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The H4 Employment Authorization Document - All You Need to Know
April 15, 2022
5 mins
An employee authorization card (EAD) mockup for spouses(in H4 Visa) of H1-B visa holders

In the following article, you will read about the following:

  • Benefits of getting the H4 EAD
  • Eligibility criteria for EAD
  • EAD documentation requirements

The USCIS issues H4 visas to spouses and children below 21 years who are dependents of H1B visas. The H4 visa holder can continue to stay in the US for the duration that the H1B continues to be valid. They are eligible to open and operate bank accounts, possess a valid driver’s license, study under the H4 category, and even gain employment if they can obtain an EAD - Employment Authorization Document. Any individual who is not a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident must apply for an Employment Authorization Document to be eligible to continue working in the USA.

Prior to moving on to H4 EAD, you should familiarize yourself with H4 visas.

The H4 EAD - Visa Holder Benefits

The EAD, or the Employment Authorization Document, can be considered a work permit that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues to foreign nationals who qualify as eligible candidates for working in the US. The USCIS issued the EAD identification card for H4 holders intending to retain highly skilled foreign workers and reduce the disruption in US business that eventually occurs when H1B workers choose to return to their home countries.

There are several benefits of holding H4 EAD. Some of them include:

  • With the EAD, you will be able to gain employment in any sector or any type of legal job, removing any constraints that may restrict you to jobs that require extraordinary ability.
  • Having an Employment Authorization Document in hand, you will not need added documentation like a Labor Condition Application (LCA), sponsorship Form I 129, or petition from any US government agency.
  • You can repeatedly renew the EAD indefinitely, the only condition being that your spouse always maintains a valid and legal H-1B status and files the lawful permanent immigration petition.
  • You can actively seek a job once you obtain the authorization. You need not worry about possessing an active job offer.
  • An EAD for H4 makes you eligible for part-time or full-time jobs, with nothing affecting their status.
  • You can change your H4 visa to an F1 study visa and study in the US legally.
  • You can even start a business in the United States on an H4 visa and even employ people to work for you.
  • There is no “cap” on H4 visa EADs - the applicant can apply for H4 EAD as long as the primary applicant meets the eligibility.

Eligibility Criteria for H4 EAD

H4 EAD requirements include certain eligibility criteria, fulfilling which applications can be made at any time. The H1B holder should:

  • Be the primary applicant of an Immigrant Petition Form I 140 that is approved, or
  • Have received H1B approval under the AC21 Act, sections 106(a), (b).

AC21 grants H1B non-immigrants legal status to legally work and live in the US after the stipulated H1B six-year period if they are looking to convert their current status from H1B to that of permanent residents of the US.

Additionally, H1B holders must:

  • Have a Form I 140, Immigrant Petition for an Alien Worker, that is already approved or in the process of getting approved.
  • Not have received a rejection of the filed Form I-140. In this case, the H4 dependent is not eligible for an EAD.
  • Not have a "revoked" status of the I-140. In this case, the EAD is automatically revoked.

USCIS rejects all EAD applications which do not meet the above criteria on the grounds of ineligibility.

To prove eligibility for the H4 visa Work permit, H4 applicants can provide the following documentation:

  • The H1B holder’s Form I-797, approval notice for Form I-140
  • The H1B holder’s passports with previous Forms I-94, older and current forms I-797 for Form I-129
  • Proof of H1B holder’s extension of status, which could include:
  1. Proof of Filing for a Permanent LCA. The applicant could submit copies of the primary applicant’s Permanent LCA filed one year before stay expiry OR
  2. A Form I-140 that is pending. The applicant should submit a copy of the Form I-797 for I-140 filed one year before the stay-limitation of six years.

H4 holders who cannot furnish the above documentation could submit a petition that the USCIS peruse secondary documentation as proof for EAD application. Secondary proof may include:

  • A receipt number showing the H1Bholder’s most recent Form I-129 extension of stay request, or
  • An approved Form I-140 receipt number of the H1B holder.

Also Read: All You Need to Know About H4 EAD Category

H4 EAD - Documentation Requirements

The following documentation is necessary for EAD:

  • An Application for Employment Authorization - the I-765 Form.
  • Receipt as proof that you duly paid the necessary application fees.
  • A recent Form I-94 copy, showing your US legal status on the H-4 visa.
  • Documents that prove your extension of stay in the United States:Form I-539 and Form I-797.
  • Two identical copies of a photograph with your Form I-94 number printed on the back of both.
  • Documents proving your relationship status with the H-1B holder (marriage certificate).
  • A Form I-140 copy corresponding to the H1B visa, or submission of the approval notice in case it hasn’t been approved yet.
  • Copies of the primary applicant’s Form I 129, Form I-797, and current and prior Forms I-94.
  • The H-1B applicant's current and expired passports as copies.
  • Documentation that proves that the filing process for the PERM certification or Form I-140 was initiated at least one year before the H1B holder’s status reached the six-year mark. This could be in the form of documentation that shows communication with the Department of Labor (DOL).
  • An Application/Petition Acceptance, Form G-1145, or E-notification should be found attached to the front page of your application in case you want to receive electronic updates of your application status.

In Conclusion

It is important to remember that the approval of your I-765 is a pre-requisite for a H4 holder to work in the US. Once you obtain both the approved documents, you can legally work in the US for the period stipulated in the EAD card. A valid job offer is not a pre-requisite for the EAD application process.

An H1B dependent who lacks an EAD will not be able to work in the United States. Visit TechFetch H1B to gather the information about H4 EAD.

**Disclaimer: H1B rules and regulations keep changing from time to time. For updated information, always refer to the USCIS official website.

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