An H-4 visa is a United States visa issued to dependent family members of H-1B, H-1B1, H-2A, H-2B, and H-3 visa holders to allow them to travel to the United States to accompany or reunite with the principal visa holder.[1] A dependent family member is a spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21.[2] If a dependent of an H-1B, H-1B1, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3 worker is already in the United States, they can apply for H-4 immigration status by filing Form I-539 for change of status with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).[3]

Family members may alternatively be admitted in other non-immigrant categories for which they qualify, such as the F-1 category for children or spouses who will be students or the H-1B category for a spouse whose employer has also obtained approval of an H-1B visa petition to employ the spouse. An H-4 visa holder is admitted to the U.S. for the duration of the primary (H-1B, H-1B1, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3) immigration status.[4]

A noncitizen with H-4 immigration status normally is not permitted to engage in employment in the United States but there is one important exception to this rule. All H-4 noncitizens are permitted to study in the United States.[5]

Employment authorizationEdit

On February 24, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director León Rodríguez announced that, effective May 26, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would extend eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. DHS amended the regulations to allow these H-4 dependent spouses to accept employment in the United States.[6] These H-4 dependent spouses are also eligible to receive social security numbers.[7]

An H-4 dependent spouse of an H-1B non-immigrant can file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization to obtain an employment authorization document (EAD), if the H-1B non-immigrant:

  • Is the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
  • Has been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (AC21).[8]

Other H-4 visa holders are not eligible to get a Social Security Number and cannot be employed,[7] but they can hold a driver's license and open bank accounts. If an H-4 noncitizen is not eligible for employment authorization in the United States, they may nevertheless have tax liability in the United States, and in order to file a U.S. tax return, must obtain an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number).

On the Spring 2019 Regulatory Agenda, the Trump administration announced a proposed regulation to rescind the 2015 rule and to stop granting employment authorization to H-4 spouses.[9] Some media outlets reported that the majority of people who would lose work authorization as a result of the proposal were highly skilled Indian women.[10] USCIS data backs up the assertion that the vast majority of H-4 EAD beneficiaries are Indian women.[11] The proposal to rescind the H-4 EAD program was withdrawn by the Biden administration in January 2021.[12] However, the future of the H-4 EAD program continues to be threatened by ongoing litigation against DHS in U.S. federal court which alleges that the H-4 EAD program is illegal.[13]

StatisticsEdit

Number of visas issued by yearEdit

Fiscal Year[a] Total number of
H-4 visas issued[b]
1997 47,206
1998 54,595
1999 69,194
2000 79,518
2001 95,967
2002 79,725
2003 69,289
2004 83,128
2005 70,266
2006 74,326
2007 86,219
2008 71,019
2009 60,009
2010 66,176
2011 74,205
2012 80,015
2013 96,753
2014 109,147
2015 124,484
2016 131,051
2017 136,393
  1. ^ Fiscal year refers to the twelve-month period that ended on September 30 of the year indicated.[14]
  2. ^ Only counts includes H-4 visas obtained at the United States consulate or embassy abroad, and not changes of status to H-4 within the United States using Form I-539.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "9 FAM 402.10-14(A)". Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  2. ^ "9 FAM 102.8-2(A)". Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  3. ^ "Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status". USCIS. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  4. ^ Vasic, Ivan (2008). The Immigration Handbook: A Practical Guide to United States Visas, Permanent Residency and Citizenship. McFarland. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-7864-4009-2.
  5. ^ "9 FAM 402.10-14(C)". Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  6. ^ "DHS Extends Eligibility for Employment Authorization to Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses of H-1B Nonimmigrants Seeking Employment-Based Lawful Permanent Residence". USCIS. February 24, 2015. Retrieved February 25, 2015.
  7. ^ a b https://faq.ssa.gov/link/portal/34011/34019/Article/3782/If-I-am-not-a-U-S-citizen-can-I-get-a-Social-Security-number
  8. ^ "Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses". U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  9. ^ "View Rule". www.reginfo.gov. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  10. ^ "U.S. withdraws move to rescind work authorisation for H-1B spouses". The Hindu. PTI. January 28, 2021. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved January 29, 2021.CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ "Applicants for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) for H-4 Nonimmigrants by Gender and by Country of Birth FY 2015-2018 (Oct. 1, 2014-Dec. 25, 2017)" (PDF). Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  12. ^ Wire, AB (January 26, 2021). "Breaking: Biden administration withdraws Trump's move to rescind H4 EAD regulation". The American Bazaar. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  13. ^ "H-4 EAD Lawsuit History". RedBus2US. April 4, 2017.
  14. ^ "Non-immigrant visa statistics". United States Department of State. Retrieved March 2, 2019.