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How to Apply for H4 EAD First Time: Guide to the H4 EAD Application

Hello! If you're considering applying for an H4 EAD for the first time, I'm here to guide you through the H4 EAD application process. I'll cover H4 EAD eligibility, the H4 EAD document checklist, how to fill out the I-765 form, H4 EAD processing time, and highlight some common mistakes.

Table of Contents: H4 EAD Process

H4 EAD Process


H4 EAD Eligibility, you are eligible if

  • Dependent of H-1B holder with approved I-140, or

  • H1B status approved under AC21

H4 EAD Fees


5 to 10.5 months (read more)

H4 EAD Documents Checklist

  1. Check of $520

  2. Two passport-size photos

  3. Completed I-765 form

  4. Proof of legal status, such as a copy of I-94 and I-797 notice

  5. Photo ID, such as a copy of the passport/visa

  6. Proof of relationship, like a marriage certificate

  7. Previous EAD copy (if renewing)

H4 EAD Premium Processing

Not available

H4 EAD Attorney Fees

Typically, $500 to $1500

H4 EAD Online Filing

Not available

H4 EAD Expedite Request

Possible (read more)

3.5 to 8 months (read more)

I'll walk you through the renewal or extension process, which should begin 180 days before your current EAD's expiry. Feel free to reach out with any questions – I'm dedicated to making your H4 EAD application process as smooth as possible!

H4 EAD Application Process for First-Time Applicants

Overall, I will explain the following in detail, covering all the aspects of the H4 EAD process. If you think I should add something, feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below, and I will try to add those details to the best of my knowledge.

  1. First, we will check the eligibility criteria.

  2. Next, gather the necessary documents required for the H4 EAD application.

  3. After that, we will fill out form I-765.

  4. Submit the H4 EAD application.

  5. Wait for USCIS processing and approval.

  6. Receive H4 EAD card (and SSN if applicable).

  7. Go through FAQs about the H4 EAD application process.

H4 EAD Eligibility Criteria for First-Time Applicants

Before we jump into H4 EAD eligibility criteria, note that

  1. You can file H4 EAD only when you are physically present in the US

  2. You don't need any job offer to apply for H4 EAD

  3. You can not file H4 EAD online, this can be done only by mail. F1 visa holders are eligible for online application though, you can read this in detail in this blog.

USCIS Guidelines for H4 EAD Eligibility

Primary H1B visa holder should have an approved I-140.


If primary visa holder is on H1B status under AC21 sections 106(a) and (b) i.e. your H1B has been extended beyond 6 years and you have PERM filed (pending or approved) and I-140 filed (pending or approved) for over 365 days, then also you are eligible to file H4 EAD. I would recommend consulting your employer/ attorney for this special case.
USCIS H4 EAD Eligibility Criteria
USCIS H4 EAD Eligibility

H4 EAD with Approved I-140

If you are the principal beneficiary of an H1B visa holder with an approved form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker then you are eligible for H4 EAD. For example, children (unmarried) under the age of 21 and spouses of H1B visa holders are eligible for H-4 status, and so for H4 EAD.

So if your primary visa holder is on a valid H1B status and has an approved I-140 (either from your current employer or past employer, just make sure it's not revoked by checking the status online) and your visa type says H-4, you are good to take benefit of H-4 EAD.

H4 EAD with Pending PERM or I-140 (H1B > 6 years)

If the primary H1B visa holder has been granted an extension on H1B after six-year under the AC21 act i.e. you are in your 7th year of H1B and your PERM is pending for more than 365 days then also you can apply for H4 EAD.

If your PERM is approved but I-140 is pending, still you can apply for H4 EAD. This happens when there is a massive backlog in USCIS processing for PERM or I-140, sometimes it takes 1-2 years for approval.

Reference: Under AC21 § 106, an H-1B nonimmigrant can receive H-1B status beyond the six-year maximum, in one-year increments, if 365 days or more have passed since either an application for Alien Labor Certification (Form ETA 750A-B or ETA 9089) or a petition for an immigrant worker (Form I-140) has been filed on the alien's behalf.

H4 EAD Document Checklist for First-Time Applicant (or Renewal)

Once you know that you are eligible to file for H4 EAD, let us see what documents you would need to file I-765 by mail. There is no online H4 EAD application process yet, as mentioned earlier, as of now online is mainly for the F1 category only.

  • H4 EAD fees: The fee is $520. You can pay with a money order, personal check, or cashier’s check or by credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you want to pay by personal check, cashier's check, or money order, you must make your check payable to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security".

I-765 Photo Requirement
I-765 Photo Requirement
  • Form I-765: The eligibility category will be c(26) for H4 EAD.

  • Legal status proof: You would need the most recent I-94 form and your I-797 approval notice.

