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H4 EAD & its Significance to Dependent Spouses
April 28, 2022
7 mins
Close-up of a card labeled United States of America - Employee Authorization Card under the US flag

In this blog, we have discussed the following topics related to H4 EAD:

  • H4 Application process
  • Different EAD processing statuses
  • H4 EAD Extension
  • H4 Concurrent filing

H4 EAD: A Quick Intro

The H1B Visa holds immense value for foreign employees who wish to live and be employed in the United States. The H1B status also serves as an entry ticket for the H1B holder's spouse and children below 21 years of age, otherwise known as dependants. The USCIS issues H4 visas to the spouse, and children of all foreign employees who hold an H1B visa, allowing them to be employed in the US as long as the H1B status is effective.

Are H4 dependants allowed to have a job in the United States too? Yes, they are, as long as they obtain work authorization through an EAD or Employment Authorization Document. Can all dependent spouses on a H4 status obtain an EAD? Unfortunately, no. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services regulations, to obtain an EAD, the H4 dependent must fulfill certain qualifications.

This blog is for you if you are an H4 holder wishing to be employed in the United States. This blog is an in-depth analysis of the H4 EAD, a rule that was first implemented on May 26th, 2015.

H4 EAD Eligibility Criteria

So, here comes the big question: What does it take for an H4 holder like yourself to qualify for an EAD? Before we delve into those details, you must note these points about EAD for H4, which is:

  • A work permit allows only qualified H4 holders to work in the United States.
  • Valid for a maximum of three years or less.
  • Valid only until the H1B status is effective.
  • Expires on the same date indicated on the I-797 Notice of Action.

The prime objective of implementing the EAD program is to bring more skilled foreign employees into the US. To qualify for an EAD, you should first obtain an H4 status. You should also have the qualifications that categorize you as a special worker.

However, as the prime qualification, you should be the spouse of a foreign, non immigrant H1B holder who:

  • Holds an authorized Form I-140 or an Alien Worker's Immigrant Petition.
  • Has extended the H1B status for one year after the 6th year according to American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act of 2000 and based on an already-filed a Labor certification or Form I-140.
  • Has already spent six years in the US but is waiting for PERM approval. (This qualification works as an option under the AC21 rule if the H1B holder's I-140 is not yet approved.)

If you and your spouse who holds an H1B status fulfill the above-mentioned criteria, you can file for an Employment Authorization Document by:

  • Filing Form I-765 or Application for Employment Authorization.
  • Submitting the required documents to the USCIS.

If you are serious about obtaining an EAD, you will not want any delays. To avoid delays and Requests for Evidence (RFE), you must submit all the required documents we have listed below.

List of Documents Required to Obtain H4 EAD Status

  • Completely-filled EAD Application Form I-765
  • H4 EAD fee check payable for $410 payable to the United States Department of Homeland Security
  • Copies of any one or more of the following government-issued photo identities belong to the H4 holder:
  1. H4 holder's valid passport (front and back)
  2. H4 Visa Stamping from the passport, if available
  3. H4 holder's birth certificate with a recent photo
  4. National identity documents from one's own country, like Aadhar cards and Voters ID cards for Indians
  5. If you have applied for H4 Renewal, front and back copies of your H4 EAD Card

Proof of your current H-4 Visa status:

  • Copy of the most recent I-797 A or H4 Approval Notice from the USCIS
  • Hard copy or electronic copy of the I-94 card
  • Two passport photos

H1B Eligibility Documents belonging to the H1B holder:

  • Copy of the H1B holder's valid passport
  • Copy of primary H1B Holder's I-140 related I-797 Approval Notice
  • An approved copy of H1B Visa beyond 6 Years under AC21
  • Proof of spouse's H1B status (i.e., copy of H1B visa, I-94, and I-797)
  • Recent approval notice for Form I-129
  • Marriage certificate copy as proof of relationship between you and the H1B holder
  • Id proofs such as copies of visa, passport, birth certificate, or a previous EAD
  • Copies of your spouse's three recent pay stubs

EAD Filing Fee: How Much Does it Cost?

Generally, the filing fee for Form I-765 cost $410. However, other factors could drive the cost further, especially if the USCIS asks you to submit your biometrics along with the application.
You will need to pay an additional $85 biometrics fee, for the following categories, which brings the total fee to $495:

  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
  • Principal Beneficiary of an Approved Employment-based Immigrant Petition that is under compelling circumstances
  • Unmarried child or spouse of a principal beneficiary of an approved Employment-based Immigrant Petition

Once you send all the documents and the filled Form I-765, the USCIS will send you a receipt notice confirming the H4 EAD application. The receipt notice will have a receipt number, also known as the USCIS Case Number. It is a 13-digit number that starts with the alphabet EAC or WAC, based on where it was filed. You can use this number to track your EAD status on the USCIS official website.

