Can an H-1B Visa Holder Bring Their Family to the United States?

Family sitting together in front of house

We often receive questions regarding whether or not it is possible to bring family members to the United States with an H-1B visa. Fortunately, it is possible for an individual’s family to accompany them to the United States if they hold an H-1B visa! Immigration law only provides for certain immediate family members, however. Specifically, H-1B visa holders are able to bring their spouse and children (unmarried and 21 years of age or younger) to the United States with them. Married children, parents, siblings, and other family members may not travel to the United States with the employee under this visa category. Those other family members must pursue their own visa, such as a B-2 visitor visa

The spouse and unmarried children (21 years of age and younger) of an H-1B visa holder may travel with them as H-4 dependents or, alternatively, may pursue their own employment-based visa. The children of H-1B visa holders may attend school in the United States.  It’s important to note that H-4 status for children will expire when they reach the age of 21 or when they get married. Moreover, H-4 status is contingent on the validity of the H-1B employee. This means that if the H-1B employee’s visa is no longer valid, neither is the H-4 status of their family members. 

To apply for an H-4 visa while outside of the United States, Form DS-160 is required. This form is an online application used to obtain nonimmigrant visas to the United States. The visa holder’s family members will be required to supply details about their passports and travel itinerary, any previous travel to the United States, and basic personal information. There is a $160 filing fee for the DS-160. After filing Form DS-160, the family members will be required to attend a visa interview at the appropriate United States embassy or consulate. During this interview, they can anticipate being asked questions about their relationship with the visa holder as well as their proposed activities in the United States. The interview and application will be used to determine whether a person is eligible for an H-4 visa. 

To apply for an H-4 visa while inside the United States, a family member may file a change of status form. Change of status must be applied for before their current visa status expires. It is recommended to apply for a change of status at least 45 days and up to six months before the expiration date to allow for adequate processing time. 

Can an H-1B Visa Holder’s Spouse Work if They Hold an H-1B Visa?

It is possible for an H-1B visa holder’s spouse to work if they hold an H-1B visa. If the spouse is an H-4 dependent, they may apply for employment authorization. For an H-4 dependent spouse to work in the United States, they must have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). To request an EAD, you must first complete and submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. This application should be submitted while inside the United States. 

Additional evidence is requested alongside Form I-765. This evidence will include confirmation of the H-1B visa holder’s current visa as well their spouse’s current H-4 status. It is also necessary to pay the filing fee of $410. It takes approximately 90 to 180 days to process Form I-765 and there is currently no option to expedite the H-4 EAD process via Premium Processing. 

Importantly, their spouse is not allowed to work until they have obtained their Employment Authorization Document. Once they have secured their EAD, they may begin looking for employment in the United States. Their EAD work permit will be valid for as long as the H-1B visa is valid. There is an option to extend the spouse’s work permit if the H-1B visa holder files for an extension of their visa. 

Connect with an Experienced H-1B Visa Lawyer at Alcorn Immigration Law Today

Pursuing employment in the United States under the H-1B visa is an exciting opportunity for many individuals and their families. Between navigating the H-1B visa lottery and the application process, however, obtaining legal immigration status for H-1B family members can become overwhelming. At Alcorn Immigration Law, we work closely with H-1B visa holders and their loved ones to secure H-4 status as well as other employment-based visa classifications based on their independent work. With offices in Mountain View, CA, and New York, NY, we offer comprehensive immigration services to individuals located across the United States and abroad. To learn more about how we can help, consider contacting us at +1(855) 546-0015 today.