H-4 Visa explained 

An H-4 visa is a visa issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the H-1B visa holders. An H4 Visa allows the spouse or child of an H-1B Visa holder to live and study in the United States.

USCIS allows immediate family members of H visa holders (H-1A, H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3) to get H-4 visas to lawfully come and stay in the US. These visas are usually issued at the local US consulate office abroad. However, if the person is already in US, he or she can obtain H-4 visa by filing Form I-539 for change of status.

H-4 visa holders are not eligible to get a Social Security Number and cannot be employed, but they can hold a driver’s license, open bank accounts, and get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number for US tax purposes.

Family members may alternatively be admitted in other non-immigrant categories for which they qualify, such as the F-1 category for children or spouses who will be students or the H-1B category for a spouse whose employer has also obtained approval of an H-1B visa petition to employ the spouse. An H-4 visa holder is admitted to the US for the duration of the primary (H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3) visa validity.

Since H-4 visa holders are not issued a social security number, an ITIN (Individual tax identification number) should be obtained before filing for joint tax returns by filing Form W-7. They are not authorized to work in the United States, though they are allowed to study.

Did you know that a child’s H-4 Visa status automatically expires when the child turns 21? Even if the U.S. government mistakenly gives you an expiration date that is past the child’s birthday, your child will be out of status if he or she remains in the U.S. after turning 21.

What can you do to prevent your child from becoming out of status? The most important thing you can do is plan ahead. There are ways for your child to obtain a different visa and change status. For example, your child might be able to enroll in school and receive an F-1 student visa. You should consult with an experienced immigration lawyer at least one year before your child turns 21 to determine how he or she can legally remain in the United States.

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Bruce Coane is a leading lawyer with 30 years of experience in the field of immigration law and employment law. He may be reached via email at houstonlaw@aol.com or his website at Coane and Associates.

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