In May 2015, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) opened the channel for H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants to apply for employment authorization.

In this piece, we answer the frequently asked questions about H-4 Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

What is H-4 EAD?

The USCIS attempts to grant employment authorization to the dependent spouses of H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, and H-3 visa holders through the H-4 visa.

The H-4 visa allows the holder to live and work in the US. Recognizing that many H-1B visa holders have qualified spouses who wish to work, the USCIS allowed H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants to apply for employment authorization in the US.

In order to apply for an H-4 EAD and get such employment authorization, you must be an H-4 dependent spouse of an H-1B nonimmigrant.

If this is not the case, then you should first apply for an H-4 visa before requesting EAD. The dependent spouse will not be granted employment authorization in the absence of an H-4 visa.


1.   What are the eligibility requirements for H-4 dependent spouse?

H-4 dependent spouses are eligible for employment authorization if the H-1B non-immigrant meets one of the following criteria:

  • Is the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140; or
  • Has been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (AC21).

2.    How do I know if I am eligible for H-4 EAD?

As an H-4 dependent spouse filing Form I-765, you need not have received an approved Form 1-140 or have been granted H-1B status under AC21 in order to enjoy the benefits of employment authorization. However, you must establish that your spouse is eligible for one of these provisions.

3.    Which form do I need to file before USCIS for receiving H-4 EAD?

You need to file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with the USCIS.

4.    Is there a one-time opportunity to apply for H-4 EAD?

No, you can apply for as long as you meet the eligibility requirements for H-4 employment authorization.

5.    Where do I file form I-765 for receiving H-4 EAD?

There are different locations for filing form I-765 depending on your H-1B principal spouse’s most recent Form I-797 Notice of Approval for Form I-129. You can check the filing locations here.

6.    Do I need to have an H-4 visa in order to request employment authorization?

Yes. You need to have an H-4 visa in order to get approved for H-4 EAD status. In case you do not have an H-4 visa, you should apply for that first before requesting employment authorization.

7.    Will I be eligible for H-4 EAD in case my spouse’s H-1B visa is revoked?

H-4 EAD is only available for the dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants. In case your spouse’s H-1B nonimmigrant status is revoked, you will no longer be eligible for H-4 EAD.

8.    Is there a problem in case my H-1B spouse’s previous employer filled form I-140?

No. As per USCIS guidelines, the employer who filed the form I-140 for your spouse is irrelevant.

All you need to do is ensure that your spouse has an approved form I-140 when you apply for H-4 EAD.

9.    Is there a limit on the number of Form I-765 approved by USCIS each year?

No, there is no cap on the number of Form I-765 approved by the USCIS. You can fill it as long as you have H-4 status.

10. Do I need to be in the US to apply for EAD?

Yes. Only individuals with an H-4 status can apply for an EAD. One of the perquisites for an H 4 status is living in the US.

11. What if I lose my EAD card?

If your EAD card is lost, stolen, damaged, or destroyed, then you can file for a replacement. You will have to file Form I-765 and submit the fees for replacement.

12. What if I leave my job after getting my employment authorization?

Your EAD card entitles you to work anywhere in the US. Therefore, you are not tied to your present employer.

You can work full-time and part-time with multiple employers or be self-employed. Therefore, you can quit any time and join any other organization or be self-employed.

13. What is the validity period of my EAD?

Your EAD is valid for as long as you have the H-4 visa. Your H-4 visa is only valid as long as your spouse has an H-1B visa. Once the H-1B visa expires, your EAD card will also expire.

14. Does my EAD status allow me to start a business and employ others?

The EAD status does not restrict you from starting your own business and hiring employees.

15. What evidence should be submitted to establish EAD eligibility?

You will need the following documents to establish EAD eligibility:

  • H-4 visa document
  • Marriage certificate to show bona fide relationship
  • Copies of valid passport of you and your spouse
  • Copy of your I-94
  • Copy of your spouse’s I-94

16. How much does it cost to get an H-4 EAD status?

You will be required to submit for DS-160 which requires $190 as fees. Further, you will also have to submit Form I-765 which requires $410 as fees.

Finally, you will have to get biometrics appoints which costs $85. Therefore, it will cost $495 to apply for H-4 EAD.

17. How long does it get approved for H-4 EAD?

There is no strict timeline for granting approval of H-4 EAD. In general, you can expect your application to be processed within three months from the date of filing.

18. Can I request express approval of H-4 EAD?

Yes, you can request the USCIS to expedite the process of approval in case of a medical emergency or financial hardship.

19. Do I need to be in the US in order to apply for employment authorization based on H-4?

Yes. In order to apply for H-4 employment authorization is based on a valid H-4 status. In order to have an H-4 status, you must be residing in the US.

20. Do I need a labor certification application?

No. A Permanent Labor Certification Application is required for an H-1B visa and not for an H-4 visa or Employment Authorization Document.

21. Can an F1 nonimmigrant who possesses Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment authorization be continuously employed by concurrently applying for an H4 visa and Employment Authorization Document?

No, an F1 immigrant can only work till OPT authorization remains valid. The H4 EAD will not extend employment authorization.

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