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June 17, 2021

The H-4 Visa: Everything You Need to Know

Your comprehensive guide to joining your H-1B family member in the United States.

If you’re a H-1B visa holder in the United States with a family abroad, chances are that you want to bring your spouse and children with you. Well, with the H-4 visa, you can. 

Who is Eligible for a H-4 Visa?

The H-4 visa is a temporary, nonimmigrant visa for spouses and unmarried children under 21 of individuals with a H-1B visa. A H-4 visa holder can only enter the United States at the time of approval of the H-1B worker’s visa.

The validity of the H-4 status of a spouse or child is entirely dependent on the continued employment of the H-1B visa holder. While the H-1B visa is typically valid for 2-3 years, it can be extended, granting the H-4 visa holder an extension in the country as a result. 

How to Apply for a H-4 Visa

  1. In order to apply for a H-4 visa, begin by filling out Form DS-160 online. Keep the DS-160 barcode, print it and bring it to your interview. This application costs $190 — and save the receipt, just in case.
  2. As soon as you file the DS-160, schedule your appointment with the United States Embassy. You will receive a letter of confirmation when you do this, which you should save, too.
  3. Finally, attend your interview, during which the interviewers will attempt to determine whether your relationship to the H-1B visa holder is genuine. Be prepared to answer questions about your spouse (or parent) as well as your intent for going to the United States. 
  4. After the interview, you can check your visa status on the USCIS website. 
  5. If you have been granted a H-4 visa, the consulate will keep your passport and mail it to you with your H-4 visa stamp inside. 
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H-4 Visa Document Checklist 

  • Passport
  • Copy of the H-1B visa holder’s passport
  • Confirmation page of Form DS-160
  • US visa appointment letter (This will be e-mailed to you when you apply for an appointment)
  • Visa fee receipt
  • Passport-sized photograph of H-4 visa applicant
  • Copy of H-1B visa holder’s Form I-797
  • Letter from H-1B visa holder’s employer
  • Pay stubs from H-1B visa holder’s place of work
  • Marriage certificate
  • Children’s birth certificates
  • Proof of marriage. Examples include photos of the H-4 and H-1B applicant together, wedding album, wedding video, receipts of wedding payments, and wedding invitations.

    H-4 Visa: Potential Interview Questions

    • Why do you need a visa to the United States?
    • When did you get married?
    • When did you meet your spouse for the first time? How?
    • Where did you get married?
    • Where are you currently living? Who are you staying with?
    • Where will you live in the United States?
    • Who will financially support you in the United States?
    • Do you have any other relatives or friends in the United States?
    • What is your spouse’s date of birth? 
    • When did your spouse graduate? From which university?
    • Which company does your spouse work for? What is his annual income?
    • What will you do after your visa expires?

    H-4 Visa Processing Time

    The processing time for the H-4 visa depends on the caseload at the U.S. embassy. You may have to schedule your appointment several weeks in advance and even after you’re approved, it could take a few weeks for your passport to be mailed to you. There is also no premium processing option for the H-4 visa as there is with the H-1B visa.

    Can H-4 Visa Holders Work?

    Some H-4 visa holders can work as long as they are granted a work permit. As a H-4 visa holder, you are eligible to apply for work authorization in the United States if your spouse has been granted H-1B visa status and has an approved Form I-140, an immigrant petition for alien workers.

    If this applies to you, you will need to provide the United States government with proof that you are eligible to apply for and receive work authorization. Included among these documents are your current Form I-797, proof of your H-4 visa status through a Form I-94, your birth certificate, passport, marriage certificate, and proof of your spouse’s H-1B visa documentation. 

    After your I-765 is approved, your employment authorization document (EAD) will be issued to allow you to work. You cannot perform any type of work, including freelancing from home or working part-time, without an EAD. With the EAD, however, you can work for any company — your employment is not tied to a particular company, as is true with a H-1B visa.


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Keertana Anandraj
Keertana Anandraj is a recent college grad living in San Francisco. When she isn’t conducting international macroeconomic research at her day job, you can find her in the spin room or planning her next adventure.

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