H-4 Visa and H-4 EAD FAQs

I'm currently in H-4 status and going to university. How do I change to F-1?

You need an I-20 from a designated school official (DSO) at your university (contact whoever deals with international students/student affairs) and then apply to USCIS for a change of status using Form I-539.  Please be mindful that you need to remain in a valid status (maintain H-4) until your adjustment to F-1 is approved.

I'm in H-4 status and want to attend a US university, am I considered an international student?

This will vary between schools as each institution sets their own definitions/criteria for who qualifies as a domestic student for tuition purposes, so you should check where you apply. 

Can I start working as soon as I apply for an H-4 EAD?

No.  You must wait until your employment authorization is actually approved before you can start to work. 

I filed an extension for my employment authorization while in H-4 status, can I keep working if my current authorization expires while my extension is still pending?

Once your H-4 EAD expires, you cannot keep working without the approval of your extension.  H-4 status employment authorization is unique in this respect.

I am using my H-4 EAD to participate in a business partnership with a USC, what do I do if the H-4 EAD program is terminated?

You will no longer be able to participate in running the business—you may continue to receive profits as a passive investor (and make sure you properly adjust your tax filings to reflect this).

I used my H-4 EAD to start a business, what happens if my H-1B spouse loses his/her job? 

When your H-1B spouse's employment is terminated, he/she loses H-1B status and you also fall out of H-4 status.  You should consult with an attorney to figure out how to protect your company—as without status, your EAD is no longer valid and you cannot continue to run the business/be employed at all. 

Should I even attempt to apply for EAD while in H-4 status since it looks like the government is going to end the program?

It is probably worthwhile to try to gain approval at this point since there is no set end date for the program.  And the effect of the program being terminated is unknown; those in H-4 status with an existing employment authorization may be able to continue work until their expiration date.

My H-4 EAD was denied because I selected the wrong category, how should I fix this?

The quickest and most inexpensive solution to your problem is simply to re-file the I-765 with the correct information. [Is amendment possible?]

My application to change status to H-4 is pending, can I leave the US and receive my H-4 from a consulate?

Your change of status application will be considered abandoned if you leave the country, but as long as your spouse remains in H-1B status, you should be able to apply for an H-4 visa stamp to return.  Change of status does not need to be approved to apply for the visa “stamp.”

I'm in H-4 status and in the process of divorcing my H-1B spouse, how long can I stay in the US after the divorce is finalized?

There's no grace period, once the divorce is finalized you are no longer in H-4 status—so prior to this happening you should either apply for adjustment of status or make plans to leave the US. 

I have an H-4 EAD pending, can I travel overseas?

It's okay to travel abroad while a properly filed EAD is pending. 

I have a pending extension of my H-4 status and my spouse's I-140 was recently approved, may I apply for employment authorization right away or do I need to wait for the extension to be approved?

The H-4 spouse of an H-1B individual with an approved I-140 may apply for an EAD at any time.  You should request that USCIS use your pending extension as the basis for your EAD and submit evidence accordingly. 

I've been attending university in H-4 status as a dependent of my H-1B parent, but I'm about to turn 21 and age out while I still need [x amount of time] to complete my degree—what should I do?

You should apply for change of status to another non-immigrant status prior to turning 21, typically this would be F-1 for someone in your situation.  But currently USCIS is taking a long time to process these applications—most likely your F-1 application would still be pending when you graduated (obviously making you ineligible for status).  Aside from finding another valid non-immigrant status to apply for, one option is to contact the designated school official at your school about extending your program of study. 

Also, it is now USCIS policy that any nonimmigrant seeking to change to F-1 status must “bridge the gap” in their status that occurs while their F-1 application is pending by filing I-539s in some other valid status (such as change of status to B-2 followed by extensions (?)) until receiving F-1 approval.  Consult an attorney for more detailed advice specific to the facts of your case. 

Can an H-4 EAD be used for concurrent employment with different companies?

Yes, presently, H-4 EADs don't have any restrictions—having more than one employer at the same time and self-employment are okay. 

Do I need to tell my new employer that I will be working on an H-4 EAD?

