Acquiring H-4 Status
Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age are eligible for H-4 status. When H-4 children turn 21, they are no longer eligible for dependent status. If they wish to remain in the U.S., they must apply for their own, independent nonimmigrant status, prior to their 21st birthday.
To enter the U.S. in H-4 status, your family members (unless Canadian) will first need to obtain H-4 visas from a U.S. consulate. Once your dependents have secured visas, they can accompany you to the U.S. or they can enter the U.S. subsequently to join you. When granted entry into the U.S., they will receive I-94s that should have the same end date as your I-94 and I-797 approval notice. If that is not the case, your dependents should immediately bring that to the attention of the official who gave them the I-94s or, if too late, to an OISS scholar advisor.
If your dependents change to, or extend, their H-4 status within the U.S., they will receive I-797 approval notices with new I-94s attached, indicating H-4 status.
Your dependents’ status is valid until the end date on their I-94s, provided that you remain in good standing in H-1B status.
H-4 dependents are not allowed to work under any circumstance and therefore should not engage in any activity that could be construed as employment. If they wish to work, they need to change to an independent nonimmigrant status that permits employment.
Because H-4 status prohibits employment, your dependents are not eligible for a Social Security number.
Study in H-4 Status
H-4 dependents may study part-time or full-time at any educational institution in the U.S. at any level. However, the duration of their status is limited by the duration of yours. If one of your dependents wants to pursue an educational program extending beyond your H-1B end date, s/he should consider changing to F-1 status.
Since your dependents’ H-4 status is contingent upon your H-1B status, your dependents should accompany you on any travel abroad of significant length. Learn more about traveling with H-1B status.