The H-1B’s dependents (spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age) are eligible for H-4 status. If the family members are abroad, they obtain H-4 visas by presenting to the U.S. consulate copies of the H-1B Approval Notice and proof of family relationship to the H-1B (marriage certificate for spouse and birth certificates for children). If the family members are currently residing in the U.S. they can obtain or extend H-4 status by filing the Form I-539.

Although the spouse and children of H-1B employees usually enter as H-4s, they are not required to do so. They may enter in other visa classifications for which they qualify, such as F-1, J-1, B-2 or H-1B. Domestic partners are not eligible for H-4 status but may apply for B-2 visas.

Employment is not permitted for persons in H-4 status unless they have a valid Employment Authorization Card.