Bringing Dependents on an H-4 Visa

Your spouse or unmarried children under 21 may accompany you while you are in H-1B status in the United States. If you are an H-1B visa holder, your dependents must have H-4 dependent status for immigration purposes.

H-4 visa eligibility

If you are an H1-B worker, your legally married spouse (same or opposite sex) or unmarried children under the age of 21 may be granted H-4 immigration status. However, H-4 status cannot be granted if your dependents already have a different immigration status of their own, such as F-1, J-1, H-1B, etc. Then they must apply to legally change their current status to H-4.

Non-immediate family members must enter in their own nonimmigrant status, most commonly as B-2 visitors.

Employment and student status

If your spouse and children accompany you to the United States, they generally cannot be employed. There are exceptions to this rule. They can, however, attend school without restrictions.

Your dependents may apply to change their immigration status (for example, to become an F-1 student) if necessary and eligible.

How to apply for H-4 status

As part of their required documents, H-4 visa applicants must show proof of the following:

  • The H-1B visa holder has been approved to work in the United States
  • They are maintaining legal status if you are currently residing in the United States
  • You have a family relationship with the H-1B visa holder (marriage certificate or birth certificate)

If dependents already reside in the United States

Family members who need to apply for initial H-4 status or an extension are responsible for completing Form I-539. It can be included in your H-1B application with the $370 filing fee. Filing instructions for H-4 status are provided with the H-1B application packet.

Eligible family member(s) who currently maintain other legal nonimmigrant status in the United States can apply to change to H-4 status at any time by filing Form I-539. The form should be signed by your primary dependent, not by you, unless the oldest dependent is a minor child.

If dependents reside outside the United States

After your H-1B approval notice arrives, your dependents may apply for H-4 visas at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Present a marriage certificate for your spouse or birth certificates for your children when applying. Canadian citizens are exempted from the H-4 visa requirement.

Rights and restrictions while in the United States

Taking classes

H-4 dependents can pursue part-time or full-time studies without restrictions.


H-4 dependents generally cannot be employed. There are exceptions to this rule.

Social Security

Since only those who are legally allowed to work in the United States are eligible for Social Security benefits, an H-4 dependent may not be able to apply for a Social Security number.

International travel

As long as the H-1B worker maintains lawful status, H-4 dependents are allowed to travel in and out of the country without restrictions. Please check with our office for required documentation for international travel.

Health insurance

While it is not required, WSU International Programs strongly encourages H-4 dependents to obtain health insurance.

H-4 status cancellation

If the H-1B worker has filed a self-petitioned Green Card and subsequently obtained a Green Card for themselves and family member(s), it is recommended to withdraw the H-4 status request with USCIS.

The immigration attorney who may have helped the self-petitioned Green Card application can assist.

Family visits

If you would like to invite your parents or other immediate family members for a short visit to the United States, they should contact their local U.S. embassy/consular office and follow the procedures for a B-2 visa application.