When your husband or wife gets a job opportunity in the United States, it is often exciting. Highly skilled immigrants with degrees are essential in science and technology, and Americans are keen to adopt such talents.
However, what does this mean for you? Do you move with your spouse? What visas are your family eligible for, and what are their privileges? There can be many questions going through your head as a spouse or a dependent, and this article answers them for you.
The H-4 dependent visa is given to immediate family members of an H-1B visa holder who is the principal beneficiary to accompany the H-1B visa recipient to the United States during their stay.
This article outlines the process of applying for H-4 visas, its benefits, and some of the things you need to consider as a dependent or a primary visa holder.
What is the H-B4 Visa?
The Department of Homeland Security provided permission for all H-1 visa holder spouses and children to accompany them to the country. This made highly skilled foreign worker applications increase and made subsequent H-1 visa holders extend their stay allowing them to work legally in the country.
The H-B4 visa is a United States visa provided for the dependent family members of the H-1B1, H-2A, H-1B, H-2B, and H-3 visa holders. This H-4 status permits them to travel to the United States to live and stay with the primary visa holder.
Family members like dependent spouses and children under 21 years are naturally eligible for an H-4 status and can apply at the U.S. embassy in their home country, complying with all eligibility requirements.
What is H-4 Visa Status Based on United States Citizenship and Immigration Services?
American industries are keen to attract worldwide talents that will bolster their economy, and as dependents of highly-skilled immigrants, you are valuable to them. The H-4 visa status is customarily granted to you as the family of a primary worker visa recipient.
With the H-4 visa status, you can live comfortably and study in the United States as an immigrant, while your spouse can also work and live in the United States as a primary worker-visa holder.
Dependents of an H1, H2, or H3 worker, can apply for their visa and gain H-4 immigration status by filling out a form with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
However, if the employee is outside the United States with an expired worker visa status, they will have to apply for a new work visa at the U.S. consulate. Then, their dependents can be eligible for H4 visa status.
Justice Appropriations Authorization Act: H-1B and H-4 Status
The major difference between an H-1B visa and an H4 visa is that one holds primary status while the other is secondary. The H-1B status is a primary worker visa issued to highly-skilled foreign immigrants needed in the U.S. economy.
This visa allows U.S. companies to hire foreign workers with a degree or an alien worker for a specific task. The skilled employment demand often arises from medicine, architecture, mathematics, technology, and science experts. As such, businesses in the United States tend to use the H-1B status to hire foreign workers for areas of specialization. This flows from the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 which has been amended by the Justice Appropriations Authorization Act of 2022.
In comparison, an H-4 status is a dependent visa issued due to the H-1B visa. This visa type was created to accommodate the family and close relatives of the primary H-1B visa holder to ease the transition.
Generally, the H4 visa can be granted to the following primary visa holders;
- H1B1 visa
- H1B specialty occupation visa
- H2A visa
- H3 trainee visa
- H2B temporary workers visa
The H4 visa cannot exist without the H-1B visa, but an H-1B visa holder may not need to apply for an H-4 status. This often happens when they don’t have any immediate dependents or do not desire to relocate to the United States with their families.
How Long Does H4 Visa Employment Authorization Document Processing Take?
Typically, the visa load of your U.S. embassy will determine the average processing time of your H4 visa. This is an essential reason why it would be best to schedule your interview right after submitting your application.
After an interview, it can take days or weeks for the embassy to decide on your visa. If granted, you will be sent a passport with the H4 visa stamp. However, if you are already in the United States, changing a non-immigrant status to an H4 visa status can take up to 9 to 16 months to process.
The H-1, H-2, and H-3 visa applicants can pay for premium processing fast-tracked to 15 days (based on the money order in place), but this option is only available for the primary visa classes. It is also possible to include automatic extension after the status’ expiration date.
Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses
To be qualified to work as an H-4 visa holder, you must depend on an H-1B holder and must have the necessary employment authorization documents. Dependents of other H visas like the H1B specialty occupation visa, H2A visa, H3 trainee visa, H2B temporary workers visa do not qualify for employment.
In addition, The H1B visa holder must be qualified to get a green card and, as such, should file Form I-140 for permanent resident status. Once this is approved, you can now apply for an H-4 Employment authorization document, even if you are yet to receive your card which is the case for many applicants.
You will have to file an approved form IDA 765 for the employment authorization application. The filing fee costs about $410, and it takes up to 90 days to process. However, if the embassy cancels your application for a green card before you are issued work authorization, you are no longer eligible.
H-4 Visa (Dependents of H Visas)
The H4 visa can be issued as a dependent of one of three H visa classes (H1 to H3). These visa classes are called principal working visa classes because they are primarily issued to provide the labor force for certain areas of the U.S. economy.
Spouses and the dependents of the H-class visas, which are qualified as being 21 years or below, can be given the H4 visa. Their primary H visa class holder must possess a valid visa, work, or own businesses in the United States. The dependent, if such a person is a spouse, will need to provide a marriage certificate and if they are children, will need to produce a birth certificate.
What Are Essential Facts About H‑4 Visas for Spouses of H‑1B Workers?
The H-4 visas for spouses of H-1B workers slightly differ from other H-4 visas of the H worker visa class. Although all applicants of H-1, H-2, and H-3 visas are qualified for H-4 visas, they don’t possess the employment authorization option.
This would be a fatal blow to the economy as their employment authorization has created jobs for thousands of Americans. H-4 visas for spouses of H-1B workers grant them working and staying opportunities similar to their principal visa holders.
H-4 for Family Members
H-4 visa allows family members who request it to travel and live with a primary recipient of an H-class visa. After you submit the primary immigrant petition or request and it has gained approval, a spouse or any unmarried family member under 21 years can apply for an immigrant visa with the same petition.
The visa application or request process is similar, and the spouse or children will need to obtain and complete all such forms as you will have to submit, undergo a medical examination, pay the fees specified and attend a visa interview at the appropriate department. You would also need to have your passport in place and ensure other forms have been filed.
The visa application process for spouses can be monitored through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After your visa is approved, you can travel and stay in the U.S. if your primary visa holder has a legally valid visa status. Applicants can change their visa status and even attempt filing a form for a passport in this duration, provided all the eligibility criteria including age have been met.
What Are the Benefits of Holding an H-4 Visa?
Being an H-4 visa recipient comes with several benefits, some of which are;
- You can work holding H-4 visas based on conditions given by the EAD program through its department..
- You also qualify for change of status and visa type; for example, if you find an employer that can employ you as a degree or non-degree holder, you can apply for an H-1B or H-2B visa status.
- As an H4 visa holder, you can file for a green card provided you meet the age criteria and other documents are in place for approval.
- You can enroll in academic programs and do your education in the country or enjoy the privilege of continued employment during the period of your stay provided there is evidence.
- As an H4 visa holder, you can open a bank account like any other immigrant or citizen of the United States with a banking institution for the period of your stay.
- You can also obtain a driver’s license by filling the required form.
- You can have access to healthcare insurance for H4 visa holders who are employed.
How Can Richard Herman Help You?
It is clear that you need a qualified immigration attorney to help you with the H-4 visa application process. Interestingly, that is what Richard Herman can help you do as we are professionals who have been helping many others like you every year with filing the necessary form and ensuring evidence is preserved for every form filed.
You have the option of contacting us via Skype, WhatsApp, or Zoom and be assured someone will be available to speak to you. For calls, you can reach us via +1-216-696-6170 or schedule a direct consultation with Richard Herman by filing this online form.
You don’t have to worry when your husband or wife gets that job in the U.S because there is an equally beneficial H-4 status for your stay as a dependent. With some specifications, you are eligible for other visa statuses and can even prolong your stay in the United States through a permanent residency status and work authorization.
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