H4 EAD : If you were to file any petition electronically with USCIS in the past using their USCIS online filing system or USCIS ELIS, you would enter that number. You can find it on top of your profile page once you login to USCIS system. In general, for most of the H4 EAD applicants, they would NOT have an USCIS online account number, so just leave it blank.
- Question 13. a : Usually you would have Social Security Number (SSN), if you were to work in US. If you have had SSN as a student in the past, or on H1B before H4 or for some other reason, you should select Yes here and enter the number in 13.b. In general for most of the H4 applicants, this would be No.
- Question 14 : If you never had SSN and want to get one, you should select Yes here. For most of the H4 holders, this would be Yes. It is highly recommended to apply for SSN along with your H4 EAD application because, it will help you start work right away after you get your EAD. You need SSN for taxes and other purposes from employer side.
- Question 15 : If you selected Yes for 14, then you select Yes here for USCIS to share data with SSA Office. It is important to do this.
- Question 16, 17 : You need to fill in H4 holder’s Father and Mother’s names here, if you have checked Yes in Question 14. SSA needs your .
- Part 2 : Information about your Last Arrival in US
- Question 21 a : You need to enter your I-94 number here, you can get I-94 Online on DHS website. If you have had H4 status extended within US, then you would have it attached to your H4 approval copy of I797.
- Question 24 : This is the Visa status that you used, when you arrived in US, specifically that was tied to your most recent arrival into US. It varies by individual as some arrive on H4, some arrive on F1, some on H1B, etc. So, you need to make sure you enter your status accordingly. This may have changed for some after arrival. e.g : F-1 student, H-4 dependent, H-1B, etc.
- Question 25 : This is your current visa status in US, again, for most, if may be H4, but for some they may be applying for H4 COS and also EAD together, in that case you need to enter your current visa status. e.g : H-4 dependent, F-1 student, etc.
- Part 2 : Information about your Eligibility Category
- Question 27 : You need to enter the category of eligibility for H-4 holders based on the I-765 instructions. It is (C)(26) for H4 Holders, see below on how to fill. You leave the last parenthesis empty as it is for the sub section field.Here is the reference from I-765 Instructions that says it should be (c)(26)
- Question 29 – (c)(26) Eligibility Category – H1B Holder Receipt Number : You will need to enter your spouse’s (H1B holder’s) receipt number from form I-797. It looks like EACXXXX, WACXXX. It has to be your H1B spouse’s most recent I-797 receipt number. If you are filing H1B Extension and H4 EAD together, it will be the most recent or current approved H1B receipt number.
- It is NOT the I-140 approval receipt number, so do not be confused.
- Do NOT enter H4 holder’s receipt number as well.
- Part 3 : Applicant’s Statement
- Question 1.a. : You need to check 1.a here indicating you understand English.
- Question 7.a : What color Pen to use to Sign USCIS H4 EAD Form ?
- You need to sign in the box at 7.a and enter date in 7.b question. You need to use Black Ink color pen to sign the form as suggested by USCIS in their form filling tips .
Step 2 : Package your H4 EAD Application with Supporting Documents
Once you have completed filling out the I-765 application form, you need to gather all the documents, as listed in our above documents checklist, and put them together in a package in certain order as suggested by USCIS ( first one to be on the top). Submit only copies, do NOT send originals.
- Check or money order ( on the top)
- Form G-1145 for e-notification ( under the check/ money order)
- Form G-28, if attorney is filing (under the e-notification form)
- Form I-765 application form completed and signed ( under the G-28 form or G-1145, if you are filing it yourself )
- Supporting Documentation from the checklist ( under the completed I-765 application form)
Do NOT use any heavy staples to put them together. USCIS recommends that you use paper clips or binder clips. You can check USCIS form filling tips for complete guidance on how to create your application package and guidance on the same.
Step 3 : Send / Mail H4 EAD Application to correct USCIS Address
Once you have created the application package, you need to mail or post it to the correct USCIS location. The address to send based on your Spouse’s H1B receipt number as listed below. You should check USCIS address for I-765 and look under (c)(26) to see verify, if below details have changed to be sure.
