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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:

See link to Form I-539 on the USCIS website (the new form will not be published on the USCIS website until 3/8/2019, according to USCIS):


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.