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COMPLETE Guide to H4 Dependent Visa – Work, Study, Life

This page covers all the basics and key topics of H4 Visa like what is H-4 visa, how to get H4 Visa, visa stamping requirements, topics related to living in US like studying options, taxes, driving, etc. on H4 visa such as restrictions on H4 visa related to work, studying options and other topics.

Basics of H4 Visa – What, How, Sample

Below are some of the basics about H4 Dependent Visa.

What is H4 Visa ?

H4 Visa or H4 dependent visa is the US visa category given to the spouse and children ( under 21 years of age) of all H visa holders such as H1B Visa, H1B1 Visa, H2A, H2B and H3.  H4 visa is treated as dependent visa, meaning its validity and status are tied to the primary H visa holder. USCIS classifies it as given to Family of H1B visa.

As it is a dependent visa, it means that, if H1B visa holder gets 2 years approval for H1B Visa, then H4 dependent would also get same amount of validity for H4. Also, there are certain restrictions tied to H4, such as ability to work, get social security number. We will look at those in detail in later sections.

How to get H4 Visa ?

Depending on where you currently live, the process to get H4 dependent visa will vary. Below are the two common scenarios:

  • Living outside of US – Apply H4 Visa  :
    • You apply for H4 Visa stamp at US Consulate
      • Fill out DS-160 form
      • Get Appointment
      • Give Biometrics
      • Attend Visa Interview
      • Get H4 Visa Stamp in passport, if interview successful
    • Enter US using the H4 Visa Stamp given by US consulate.
  • Living in USA  – Apply H4 Visa  :
    • You apply for Change of Status  with USCIS from current visa status in US to H4 Status using I-539 form.
    • You will need to give Biometrics at an Application Support Center
    • After Biometrics are done, USCIS will send you H4 Approval notice with I-94 attached to it.
    • The I-94 will state the H4 status and validity of the same.
    • USCIS plans to introduce Premium Processing for H4 Visa, H4 EAD soon as Bill is signed by president. Once available, you can upgrade to premium processing to get decision faster.

How does H4 Visa look like ?  

  • If you apply for H4 Visa stamp outside of US, you get a US visa foil glued in your passport by the US Consulate. Check out Sample H4 Visa Stamp by US Consulate
  • If you have got H4 status by applying for Change of Status within US, you will get a H4 approval notice, that is basically a form I-797A that state your details, and validity of H4 status, including the I-94. Check Sample H4 Visa Approval Notice with I-94

What is Biometrics Process for H4 Holders in US ?

In early 2019, USCIS introduced New I-539 form, with Biometrics as an additional step. As H4 Holders use I-539 form for extensions or change of status application in US, they need to go through Biometrics process. This new process is delaying the H4 approvals.  Read H4 Biometrics Process User Experiences

Work Options for H4 Visa Holders

Can H4 Visa Holders work in US ?

Not all H4 visa holders are allowed to work in US. Only certain H4 visa holders, who satisfy certain requirements can work in US.  DHS gives employment authorization (EAD) to work in US for certain H4 Visa holders, whose spouse on H1B 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.

Work as freelancer at home, get paid on H4 ?

In general, H4 holders are not allowed to work, unless they qualify for H4 EAD. You cannot work part time either as freelancer or from home without having H4 EAD.

Can H4 Holders start a company ?

If you are eligible for H4 EAD, then you can start a company and employ people as well as H4 EAD holder.  If you do not have H4 EAD, then you cannot start company as general H4 visa holder.

How to apply for H4 EAD to work in US ?

 If the H4 visa holder qualifies for H4 EAD, then they can apply for employment authorization document (EAD) with USCIS using form I-765.  For step by step instructions,  Read How to apply for H4 EAD, Biometrics

How does H4 EAD ( Employment) Card look like ?

Once you apply for H4 EAD and it is approved, you get a H4 Approval Notice in mail, along with a H4 EAD Physical Card, that tells the validity of how long you can work. It looks like a driving license card with details of the H4 holder, with photo, including work authorization category, validity, etc. For complete details, check out Sample H4 EAD Approval Notice  and Sample H4 EAD Card by USCIS

Can H4 holders Volunteer, if they cannot work in US ?

Yes, H4 visa holders can volunteer in US with any non-profit organizations.  These volunteer positions should be unpaid and offered to general US citizens and green card holders as well.  They key requirement is that they should not be paid or avail any monetary benefits.

Study in US on H4 Visa

Can you study on H4 Visa in US ? MS, MBA, Online Courses ?

Yes, you can study on H4 Visa in US, there are no restrictions as such. You can apply to US Universities or community colleges to study MS, MBA, online degree seeking courses, or even short term courses as well. Also, you may be eligible to avail some benefits such as in-state tuition fee in state universities in certain cases. Read Advantages of Studying on H4 Visa, In-state Tuition  

Can H4 Holders work part time On-Campus during Study ?

In general, they cannot work on campus in part time jobs, unless, the H4 holder is eligible for H4 EAD. If eligible for H4 EAD, they are free to work on campus or off campus, it does not matter as they do not have any restrictions like F1 visa holders to work only on campus.

Do H4 holders get CPT or OPT to work ?

No, H4 holders can study in US, but are not eligible to use CPT ( Curricular Practical Training) or Optional Practical Training (OPT), including Day 1 CPT. Both CPT and OPT are primarily given for F1 Student visa holders.

Living in US for H4 –  Driving, SSN, Taxes, ITIN

Can I get Driver’s License as H4 Visa Holder to drive in US ?

Yes, you can get driver’s license in US and can drive in US. You will need to take required driver’s license test as required by the US state that you are living in.  

Can I get Social Security Number(SSN) as H4 Visa Holder ?

In general, as H4 visa holders are not allowed to work, they are not eligible for SSN, unless they qualify for H4 EAD. If you are eligible for H4 EAD, then you can either apply for it directly using your EAD application or apply for it separately at SSN office. Check H4 EAD SSN Application Process, Documents.  For taxation purposes, H4 holders can apply for ITIN Number.

How to file Taxes for H4 ? How to apply ITIN ?

H4 visa holders need Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file taxes. ITIN is a unique number given by IRS. It is only used for federal tax purposes and cannot be used to work.  ITIN cannot be applied beforehand, you need the actual tax return to apply for it and it is used for claiming H4 dependent benefits of H1 visa holders. To get ITIN, understand process, read How to apply for ITIN ? File Taxes and ITIN FAQs for H4 Holders

Open Bank Account on H4 ? Debit Card, Credit Card ?

Yes, H4 holders can open bank account in US. Requirements to open bank account vary by bank.  Usually they would ask for H4 status documents like approval notice, H4 visa stamping, I-94, Spouse approval notices, etc. You can also get a debit card from the bank.  Regarding credit card, some restrictions apply and you may get an add-on card only.

Sample H4 Visa Documents


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