What is an H-4 EAD?
An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for H4 visa holders allows H4 visa dependent spouses of H1B nonimmigrants to legally work in the United States while waiting for the H1B sponsor’s permanent residency, or green card, to be approved.
How to Apply for H4 EAD
To apply for H4 EAD, you must meet certain eligibility criteria and receive employment authorization. You will need to file various forms and paying H4 EAD fees.
Eligible H4 visa holders may apply for H4 EAD if they want to work or start a business in the US. To apply for an H4 visa EAD, eligible H4 visa holders must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
Other required documents include:
- Receipt of H4 EAD fees paid ($410)
- Copy of Form I-94 demonstrating your H4 visa status
- A copy of your current Form I-797 approval notice for Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
- A government-issued identification document with photo
- Proof of your relationship to the H1B nonimmigrant, such as a marriage certificate
- Evidence showing you are eligible for H4 EAD:
- A copy of the H1B nonimmigrant’s Form I-797 approval notice for Form I-140; OR
- A copy of the H1B nonimmigrant’s passports, prior Forms I-94, and current and prior forms I-797 for Form I-129; and
- Evidence of the H1B immigrant’s extension of stay, based on:
- Filing of a Permanent Labor Certification Application: submit a copy of the H1B nonimmigrant’s Permanent Labor Certification Application filed at least 365 days prior to the expiration of the six-year limitation of stay; OR
- Pending Form I-140. Submit a copy of the Form I-797 for I-140 filed at least 365 days prior to the expiration of the six-year limitation of stay.
- Two identical two-by-two-inch passport-style color photographs of yourself
H4 visa holders who do not have evidence for any of the above-mentioned may be able to request that USCIS consider secondary evidence in support of their EAD application. Such evidence may include:
- Receipt number of the H-1B nonimmigrant’s most current Form I-129 extension of stay request, or
- Receipt number of the H-1B nonimmigrant’s approved Form I-140 petition.
More information on how to apply for H4 EAD can be found on the USCIS website.
H4 EAD Eligibility
Applicants are eligible to apply for an H4 EAD if the H1B visa holder:
- Is the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
- Has been granted H1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (AC21). AC21 permits H1B nonimmigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit on their H1B status.
H4 EAD Processing Time
Processing times for H4 EAD can vary, but are typically around 3-6 months as of 2023. For more accurate processing times for H4 EAD, or to check your individual H4 EAD status, visit the USCIS government website.
H4 EAD Premium Processing
Premium processing for H4 EAD likely won’t be available until FY 2025, although it has already been approved to roll out. The H4 EAD premium processing fee for Form I-765 will be an additional fee of $2,500 and processing will take around 30 days.
H4 EAD Application Facts
There are a few important notes to remember about the H4 EAD:
- Not all H4 visa holders are eligible for H4 EAD. The H4 visa holder’s spouse (H1B visa holder) must fit into one of the two criteria listed above.
- There are multiple advantages to the H4 visa EAD:
- There is no particular wage requirement and no Labor Condition Application (LCA) requirement.
- The H4 EAD holder can work part time or full time without worrying about whether it will affect their status.
- The H4 EAD holder does not have to work in a specialty occupation; H4 visa EAD holders may work in any field for any employer.
- No job offer is required to apply for H4 visa EAD.
- Unlike the H1B visa, there is no “cap” on H4 visa EADs, and the applicant can apply for H4 EAD at any time once their spouse meets the above listed criteria.
Transfer from H1B to H4 Visa with Concurrent H4 EAD Application
If you are currently on H1B status and contemplating changing your status to H4 (if your spouse also holds an H1B visa status), you may concurrently file the H4 I-539 Form along with Form I-765, although the H4 EAD will not be approved until the I-539 H4 EAD application is approved.
H4 EAD Automatic Extension
If you have an H4 EAD, you may be qualified for automatic extension once your authorization is expired. Qualifications include that you have properly filed a Form I-765 for a renewal of your employment authorization and/or EAD before it expires and you are eligible for renewal based on the category of your EAD.