How H-4 Visa Holder Can Apply for a Work Permit (EAD)

Steps to preparing an H-4 EAD application as the spouse of an H-1B visa holder.

The past few years have been a confusing time for spouses of H-1B visa holders who wish to work in the United States. Some of these H-4 visa holders have been allowed to apply for work permits, and many will wish to do so in the future. But after the Trump administration announced plans to revoke the H-4 EAD ("employment authorization document" or work permit) in early 2017, a lot of misinformation has been circulating about whether such work permits are still possible.

Thankfully, the Biden Administration's policy will be clearer. At its instigation, in January of 2021, the Department of Homeland Security formally withdrew a Trump-Pence Administration proposal to rescind work authorization for H-4 visa holders.

We'll shed light on everything you need to know about applying for an H-4 work permit here.

Who Is Eligible for an H-4 EAD

Not every H-4 spouse is eligible for an EAD. First off, the person's H-1B worker spouse must have an employer that is interested in keeping him or her on long term, and that has started the green card application process for that worker. Only after that has resulted in an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers on the H-1B worker's behalf can the H-4 holding spouse qualify for a work permit.

Steps to Preparing an H-4 EAD Application

The spouse of the H-1B worker must prepare Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and file it with all required evidence to the appropriate USCIS ("United States Citizenship and Immigration Services") office.

For more guidance, see Filling Out Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. The Form I-765 page of the USCIS website includes the form itself, instructions, and further guidance, such as on the latest filing fees and filing addresses.

Answer the questions on the form as completely as possible, and if you are not completing it electronically, use black ink to fill it out.

In Part 2, Question 27, the form will ask for your EAD eligibility category. For a qualifying H-4 spouse of an H-1B holder, it's "(c)26." (For more about the available EAD categories, check out What Is Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.)

Once you complete the form, you will need to gather certain documents, including:

  • a copy of your H-1B spouse's approved I-140
  • copies of your current I-94 and visa stamp showing your valid H-4 status, and
  • a copy of your marriage certificate or other legal evidence of your marriage.

Send these to USCIS with the completed I-765 and filing fees ($410 for the form and $85 for biometrics as of early 2021).

The filing fees can be paid by money order, personal check, or cashier's check made out to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security." You may also pay by credit card by using Form G-1450. Once you gather all of these items, make a copy for yourself and mail them to the appropriate address.

Renewing an H-4 EAD

Assuming the H-1B visa holder remains in valid status in the U.S., the spouse may stay on as well, and renew the permission to work.

EAD renewal applications may ordinarily be submitted to USCIS up to six months before the EAD's expiration date. You can find the expiration date on your physical EAD document.

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