In general, H4 Visa holders, who are dependents of H1B visa holders, cannot work in the US. But that changed with the H4 Visa EAD rule that was effective from May 26, 2015. H4 EAD (Employment Authorization Document) essentially gives H4 visa holders the ability to work in the US, if they qualify based on certain conditions. This article covers requirements for H4 EAD, the step-by-step process to apply, new guidelines on biometrics and common FAQs.
H4 EAD Requirements – Who can apply for it ?
US Department of Homeland Security(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 form, which is the immigrant 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 with USCIS.
As of now, you can file for H4 EAD, if you satisfy any of the above two conditions. But, this may 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
H4 EAD Documents Checklist
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 USD 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 H4 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 related 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.
Step by Step Guide 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 questions, where it is not clear or user can make mistakes. It does not cover basic questions like Name or Address, rather it covers confusing or error prone questions.
H4 EAD cannot be applied online. There is still no online I-765 form option to file it like F1 OPT for H4 visa holder to file H4 EAD
- Part 1. Reason for Applying – New vs Renewal :
- Question 1: If you are applying for new application for EAD, you would select 1.a., if you are applying for renewal of H4 EAD, you would select the corresponding box 1.c. Check below screenshots. If you have lost the EAD card, then you select 1.b.
- 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 or A-Number. So, just leave it blank. In certain cases like, if you applied for any other green card or adjustment status application with USCIS, then you may have A-Number, in such cases, you can fill this field with that number.
- Question 9 – USCIS Online Account Number for H4 EAD : If you have filed any application with USCIS in the past using their online system or USCIS ELIS system, you would have got a USCIS online account number. In such cases, enter that number here. 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, you would NOT have a USCIS online account number, so just leave it blank.
- Question 12. : If you are applying for H4 EAD renewal or you have file F1 OPT or other forms of EAD in past using Form I-765, then you need to check this box as ‘Yes’. If not, it would be a ‘No’.
- 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’. In general for first time H4 EAD applicants, this would be ‘No’. But, if you are filing for H4 EAD extension, then you would answer this as ‘Yes’.
- Question 13.b. If you answered ‘Yes’ to 13.a, then you would enter SSN number here.
- 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 selected as ‘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 question 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 parents information .
- Part 2 : Information about your Last Arrival in US
- Question 21 a : You need to enter your I-94 Arrival/ Departure Record number here, you can get I-94 Online on DHS website, if you arrive via flight or ship. If you arrived via road, then you would have a physical I-94 card and it would have the number. Also, if you have had H4 status extended within US, then you would have I-94 attached to your H4 approval copy of I797.
- Question 24 : This is the US Visa type that you used to enter US most recently. 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. For most, it is likely H4 visa. But, for some who are applying for H4 COS (Change of Status) along with EAD, it would be different like F-1 student, H1B workers, etc.
- Question 26 : SEVIS Number is not applicable to H4 EAD, it is used by the F1 visa students. You may use it, if you are applying for H4 COS from F1 status.
- Part 2 : Information about your Eligibility Category
- Question 27 : You need to enter the relevant USCIS EAD category code of eligibility for H-4 visa holders based on the I-765 instructions. It is (C)(26) for H4 visa holders applying for EAD. See below screenshot on how to fill. You need to 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.
- Part 3 : Applicant’s Statement
- Question 1.a. : If you understand english and completed the form, you need to check accordingly here, indicating you understand English.
- Question 1.b: If you did not fill the application, then you need to check this box and enter details of the interpreter.
- 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 receipt number of H1B Spouse’s most recent H1B Approval Notice (Form I-797A), begins with EAC or LIN|
H1B Approval Notice is given when the employer files the I-129 form. This is NOT the I-140 form.
|USCIS Dallas Lockbox|
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS):
P.O. Box 660921
Dallas, TX 75266-0921
For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
Attn: H4 (Box 660921)
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business
Lewisville, TX 75067-8003
|If the receipt number of H1B Spouse’s most recent H1B Approval Notice (Form I-797A), begins with WAC or SRC|
H1B Approval Notice is given when the employer files the I-129 form. This is NOT the I-140 form.
|USCIS Phoenix Lockbox|
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS):
P.O. Box 20400
Phoenix, AZ 85036-0400
For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
Attn: H4 (Box 20400)
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034-4850
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 confirming the receipt of your H4 EAD application. Check Sample H4 EAD Receipt Notice. On the receipt notice, you would see ‘Receipt Number’. You can use that to check your Case Status on USCIS website
USCIS will process your H4 EAD application as per the typical processing times for the same form. The application processing times can vary by the location it was filed. Check current & historical H4 EAD processing times at USCIS
Once USCIS completes processing and approves EAD, they will send the actual H4 EAD Card. The card will have C26 Category listed on the card. It is also called as I-766 form or EAD Card. Below is sample H4 EAD Card. Read meaning of all the fields on H4 EAD Card, Sample for more info.
Does H4 EAD need Biometrics ? Include Fee ?
In general, the Biometric requirement is for H4 visa holders applying for H4 Extensions or other visa holders applying for H4 Change of Status(COS) using the I-539 form. H4 EAD application on its own does not need biometrics. There is no requirement from USCIS to give Biometrics, if you apply for H4 EAD alone using Form I-765.
But, if you are filing for H4 EAD along with H4 Visa Extension or Change of Status(COS) concurrently with form I-539 form in the same package, then USCIS would need Biometrics to adjudicate the H4 EAD. The reason is that they cannot approve H4 EAD without approval of underlying H4 Application. So, it is dependent on Biometrics related to H4 Visa Extension or COS. Check New I-539 Form Biometrics Requirements for H4 Holders
Update : USCIS suspended the Biometrics requirement for H4 Visa Extensions and Change of Status(COS) starting from May 17th, 2021 as part of a lawsuit settlement. It is suspended for 2 years until May 17th, 2023. Read USCIS Suspends H4 Biometrics requirement until May 2023
H4 Biometrics Fee : You do not need to include the Biometrics fee, if you are filing H4 EAD application standalone using form I-765. But, if you file for H4 EAD along with H4 Extension or COS then you would need to include the Biometrics fee as well. Having said that, as USCIS has suspended biometrics for H4 holders for two years, you do not need to include the Biometrics fee, if you file anytime after May 17, 2021 until May 17th, 2023.
H4 EAD Premium Processing – Effective date, News
As of now, there is no USCIS premium processing option available for H4 EAD Applications. US Congress passed HR 8337 Bill that added the provision to give premium processing for various forms like I-539, including I-765 form for EAD. Though the bill is passed in US Congress, it is yet to be implemented by USCIS.
USCIS needs to go through the regulatory process to get everyone’s feedback on how to implement premium processing for EAD, including H4 EAD. So far, there is not even a proposed rule by USCIS related to implementing the same. There is no specific deadline as such for USCIS as such. We need to wait for USCIS on the same. Check H4 EAD Premium Processing Option News updates for the more info
Common FAQs on H4 EAD
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
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.
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.
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.
No, you need to be in US and on H4 visa status to apply for EAD application.
You can apply only 180 days before the expiry of your current EAD document. There are some cases, where some were able to apply before 180 days for H4 EAD and successful. The reason they did that was considering long processing times of the H4 application extension or COS.
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/
H4 EAD filing fee is $410 USD. 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.
No, you cannot apply for H4 EAD online. You can only do it using paper based forms.
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