What is the H-4 EAD?

Last Updated on July 2, 2024

Overview of the H-4 Visa 

Often, employees seek to bring their family with them when relocating for an assignment. This means that H-4 dependent visas are an important part of the global mobility and immigration process.  

The H-4 visa is a dependent visa granted to immediate family members of primary H visa holders. This special classification is designed to support families of H-1B, H-2A, H-2B and H-3 visa holders, allowing spouses and unmarried children under 21 to accompany their family members to the United States. 

Image of a family holding a child smiling at the camera with the Envoy Global logo in the bottom right hand corner.

What is the H-4 Visa? 

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

Benefits of the H-4 Visa 

H-4 visa holders enjoy several benefits, including the ability to: 

  • Study at a U.S. school 
  • Open a U.S. bank account 
  • Obtain a U.S. driver’s license 

Dependent Visa Qualifications: Are You Eligible? 

To qualify for an H-4 visa, the applicant must be the spouse or an unmarried child under 21 years old of a primary H visa holder. 

Note: H-4 visa holders can enter the U.S. with H-4 status and may accompany the primary H visa holder, for the same duration as the H visa holder. However, the H-4 dependent visa does not initially permit dependents to work, although they are eligible to study in the U.S.  

How Much Does the H-4 Visa Cost? 

For detailed information about the costs associated with the H-4 visa, please refer to the fee glossary in our ABCs of Immigration Guide. 

Understanding the Dependent Visa and Employment Authorization 

The H-4 visa can provide work authorization to eligible individuals, significantly benefiting dependent spouses, but only if/after the H visa holder obtains an approved I-140 Immigrant Petition. Thereafter, the H-4 spouse may apply for an H-4 Employment Authorization Document. 

Can H-4 Visa Holders Work? 

H-4 visa holders can work under specific conditions. Since 2015, certain dependent visa holders have been eligible for employment authorization. Tthe H-1B visa holder must be the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) and have been granted H-1B status to work. The spouse must file Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) before beginning work in the U.S. 

H-4 Visa EAD Processing Time 

EAD applications for H-4 visa holders are typically processed within three to five months. However, processing times can vary depending upon USCIS caseload. It may be possible to get the H-4 EAD within 15 days under premium processing but only if the primary worker (H-1b, etc.) files for change of employer or extension of status under premium processing. In doing so, USCIS typically bundles the applications together to process at the same time, providing the H-4 spouse the benefit of the premium processing filed for the H-1b (or H-2 or H-3) employee. It’s advisable to start the process as soon as possible if you wish to begin working promptly. 

Benefits of Working on the H-4 Visa 

H-4 holders re allowed to work for any employer in the U.S. without restrictions once they have received their EAD.  This can include part-time employment or full-time employment.  

H-4 Status and EAD Eligibility Under Scrutiny

The H-4 EAD has faced scrutiny and proposed changes. In early 2019 and again in 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed rules to remove H-4 dependent spouses from the class of aliens eligible for employment authorization. However, these proposals have not been finalized and do not appear likely to occur, so USCIS continues to accept and adjudicate EAD applications and extensions under the current rules. 

Impact on the U.S. Economy 

H-4 visa holders with employment authorization contribute significantly to the U.S. economy. Revoking their work authorization could negatively impact the U.S. workforce and economy, as highlighted by studies sponsored by organizations like The Jack Kemp Foundation. 

About Envoy Global and the H Visa Process 

Envoy Global helps navigate the complexities of the H visa process through its secure technology platform and partnership skilled immigration professionals. For more information on simplifying your company’s immigration program and obtaining an H visa for skilled foreign talent, check out our ABCs of immigration guide.  


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.