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?
The US Department of Homeland Security(DHS) gives employment authorization (EAD) to work in the US for certain H4 Visa holders, whose spouses on H1B have satisfied one of the below two conditions:
- Have an approved I-140 form, which is the immigrant petition for foreign citizens to get Green Card or Permanent Residency in the 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 the US beyond 6 years, if their Green Card or Permanent Residency Application is Pending with the USCIS.
You can file for H4 EAD if you satisfy any of the above two conditions. There were some plans in the past to remove H4 EAD, but after the Biden administration took office, they withdrew the regulation that was aimed at H4 EAD removal from their regulatory list. Also, the H4 EAD lawsuit was dismissed in court and DHS won the same. So, you are good to file 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 a 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 the Bank Check, you need to put in the 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 a USCIS Lockbox Facility.
- Copies of H4 Visa holder’s Govt. issued Photo Identity: Not all of the below documents are required, you can submit either 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 a Voter card, or Aadhar Card (if you are an Indian)
- Current H4 Visa Status Proofs
- (If applied for H4 Extension/COS in the US) Copy of the most recent I-797A approval form, which is the H4 Approval Notice from USCIS.
- (If you entered the US using a valid H4 Stamp from US Consulate) Copy of your H4 Visa and the I-94 copy used to enter the 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 the H4 EAD eligibility documents of your spouse such as below. Depending on your situation, you need to submit either Option 1 or Option 2 related documents as listed below.
- Option 1 – Approved Form I-140: Copy of primary H1B Holder’s I-140 related I-797 Approval Notice.
- Option 2 – H1B Received proof under AC21 beyond 6 years:
- Copy of H1B Holder’s passports and previous I-94s
- Current and prior copies of Form I-797, Approval Notice of H1B Visa
- Evidence of H1B Extension of Stay beyond 6 years
- Proof that your spouse’s PERM was filed at least 365 days before the end of 6 years period.
- If PERM is not needed, then proof of pending Form I-140 that it was filed 365 days before the end of 6 years.
- If your employer has not shared any of the above option 1 or option 2 documents, you can use USCIS FOIA to request your I-140 information and attach the same with the H4 EAD application.
- H4 – H1B Relationship Documents :
- You need to submit your marriage certificate to prove the relationship with H1B Holder. If it is not in English, you need to get it translated into English by a 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 you cannot write properly with a pen, 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 a 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 a 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 the USCIS website, along with its instructions, and complete the form. Below are some common application questions, where it is not clear or the user can make mistakes. We do not cover basic questions like Name or Address, rather we cover confusing or error-prone questions only below.
H4 EAD cannot be applied online. There is still no online I-765 form option to file it like F1 OPT for H4 visa holders to file H4 EAD
- Part 1. Reason for Applying – New vs Renewal :
- Question 1: If you are applying for a 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 the below screenshots. If you have lost the EAD card, then you select ‘1.b.’
- Part 2: Information about you
- Question 2 – Other Names: If you have other names like a different name before marriage or you had different spellings or anything, you should mention it here.
- Question 8 – A-Number: 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 an 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 the 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 – Previously filed form I-765. : If you are applying for H4 EAD renewal or you have filed 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 – Social Security Number(SSN): Usually, you would have Social Security Number (SSN), if you were to work in the 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 an H4 EAD extension, then you would answer this as ‘Yes’.
- Question 13.b – Enter SSN. If you answered ‘Yes’ to ’13.a’, then you would enter SSN number here.
- Question 14 – Get SSN Issued: 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 as it will help you start work right away after you get your EAD. You need SSN for taxes and other purposes from the employer side.
- Question 15 – Consent to SSN office: 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 – Parent’s Names for SSN Office: 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. – I-94 Info: You need to enter your I-94 Arrival/ Departure Record number here. You can get I-94 Online on the DHS website if you arrive via flight or ship. If you arrived by road, then you would have a physical I-94 card and it would have the number on it. Also, if you have had H4 status extended within the US, then you would have I-94 attached to your H4 approval copy of I797.
- Question 24 – Last arrival visa type: This is the US Visa type that you used to enter the 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. Your latest I-94 would have the most updated information as well about your status.
