An H-4 dependent is defined as a spouse or unmarried, minor child of an H-1B scholar. These dependents:
- May enter the U.S. along with or after the H-1B scholar, but never before.
- May not accept employment in most cases (see exception below).
- May be admitted to school and attend classes as a full-time or part-time student.
- May have a long-term intent to immigrate.
Employment authorization for some H-4 spouses
Some H-4 spouses (not dependent children) are eligible to apply for work authorization if the H-1B scholar:
- Is the primary beneficiary of an approved Form I-140 Immigration Petition for Alien Worker; or
- Has been granted and extension of H-1B status beyond the standard six-year limit based on pending, employment-based permanent residence under the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Act, which permits H-1B workers seeking employment-based lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States.
Spouses who are currently in H-4 status and meet the above eligibility criteria may file Form I-765 with supporting documents. Individuals in H-4 status can start employment only when USCIS approves the application. Before submitting an application, review the USCIS information about H-4 employment authorization and these frequently asked questions.