  • Photo ID: Passport (front and back pages), visa stamp copy, or EAD copy (EAD copy is not for the first-timer, but in case you are renewing). Your DL or State ID will not work for the photo ID requirement.

  • Relation to primary H1B holder: A copy of your marriage certificate in English.

  • H4 EAD eligibility: Copy of H1B spouse's I-797 approval notice for form I-140.

  • Form G-1145 (optional): This will help notify you via text or email. You can download it here.

  • Cover letter (optional): This is also optional but it will help an officer to understand your case better. You can refer to this for writing.

Even if you are applying for renewal or extension, the above document checklist will remain the same.

For Renewal: If you have a USCIS notice from your last EAD, you would have received a notice with sample bar codes that can be used for extension, and that will help USCIS officers speed up your application. Please include it if you still have it. If you don't have it, it's not mandatory to include it.

After filing for renewal, you might be eligible for an automatic EAD extension, you can read about this in the following blog.

H4 EAD Check Sample

I am attaching a sample check so that you can verify it. The H4 EAD fee is $520 and your check should be payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security". Don't forget to date and sign it. At the back of the check (optional), you can mention the applicant's I-94 number with a light pencil.

H4 EAD Check Sample
H4 EAD Check Sample

File Form I-765 for First-Time Applicant

You can download the latest version of the I-765 form from the USCIS website. There is also documentation on I-765 instructions which is very simple to follow. The H4 EAD category code you need to use is c(26).

  • Download and print the I-765 form from the link provided. Select reason for applying: Initial permission if you are a first-timer or Renewal for extension or Replacement for lost cards.

  • Fill in your personal information: If you have a single name, use FNU in the given name and your actual name in the Last name. Read more about FNU's name here.

  • You can also apply for an SSN card if the applicant doesn't have one. Just select "No" for 13.a. and then select "Yes" for Q14 & 15 and provide your father's and mother's names in Q16 & 17.

  • Choose the H4 EAD eligibility category as c(26) on question 27.

  • Provide your signature: Sign and date the form.

  • Pay the filing fee: I always preferred to pay via check.

  • Mail: Mail the completed form with supporting documents via USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc. USPS will be the cheapest option.

Note: To organize the documents, I recommend using file binders with tabs, labeled and numbered. This will help USCIS officers to easily understand your EAD application. Arrange the documents following the structure outlined in the sample cover letter.

I-765 Filing Address

I-765 filing address will depend on your eligibility category, (c)(26), and H-1B I-797 approval notice initial three letters, refer to the USCIS website. Please re-verify these addresses before dispatching your documents as this might change in the future.

H4 EAD Category

I-765 Filing Address

(c)(26) - H-4 spouse of an H-1B nonimmigrant, and the receipt number of your H-1B principal spouse’s most recent Form I-797, Notice of Action, for Form I-129 begins with EAC or LIN or MCT

USCIS Dallas Lockbox

U.S. Postal Service (USPS):


Attn: H4

P.O. Box 660921

Dallas, TX 75266-0921

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:


Attn: H4 (Box 660921)

2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business

Suite 400

Lewisville, TX 75067-8003

(c)(26) - H-4 spouse of an H-1B nonimmigrant, and the receipt number of your H-1B principal spouse’s most recent Form I-797, Notice of Action, for Form I-129 begins with WAC or SRC or IOE

USCIS Phoenix Lockbox

U.S. Postal Service (USPS):


Attn: H4

P.O. Box 20400

Phoenix, AZ 85036-0400

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:


Attn: H4 (Box 20400)

2108 E. Elliot Rd.

Tempe, AZ 85284-1806

  • Wait for the USCIS decision. You can track the status here. You will receive the SSN card via mail after EAD is approved.

  • You will also get electronic alerts from time to time if you have filed the G-1145 form along with the I-765 application.

H4 EAD Processing Time

Four service centers process H4 EAD applications under the c(26) category. The current H4 EAD processing times for 80% and 100% of cases (standalone applications) are shown below.

The above data is frequently refreshed from the USCIS website. You can bookmark ⭐ or save this page.

  • H1B, H4 COS, and H4 EAD: You may speed up the processing of your H4 EAD if you apply for an H1B extension for the primary visa holder along with a Change of Status (COS) to H4 under Edakunni Settlement. For detailed information, you can read more about this process here.

  • Expedite request: You can explore the option of expediting the H4 EAD application based on humanitarian reasons. There are no fees for this service, but the consideration of your case depends on the reason you provide and USCIS's discretion. For more details, you can read about it here.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for H4 EAD for the First Time

  • If you send the wrong fee, USCIS will reject your application. Pay the exact fees needed.

  • Biometrics fees would not be required for H4 EAD.

  • Do not use a short abbreviation like "USCIS" while writing (payable to) the check. USCIS will reject it.