The online tracking system for H4 EAD is such that it records all the information and makes it available to you. When the card is mailed to you, it forms one of the last status updates. Let's check out what the statuses mean.

H4 EAD Processing Statuses: What do They Mean?

We received your Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization - This status suggests that the USCIS has received your application. This status is the first one you can see on the tracking page.

We approved your Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization - It is the second status that reaffirms the USCIS's EAD application approval.

A new card is being produced - The EAD is approved by the Department and is being printed. It is the final stage in the approval process.

We mailed your new card to the address you gave us - This update tells you that the card has been sent to the mentioned address. You can get further updates by using the tracking number for USPS.

Upon approval, the USCIS will send the actual H4 EAD card, which has the C26 Category listed on it. This ID card is also called the I-766 form.

What is the EAD Processing Time?

Generally, the USCIS takes about 150-210 days to process your EAD. Like other H1B processes, the H4 EAD is not eligible for Premium Processing. Hence, you do not have the option of paying for a quicker response. You can, however, consider submitting a USCIS expedite request.

Also Read: H4 EAD - Frequently Asked Questions

H4 Extension & H4 EAD Extension: What is Possible?

As earlier mentioned, your H4 status is effective only as long as that of the H1B status, which means that once the H1B status expires, the H4 also stands terminated. Moreover, your authorized stay limit is printed on the permit, and you are not allowed to overstay the time without applying for an H4 Extension.

To apply for an H4 Extension, you should:

  • Fill and submit Form I-539 before the H4 visa expires
  • Resubmit evidence of relationship with the H1B holder

You can look for the expiration date found under the "Card Expires" section. When your H4 EAD expires and if your spouse files for an H1B extension, you can also apply for your H4 extension. To do so, you must:

  • Present Form I-539 or the Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
  • Pack the EAD Application with the necessary documents
  • Send your H4 EAD Application package to the USCIS
  • Receive your Receipt Notice for H4 EAD

Automatic Extension of H4 EAD

To simplify the automatic Extension of EADs for H4 spouses, the USCIS has issued an updated I-94 handbook. You will be eligible for an Extension of your H4 EAD for a hundred and eighty days before the EAD expires if your H1B spouse:

  • Files a Form I-765 Renewal Application before the existing EAD expires
  • Maintains an H4 dependent status even after the existing H4 EAD expires (Evidence on Form I-94)

Upon fulfilling these requirements, the USCIS will extend the expired H4 EAD validity until:

  • 180 days after the EAD expiration
  • The expiry of the H-4 dependent nonimmigrant's I-94 or
  • When the USCIS makes a final decision on the EAD extension application

H4 EAD Concurrent Filing: What is it?

H4 EAD Concurrent Filing means that the Application for Employment Authorization can be filed along with the H1B and H4 extension applications. If both Forms I-539 and the H4 EAD application are filed together, the USCIS will adjudicate the H4 EAD application only if it approves the H4 Extension or status change.

The USCIS will take up to 90 days from the petition approval to adjudicate the EAD. However, the USCIS may approve the H4 and the H4 EAD Extension concurrently.

Is it Okay to Travel with a Pending H4 EAD Application?

One of the prime eligibility criteria for filing an H4 EAD is that you should hold a valid H4 status and be physically present in the country while filing for the EAD. However, once you've filed Form I-765, you can surely travel abroad even if the H4 EAD is still pending.

Please note that if the H4 EAD was filed concurrently with the H4 Change of Status application, then the USCIS will abandon your Change of Status application if you travel abroad. The USCIS has the power to deny your Change of Status application.

Your Employment Authorization Document may be denied if you:

  • Fill in the form incorrectly.
  • Forget to add your signature.
  • Forget to add the required elements.
  • Obtain your Green Card prior to the processing of your permit application.

You do not require a separate permit to work legally once you obtain your green card.

Benefits of Obtaining an H4 EAD

Obtaining your H4 visa work permit could be the best thing that can happen to any H4 visa holder because it allows them to:

  • Work full time or part-time for any employer in any job in any field.
  • Start their own business in the USA.
  • Apply for an EAD at any time because it has no deadline or any restricting quota.

Moreover, you do not need a job offer to be eligible for your H4 EAD.

If you are looking for further information regarding H4 EAD, please visit TechFetch H1B. We are well-versed in the intricate details and updates regarding H1B and H4 Processing.

**Disclaimer: All details regarding H4 and H1B visa processing are subject to change. Kindly refer to the USCIS official website for all the recent updates.

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