H-4 Status for Dependent Family Members

Once you have been granted H-1B status, your spouse and children (under 21) will normally be eligible for H-4 dependent status. H-4 status dependents cannot be employed in the US, but they are allowed to attend school.

Applying for an H-4 Visa at a US Consulate

After your H-1B petition has been approved, your dependents may apply for H-4 visas at a US embassy/consulate abroad. You should refer to the website of the consulate where your dependents will apply for more information on the visa application process and the documents required for an H-4 visa.

Applying for a Change of Status to H-4 or Extension of H-4 Status

If your dependents are in the United States, your dependents can request a change of status to H-4 or extension of H-4 status by completing USCIS Form I-539 Application to Change or Extend Nonimmigrant Status. You are responsible for paying the filing fees for the I-539 application. You must also provide certain supporting documents along with the I-539 form (copies of passport, visa, I-94, current or previous immigration documents, etc). Please carefully read the Form I-539 instructions provided on the USCIS website for information on how to complete form I-539 and how to correctly issue checks for the fees.

You have two options for submitting the I-539 application (Form I-539, supporting documents and checks for the fees) to USCIS:

  1. Submit along with the H-1B petition. The I-539 application can be submitted to USCIS along with your H-1B petition. You must provide the completed I-539 form, copies of supporting documents and checks to either the Center for Global Health (CGH) or the law firm of Sturm & Cont, depending on which entity is preparing your H-1B petition. See addresses below.
  2. Submit separately to USCIS. The I-539 application can be submitted to USCIS after your H-1B petition has been received by USCIS. The USCIS receipt number for your pending H-1B petition must be entered in Part 3, question 3b of the I-539 form.

Tips for completing Form I-539:

  • If you (the H-1B beneficiary) are completing the form on behalf of a dependent spouse or child, keep in mind that you will be entering your dependent’s information in the form, not your information.
  • The US mailing address that you enter in Part 1 must be an address where you can receive mail for the next several months. This is the address that USCIS will use to send notices for this case.
  • Part 3, question 1 – The date should match the requested end date of your H-1B status. If you are unsure about this date, contact CGH.
  • Part 4 – Pay special attention to the questions that require you to provide additional details in Part 8 Additional Information. Be very detailed and clear
  • Thoroughly review the I-539 instructions provided on the USCIS website while completing and reviewing the form.

If you want the I-539 to be submitted along with the H-1B petition, you must send the original completed and signed I-539 form, supporting documents, and filing fee checks to the appropriate address below. If you are not sure about who is preparing your H-1B petition (CGH or outside legal counsel), contact CGH to verify.

MUSC Center for Global Health
Attn: Erin Huley
45 Courtenay Drive MSC 203
4th Floor Room SS438
Charleston, SC 29425

Sturm & Cont, PA
Attn: Allison Strange
159 Hall Street
Spartanburg, SC 29302

Biometric Services

In March 2019, USCIS instituted a new rule that requires all I-539 applicants and co-applicants to pay a biometric services fee and complete a biometric services appointment. Every applicant and co-applicant will receive a biometric services appointment notice from USCIS. The biometric services appointments will be scheduled at the Application Support Center (ASC) closest to the primary applicant’s address. Co-applicants who wish to be scheduled at a different ASC location should file a separate Form I-539.

More information on biometric services appointments can be found on the USCIS website.