Only the spouse and minor children (under age 21) who accompany the primary visa holder to the U.S. may receive H-4 dependent status. Their eligibility to stay legally in the U.S., as well as to extend their stay, is contingent upon the primary visa holder maintaining his/her legal status and extending his/her program in a timely manner.

H-4 Dependents

The spouse and minor children (under age 21) of an H-1B worker may obtain H-4 status one of two ways:

  • If outside the U.S., the spouse and/or minor children may apply for H-4 status at a U.S. Consulate using a copy of the H-1B approval notice and other support documentation, as indicated at the Consulate’s website.
  • If inside the U.S., the spouse and/or minor children may apply for H-4 status with a USCIS Service Center using Form I-539 and supporting documentation.  This form can and should be filed concurrently with applications for H-1B status, when applicable.

Important Information about H-4 Status

Upon arrival in Pittsburgh, please provide OIS with a copy of H-4 immigration documentation, including: passport biographic page(s), visa stamp(s), & I-94(s). These documents can be uploaded in My OIS directly (select Biographical Information and then choose Update Immigration Documents).

H-4 dependents must file for an extension of status when the H-1B extension application is filed, as H-4 status does not automatically extend when the H-1B status is extended.

Once the H-1B primary has completed his or her program and has left the U.S., the H-4 dependents must depart the U.S., as well.

Dependent children over age 21 are not eligible for H-4 status and will need to change to another status such as F-1 (for full time students) if they wish to stay in the U.S.


Individuals in H-4 status are not permitted to work in the United States.


Individuals in H-4 status may engage in full or part-time study.