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Can H4 Visa Holder Study in US? In-state Tuition? Advantages?

Once you arrive in US on a H4 Visa as a dependent, unless you are eligible and can apply for H4 EAD, you cannot work. It can be frustrating to sit home. Many plan to pursue higher studies like MS or MBA in US. Many wonder, if they can study on H4 visa in the first place and what are the advantages and disadvantages. This article will focus on all such aspects of studying in US as H4 visa holder.

Why H4 Visa holders wish to study MS or MBA in USA ?

H4 Visa is a dependent visa and does not provide work options for everyone. When H4 holders arrive in US as spouse of H1B visa holder, they are pretty much dependent on their spouse for everything. Most of them may have had a professional career and have dreams to work and contribute to society. It can be frustrating to sit at home and do nothing. Below are some of the common reasons H4 visa holders aspire to study MS  or MBA in US.

  • Young educated professionals who are married to H1B holders in US are ambitious and would like to pursue higher education to reach their education goals, get a job in US after that.
  • One of the other significant reasons is that many of H4 holders cannot work as many of them may not qualify and Apply for H4 EAD to work in US
  • Most of the young professional women are so bored at home and they are having hard time adjusting from their busy work life before marriage and slow housewife life staying at home. They want to keep themselves busy and get education instead of wasting time sitting at home.
  • Some of them see the advantages of going back to school and maybe taking advantage tuition fee related advantages, if they qualify.
  • Also, H1B spouses want their dependents to get adjusted to the environment, culture and lifestyle in US and school would be good place to get accustomed to the society.

Besides the above, US is one the best places to study as it has some of the top class universities and education experience can be great. It can help shape up professional life in US in the future for H4 visa holder.

In-state tuition Eligibility for H4 visa holders to Study in US ?

Depending on the University you plan to join, you may have two kinds of fees : In-state or Out-of-State Tuition fee. The fee difference can be significant, if you have to pay out-of-state tuition fee. In-state tuition fee is only available in State Universities. Private schools do not have the concept of out of state vs in-state fee. Example, if you go to Harvard or MIT, you do not get in-state tuition as they are private universities.

State Universities offer in-state tuition fee for its residents in the state. The fee that residents pay would be typically half of the out-of-state tuition fee. The good thing with in-state tuition fee is that its eligibility is based how long you are living in the state and if you have paid taxes. To get in-state you do not have to be a US citizen.

In general, most of the work visa types like H1B or L1 and their dependents on H4 or L2 can qualify for in-state tuition, if they meet the residency requirements ( how long you stayed in the state). So, in-state tuition fee option is available for H4 visa holders, if they meet the requirements.

The residency requirements to get in-state tuition vary by state. The general rule of thumb is, if you have physically lived in the state for one year or more and paid taxes, you would be eligible for in-state tuition fee. You need to always check with school as this may be slightly different based on state and school you plan to attend.

Requirements to get In-state Tuition for H4 Holders

In-state tuition eligibility can vary by state and the school you plan to attend, so you should always check with the school. Having said that, below are the typical requirements that needs to be fulfilled by H4 visa holder.

  • Married to H1B Visa holder and on dependent H4 Visa for at least one year.
  • Lived in the State along with H1B holder for at least one year to meet the residency requirement
  • H1B visa holder paid taxes in the state with dependent status.

Documents Checklist to get In-state Tuition for H4 Visa

There are two things that States usually look at: relationship proof for H1B holder, Residency requirements. Below are the documents for the same.

Relationship Evidence to H1B holder

  • Marriage Certificate for proof of marriage
  • Any other proofs like endorsement in Passport (optional).

Residency Requirements

  • Your arrival info in state like Flight Tickets, or any other reservations
  • Rental agreements can also help establish that you were in state
  • Credit card or debit card statements with transactions
  • Bank Account statements with address of home
  • Driving License in the state
  • State ID card
  • Tax filing documents like W2 forms
  • If you have a car, its registration documents in the state

It is important for the H4 visa holder to start and get in lease or get state ID so that you have proofs for residency.

In-state Requirements from few States for H4 holder

Below are the residency requirements from few of the states related to H4 Visa Holder.

It is recommend that you check with the School you plan to apply on the residency requirements and in-state before you finalize the schools.

Advantages of Studying in US on H4 Visa

Below are some the main advantages of studying on H4 Visa

  • If you meet the requirements as listed above for in-state tuition, the biggest advantage is tuition fee savings. Your total tuition is less than one half. You will save at least 50 – 60 % of tuition or more depending on the tuition fee structure. Imagine the fee is like $20,000 for out-of-state students, you would pay more or less $10,000 getting in-state tuition fee.
  • You can study full time and do not worry about working during studying. Your husband pays for your school and you get all the time in the world to study and focus on education.
  • If you have worked in your home country for some time, you may have an advantage over others in terms of grasping subjects quickly and performing better.
  • Once you graduate with Masters Degree like MS or MBA, you will be eligible for US masters quota cap when they file H1B visa to work in US. In general, there are additional 20,000 H1B visa slots reserved for US Masters category. As we have H1B Registration Lottery process now, it will help you with the luck of getting selected with US Masters.

Disadvantages of Studying on H4 visa in US

  • You will not be able to work On-Campus and may not be able to utilize the opportunities of TA, RA or GA funding options of University. The reason is most of them are given to full time F1 visa students.
  • You will not be able to work on CPT as F1 students.
  • You will not be eligible to get OPT (Optional Practical Training) to work for one year after graduation like F1 students.
  • If your masters degree belongs to STEM category, you will not be able to use the 24 month extension of OPT for STEM Degrees
  • If you do not meet the H4 in-state tuition requirements, you will have to wait for one year to meet the requirements. This is one year waste of time !

