Can Spouse Work on H4 Visa in the USA?

The H4 visa is a dependent visa enabling spouses and children of H1B visa holders to accompany them to the United States.

However, the question of working on an H4 visa arises, given that the H1B is primarily a work visa.

This matter is nuanced and contingent on several factors and conditions.

H4 Visa
H4 Visaย 


In this article, we will delve into the possibilities and constraints of working on an H4 visa in the USA.

H4 Visa Work Permit

Primarily, it’s essential to understand that the H4 visa doesn’t automatically grant work authorization.

Unlike the H1B visa, which allows employment in a specific specialty occupation, the H4 visa primarily serves family reunification purposes.

Hence, to work on an H4 visa, a separate work permit, known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), must be applied for.

H4 EAD Eligibility Criteria

Not all H4 visa holders qualify for an EAD.

You can apply for an EAD if your spouse or parent (the H1B visa holder) meets one of the following criteria:

  1. They are the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
  2. They have received an extension of their H1B status beyond the six-year limit under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21).

These criteria ensure that only H4 visa holders in the process of obtaining a green card or permanent residence can work in the US.

If your spouse or parent doesn’t meet these criteria, you won’t be eligible for an EAD.

H4 EAD Application Process

If you meet the EAD criteria, you’ll need to file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with the U.S.

Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Additionally, you must submit the following documents:

  • A copy of your current Form I-797 approval notice for Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status; or
  • A copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, indicating your admission as an H4 nonimmigrant or your most recent approved extension of stay.
  • A government-issued identification document with a photo (e.g., passport, birth certificate, or visa).
  • A copy of your marriage certificate (if you’re the spouse of an H1B visa holder) or birth certificate (if you’re the child of an H1B visa holder).
  • Evidence that your spouse or parent meets one of the eligibility criteria for an EAD, such as a copy of their Form I-140 approval notice or their Form I-797 for Form I-129 showing their H1B extension under AC21.
  • A filing fee of $410 and two passport-style photos are also required.

Form I-765 can be filed online or by mail. Application processing times and status can be checked on the USCIS website.

H4 EAD Benefits and Limitations

Upon approval, you’ll receive an EAD card allowing work for any employer and in any field in the US.

You can also apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) and open a bank account.

The EAD is valid as long as your H4 status remains valid, typically aligned with your spouse’s or parent’s H1B status.

However, there are limitations and risks associated with working on an H4 EAD. For instance:

  • Work cannot start until you receive the EAD card, which might take a few months.
  • You can’t renew the EAD more than 180 days before it expires.
  • If your spouse or parent loses H1B status or their green card application is denied or withdrawn, the EAD can be canceled.
  • Uncertainty and delays may arise due to changes in immigration policies affecting the H4 EAD program.

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While working on an H4 visa in the USA is possible, it involves a detailed process.

Meeting specific eligibility criteria and obtaining a separate work permit, an EAD is essential.

Understanding the benefits and limitations of an H4 EAD is crucial.

If you’re contemplating working on an H4 visa, seeking guidance from an immigration attorney is advisable to navigate the process effectively.

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