While you won't have to produce your I-94, employers need to file an I-9 to verify to the IRS that any new hire is authorized to work in the US.  Your EAD will be required and your employer would be able to determine you were in H-4 status from that. 

I'm applying for an extension of H-4 status and renewal of my EAD but my passport will expire in 5 months.  Will USCIS approve my extension and EAD beyond the expiration date of my passport?

USCIS can grant an extension of status beyond your passport's expiration date and the EAD renewal's end date will be based off the I-94 granted.  Passport expiry dates are more of an issue for entry/re-entry into the US where they would result in a shortened I-94.

My H-1B spouse is being sponsored for an extension of status/change of employer—does my extension of H-4 status need to be filed at the same time or can it be done later?

You can do either, though filing together is preferable to avoid mistakes/forgetting to extend your status. 

Can I still apply for an H-4 EAD extension? ** time sensitive pending regulation going into effect?**

Yes, there is no set end date for the H-4 EAD program as of yet, so for now, you can still go forward with an application for extension. 

How long are H-4 EADs issued for?

Usually they will run for the duration of the primary beneficiary's H-1B status. 

I'm currently in H-1B status with a valid I-94 and a pending H-1B amendment.  Can I file for change of status to H-4 while the amendment Is pending?

Yes, if you qualify for H-4 status, you can apply for such a change of status while you have an H-1B amendment pending. 

I filed for extension of my H-4 status, can I apply for an EAD while the extension is pending?

Provided that you remain qualified for H-4 status, you should be able to apply for an EAD while the extension is pending—just attach the receipt notice for the I-539 for extension of H-4 status to your application for an EAD. 

I filed for an H-4 extension at the same time my H-1B spouse filed for their extension, can I apply for an EAD while the extensions are pending?

You can file for employment authorization while the extension is pending (make sure to attach the receipt notice for your extension to your EAD application), but it will not be approved until your H-4 extension is approved.  And your H-4 extension won't be approved before that of your H-1B spouse. 

Can I apply for an H-4 EAD while my spouse has an H-1B amendment pending?

Yes, your spouse's pending H-1B amendment shouldn't prevent you from seeking H-4 employment authorization.

The consulate denied my H-1B visa for [x reason/employer's right to control], my spouse is currently in the US working on H-1B status…am I able to apply for an H-4 visa?

Usually an H-1B visa denial should not prevent you from qualifying for an H-4 visa.  [Of course, depends on grounds for H-1B denial, may be disqualifying factors if not having to do with employment but beneficiary's background]. 

Can H-4 extension be filed with premium processing?

There is no premium processing option for H-4 extension applications or any other nonimmigrant status obtained by filing an I-539.  There's a chance that filing your H-4 extension along with the principal H-1B beneficiary's extension (filed with premium processing) will result in a quicker turnaround, but this is not a guarantee or obligation on the part of USCIS. 

How do I return if I travel outside the US while my change of status from H-1B to H-4 is pending?

Generally leaving the US while a change of status is pending will result in your application being considered abandoned.  If your H-1B visa and petition are still valid, you may re-enter on that basis.  Or, if you qualify for H-4 status, you can apply for an H-4 visa at a consulate and ultimately re-enter that way. 

Can I apply for an H-4 EAD based on my spouse's approved I-140 from his/her previous employer if more than 180 days have elapsed and he/she is working with a new employer?

If more than 180 days have passed and your spouse's previous employer has not revoked it, it will now remain valid and good for not only your H-4 EAD but other H-1B/H-4 status extensions as well. 

If my spouse returns to the US using his/her advance parole document, can I enter on an H-4 visa?

No.  If you want to enter the US on an H-4 visa, your spouse needs to return to the US in H-1B status, not by using an advance parole document. 

If my spouse is moving to a new H-1B employer do I need to apply for a new H-4 EAD?

No, your H-4 employment authorization is tied to your spouse's valid H-1B status—it is not conditional on he/she working for a particular employer.  Your spouse's H-1B transfer should not impact your H-4 status or EAD. 

My spouse has an H-1B extension pending, can I apply for an H-4 visa from abroad?

