Open main menu

An H-4 visa is a visa issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the H-1B visa holders.[1]

USCIS allows immediate family members of H visa holders (H-1A, H-1B, H-1B1, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3) to get H-4 visas to lawfully come and stay in the US. These visas are usually issued at the local US consulate office abroad. However, if the person is already in US, he or she can obtain H-4 status by filing Form I-539 for change of status.[2]

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 nonimmigrants 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.[3][4] These H-4 dependent spouses are also eligible to receive social security numbers.[5]


Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent SpousesEdit

Certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants can file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, if the H-1B nonimmigrant:

  • 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).[6]

Other H-4 visa holders are not eligible to get a Social Security Number and cannot be employed,[5] but they can hold a driver's license, open bank accounts, and get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number for U.S. tax purposes.

Because these other H-4 visa holders are not issued a social security number, an ITIN (Individual tax identification number) should be obtained before filing for joint tax returns by filing Form W-7. They are not authorized to work in the United States, but they are allowed to study.

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-2A, H-2B, or H-3) visa validity.[1]

DHS has listed "Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses From the Classes of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization"[7]as part of their Spring 2019 Regulatory Agenda. Also, there is an ongoing court battle between Save Jobs USA vs DHS on the H-4 Spouses Employment authorization issue, whis has a long history[8] of case dismissed by district court and currently in appeals court.


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.[9]
  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


  1. ^ a b 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.
  2. ^ "Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status". USCIS. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  3. ^ "Can I Work on H-4 Status? H-1b Dependent Benefits". ImmigraTrust Law Office. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  4. ^ "DHS Extends Eligibility for Employment Authorization to Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses of H-1B Nonimmigrants Seeking Employment-Based Lawful Permanent Residence". USCIS. Retrieved February 25, 2015.
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ "Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses". U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  7. ^ "View Rule". Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  8. ^ "H-4 EAD Lawsuit History". RedBus2US.
  9. ^ "Non-immigrant visa statistics". United States Department of State. Retrieved March 2, 2019.