The H class of visas is primarily used to temporarily permit foreign nationals to enter the US for employment and work training. However, there is one exception: the H-4 visa. These visas are not for employment. In fact, H-4 recipients are not automatically authorized to work in the US, and employers may not sponsor H-4 candidates independently.
However, H-4 visas still play an important role in supporting employment immigration. Why? Because they permit H-1B and other H-class beneficiaries to bring their dependent family members to the US. This helps keep families together and may play an important role in streamlining family immigration, too.
What Is an H-4 Visa?
When a foreign national receives an H-class visa, such as the H-1B or H-2B, they can enter the US for a limited period to work for their sponsoring company. However, only people with specific skills, education, or experience are eligible for these visas. By definition, minors and homemakers cannot enter the US for employment.
If every foreign national legally entering the US to work had to leave their families behind, the number of candidates seeking these visas would drop dramatically. This is particularly true for H-1Bs, as candidates often start families while gaining the skills necessary to qualify. Forcing these candidates to travel to the US alone would likely reduce the average age and, therefore, the qualifications of willing candidates. Since the purpose of H-1B visas is to supplement the American workforce with highly skilled foreign labor, forcing people to leave their families behind is counterproductive.
That’s why the H-4 program exists. It allows candidates to bring their families with them for the duration of their employment visa on temporary, nonimmigration status. That encourages people with more life experience to apply because they may bring their closest loved ones.
Who Is Eligible for H-4 Status?
There are no skill or experience requirements for H-4 visas. Instead, eligibility for the program is based on the relationships of the original H-class candidate. Candidates for any other H-class visa may bring their spouse or unmarried children younger than 21 to the US on an H-4 visa if selected.
It is important to note that children older than 21 are no longer eligible for H-4 status. If a child turns 21 in the US while on an H-4, they may be required to leave the country. To prevent them from being separated from their families, they can apply for a status change to an F1 or M1 student visa instead. This requires the child to be accepted by and attend a college, but if this is already part of the family’s plans, that poses little problem.
How to Apply for H-4 Visas
The most effective way to apply for an H-4 is by submitting it alongside another H-class visa application. This ensures that all applications are processed simultaneously and that no one gets left behind.
Each family member applicant will need to fill out Form DS-160 – Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. If their employed loved one has been approved for a H-1B visa, the applicants will also need to provide a copy of their Form I-797 – H-1B Approval Notice.
Once the application is submitted, spouses will need copies of their marriage certificates, and children will need their birth certificates. Everyone involved will also need valid passports from their home countries that are valid for at least six months past the date of application and extra passport-style photos for the visas. They will present these materials at their consulate interviews to confirm their eligibility for an H-4.
Simplify the H-4 Application Process With Expert Legal Help
If you’re preparing to enter the US on an employment visa, you can bring your immediate family with you. However, successfully applying for an H-4 visa can be a time-consuming and complicated process. The best way to move forward and avoid costly mistakes is to work with a skilled immigration attorney during your application.
The experts at Litwin & Smith can help. Our skilled team has spent decades assisting families to enter the US through the H-1B and H-4 visas. Schedule your consultation today to discuss your concerns and learn how we can help you.