Short answer: Yes, but in certain situations. H-4 status is for spouses and unmarried children (child must be under 21 years old) of the principal H-1b visa holder. H-1b dependents are allowed to attend school, extend their status, and change status. However, when it comes to a work permit, H-4 dependents have to meet a higher benchmark.
Only H-4 spouses (but not H-4 dependent children) are allowed to work if the principal H-1b visa holder (1) has an approved I-140 (Immigration Work Petition) or (2) has been granted H-1b under section 106(a) and (b) of the amended American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act of 2000. Furthermore, even though H-4 dependents can attend school, H-4 dependents are not eligible for temporary employment related to their study, unlike F-1 visa holders.
The future of H-4 employment is uncertain under the Trump administration. In 2017, President Trump issued an executive order titled "Buy American and Hire American" which states the president's intention to end the rule allowing H-4 spouses to seek work authorization. As of the writing of this article, immigration agencies have not implemented this executive order. Immigration has to go through the process of designing a new policy and inviting public comment before implementing new regulations. Therefore, there has been no official change as of yet. We will update you as soon as we learn more.
Considering the restrictions under H-4 visa status and the volatile future of H-4 work permits, you may want to consider doing a changing status to a visa that provides for more concrete work authorization. Speak with an attorney to learn more about your options.
For more information on applying for employment authorization as an H-4 dependent spouse, see this U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) page.
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--Najmeh Mahmoudjafari, J.D.
Najmeh is the Founder and Lead Immigration Attorney at ImmigraTrust Law (www.ImmigraTrust.com), an immigration law practice in Orange County, California, representing individual and corporate clients in all 50 U.S. States and internationally. Najmeh can be reached at Najmeh@ImmigraTrust.com.
DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended and does not constitute legal advice. This article does not create an attorney/client relationship and does not provide an attorney/client privilege. For legal advice about your specific case, please contact an attorney.
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