Your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may join you in the US as your dependents in H-4 status. Individuals in H-4 status may study, but they are not eligible for employment authorization. If your dependents are currently abroad, they can apply for an H-4 visa on the basis of your H-1B Approval Notice and proof of their relationship to you. If they are currently in the US in a different immigration status, a change of immigration status will need to be filed on their behalf. This is done by filing a Form I-539 with USCIS. Your dependents will have to complete this form, though ISS can send it to USCIS together with your H-1B petition. Your dependent can also file this form independently once your H-1B petition has been filed with USCIS. The filing fee for Form I-539 is $370.
Attention: USCIS to Publish Revised Form I-539 and New Form I-539A, which must be used after 3/21/2019.
See link to USCIS announcement with details about the new form: https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-publish-revised-form-i-539-and-new-form-i-539a
See link to Form I-539 on the USCIS website (the new form will not be published on the USCIS website until 3/8/2019, according to USCIS): https://www.uscis.gov/i-539
Key takeaways about the new Form I-539/I-539A:
- Form I-539/I-539A is used for many nonimmigrant change of status and extension of status applications, to include change of status and extension of status of the H-4 nonimmigrant visa classification.
- Form I-539 is NOT used for the H-1B nonimmigrant visa category.
- The new form must be used for any I-539/I-539A application received by USCIS after 3/21/2019. USCIS has stated that the new form will be published on the USCIS website on March 8, 2019.
- With the new form, USCIS will require an additional $85 biometric fee for each H-4 applicant, regardless of age. This is in addition to the $370 form fee.
- With the new form, every H-4 applicant will receive a biometric services appointment notice, regardless of age, containing an individual receipt number. The biometric services appointment will be scheduled at the Application Support Center closest to the primary applicant’s address.
- The new biometrics appointment/process will slow down the H-4 adjudication process. If an H-4 request is submitted in the same envelope as a premium processing H-1B application, USCIS recently said in a teleconference that the H-4 will not be adjudicated in 15 days, like the H-1B, but they will attempt to adjudicate it as quickly as possible. We will not know how quickly they will adjudicate H-4 applications filed with H-1B premium processing requests until the new form and biometrics process begins.
Reminder: Virginia Tech International Support Services does not prepare or review Form I-539 for H-4 applicants. If H-4 applicants wish to submit the application in the same envelope as the H-1B petition, then we will do that, but we do not prepare or review H-4 applications. If a qualifying dependent is outside of the US and wishes to enter in H-4 status, the I-539 is not required, or even possible. The applicant abroad must apply for and obtain the H-4 visa stamp at a US consulate abroad and request admission into the US in H-4 status thereafter.