What can you do in the United States with an H-4 visa?

January 6, 2014 admin

h-4-visaAs the H-1B cap season approaches, there is a great deal of information being distributed and shared about the rules, deadlines, and restrictions of the H-1B visa. Thousands of high-skilled foreign workers and their U.S. employers are focused on getting this coveted work visa, but it’s important not to forget the thousands more who will be traveling to the U.S. as dependent family members of H-1B visa holders on the H-4 visa.

As we explained in a recent post, H-4 visas are issued to spouses and minor children of H visa holders. Unlike other types of H visas, H-4 visas do not allow the holder to work in any capacity and their H-4 visa is only valid for as long as their H-1B family member is authorized to stay in the U.S. If the H visa worker loses his or her job and cannot find new employment, the H-4 visa dependents will ultimately lose their status as well.

Things you cannot do with an H-4 visa:

  • Obtain a Social Security Number
  • Legally work in the United States

Things you can do with an H-4 visa:

  • Study at a U.S. school
  • Obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for tax purposes
  • Open a U.S. bank account
  • Get a U.S. driver’s license
  • Change your H-4 status to another visa status (if you are eligible) by filing form I-539

It’s a common complaint among H-4 visa holders that they cannot legally work, so the option to change immigration status from H-4 is very popular. Ideally, some H-4 visa holders will qualify for a work visa of their own, often the H-1B visa. Other H-4 holders opt for the F-1 student visa or even the B visa, though B visas also do not offer permission to work.

The H-4 visa issue is a problem that needs to be addressed in any upcoming immigration reform bills. As of right now, almost every other type of U.S. work visa allows dependents to obtain work permits of their own, so it makes no sense to deny them.

A great deal of H-4 visa holders currently in the U.S. are software engineers, medical doctors, and other high-skilled professionals who spend years unable to contribute their knowledge and expertise to the U.S. economy due to this law. As a result, many of them suffer the psychological effects of feeling unproductive and wholly dependent on their spouse when they are used to being an independent, productive member of society. Hopefully 2014 will see immigration reforms needed to correct this situation that empower and protect family members of immigrant workers.

The post What can you do in the United States with an H-4 visa? appeared first on VISANOW Global Immigration.

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