Immigrate

7 min read

July 08, 2021

The H-4 EAD Process: Everything You Need to Know

Learn how you can work in the US if you’re accompanying a H-1B visa holder.

So, your spouse has received a H-1B visa and your family will be making its way to the United States to work sometime soon — exciting times! And one of the most exciting aspects of going to the US on an H-1B visa is the potential opportunity for your spouse to secure an H-4 EAD and follow their professional interests while in the United States with you. 

Fortunately, there is an option available for these individuals looking to work while in the United States — one that many people might not know about: requesting an Employment Authorization Document.

What is the H-4 EAD?

The H-4 EAD states that the individual requesting to work is legally eligible to work in the United States with the correct credentials. This is specifically available to qualified H-4 visa holders, that is, individuals married to approved H-1B visa holders

Who is Eligible for the H-4 EAD?

Not all H-4 visa holders are eligible to request an EAD. According to USCIS, the following H-4 visa holders are eligible to make the EAD request:

  • When the accompanying H-1B visa holder has actually been specifically issued their visa under the American Competitiveness in the Twentieth Century Act of 2000, Sections 106(a) and (b).
  • When the H-1B visa holder has been approved for their Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker request via Form-140.

Currently, there are no specifically stated skills or professions that are prioritized for H-4 visa holders making an EAD request. Instead, USCIS seems to be currently focused on the primary visa holder’s legal status as it relates to the H-4 visa holder’s when they make their request. 

The EAD also allows applicants to work in whatever job that they feel like applying for. There is no requirement specific to the type of work that they should do after their H-4 EAD request is approved.

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Advantages of Obtaining Your EAD

For many accompanying spouses, the question of how to avoid disrupting their professional dreams and goals is an important part of deciding to go abroad. Being approved to work by requesting an H-4 EAD has a number of advantages for both the approved applicant and the family as a whole:

  • Eliminate some of the financial stress of living overseas. Having your accompanying spouse work can also help the family as a unit defray some of the expenses that may be unique to life in the US. Also, if you’re managing expenses in your home country, having both you and your spouse work could make your time in the United States a lot less stressful. 
  • The option to explore an entrepreneurship goal and open a business. If your business is successful, it could really impact future opportunities that you may decide to explore in the US.

Ultimately, requesting an H-4 EAD may expand the types of opportunities that your family can explore while living in the States.

How to Apply for the EAD

Now that you’ve given this some thought and can see some of the advantages to having an H-4 EAD, here’s the breakdown of the application process. 

Collect all of your supplemental documentation that may be needed for the application process:

  • Copy of your Form I-94
  • Copy of your Form I-797 
  • Proof of identity which can include, but isn’t limited, to the following:
  • Passport
  • Government-issued ID from your home country
  • Photo ID and birth certificate
  • A visa that has been issued by a foreign consulate. Work with your immigration lawyer for clarification on which visas would be in compliance when submitting this documentation.
  • File Form I-765, which is the Application for Employment Request.
  • Proof of your connection to the primary H-1B holder. An example of this is proof of marriage with a marriage certificate.
  • Proof as to why you’re eligible to make an H-4 EAD request, such as the fact that your spouse has been approved for H-1B status.

Please note that if you’re applying for an adjustment of status and using Form I-485 in addition to filing Form I-765, the process may be impacted by the dual requests. Form I-485 will “take precedence” over Form I-765 when it comes to which fees you should pay. As always, it is advised to work with an immigration lawyer to help manage the nuances of the process and avoid making accidental mistakes.

Be prepared in case you’re asked to provide additional documentation by the processing center working on your case. There is currently a brief suspension of biometric appointments for certain visa requests. But, you may still need to schedule a biometric appointment. Work with your immigration lawyer for clarity on this issue as details are changing quickly.

H-4 EAD Processing Time

If you’re wondering how long it can take for this type of request to be processed, head to the USCIS website and check the processing time for the I-765 form and the specific processing center that it’s being adjudicated at. Each processing center has different time frames for processing immigration requests. 

If you would like to track your specific case’s progress, make sure to keep your USCIS receipt number on hand and use the Case Status tracker on the USCIS website.

If you’re in a rush, you can file for Premium Processing. In the fall of 2020, legislation passed that allowed H-4 EAD applicants the ability to expedite their requests. As this is a new development, work with an immigration lawyer to get more details on the process. 

If you’re a spouse accompanying an H-1B visa holder, know that you have additional professional opportunities that you may be able to explore while you live in the United States. Research your eligibility today and get started on the process.

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Michelle Jackson
With 10+ years of experience working in the immigration and personal finance space, Michelle has written for leading publications like Business Insider and Vice.

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