Understanding the US Family (H4) Visa
The US Family (H4) visa is a type of visa that allows immediate family members of H-1B visa holders to live in the US as dependents of the primary visa holder. It is typically issued to spouses and dependent children of H-1B visa holders and enables them to join their primary visa holder in the US.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant work visa that lets US employers hire foreign workers in specialty occupations that require high levels of education and expertise. The H-4 visa is designed to allow the immediate family members of the H-1B visa holder to legally reside in the US for the duration of the primary visa holder’s stay.
If you are planning to move to the US with your H-1B visa holding spouse, here are some crucial points you should know about the H-4 visa.
Eligibility Criteria for H-4 Visa
To be eligible for an H-4 visa, you must satisfy the following criteria:
- You must be a spouse or an unmarried child under 21 years of age of an H-1B visa holder
- You should have a valid H-4 visa petition filed by the H-1B visa holder, indicating you as a dependent
- You should not be inadmissible to the US on any grounds, such as criminal or security reasons
Application Process for H-4 Visa
To apply for an H-4 visa, you need to follow these steps:
- File an H-4 visa application with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Submit all the required documents, such as passport, marriage certificate, birth certificate, and H-1B visa holder’s approval notice
- Attend an interview at the US Embassy or Consulate in your home country
- Pay the visa application fee, which varies according to the country
H-4 Visa Processing Time
The processing time for an H-4 visa depends on various factors, such as the size of the US embassy, your country of origin, and the time of year. It typically ranges between 2-4 months, but some visas can be processed in as little as a few days. It is advisable to plan ahead and leave enough time for the visa processing.
H-4 Visa Validity
An H-4 visa is valid for the same duration as the primary H-1B visa holder’s stay in the US. In other words, if the H-1B visa holder has a 3-year visa, the H-4 visa holder will also have a visa for three years. However, the H-4 visa validity also depends on the expiration date of the passport and other necessary documents.
Can H-4 Visa Holders Work in the US?
H-4 visa holders were not previously allowed to work in the US, but a rule change in 2015 lets certain H-4 visa holders apply for work authorization if their H-1B spouse has an approved I-140 petition or has extended their visa beyond six years based on a labor certification.
1. Can I study on an H-4 visa?
Yes, you can study on an H-4 visa in the US. You can enroll in any academic program or take courses in any subject, provided you are admitted to the school.
2. Can I travel freely on an H-4 visa?
Yes, you can travel freely on an H-4 visa, provided you have a valid visa and the necessary travel documents.
3. Can I change my status from H-4 to another visa category?
Yes, you can change your status from H-4 to another visa category if you are eligible and meet the necessary criteria for the new visa category.
4. What happens if the H-1B visa holder loses their job?
If the H-1B visa holder loses their job, their H-4 dependent spouse’s visa status may be affected. In this case, the H-4 visa holder would need to find another way to remain in the US, such as changing their status or finding alternative employment.
5. Can I apply for permanent residency (green card) on an H-4 visa?
Yes, you can apply for permanent residency on an H-4 visa. You can file for adjustment of status if you meet the eligibility requirements for a green card. However, the process may take a long time depending on your situation.
The H-4 visa is a valuable resource for immediate family members of H-1B visa holders who want to live in the same country. Understanding the eligibility criteria, application process, and FAQs will help you to navigate the H-4 visa process with ease.