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News:

FSIS website under construction
Starting September 20, 2013, we'll be making changes to the format of our website. We ask for your patience as this may be a lengthy process. Contact Signe at signen@hawaii.edu if you have problems with website functionality or navigation.

New I-94 procedure
From April 30, 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin implementing a paperless I-94 procedure at U.S. air and sea ports of entry.

EB immigrant visa availability
U.S. Department of State's monthly Visa Bulletin


H-4 Dependents



H-4 eligibility

Obtaining H-4 status

H-4 extensions

Employment prohibited for H-4 dependents

Study permitted for H-4 dependents



H-4 eligibility [top]

Unmarried children under 21 years of age and spouses of H-1B employees are eligible for H-4 dependent status. Once your H-4 child turns 21, he/she can no longer stay in the U.S. as your H-4 dependent. In order to remain in the U.S., he/she must change to another nonimmigrant visa status (e.g. F-1 student, B-2 visitor).



Obtaining H-4 status [top]

Dependents have 2 options for initially obtaining H-4 status:

OPTION 1: Enter the U.S. in H-4 status

H-4 dependents do not need to file any prior applications before applying for H-4 visas at a U.S. embassy or consulate or applying for entry at a U.S. port of entry. Instead, they should borrow the H-1B employee’s approval notice to apply for their visas and/or to enter the U.S. in H-4 status.

FIRST, your dependents must apply for H-4 visas at a U.S. embassy/consulate. (Canadian passport-holders can skip this step and go to the second step, below.) Dependents should generally apply at the U.S. embassy/consulate having jurisdiction over their place of residence. Although they may apply at any U.S. embassy/consulate, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside their country of citizenship or permanent residence. If they ever overstayed their authorized period of stay in the U.S., they must apply for any new visas at a consular office in their country of nationality.

  • Check the U.S. Department of State "Apply for a U.S. Visa" website for visa application requirements and to make an appointment for a visa interview.
  • H-4 family members will need to show evidence of their relationship to you (the H-1B principal); your spouse should bring the marriage certificate and each H-4 child’s birth certificate to the visa interview. Additional H-4 visa application requirements differ by embassy/consulate, so dependents must select the country where they will apply to obtain the specific requirements for their visa applications.

SECOND, your dependents should apply for admission at a U.S. port of entry. H-4 dependents are eligible to enter the U.S. with or after the H-1B principal up to 10 days prior to the H-1B approval notice start date. H-4 dependents may not enter the U.S. before the H-1B employee. Each H-4 dependent should bring the following items to the port of entry:

  • Your H-1B approval notice
  • Valid H-4 visa in passport (N/A for Canadian passport-holders)
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the H-1B approval notice end date (if a passport will expire before the H-1B approval notice end date, that person will be granted a shorter period of stay than is printed on the approval notice, so it is best to renew the passport before entry)
  • Employment confirmation letter from the UH department for the H-1B employee’s UH employment (to show financial support)
  • Copy of marriage certificate (for H-4 spouse)
  • Copy of birth certificate (for H-4 child)

Please note that visas and/or approval notices will not guarantee entry to the U.S. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry will review your dependents' immigration documents and ask them questions about their stay. These officers have the discretion to admit them in H-4 status and may refer them to a more detailed secondary inspection.

When your dependents are admitted into the U.S., their documents will be returned to them and they should each receive an admission date stamp with the notations “H-4” and a date indicating the length of their period of authorized stay in their passports. They should also receive instructions on how to print their own I-94 arrival records on CBP's I-94 website. The admission stamp with notations and the I-94 printout function as proof of their admission to and legal immigration status in the U.S. In some cases, they may be issued a paper I-94 at entry, but CBP is phasing out this process. If one of your dependents is issued a paper I-94, that card is evidence of his/her legal status in the U.S.

It is a good idea to keep copies of your approval notices, passport biodata/expiration pages, visas, admission stamps, and I-94 records permanently in case any of the documents are lost or stolen.


After your dependents arrive in the U.S., please send copies of the following documents to FSIS so we can update our records and check that they were properly admitted to the U.S.:

  • Copies of each H-4 dependent’s passport biodata/expiration page
  • Copies of both sides of each H-4 dependent’s I-94 card or I-94 printout from CBP's I-94 website
  • Copies of each dependent's admission stamp with notations in passport
  • Copies of each dependent’s H-4 visa in passport (if applicable)


OPTION 2: Apply for a change of status to H-4 while in the U.S.

If UH is filing a petition for a change of status to H-1B on your behalf, be sure to inform your UH department about any dependents who will require a change to H-4 status. If your dependents are currently in the U.S. in another dependent status (e.g. F-2, J-2), they must apply for changes of status to H-4 along with your change of status to H-1B.

Your dependents should apply for changes of status to H-4 by filing Form I-539 (see the I-539 instructions). If your spouse is applying for H-4 status, he/she should complete the I-539 and sign the form in Part 5. If only minor children are applying for H-4 status, your eldest child’s information should be entered in the form; the child may sign in Part 5 if he/she is 14 years or older. If the child is under 14, you (the H-1B employee) should sign the I-539 and provide your information in Part 5.