Only if your spouse is currently in H-1B status, otherwise you need to wait for his/her extension to be approved. 

Can I apply for an H-4 visa stamp from abroad while my H-1B spouse in the US?  Does it matter if his/her H-1B extension was approved but their visa stamp is expired?

So long as your spouse is currently in H-1B status you can apply for an H-4 visa from outside of the US.  The approved extension is relevant, an expired visa stamp has nothing to do with maintenance of H-1B status—it is only for his/her travel purposes. 

Can I use my H-4 EAD to participate in an LLC?

H-4 employment authorization is virtually unrestricted, there is no bar to participating in a limited liability company.

Can my H-4 EAD be used to earn income from rental properties and/or stocks?

H-4 EADs grant virtually unrestricted employment authorization, including self-employment like managing rental properties.  If the income from stocks is passive (dividends, capital gains, etc.) and the stocks are just investments (you're not managing anyone else's portfolio) an EAD would not even be necessary.  

I'm on H-4 and going abroad to apply for an H-1B stamp, if the consulate denies my visa application, can I return to the US on H-4 status?

If your H-4 visa stamp is still valid, you should be able to re-enter the US on that status regardless of the consulate's denial of your H-1B application.  But be aware that sometimes consulates will arbitrarily decide to cancel valid visas.

I'm working on an H-4 EAD, can a PERM and I-140 be filed on my behalf?

Yes, barring unusual circumstances, an H-4 EAD shouldn't adversely impact PERM or I-140 filings.

Do I need to maintain H-4 status while my I-485 is pending?

This is optional, but probably wise considering I-485 approval is not guaranteed.  If your I-485 is denied and you have not maintained status, you will need to leave the US. 

Do I have a choice of remaining in H-4 status if I have an H-1B approval?

Once you are approved for H-1B status you are out of H-4, you don't have your pick.  If the H-1B petition was sent for consular processing though (requiring you to travel out of the US and apply for the H-1B visa stamp to then re-enter on H-1B status), you could simply not go and remain in H-4.

I have an H-4 EAD and have been laid off, can I collect unemployment?

Assuming the H-4 EAD holder otherwise qualifies for unemployment, there is no bar to this. 

Can my H-1B spouse apply for my EAD if I am overseas?

No.  In order to apply for H-4 employment authorization, you must be in the US.  Your spouse cannot do this for you while you're abroad.

Can I continue to work on my H-4 EAD while my spouse is traveling outside the US for an extended period of time?

The legality of this situation is unclear—previously there was a memo stating that a principal beneficiary of nonimmigrant status (such as H-1B) cannot leave their dependent in the US for a protracted period of time.  If the principal is traveling for work-related reasons (for the H-1B employer), dependents can stay in the US.  It could be argued that if you are permitted to stay, then there should be no issue with continuing to use your EAD for a short period.  But there is no set guidance on this and you should consult with an attorney. 

I'm in H-4, can I remain in the US while my H-1B spouse takes short-term employment outside the country?

H-4 dependents are not required to always travel with/leave the US when the H-1B beneficiary does.  But for you to maintain H-4 status, your spouse must be validly in H-1B.  So, if your spouse's “short-term employment” is for his/her H-1B employer, this is not an issue.  However, if he/she has traveled outside the US taking non-H-1B employment, this is a violation of status.  And when your spouse is no longer H-1B you immediately fall out of H-4 and are not eligible to remain in the US. 

I have a valid H-1B but am living overseas with no project at this time.  I also have an H-4 visa stamp, am I able to travel to the US with it?  What should I expect at the port of entry?

If your H-4 visa stamp is still valid (you still have an H-1B spouse in the US), then you can use it to travel.  The officers at the POE will be looking for proof of your H-4 status, for example: the H-1B spouse's approval notice, receipt notice for H-4 status, spouse's pay slips, marriage certificate, etc.

My H-1B spouse had his/her visa stamp revoked due to a DUI conviction, can I still travel on my H-4 visa stamp?

