U.S. employers who want to hire foreign workers bring such workers to the country by getting them H-1B visas. These are temporary work visas. These visas help U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in certain fields such as in science, mathematics, medicine, engineering and architecture.
Dependents of the H-1B visa holders can accompany them to the U.S. by obtaining H-4 visas. These H-4 visas are meant for the eligible dependents of H-1B visa holders. Eligible dependents of H-1B visa holders are their spouses and their unmarried children below age 21.
H-4 visas do not allow the holders to work in the U.S. If the spouses and parents of the H-4 visa holders lose their jobs and lose their status, H-4 visas holders will also lose their status in the country. In that case, they need to return to their home countries.
Dependents of H visas holders who hold H-4 visas cannot obtain Social Security Numbers and cannot work in America. But they can study at U.S. universities and get driver’s licenses. They can open bank accounts and change to another non-immigrant status from H-4 status. They can also travel abroad and return to the U.S.
Eligible H-4 visa holders may become eligible for some other work visas. They may also become eligible for H-1B visas. Though the H-4 visa holders do not have the right to work in the U.S. they can change their status to some other non-immigrant status that would grant them the ability to work in the country. To change their non-immigrant status, they need to file the USCIS Form I-539, Application To Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status.
Reports show that most of the H-4 visa holders are highly skilled professionals. But they are unable to work in the country just because their non-immigrant status does not authorize them to work. Many now hope that immigration reform will address this issue and permit the H-4 visa holders to work in America.