What is that 1 US Visa that is overwhelmingly occupied by Indians? What is that 1 US visa category that is considered a curse by many? What is that one US visa that is held by the majority of Indian women?
We're starting a new series of videos, blogs and podcasts where we explain different US visas and their processes in a way that it's easier to understand. We also promise to keep it free from jargons as much as possible.
The series is titled, US Visas Simplified.
In this article, we will share everything that you need to know about the H4 Dependent Visa in the US. What is it? What’s the process of getting it, What all can be done in the US on this Visa and more. So read on.
And if you’re new to our website, It’s Ok Yaar is a content platform for South Asian Immigrants and we aim to Educate, Entertain and Empower them.
So, Let’s begin.
What is the H4 Visa?
In simple words, H4 visa is a visa that is given to spouses (husband or wife) of an H-1B visa holder. Some people call it a dependent visa.
But why is it called a dependent visa?
Simply because an H4 visa is attached to the H1B visa. So if the H1B visa is no longer valid, the H4 visa will also not be valid and the person on H4 visa will have to leave the US. The validity of an H-1B visa is usually 6 years. There are options but we’ll talk about them later in the video.
How do you get an H4 Visa?
Simple - get married to someone with an H-1B visa.
Ok, that’s the first step.
So, this is the process to get an H4 Visa:
Get married to someone on an H-1B Visa. This makes you eligible to apply for H4 Visa
Fill a form for a US visa, called DS 160.
Book an interview appointment for the visa at your nearest US embassy
Appear for the interview
Get your visa
Fly to the US with your partner
Let us know in the comments if you want us to create a separate article on the H4 visa interview process, questions asked and documents needed.
Then why do so many people hate this visa and call it a curse?
That is because if you are on an H4 Visa, you cannot work in the US.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a graduate, if you’ve done your Masters or PHD. If you are on H4 Visa, you CANNOT work.
And that is the shock that many people, especially women get who come here without knowing about this or even if they know they underestimate the issue.
But why is it so serious? I mean I know I’d like a break from work for a while.
Well, the question is how long of a break would you like. There have been instances where people have not been able to work in the US for almost 5-6 years or even more. Initially when you move after your marriage, it’s all good. You’re in your honeymoon phase. You get accustomed to the new life. But after a while, if there’s no community, not many friends, it does get pretty lonely here sometimes. Especially if you’re not the outgoing kind.
But I’ve heard that many people on H4 Visa get work permits
I was coming to that.
So yes, people on H4 Visa can get a work permit and start work. That work permit is called the EAD - short for Employment Authorization Document.
But the problem is not everyone is eligible for it.
For an H4 Visa holder to be eligible for it, their spouse who is on an H-1B Visa should have an approved i140.
Oh my god. Can you stop with these words already? EAD, i140 and what not?
I’ll explain. Basically i140 is nothing but an approval by which the US government is saying, “We understand that you are eligible to get a green card. But there’s a long line before you. So, please get in line until your number comes”.
The advantage is, and please read this carefully, once the spouse has their i140 approved, the H4 visa holder can apply for a work permit and they can keep renewing their visas and work permits every time it is closer to expiry. Got it?
And here’s a fun fact, before 2015, even with the i140 approved H4 visa holders were not allowed to apply for a work permit. We have Obama to thank for changing that rule.
So, what can one do on H4 visa?
A lot actually.
You can study. Enroll in a college and study further. That also allows you to move to F1 visa i.e. the student visa and hopefully get your own H1B Visa. We’ve created a video on that. Linking it here.
You can volunteer at non-profits. We have a video for that too. We’ll link it here.
If you don’t want to study but still be updated about the latest things in your field. You can always do certifications.
We don’t have the video for that. But we have 2-3 guides for that on our website. We’ll link them below:
You can network with people on LinkedIn and try to find an employer who will sponsor your own H-1B visa. However, it’s not as simple as it sounds. The chances of this happening is very low but it is an option.
Just beware that there are a lot of scammers who try to lure you into a scheme where they’ll say they will file your H1B and ask for money for that. Please do your due diligence about that.
On H4 Visa, Can I work for a company in India remotely that pays me in my account?
Legally no. Some people do that. We don’t advise that.
Can I do a cash job on H4 Visa?
Can I become an influencer on H4 Visa?
You can. But there’s a grey area when it comes to making money off it. So if you’re making money through Instagram Reels bonus or YouTube partner program you’ll have to show that income in your taxes and that may or may not get flagged.
Can I start a business? Can I invest in stocks? Can I buy apartments on H4 Visa?
I guess you’re looking at ways to make some money. That will be too much information for this article. If you guys want us to write another article on that please let us know in the comments and we’ll write one on it.
So, how does one stay happy on H4 Visa? I do feel like this is a curse
Yes, it is a difficult visa to be on for sure. But I’ve just shared so many options with you. You’ll just have to put yourself out there a bit. Meet new people. You’ll get the opportunity to learn so many new things. Be independent. I know it’s ironic because it’s a dependent visa. But still.
In fact, I do have a video on this too. Linking it here.
And when you finally get your H4 EAD, you can start working. In fact when you get your H4 EAD, you can not just have a job but start a business, have 2 jobs and a business, buy a house, invest in stocks, become an influencer and every other thing that you can think of. There’s no restrictions on that.
I hope this information was helpful for you. We’ve tried to make this information as simple as possible, avoiding as many jargons as possible.
Please let us know which visa category we should cover next.
And remember, if things are not going your way right now. They soon will. It’s Ok yaar.