A valid H-1B visa “stamp” is not required for maintenance of H-1B status, the consequence from the DUI only affects your H-1B spouse's ability to travel.  Your valid H-4 visa stamp is not revoked in concert and can still be used to travel. 

I'm on F-1 status and have filed for a change to H-4, do I need to stay in school until I get approval?

A timely filed request for change of status (made before your current status is expired) usually means you will be able to remain in the US without fully complying with all the conditions of the status you are changing from. 

I have an H-4 EAD, can I attend school full-time and still retain the right to work?

Yes, an H-4 EAD does not require you to be working to maintain the authorization—there is no reason you can't attend school full-time.  You will not lose your employment authorization by doing so (assuming your H-4 status remains valid). 

Can a person with an H-4 EAD collect unemployment benefits?  What if they were working as an independent contractor?

You could be eligible but will need to check the laws in your particular state.  Independent contractors are usually considered to be self-employed and ineligible for unemployment benefits. 

I have an H-4 EAD, if my H-1B spouse loses his/her job, how long can I continue to work?

You will lose H-4 status the day after your H-1B spouse loses his/her job.  So, the answer is basically you cannot continue to legally work. 

When my spouse's employer applied to extend his/her H-1B status, they didn't file my H-4 extension.  My I-94 expired before I realized this, and we hired an attorney to file a nunc pro tunc but [time period greater than 180 days] later, the court denied our request.  What are my options now?

It's important to remember your spouse's H-1B employer is not responsible for filing for your H-4 status/extension.  If it had been less than 180 days following the expiration of your I-94, a nunc pro tunc order would not have been necessary.  Unfortunately, given the time that has passed, your options are limited.  We recommend that you seek legal counsel, it's possible the NPT could be refiled with better results.  If this is unsuccessful, once you leave the US (as required) you will likely face a 3 or 10-year bar to re-entry.  We can advise you how to apply for a nonimmigrant waiver to the bar, but under this administration there are no guarantees of success.  

I'm in H-4 status and want to work as a teacher, how do I go about doing this?

While seeking an H-4 employment authorization document may be an option, you may also want to consider seeking an employer who will sponsor you for H-1B or J-1 status.  You should also be sure to check what the education and licensing requirements are for the level of teaching you want to pursue.

I have a change of status to H-4 pending and need to travel, do I need to put in a request for consular processing?

No.  The H-4 visa stamp can be applied for abroad with proof of the marriage and your spouse's current H-1B status.

If I'm working on an H-4 EAD, can my employer sponsor me for a green card or do I need to be in H-1B status?

There is no particular nonimmigrant status required for a green card, if your H-4 status and EAD remains current, it's possible you could continue to work just as you are throughout the entire green card process.

I have an approved I-140, if I change from H-1B to H-4, what impact will this have?  And will I be able to return to H-1B status?

Your employer may continue the case if they choose, but, in any case the I-140 priority date should be retained for a future green card case.   A change to H-4 should not prevent you from later resuming H-1B status. 

If I'm outside the US, can I use my unexpired H-1B visa stamp to re-enter, even if I intend to work on my H-4 EAD?

No.  Use of your H-1B visa stamp, even if it is not expired requires current H-1B status (an existing approved petition and job), you should apply for an H-4 visa stamp at the nearest consulate instead so that you can enter in H-4 status. 

After changing from H-1B to H-4, how do I switch back to H-1B?

Provided you have remaining H-1B time and the initial petition was cap-exempt, you should be able to regain H-1B status through any employer (that qualifies) without re-entering the lottery.

I'm currently in H-4 status and want to go overseas for a few months.  If I have an employer willing to sponsor me for an H-1B cap case, do I need to be in the US for that petition to be filed?

No—it's possible to apply for H-1B status for a beneficiary who is abroad, the petition will be sent for consular processing (meaning if you return on your H-4 status prior to its approval, you would need to travel outside the US to obtain the H-1B visa stamp and then re-enter on that status). 

I have a change of status from H-1B to H-4 that has been pending for a few weeks, is it too late to withdraw?

While you can request to withdraw, it's important to make sure that USCIS properly receives the request in connection with your case.  You should consider consulting an attorney to ensure that withdrawal is really the best course of action in your case.

