H-4 EAD: Everything You Need to Know

Last Updated on November 29, 2023

The H-4 visa is designed for dependents, and it can provide work authorization to eligible individuals. the H-4 visa may be issued to dependent spouses and minor children under age 21.

A closer look at the H-4 Visa and Employment Authorization Documents

What is the H-4? 

The H-4 is a dependent visa available to dependent spouses and minor children (under 21) of the following visa holders: 

What are the Benefits of the H-4 Visa? 

H-4 visa holders can enjoy certain benefits that come with holding this visa. For example, they can study at a U.S. school and open a U.S. bank account, and certain H-4 visa holders may obtain a U.S. driver’s license.

Can I Work With the H-4 Visa? 

This answer depends on the situation. H-4 visa holders can work, but they need to meet certain criteria to secure employment authorization. USCIS first started issuing employment authorization to H-4 visa holders in 2015. 

In order to work, the H-1B nonimmigrant visa holder must be the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, and their has been granted H-1B status, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

More so, spouses will need to file a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and receive their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) before they can start working in the U.S. 

H-4 Visa EAD Processing Time 

Some spouses on the H-4 are eligible to work in the U.S., as highlighted in the previous section. One common question H-4 visa holders typically have concerns over the H-4 EAD timeline. 

Generally, EAD applications are processed within three to five months of when they were submitted. Individuals who would like to start working immediately should start the process as soon as they are able.

Benefits of Working on the H-4 Visa 

Once approved for a H-4 EAD and the EAD is received, H-4 visa holders may work for any employer in the U.S. 

H-4 Status and EAD Eligibility Under Scrutiny 

The H-4 EAD has been in the news quite a bit since 2017. 

In early February 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) submitted a proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to remove “H-4 dependent spouses from the class of aliens eligible for employment authorization.” DHS and USCIS proposed a rule again in 2020 titled ‘Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses From the Classes of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization,’ but it never became a final rule.

USCIS will continue to accept and adjudicate initial EAD applications and extensions filed by eligible H-4 dependents under the current rule unless and until a rescission regulation is finalized.

H-4 Visa Impact on U.S. Economy 

Immigrants have long contributed to the U.S. economy, and the same applies to individuals who have secured a H-4 EAD. There could potentially be negative impacts on the U.S. economy and workforce by revoking the H-4 work authorization, according to a study sponsored by The Jack Kemp Foundation.

To learn more about the H-4 visa, read through our guide, ‘Introduction to the H Visas.’ 

Envoy is pleased to provide you with this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Corporate Immigration Partners, P.C., a U.S. law firm who provides services through the Envoy Platform (the “U.S. Law Firm”).  

Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. Envoy is not a law firm, and does not provide legal advice. If you would like guidance on how this information may impact your particular situation and you are a client of the U.S. Law Firm, consult your attorney. If you are not a client of the U.S. Law Firm working with Envoy, consult another qualified professional. This website does not create an attorney-client relationship with the U.S. Law Firm.