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All You Need to Know About H4 Visa Extension
April 16, 2022
7 mins
A macro shot of the stamped USA H4 visa in a passport.

Here is a gist of what you will read about in this article:

  • H4 Visa renewal: Processes and Steps
  • H4 EAD - a brief introduction
  • Frequently asked questions about H4 Visa and H4 EAD extensions

Before going into the details of H4 Visa extension, it is necessary to understand what an H4 visa entails. What is an H4 Visa?

What Is an H-4 Visa: a Brief Introduction

An H-4 visa is a dependent's visa that allows an H1B visa holder to bring their spouses and children below 21 years to the US as dependents. H-4 visa holders are allowed to accompany the primary H1B applicant to the US and remain there as a dependent as long as the H1B visa holder has a valid permit.

As an H4 visa holder, you are eligible to:

  • Study, work, and live in the US on H-4 status
  • Open and operate bank accounts
  • Obtain a social security number
  • Apply for a driver's license
  • Get a tax ID

An H-4 holder can work in the US once they have received a permit called the EAD - Employment Authorization Document from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The EAD is time-bound and will need to be extended to an EAD - Extended status for the H-4 visa holder to continue working in the USA.

Validity of the H-4 visa

The H4 visa validity is dependent on the validity of the H1B visa. It is usually issued for three years. The H4 visa can ideally be considered valid as long as the H1B visa holder has an approved I-129. The following points need to be remembered about an H-4 visa:

There is a 60-day grace period if the H1B holder is out of a job.
USCIS allows H-4 visa holders to apply for an extension on their EAD within 180 days of expiration.

H4 Visa Extension: Processes and Steps

The USCIS issues H4 visas with the same validity as the primary H visa. Just as with the H1B visa, your authorized length of stay will be printed onto your visa permit. You cannot overstay beyond this period.

In the event that the H1B visa, and consequently the H4 visa, are nearing expiry, applications for an extension on both these visas will have to be submitted. This is done by filing an I-539: the application for extending or changing Non-immigrant status.

Documentation needed for H4 Extension

The following documents will have to be included along with Form i539 when applying for H4 visa renewal:

  • A copy of your most recent form I-94
  • A copy of your spouse's or parent's most recent I-94
  • Copies of your parent's or spouse's I-129 form, I-797 form, and the notice of approval
  • The proof of relationship between you and the primary H visa holder, for example, marriage certificate if it is your spouse, birth certificate if it is your parent, etc.

Keep yourself updated about the H4 extension status once you have completed the process successfully.

The H-4 Employment Authorization Document

IF you fall under the category of H4 spouses dependents of H-1B non-immigrants, your eligibility to apply for an Employment Authorization Document will depend on whether the primary H visa holder:

  • Holds primary beneficiary status on a Form I-140: Immigrant Petition, or,
  • Have been granted the H1B status under sections 106(a), (b) of the AC21 Act

Like most other documents related to immigration, your EAD has an expiration date. You will find it under the section titled "card expires" on your EAD. In all circumstances, the H-4 visa will be dependent on the H1B visa holder's status, meaning that the H-4 visa will also be granted an extension if the primary H visa is extended. This also holds for any status adjustments or terminations in the H1B visa, which will automatically reflect in the H-4 visa.

Getting an extension on your H4 EAD

The Employment Authorization Card is generally valid only until the stipulated expiration date. The USCIS usually grants a two-year validity period on the EAD, depending on the immigration status of the applicant. Limits on EAD are dependent on your status or visa type. In some cases, individuals in designated categories like Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will receive an automatic renewal of their EADs. On the other hand, those on a student visa can work for upto one year on a valid EAD.

Towards the end of the EAD validity period, you can follow the procedure given below to apply for an extension:

  • File an application for Extending or Changing Non-immigrant Status - Form i539
  • Include all required supporting documentation with your application
  • Mail your complete EAD application file to the USCIS
  • You will receive a notice of receipt

In the case that you are late in applying for an EAD extension, the USCIS will determine whether or not a late filing can be considered under the Special Situations rules.

USCIS will grant an extension of the expired EAD within one of the following periods, whichever occurs earlier:

  • 180 days after the expiration of the EAD
  • The expiration of the H4 dependent's I-94 record or
  • when the USCIS makes a final decision on the EAD extension application

Latest Updates on Automatic Extension for H4 EAD

In October of 2021, the AILA took the Department of Homeland Security(DHS) to court, citing that there is injustice in the absence of automatic extensions for EADs of H4 and other category visa holders. The DHS moved for settlement, and in November 2021, automatic extensions on EAD were granted to H4 holders and other visa categories.

H4 Extension and EAD Renewal: Frequently Asked Questions

1. How soon can I file for renewal of my H-4 EAD?
The USCIS website advises applicants applying for EAD renewals not to file at dates earlier than 180 days before the current EAD expires.

2. What kind of processing time can I expect for H4-EAD Renewals?
Processing times for H-4 EAD renewals are currently put up as 8.5 months to one year at all four USCIS Service Centers.

3. Will I have to go through the biometrics collection for H4 Extension?
USCIS has updated new requirements into the I-539 form as of March 2019, including the need to update Biometrics. The DHS had planned to collect Biometric information for better screening and vetting for national security, but the update has led to significant delays in the processing times for H4 and H4 EAD. So, USCIS has given applicants the option to make an expedite request, which they will also consider on a case-by-case basis.

4. How can I initiate an EAD Expedite Request? What is the processing time of such a request?
To initiate an EAD Expedite Request, you will need to convince the USCIS that a delay in extension processing time will cause loss to the employing company (loss of revenue) or person (issues on insurance, health conditions). There has to be supporting documentation for this.

The processing time for an expedited request with USCIS can be anywhere between 30 to 45 days. Once your request is accepted, it will be assigned to an officer, and you will get an email from USCIS.

5. Is there any option for premium processing on an H4 visa EAD application?
No, there is no such provision, but it may be possible to accelerate a pending EAD application in certain emergencies.

6. Can I apply H-1B and H4 extensions together?
Yes. You can file these petitions together.

Also read: H4 EAD - Frequently Asked Questions

An end note

Continuous and sudden changes in the H4 visa renewal process can be overwhelming for H4 visa holders to keep track of. Arming yourself with the most recent updates at all times should make your H4 Visa and EAD extension a manageable process.

To help you get started on your H1B visa journey, visit TechFetch H1B. We provide detailed information on H4 Visa extensions and other articles related to the H1B visa process.

**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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Article by Techfetch H1B team

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