The H-1B visa is one of the most common nonimmigrant work visas the United States provides for workers in specialty occupations. If the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) approves your petition, you will be able to live and work in the U.S.

However, you do not want to leave your family behind. Yet, the H-1B visa does not cover your family. Any dependents will have to apply for a whole different visa after you receive approval – the H-4 visa.

What is the H-4 visa?

H-4 visas are specifically for any dependents of someone with an H-1B visa, such as your spouse or children under 21-years-old. This visa allows your loved ones to live with you in the U.S. while your visa is valid.

Under this visa, they can participate in many of the same things as any other citizen, such as:

  • Attending schools and universities;
  • Receiving a driver’s license; and
  • Opening financial accounts.

The H-4 visa remains valid as long as the H-1B visa is valid – which can last for up to six years.

Can H-4 visa holders work?

However, the H-4 visa does not allow your dependents to work – at least, not automatically. Your spouse must obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with their visa if they wish to work.

Employment of an H-4 visa holder is only allowed in specific circumstances. Therefore, if your spouse or another dependent wish to work in the U.S., it is critical for you and your family to:

  • Review your eligibility and the requirements before you apply; and
  • Speak with an experienced attorney.

Applying for the proper visas and documentation can be complex, but an attorney can help you to ensure that you protect your rights effectively.