I have filed a change of status from H-1B to H-4 but my H-1B I-94 is going to expire, will I need to leave the country?

No.  From your question you have “timely filed” your change of status request (you were still in valid H-1B status at the time) and consequently will be in a period of authorized stay while the change of status is pending. 

I'm in H-4 status and was charged with shoplifting, what immigration consequences will this have?

It's important for you to consult a criminal attorney in the state you live to determine what penalties shoplifting carries—depending on that, a shoplifting conviction/plea might mean you are removable (can be deported).

I initially entered the US on F-2 status, but my spouse changed from F-1 to H-1B and I filed for a change of status to H-4.  After that I decided to enroll in university and filed for F-1 status—that was approved in [x month] starting right away.  H-4 status was approved in [y month, earlier than x] with a start date of [z month, later than x]…I am not sure which status I'm in?

In cases like yours, USCIS generally regards the last change of status to take effect to be the binding one.  So, even though the H-4 status was approved earlier than F-1, it did not take effect until after the F-1—USCIS would consider you to be in H-4 status. 

How long will my H-4 status be valid after my H-1B spouse files an I-485?

So long as your spouse retains H-1B status, your H-4 status will continue, the filing of an I-485 does not have any effect—it is only if the H-1B primary is approved or begins to work on an EAD (based on the I-485) that your H-4 status will be impacted. 

I'm currently in F-1 status, do I need to change to H-4 in order to be eligible as a beneficiary of my spouse's approved I-140?

No.  H-4 status is not required to be a derivative beneficiary in your spouse's green card case, your eligibility is automatic as his/her spouse. 

I'm in H-4 status pursuing a Master of Science, do I need to switch to F-1 if I want to be eligible for the master's cap?

No.  So long as your master's degree is acquired from an accredited non-profit US university, you will be eligible for the master's cap.  Since you can attend school full-time in H-4 status, there is no reason you would have to switch to F-1 (unless some situation arises where you would no longer qualify for H-4). 

Can I enter the US on H-4 status while 6-7 months pregnant?

Yes. There is no immigration prohibition on entering while visibly pregnant on H-4 status. Your situation is different from that of someone on B status or a tourist. 

Do I need to go abroad if I want to change status from H-1B to H-4 and apply for an EAD?

No, you can apply for a change of status to H-4 within the US and could continue to work on H-1B status until H-4 approval —but if you leave while that application is pending it will be considered abandoned and you could simply apply for an H-4 visa at a consular office with evidence of your marriage and spouse's H-1B employment.  Then you could only file for the EAD upon your return to the US and there would likely be a 90 day wait for approval.

If I'm running a company on my H-4 EAD, can my H-1B spouse work for me if he/she doesn't collect a salary?

No.  Your H-1B spouse working for you would be unauthorized employment—whether he/she is compensated or not.

I have been visiting my boyfriend/girlfriend in the US while on a B visa and we have decided to get married, can I apply for H-4 status in the US, or do I need to go abroad?

Because of the nature of B visas (explicitly incompatible with any type of immigrant intent), it would be best to go over the specifics of your case in a consultation.  The most important thing is that you did not make any misrepresentations on your B visa application. 

If I change from H-1B to H-4, will time spent working on an H-4 EAD count towards my 6 years of H-1B?

No.  H-4 EAD work time does not count towards H-1B time. 

How long does it take to switch from H-1B to H-4?  Can I work on H-1B up until the time of H-4 approval?

The change of status to H-4 typically takes 3-4 months (possibly faster if the H-1B was premium processing?).  You can continue working in H-1B status until your change of status to H-4 is approved. 

What happens to my H-4 EAD if my H-1B spouse loses his/her job, makes a change of employer, or just wants to take a break?

H-4 EAD requires maintenance of H-4 status which means your H-1B spouse must maintain his/her status.  So, a change of your spouse's H-1B employer will not affect your H-4 EAD.  But he/she losing his/her job or “taking a break” would mean loss of H-1B status and your simultaneous loss of H-4. 

