Only the spouse and minor children (under age 21) who accompany the H-1B visa holder to the U.S. may receive H-4 dependent status. Their eligibility to stay legally in the U.S., as well as to extend their stay, is contingent upon the H-1B visa holder maintaining his or her legal status and extending his or her program in a timely manner.
All other family members may be eligible for a B-1 or B-2 visitor’s visa to gain entry to the U.S.
Holders of H-4 visas are NOT permitted to work.
There are currently no restrictions on study for H-4 dependents. They may study full-time or part-time.
How to Obtain H-4 Status for your Dependent
Please Note: OIA does not provide legal representation for the H-1B employee's family members. H-1B employees are responsible for monitoring the status of their H-4 dependents. The OIA provides the following information only to assist the employee's family in gathering the required documents for USCIS.
Inside the U.S.
If the dependent is in the U.S. and is filing for a change to or to extend his or her H-4 status, Form I-539, Application to Extend-Change Non-Immigrant Status must be filed with the USCIS along with the $290 fee. This form is a separate petition from the worker’s petition but is normally filed along with the I-129 at the time of the original petition by OIA. OIA only files the Form I-539 as a courtesy and does not provide legal representation for the employee’s family members. The attorney handling the H-1B petition will bill the H-1B employee directly for any services rendered on behalf of the dependents.
The OIA provides the following checklist to assist the employee’s family in gathering the documents required by USCIS.
- Form I-539: The H-1B applicant’s oldest dependent family member completes Form I-539 (this is generally a spouse). This form is the oldest dependent’s application to change or to extend his or her status. Additional dependents are included on Supplement-1 of Form I-539 (complete only one form for entire family). The form MUST be signed at Part 5. The H-1B employee applicant can only sign if all dependents are children under the age of 14.
- If there is more than one family member, the Supplemental Form to I-539 needs be completed to include those family members.
- Copies of each dependent's passport identification and expiration page(s).
- Copies of each dependent's U.S. visa.
- Copies of each dependent's Form I-94 card or electronic record.
- Copies of other relevant immigration documents for each dependent (e.g. I-20 for F-2 dependents, DS-2019s for J-2 dependents, I-797 approval notices for H-4 dependents, etc.).
- Check for $290 made payable to "The Department of Homeland Security."
All correspondence related to the Form I-539 filing will be sent by USCIS directly to the applicants.
For those whose family members are currently in the U.S. in another immigration status and wish to change to H-4, please schedule an appointment to obtain advice on how to change status.
Outside the U.S.
For those whose family members are currently outside the U.S., there is no requirement to file an application with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) prior to a visa interview, or to obtain documentation from the OIA. If the dependent is outside the U.S., he or she must take a copy of the approved H petition along with proof of the dependent relationship to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest their home. Consult the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where your dependent(s) will apply for their H-4 visa(s) for information on visa appointments and any documents that they require.
Your dependents should bring the following with them to their visa appointment:
- Copy of your passport identification and expiration page(s).
- Copy of your U.S. visa.
- Copy of your I-94.
- Copy of your I-797 H-1B approval notice.
- Your three most recent paycheck stubs if already employed in the United States.
- Evidence of their relationship to you (e.g. marriage certificate, birth certificate).