H-1B Dependents - H4 Visa Status

The H4 visa is reserved for dependents of H-1B beneficiaries. H4 dependents are defined as the spouse and unmarried minor (under the age of 21) child(ren) of the primary H-1B beneficiary. 

Benefits for H-4 Visa Holders 

  • Study: H-4 dependents are eligible for full-time and part-time study.
  • Employment: H-4 dependents are not authorized for employment unless the principal H-1B beneficiary has an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, as part of an employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) application. If applicable, the H-4 dependent spouse may apply to USCIS for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to request employment authorization.
  • USCIS provides guidance on Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses.

 Required Documentation

  • Applying for an H4 Visa Outside the U.S.: Dependents do not need to file additional documents with International Services or with USCIS. Dependents use the H-1B beneficiary's  I-797 Approval Notice to apply for the H-4 visa and do not receive their own individual I-797 Approval Notices from USCIS.
  • Extending or Changing Status: 
    • The H-1B beneficiary and the H-4 dependent are responsible for maintaining the H-4 status. The dependent must file Form I-539 to change his/her status in any way, including changing to a different visa category, extending the H-4 end date, or documenting the beneficiary's change of employer.
    • If the dependent is in the U.S., International Services can include the dependent's H4 application with the H-1B beneficiary's application to USCIS.
  • Travel: When traveling, H-4 dependents should carry a copy of the H-1B Approval Notice, a copy of the H-1B petition most recently submitted to USCIS, as well as any other relevant documents related to H-4 status (Approval Notice, H-4 visa stamp, letter from hiring department confirming employment) and a valid passport.

Filing USCIS Form I-539

USCIS Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, along with the I-539 filing fee, the biometrics fee (if needed), and all supporting documents, must accompany the H-1B application when it is submitted to USCIS. If there is more than one dependent, USCIS Form I539A and additional supporting documents are required for each dependent. 

Please thoroughly read the Instructions for Completing Form I-539 and Instructions for Form I-1539A on the USCIS website before submitting the Dependent(s) Application to International Services or USCIS.

Documents Required for H4 Dependent(s):

  • A completed I-539 form for the primary dependent and I-539A for each additional dependent with original signatures and required filing fee.
  • Checks for the I-539 filing fee that must be made payable to The Department of Homeland Security. 
  • Photocopies of the following:
    • H-1B Approval Notice or H-1B visa stamp for primary beneficiary.
    • Official marriage certificate for the spouse.
    • Birth certificate(s) for each child.
    • Biographical page and most recent entry stamp within a valid passport for each dependent.
    • Most recent I-94 Arrival Departure Record for each dependent.

Reminder: If dependents are outside the U.S., they will apply at a U.S. Embassy abroad for an H4 visa using the I-797A Approval Notice of the H-1B beneficiary and are not required to submit the I-539 or I-539A.

Disclaimer Statement

International Services offers guidance on I-539 applications as a courtesy to Clemson University-sponsored scholars and dependents. We make every attempt to ensure that we provide the most up-to-date information on filing an I-539 that is available. However, any advice provided by our office does not constitute legal advice. You must independently verify accuracy and adhere to deadlines on all I-539 applications before mailing or submitting them online to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Applications for H4 dependent status are personal applications and the responsibility of the H-1B beneficiary and the dependent(s). USCIS will process the application based on an individual's immigration history. International Services exercises our best efforts to provide the most current guidance, but it is important to know that USCIS may change its interpretation of applicable policies, procedures, regulations, and eligibility requirements at any time. International Services is not responsible for and expressly disclaims liability for any errors or omissions relating to an I-539 application and any decisions made by USCIS. If necessary, dependents are encouraged to consult with a licensed and experienced immigration attorney at their own expense. 

Additional Resources

If you have any questions about the H-1B visa or application process, please contact International Services at empvisa@clemson.edu