USCIS allows immediate family members of H visa holders (H-1A, H-1B, 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.
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) is extending 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. These H-4 dependent spouses are also eligible to receive social security numbers.
Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses
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 Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (AC21).
Other H-4 visa holders are not eligible to get a Social Security Number and cannot be employed, but they can hold a driver's license, open bank accounts, and get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number for US tax purposes.
Since 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, though 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 US for the duration of the primary (H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3) visa validity.
Number of visas issued by year
In the table below, the years are Fiscal Years, so for instance the year 2009 refers to the period from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009. Note that this only counts 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.
|Fiscal Year||Total number of H-4 visas issued|
- 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.
- "Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status". USCIS. Retrieved 9 August 2010.
- "DHS Extends Eligibility for Employment Authorization to Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses of H-1B Nonimmigrants Seeking Employment-Based Lawful Permanent Residence". USCIS. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
- "Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses". USCIS. Retrieved 2016-02-28.
- "Non-immigrant visa statistics". United States Department of State. Retrieved January 29, 2017.