H1B Spouse’s Receipt Number
Address to Mail or send Post for H4 EAD
|If the H1B Spouse’s most recent Form I-797, Notice of Approval begins with EAC or LIN||USCIS Dallas Lockbox|
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS):
P.O. Box 660921
Dallas, TX 75266For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business
Lewisville, TX 75067
|If the H1B Spouse’s most recent Form I-797, Notice of Approval begins with WAC||USCIS Phoenix Lockbox|
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS):
P.O. Box 20400
Phoenix, AZ 85036For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
Step 4 : Get Receipt of H4 EAD, USCIS Processing, Received EAD Card
Once you send your package to USCIS, you will get a receipt notice for the same and then they will process your EAD application. The application processing times can vary by the location it was filed. Once USCIS completes processing and approves EAD, they will send H4 EAD Card. The card will have C26 Category listed on the card. Below is sample H4 EAD Card.
Common FAQs on H4 EAD
H4 EAD application and New Biometrics Requirements for Form I-539 ?
The New Biometric requirement is for H4 visa holders applying for H4 Extensions using I-539 form. The biometric requirement is not for the H4 EAD application. If you plan to apply for EAD alone based on eligibility, you do not need to do any biometrics. But, if you are filing for H1B Extension, along with that if you are filing your H4 Extension using I-539 form and also, you are concurrently filing your H4 EAD application in the same package, then you will need to do the biometrics as per new process. Again, this Biometrics process is for H4 Extension and does not have anything to do with EAD application filed by H4. Check New I-539 Form Biometrics Requirements for H4 Holders
What is the Fee for EAD Application for H4 Visa holders? Whom to Pay to ?
H4 EAD filing fee is $410 USD. You need to include the required fee of $410 USD along with your I-765 Form and supporting documentation. ( Update : Fee used to be $380 USD and the fee has been increased from 380 to 410 effective December 23, 2016. Check : https://www.uscis.gov/forms/our-fees )
- You can submit a check or money order that is drawn on a bank that is located in USA and payable in USD.
- The check or money order should be payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”. DO NOT use short forms like DHS or USDHS.
Can I apply for H4 EAD, back from my home country ?
No, you need to be in US and on H4 visa status to apply for EAD application.
Travel outside of US with H4 EAD pending ?
Yes, you can technically travel outside of US to any country, after filing your H4 EAD application, but USCIS recommends not to travel to handle the RFE, Receipt notices, any requests to visit application centers, etc. They say that the process could get delayed, if you get an RFE, or they need something from you. It will just delay and you will have to come back for the same. If there is no RFE or anything, you should be fine to get the H4 EAD card to your address in mail.
Travel outside of US with H4 EAD along with H4 Change of Status (COS) Pending ?
Well, this is a tricky situation and not usually recommended to travel outside of US. The reason is USCIS will abandon your H4 Change of Status (COS) application as your I-94 details change, subsequently USCIS may also deny H4 EAD. The recommended approach, if you have to travel is to get your H4 COS done first, then apply for H4 EAD and maybe travel after that as it is less risky and more logistics issues to deal with.
When can you start working on EAD for H4 visa holders?
The H4 Visa holder can start working only after their I-765 form is approved by USCIS and they receive the EAD Card. You can check out many of the common H4 Visa EAD FAQs – F1 to H4 COS, H1B to H4 COS, I-140 Revoked
How soon can you apply for H4 EAD Renewal ?
You can apply only 180 days before the expiry of your current EAD document. You cannot apply anytime before 180 days for H4 EAD.
Can my H4 EAD be filed with future effective date ?
Yes, you can apply for renewal anytime during the 180 days before your expiry of H4 EAD with a future date example, if let’s say your expiry is in July, you can apply in February for the same to have effective date for renewal in July. Your Validity of the H4 EAD will be tied to the H4 validity and H1B of your Spouse/
You can get them at Costco, Walgreens or any of the passport photo for H4 EAD. It costs 9.99$ in Costco for 4 photos and at Walgreens it costs 14.75$ for 2 photos.
No, biometrics are only required for H4 application and not for H4 EAD.
No, H4 EAD is only for Spouses, children are not eligible.
Official USCIS Steps and Process Published from the past
USCIS published some of their guidance on how to apply, including the most commonly asked FAQs, when they originally published the rule to be effective. Check out the key highlights and important points of the publication from USCIS at Summary of Guide to Apply EAD for H4 Holders, FAQs by USCIS
If you are filing H4 EAD, we’ve built a tracker for your case to help you and everyone get overall insights from others. It is fully anonymous and has analytics. Please add your case to H4 Visa EAD Tracker
What was your experience filing H4 EAD ? Any questions ? Share your thoughts, experiences.
- Official USCIS: DHS Extends Eligibility for Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Spouses
- Official rule : H4 EAD rule in Federal Register