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The dawn of the age of information technology resulted in the sprawl of tech companies, which soon became a scramble for a skilled workforce.
In this light, the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21), enacted by the U.S. government in October 2000, which dealt with immigration into the country was passed as a supplement to the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998.
The purpose of AC21 was to modify the portability and cap criteria for the H-1B visa to increase the adequate number of tickets and make it simpler for H-1B visa holders to switch employment.
The arrival of a workforce and the migrant families extended a lifeline to the declining population growth of the US. This benefited the US economy by providing the imported demographic dividend (people aged 19-45) supporting the job market and ensuring a robust local demand for goods and services.
But soon enough, the supply of immigrants outflanked the demand, and it made way for a system where local senators, members of Congress and customs officials could play God’s hand arbitrarily. The system became plagued with nepotism and corruption.
The H4 EAD process was bogged down during the final years of Trump administration but currently, both government and corporate bodies are working will full force to alleviate the woes.
H-1B, H4 explained
H1B visas are for degree-holding individuals who wish to work in the United States. The visa allows them to obtain employment in their subject of study.
The H4 visa, meanwhile, allows you to bring your family to the United States. Simply put, if you have an H1B visa with a spouse and children under the age of 21, you can bring them to the United States on an H4 visa. They will be categorised as a dependent. During the application interview, both the spouse and the children will be asked a series of questions that will reveal to U.S. officials the reason for the H4 visa application.
H4 visa holders are permitted to remain in the United States for the duration of the H1B visa held by their spouse. You are permitted to open a bank account, attend school, and obtain a driver’s licence throughout your stay. In addition, you may also work, albeit this depends on your ability to obtain an H4 EAD or an Employment Authorization Document.
Therefore, in this circumstance, the H1B visa holder is the major applicant, and the H4 visa holder’s visa length will depend on them.
In 2015, the United States enacted the H4 EAD rule in an effort to retain talented foreign employees. They also wished to reduce the number of disruptions to U.S. enterprises, as they were discouraging foreigners from remaining in the country. Therefore, the H4 EAD was designed to provide H1B visa holders and their families with some peace of mind. This is beneficial while these families transition to legal permanent residence status. Not to mention that the rule can reduce the financial constraints that these families previously had to bear.
Working on an H4 Visa
In the past, wives of H1B visa holders were not permitted to work in the United States.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued H4 visas to immediate family members, allowing them to legally reside in the United States exclusively with an H1B visa holder.
USCIS announced on February 24, 2015, that this rule would change commencing May 26, 2015. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would provide Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) to H4 visa holders who are eligible. As long as their spouse’s H1B visa is valid, holders of an H4 visa EAD may now legally work or start a business in the U.S.
Who Qualifies for an H4 EAD?
Before 2015, obtaining an H4 EAD was not possible. Specifically, you were not permitted to work in the United States even if you possessed an H4 visa through your significant other’s H1B visa. You were only permitted to attend school, have a bank account, obtain a driver’s licence, and receive a few additional privileges.
However, the H4 EAD rule was enacted in 2015. Those who were eligible m
ight begin applying for an Employment Authorization Document after the rule was passed. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently proposed eliminating the programme in 2019.
If you possess an EAD, you do not require a petition, sponsorship, or LCA (Labor Condition Application). You will be able to work in virtually any economic sector. In contrast to your spouse, who holds an H1B visa, you have virtually unlimited employment options. You are not subject to the same restrictions as H1B visa holders.
In order to apply for an H4 EAD, you must first possess an H4 visa. Therefore, you must be either the spouse or child of an H1B visa holder. If you are a child, you must be younger than 21 years old and unmarried.
Family members who desire an H4 EAD must submit Form I-765.
When to Request an H4 Visa
To apply for the H4 visa, you must know when to do it; otherwise, you may not be allowed to travel to the United States with your spouse. Consequently, if your spouse applies for an immigrant visa and the petition is approved, you can also apply for an immigrant visa based on the same petition. Children under the age of 21 who are unmarried are also eligible to submit a petition.
Similarly to your spouse, you must complete the entire application process. This implies that similar to your spouse, you will be required to pay specific costs, submit all appropriate forms, attend an interview, and have a medical exam.
Once you have completed all the essential steps, you must check the status of your visa petition. The USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) website allows for this.
If your visa is approved, the good news is that you can legally remain in the United States until your spouse no longer holds an H1B visa. You may also apply for a change of status while in the United States and move to an H1
B. Green card application is still another option for a change of status.
It is ideal to file for the H4 visa as soon as possible, especially as soon as your spouse’s H1B visa petition is approved. The reason for this is that processing times differ from country to country. But ultimately, you will depend on the principal visa holder, i.e. the H1B visa spouse. Therefore, it is expected that your visa procedure would take the same amount of time as theirs. If you are applying for your H4 visa separately, it is less known how long it will take to be accepted. It depends on the United States Embassy and how much work they have.
H4 Visa EAD Benefits
In addition to the ability to work after getting an EAD, the document provides several other advantages.
H4 visa holders with an EAD are permitted to:
- Obtaining a social security number
- Have no limits on employment
- Have no minimum wage standards
Additionally, there are no annual limits on the number of H4 EADs issued.
Requesting H4 EAD
To apply for the H4 EAD, you need just complete Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. The USCIS requires the submission of this form and all documentation indicated below. Remember that you can only apply if you qualify.
H4 EAD Documents Required
The following papers may be required to be supplied as supporting evidence with your Form I-765:
- Marriage certificate (proving you are married to an H1B visa holder).
- Your Form I-94 or Form I-797 copy (proving your H4 status).
- A copy of your most recent EAD (if you have been issued with one).
- 2x passport photographs (make sure they are in colour).
- Form G-1145 (E-notification of Application Acceptance) if you wish to receive an e-mail or text message when your application is accepted.
- A copy of your spouse’s Form I-94 or H1B nonimmigrant passport, a preceding Form I-94, and a current Form I-797 for Form I-129.
- Copies of your passport and that of your spouse
- Either your government-issued ID (with photo) or your birth certificate (with photo) or your consular-issued visa or your national ID (with photo).
Filling up Form I-765
Your Form I-765 cannot be submitted electronically and must be mailed, along with the requisite filing fees and accompanying documentation, to the appropriate address.
Note that Form I-539 can be filed alongside Form I-765, but Form I-765 will not be processed until Form I-539 has been adjudicated. Note that your H4 status must also be confirmed before the 90-day processing period for Form I-765 (filed with Form I-539) begins.
Form I-765 can be submitted to renew an EAD. This can be done up to 120 days prior to the expiration of your EAD.
This tracker allows you to track your H4 EAD.
As soon as your I-765 is granted and you have your EAD, you can begin working.
Some people debate applying for an H1B visa versus an H4 visa. Due to the simpler application process and perks of the H4 visa, it is typically the visa that is selected.
H4 EAD Processing Time
For an H4 visa holder who intends to begin working immediately, the processing time for an EAD may be of interest. Processing times vary depending on the service facility, thus there is no definite timing.
No two EAD cases are identical, however, the petitions of the majority of EAD applicants are handled within 90 days after submission.
You should be aware that you cannot apply for an EAD until you are living in the U.S. If you wish to begin working immediately, you should submit your application as soon as you are settled in your new residence.