If your dependents will file the I-539 WITH your H-1B change of status petition, attach the following documents to the I-539 and submit the entire packet to your UH department:

  • Form I-539 filing fee
  • 1 copy of each dependent's current U.S. visa in his/her passport (if applicable)
  • 3 copies of each dependent's current I-94 card or I-94 printout from CBP's I-94 website
  • 3 copies of each dependent's admission stamp with notations in passport
  • 3 copies of each dependent's Forms DS-2019, I-20, or I-797 (if applicable)
  • 3 copies of each dependent's passport biodata/expiration page(s)
  • 3 copies of marriage certificate (if spouse will be H-4)
  • 3 copies of each dependent child's birth certificate (if applicable)
  • 3 copies of any other required documents listed on the I-539 instructions

If your dependents will file the I-539 SEPARATELY from an H-1B petition being filed on your behalf, attach the following documents to the I-539 and mail the entire packet to USCIS:

  • Form I-539 filing fee
  • 1 copy of each dependent's current U.S. visa in his/her passport (if applicable)
  • 1 copy of each dependent's current I-94 card or I-94 printout from CBP's I-94 website
  • 1 copy of each dependent's admission stamp with notations in passport
  • 1 copy of each dependent's Forms DS-2019, I-20, or I-797 (if applicable)
  • 1 copy of each dependent's passport biodata/expiration page(s)
  • 1 copy of marriage certificate (if spouse will be H-4)
  • 1 copy of each dependent child's birth certificate (if applicable)
  • Any other required documents listed on the I-539 instructions

If your spouse and/or children is/are currently outside the U.S. and will enter the U.S. in H-4 status, he/she/they do not need to file Form I-539. For H-4 entry procedures, see “OPTION 1: Enter the U.S. in H-4 status,” above.



H-4 extensions [top]

Dependents have 2 options for extending their H-4 status:

OPTION 1: Reenter the U.S. in H-4 status

If your dependents are outside the U.S. when their H-4 approval expires, they can reenter the U.S. with the necessary documents to obtain a longer H-4 period. Dependents should reenter the U.S. with the following documents:

  • Your H-1B extension approval notice
  • Valid H-4 visa in passport (N/A for Canadian passport-holders) (see the U.S. Department of State Embassy and Consulate website for visa application requirements and to make an appointment for a visa interview)
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the H-1B approval notice end date (if a passport will expire before the H-1B approval notice end date, that person will be granted a shorter period of stay than is printed on the approval notice, so it is best to renew the passport before reentry)
  • Copy of marriage certificate (for H-4 spouse)
  • Copy of birth certificate (for H-4 child)
  • Employment confirmation letter from your UH department (to show financial support)

After your dependents reenter the U.S., please send copies of the following documents to FSIS so we can update our records and check that they were properly admitted to the U.S.:

  • Copies of each H-4 dependent’s passport biodata/expiration page (if passport is new/renewed)
  • Copies of both sides of each H-4 dependent’s I-94 card or I-94 printout from CBP's I-94 website
  • Copies of each dependent's admission stamp with notations in passport
  • Copies of each dependent’s H-4 visa in passport (if applicable)


OPTION 2: Apply for a H-4 extension while in the U.S.

Your dependents can remain in the U.S. and file Form I-539 to extend their H-4 status concurrently with or separately from your H-1B extension petition. Dependents should request the same extension period that will be entered on your H-1B petition. It is important to review the I-539 instructions before completing the form.

If your dependents will file the I-539 WITH your H-1B extension petition, attach the following items to the I-539 and submit the entire packet to your UH department:

  • Form I-539 filing fee
  • 1 copy of each dependent's current H-4 visa in his/her passport (if applicable)
  • 3 copies of each dependent's current I-94 card or I-94 printout from CBP's I-94 website
  • 3 copies of each dependent's admission stamp with notations in passport
  • 3 copies of each dependent's Forms I-797 (if applicable)
  • 3 copies of each dependent's passport biodata/expiration page(s)
  • 3 copies of marriage certificate (if spouse is H-4)
  • 3 copies of each dependent child's birth certificate (if applicable)
  • 3 copies of any other required documents listed on the I-539 instructions

If your dependents will file the I-539 SEPARATELY from your H-1B extension petition, attach the following items to the I-539 and mail the entire packet to USCIS:

  • Form I-539 filing fee
  • 1 copy of each dependent's current U.S. visa in his/her passport
  • 1 copy of each dependent's current I-94 card or I-94 printout from CBP's I-94 website
  • 1 copy of each dependent's admission stamp with notations in passport
  • 1 copy of each dependent's Forms I-797 (if applicable)
  • 1 copy of each dependent's passport biodata/expiration page(s)
  • 1 copy of marriage certificate (if spouse is H-4)
  • 1 copy of each dependent child's birth certificate (if applicable)
  • Any other required documents listed on the I-539 instructions

USCIS must receive the properly filed H-4 extension application and filing fee no later than the business day on or before the current H-4 end date. If USCIS receives the H-4 extension application late, your dependents will no longer be in valid status and will begin accruing unlawful presence.

If your spouse and/or children is/are currently outside the U.S. and will enter the U.S. in H-4 status, he/she/they do not need to file Form I-539. For H-4 entry procedures, see “Option 1: Reenter the U.S. in H-4 status," above.



Employment prohibited for H-4 dependents [top]

H-4 status-holders are not eligible for employment. An H-4 dependent may change to another immigration status that permits employment if he/she qualifies for such status.



Study permitted for H-4 dependents [top]

H-4 dependents may study in the U.S. on either a full or part time basis. However, the duration of their study depends on the H-1B’s period of stay. While H-4 dependents are not required to take a full course of study like F-1 students, H-4s are ineligible for F-1 benefits such as on-campus employment and practical training.


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