If my spouse's H-1B cap case is selected in the lottery, when do I need to change status from F-2 to H-4?  What if my application to change status is not approved until after my spouse's employer files his/her cap case?

If you already applied for F-2 status (even if you were not approved yet) you can file your change of status to H-4 along with your spouse's H-1B cap case.  But they don't have to be filed together--as long as you submit your change of status prior to the [October 1] start date, it is fine.

I'm in H-1B status but plan to go for H-4 visa stamping, will my H-1B status be canceled if I get the H-4 visa stamp?

The H-4 visa will not impact your H-1B status, but you can only hold one status at a time—so if you are switching to H-4 status because your employment is ending, it is better for the H-1B employer to revoke their petition.

What do I need to do to change status from H-4 to F-1?

You must file form I-539 to request a change of status from H-4 to F-1—and the school you will be enrolling in/are currently attending would file form I-20 on your behalf.  But do note that you can be a full-time student on H-4 status, most likely you are asking this question as a dependent child about to age-out of H-4.  In which case you should be aware that you must “bridge” any gap in status after your H-4 status expires and your F-1 status is approved (with some other valid non-immigrant status). 

I'm an H-4 spouse, can I study full-time and later change to F-1 status?

Yes, an H-4 spouse is free to attend school full-time and there is no bar in applying for a change of status to F-1.  Just make sure to allow enough time so that your COS is not still pending when you're about to complete your course of study.  If you make the change far enough in advance, you should be able to qualify for OPT. 

I'm in H-4 status but have spent most of my time out of the US due to personal reasons.  Will this impact I-485 approval?

There are no restrictions on the amount of time someone in H-4 status can spend outside the US.  What's important is that H-4 status was continuously maintained and valid at the time of filing the I-485.  You should also have an advance parole document in case you can no longer enter the US on H-4 status (due to the primary's I-485 being approved). 

If my H-1B spouse changes job locations after he/she has an approved extension, what impact will this have on my first H-4 visa stamping overseas?

The H-1B spouse should have their status in order before you go for visa stamping, any change in work location would require a change in the LCA, or in the case of an end-client site, your spouse's H-1B employer should file for an amendment re: the new work site.  Until the potential issues with your spouse's H-1B status are resolved, it is best to hold off on seeking your H-4 visa for the first time. 

I am overseas and my H-1B petition was denied, can I enter the US on H-4 and file an appeal or a motion to reopen/reconsider?

If you can be in the US within 30 days of the denial, then it's possible.  But if your petition is cap-exempt, re-filing with more supporting evidence may be the better option.  We suggest you seek legal counsel to evaluate your choices going forward. 

My spouse has an approved H-1B petition with a start date of October 1st and I am abroad, can I apply for an H-4 visa now and join him/her on/after the start date?

If your spouse remains in the US (and the petition is for change of status), you cannot apply for your H-4 visa until October 1 (when he/she is in H-1B status).  If, however, your spouse travels abroad prior to the start date, he/she will need an H-1B visa to re-enter the US and you could apply for your H-4 visa at the same time (prior to October 1). 

If I'm currently in H-4 and apply for a change of status to J-1 from within the US and it is rejected, will I also lose my H-4 status? 

No.  As long as you remain qualified for H-4 status and your I-94 is not expired, a denial on a change of status position does not affect your current nonimmigrant status. 

I'm currently H-1B with an approved I-140 with a priority date of [x], if I change to H-4 status will I lose my priority date?

No.  Your priority date is locked in once the I-140 is approved, change of status to H-4 will not impact this. 

I have an H-4 visa and am in the US, is it okay for me to be a volunteer/participate in charity/partake in [x: actual Q is “blogging”] and donate any revenue from [x] to charity?

So, unpaid volunteer work or participation in a charity while in H-4 status should be fine as long as the position you're working in is not a productive one or one that if filled by a citizen would otherwise be compensated. 

As to hobbies that generate profit, such as blogging, the question is whether this would qualify as unauthorized employment—not so much what you do with the profits.  Ad revenue from online platforms most likely crosses the amorphous boundary of what constitutes “employment,” and would be prohibited even if you give away whatever is earned.   

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