How to prepare for In-state Tuition eligibility for H4 Visas

Make sure you follow the below steps after you move to a new state, so that you do not regret after one year of stay for in-state tuition purpose.

  • Get a state drivers license in the first week or 10 days.
  • Register your Car and get State registration number plate in 10 days
  • Make sure you have your rental lease agreement on your name.
  • If you are a consultant, make sure you are paying taxes to the state you are living in, you must file taxes at end of year and have copy of W2 for future reference.
  • Open a bank account in the state, if you can.

Hopefully, you got a good idea on H4 visa holder education in US with a gist of advantages and disadvantages. You have to carefully decide and talk to school DSO that  you are applying to before you jump into any conclusions.  You will not get any in-state tuition in Private schools !

What has been your experience ?  Did you get in-state tuition ? Share your experience.

Image Credits : http://www.flickr.com/photos/bdwaydiva1/2676105374/


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  1. Hello,

    My dad is on H1B visa and I am on H4 visa (dependent visa) and we have lived in Washington for the past 4-5 years. I am planning to apply for college for fall 2023 as a first- year student. Can someone please let me know if I would be paying in-state tuition or international student tuition?

  2. Hi,
    Iam on H4 visa, I have done my degree and Diploma in India. Is there any age limit for study in US
    Now I want to pursue MBA in USA. I need scholarship. Can I get scholarship

    Please provide answers for above

  3. Hi. You have mentioned “If you leave US for some reason and have to re-enter, you will have to get F1 Visa stamped on your passport and it can be tricky as you need to show non-immigrant intent.”

    When she is studying on H4 and goes to india , why does she /he have to get their F1? Can’t they comeback with existing/renewed H4 dependent Visa?

    • Vinay,
      That was a mistake. Sorry for confusion. You are right, no need to get F1. She can come to US on H4 and continue.
      The intent was many try to get F1 when they exit and get stamping, it was written in that context…somehow got plugged here…

  4. Hello,

    First of all I would like to highlight you efforts for people like us having so many questions. Speaking of questions I have one. I recently got my H1B Visa in October and I will be a legal resident of the state in October 2021. I was planning to call my sister here to do her undergraduate studies in the state on Fall 2021 Semester which starts from September 2021. Can I call her as a dependent and can she start studying for in-state tuition as soon as she enters the state ? If not how can I make this work? Any help would be amazing. Thanks again.

    • Anonymous,
      No, you cannot call her as dependent. Only spouse and kids are classified as dependents. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do.

  5. Hi ,

    The article was indeed helpful . But I have few doubts. I am in US on H4 and if I apply for EAD myself will it cause any trouble to my spouse who is on H1B?

    Also am PH.d from India so without EAD can I apply to pursue Post Doc ? How can I apply ?

  6. I am on H4 EAD. Do I need to quit my EAD benefits if I want to study or I can continue working?
    Also is it advisable to not travel until end of my Masters program as it ll change my status to F1 or I can re enter with H4 visa if it’s already stamped?

  7. Hello,

    My daughter want to study in a Texas based university. She wants to apply for Fall’ 2021. We live in Georgia. With H1b and her H4, what can we do to qualify for in-state?. I mostly work remote and travel. So, should I move to Texas ASAP? Please share any insights. Thanks

    • Arckay,
      Usually, You need to usually live in the state for at least one year and also pay state taxes. The move dates are critical. Before you move, check with couple of schools on the rule and then move. If the schools you check say yes, then plan your move ASAP.

  8. Hi
    I am currently holding a H4-EAD visa and I am also working in a reputed Manufacturing company, I would like to grow in my career, so in order to accomplish that I need to peruse my Masters here in U.S mostly part-time option … Should I start preparing for GRE exams to get into a state University or how does that work ?

    • Keerthi,
      Yes, if you want to get into a good school, GRE is mandatory. You should consider planning for schools and talk to admissions now on the process and then look at any specific requirements at the school.

  9. Hi,

    I am currently a rising freshman in college. My father has an h1b visa which makes me a dependent. I’m currently going to college by paying in state tuition because I’ve lived in my state for the last 5 years. I would eventually like to get an MBA after my undergraduate and I was wondering if there was a way for me to get some work experience (unpaid is totally fine) during my undergraduate without converting to an F1 status? Please let me know. Thanks.

    • Shreya,
      I am assuming you are on H4…Unfortunately, there is no option for you, as far as I know, unless you can go to F1 visa. You also need to be aware that your H4 status will go away once you hit 21 years, so plan for it. If you have Green Card process going on, you would be in a situation called age out. Read more at https://www.uscis.gov/greencard/child-status-protection-act

    • Hello!
      M Harsha. I am in US n H4 since one year and planning to pursue masters. I have all required documents. If I take admission through in -state provision can I change in later year of college to F1 at the same admission fee. Want to change to F1 since we get 3 months to look for job here.

      • Hi Harsha,
        Even I want to pursue MS on H4 visa and then change it to F1 status to get OPT/CPT. some suggest its possible but dont have clear idea. Did you try for admission if you have any info can you please share so that we can work together on this.

        • Chandra,
          Each of them has its own merits. If you can get F1 COS done early and get OPT/ CPT, then it is a good option to work. If you have H4 EAD already, then it does not matter, you can work on H4 without needing OPT.


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