- Question 25 – Current Status: This is your current visa status in the US. For most, it is likely going to be an H4 visa. But, for some who are applying for H4 COS (Change of Status) along with EAD, it would be different like F1 student, H1B Visa, etc.
- Question 26 – SEVIS Info: SEVIS Number is not applicable to H4 EAD, it is used by the F1 visa students. You will only use it, if you are applying for H4 COS from F1 status to H4 and applying for H4 EAD as well.
- Part 2: Information about your Eligibility Category
- Question 27 – EAD Category Code: 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 the below screenshot on how to fill it. 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, or IOEXXXX. 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 the H4 holder’s receipt number.
- Part 3: Applicant’s Statement
- Question 1.a. – English Language Knowledge: If you understand English and completed the form, you need to check accordingly here, indicating you understand English.
- Question 1.b – Interpreter Info: If you did not fill out the application, then you need to check this box and enter the details of the interpreter.
- Question 7.a -Sign form – What color Pen to use to Sign USCIS H4 EAD Form?
- You need to sign in the box at ‘7.a’ and enter the date in the ‘7.b’ question. You need to use a 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 a certain order as suggested by USCIS (the first one to be 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 an 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 listed in the above section(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 filing tips for complete guidance on how to create your application package and guidance on the same. Below is the screenshot from the USCIS form filing tips.
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 is based on your Spouse’s H1B receipt number and is as listed below.
You should check the USCIS address for I-765 and look under (c)(26) to see verify if the 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 or MCT|
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 or IOE|
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)
2108 E. Elliot Rd.
Tempe, AZ 85284-1806
Step 4: Get Receipt of H4 EAD, USCIS Processing
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 the 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
USCIS may issue you RFE asking for more information, if something is missing or not clear to them. Keep an eye on the mails, they will send you a copy of what is required.
Step 5: Decision from USCIS, Receive H4 EAD Card
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 an I-766 form or EAD Card.
Below is a sample H4 EAD Card. Read the 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 was 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.
In the past, before October 1st, 2023, if you were 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 have needed Biometrics to adjudicate the H4 EAD. But, starting from October 1st, 2023, there is no need for giving biometrics( for most of the applicants) as per USCIS policy change. Also, you do not have to pay the fee as well for Biometrics.
In the past, they could not approve H4 EAD without approval of underlying H4 Application that had Biometrics requirments. So, it was dependent on Biometrics related to H4 Visa Extension or COS. Check 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 was suspended until September 30th, 2023. Read USCIS Suspends H4 Biometrics requirement until Sep 2023. Eventually, in Septmber 2023 USCIS announced that they are removing biometrics and its fee for most applicants starting from October 1st, 2023. Read more at USCIS removes Biometris and its Fee from Oct 1st, 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.
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.
On March 30th, 2022, DHS published a final rule to implement premium processing for H4 and H4 EAD holders. As per the regulation, they plan to implement the premium processing option by 2025. There is no exact date given yet. See below Check H4 EAD Premium Processing Option News updates for more info.
540 Days automatic Extension for H4 EAD extensions
USCIS announced in March 2022 its goal to streamline the overall processing times and reduce the backlogs for all types of applications by end of FY 2023. As part of that initiative, USCIS published a temporary final rule in the federal register that increased the automatic extension duration for H4 EAD Applicants from 180 days to up to 540 days. You can read the full details at USCIS EAD Automatic Extension 540 Days Rule
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 the 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 if 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 the mail.
Well, this is a tricky situation, and not usually recommended to travel outside of the US. The reason is that 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 has more logistics issues to deal with.
You can get them at Costco, Walgreens, or any of the passport photo location for H4 EAD. It costs 9.99$ at Costco for 4 photos and at Walgreens, it costs 14.75$ for 2 photos.
No, biometrics were only required for H4 application and not for H4 EAD. Starting from Oct 1st, 2023, that is even removed for H4 applications.
No, H4 EAD is only for Spouses, children are not eligible.
No, you need to be in the 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 were successful. The reason they did that was considering the 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 an effective date for renewal in July. Your Validity of the H4 EAD will be tied to the H4 validity and H1B of your Spouse.
The 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 the 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