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Understanding the Essentials of the H-4 Visa: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

a US H-2A visa work permit

The H-4 visa is a nonimmigrant visa category that allows the spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 of H-1B visa holders to accompany and join them in the United States. Here are some key basics about the H-4 visa:

1. Dependent Visa: The H-4 visa is a dependent visa, meaning it is available only to the immediate family members of H-1B visa holders.

2. Eligibility: H-4 visas are available to spouses and minor children (under 21 years old) of H-1B visa holders. The H-1B visa holder must have a valid H-1B status or be in the process of obtaining H-1B status.

3. Duration: The duration of stay on an H-4 visa is typically tied to the duration of the H-1B visa holder's status. H-4 visa holders can stay in the U.S. as long as the primary H-1B visa holder maintains their legal status. If the H-1B visa holder's status expires or is terminated, the H-4 visa holder must also leave the U.S. or switch to another valid visa status.

4. Work Authorization: H-4 visa holders were traditionally not permitted to work in the United States. However, in 2015, the Obama administration introduced a rule allowing certain H-4 visa holders to apply for employment authorization. This rule allows eligible H-4 visa holders to obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and work in the U.S. The eligibility criteria for obtaining work authorization as an H-4 visa holder include the H-1B visa holder being the beneficiary of an approved Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) or having H-1B status extended beyond the initial six-year limit.

5. Education: H-4 visa holders are typically allowed to attend school or college in the United States. They may be eligible for in-state tuition rates at public educational institutions depending on the state's laws and regulations.

6. Travel: H-4 visa holders can usually travel in and out of the United States freely using their valid passport and H-4 visa. However, it is advisable to carry relevant supporting documentation and check for any travel restrictions or requirements before making any travel arrangements.

It is important to note that the H-4 visa is a temporary visa and does not provide a pathway to permanent residency or citizenship in the United States.

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