The H-4 visa is available for the spouses of those for nationals who have received an H-1B visa. However, unlike many other visa categories for spouses, there are conditions on H-4 visa holders who can apply for and receive work authorization. H-4 visa holders can receive an EAD work if they meet one of these criteria: (1) their spouse has an approved I-140 petition, or (2) their spouse has continued in H-1B status past the six-year mark under the AC21 provisions. The Trump Administration is reconsidering these regulations and may withdraw work authorization for H-4 visa holders – a decision that is expected in June 2018.
Despite the uncertainty for many H-4 visa holders, there remains a safe haven for those spouses who have suffered abuse at the hands of the H-1B visa holder. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows certain abused H-4 (or A, E-3, G) nonimmigrant spouses to apply for work authorization, which enables victims to seek both safety and independence from their abuser. Applicants must use the Form I-765V, and make an affirmative demonstration of the abuse suffered. Victims who are recently divorced also may be eligible. Work authorization is granted in two-year increments and can be extended, but evidence of the abuse does not have to be resubmitted. However, the granting of work authorization does not provide an independent immigration “status,” and the H-4 visa holder is still subject to the terms and conditions of the principal’s H-1B visa.
Help is available to victims of domestic violence though the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD). The hotline has information about shelters, mental health care, legal advice, and other types of assistance, including information about filing for immigration status. For more information, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.