  • I always preferred to personal check to make payments because that way you can also see if you are application is getting processed, just keep checking your bank balance and when $520 is deducted. Fees have changed recently to $520.

  • If your photographs are not recent (older than 6 months) then our application will be rejected.

  • Do not wear a white shirt/ top and the background should be off-white.

  • Do not forget to sign and date the I-765 application form before you mail it.

  • While mailing the application, first keep the check on top, second, photograph in a small envelope, then form G-1145 (optional), cover letter (optional), and then I-765 and the rest of the supporting documents.

  • Use a nice numbered file folder like below to post your documents.

  • Do not staple the documents, use paper clips if needed.

h4 ead process

FAQs on the H4 EAD Process

Can I file H4 EAD online?

No, currently H4 EAD can be done only via mail and the online facility is not available for H4 applicants.

Can an H4 visa holder work in the USA without EAD?

No, you must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, to request employment authorization as an H-4 dependent spouse. You must receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD/Form I-765) from USCIS before you may begin working.

How to track the status of your first-time H4 EAD application?

Once you receive the receipt number, you can track your application on the USCIS website. It's the same process as checking any other case on USCIS.

What is the current processing time for H4 EAD?

As of Jun 2024, H4 EAD processing time is between 5 to 10.5 months. USCIS provides an estimated processing time range for I-765 applications on its website, which is regularly updated. You can find it here.

What is the alien number on the I-765?

If you have previously held an H1B, OPT, or any other type of Employment Authorization Document (EAD), you can locate your alien number on those documents. The alien number is the same as the USCIS number on the EAD card. If you do not have an alien number, please leave this field blank.

Is there premium processing for the H4 EAD application?

No, there is no premium processing for H4 EAD. However, as explained earlier, you might be able to speed up your H4 EAD application:

  • If you need to file an H4 COS, H EAD along with an H1B extension (in premium).

  • Or you can submit an expedited request based on Humanitarian reasons.

What will happen to H4 EAD if I change employer?

There is no impact on an H4 EAD if you change your employer, become jobless, or take an employment gap, as long as the primary H1B visa holder has maintained valid H1B status.

There is no impact on an H4 EAD even if the H1B visa holder changes employers; however, this should be done within the 60-day grace period. If the H1B visa holder is unemployed beyond 60 days, then the H4 EAD automatically becomes invalid.

Am I eligible for H4 EAD automatic extension?

You might be eligible for a 540-day or 180-day automatic EAD extension depending on when you filed your I-765 EAD renewal application. Read more.

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Dear Hina,

I am grateful to you for your comprehensive explanation and assistance in filing various forms, beginning with the J1 waiver. I am appreciative of your time and assistance. I am seeking to apply for an H4EAD and would like to inquire about the service center for checking processing times. I have an IQE code in my I-797 and must send it to Phoenix, AZ.

I have another question regarding the renewal of an EAD. My wife previously held a J2 EAD that expired in November 2023. Do you believe we can utilize the option for renewal and provide the previous approval notice though we would be filing h4-EAD for the first time?

Hina Singh
Hina Singh
9 hours ago
Replying to

Hi Sayanta, The IOE (never heard of IQE though) service center code indicates that your case is being handled through the USCIS electronic processing system. Refer to the bottom of the I-797 notice to find the service center name (just above the USCIS address), then check their processing times.

Also, as far as I know, when transitioning from a J2 EAD to an H4 EAD, it is not considered a renewal but rather a new application (as the category is changing). Thanks.


Hi, Im currently on L2 and working and my husband is on L1b, his visa is changing into H1b and approved i140 from 2023. Apparently my h4 approval notice also arrived!

  1. Is it okay if i start applying for EAD now itself without stamping H1b and H4 just with the approval notice ?

Thank you.

Replying to

Yes, you can start your EAD application. You don't need new visa stamps for the EAD application; approval notices are sufficient. Thanks.


Can you please share the timeline for the concurrent files H4 EAD with H4 as well?

Replying to

Hi, please refer to this H4 EAD filed with change of status. Thanks.


Moved from H1 - H4 and applying for H4 EAD. I already have SSN while on H1.  

Do I need to mark Yes or No for Part 2: 14 - Do you want the SSA to issue you a Social Security Card?

Does H4 EAD need a different SSN or can we use the same one as on H1?

Replying to

No, you don't need a new SSN; you can use the same one as your H1B. In section 13.b., provide your current SSN number. Thanks!


Hey, My current H1B expires in July (~3 months). Spouse's H4 is stamped with this particular H1B I 797A.

I have got extension done. (7/2024 to 7/2027) with I140 Approved in 2022.

If I apply for H4 EAD, by the time (4-5 months), EAD card comes, my current H1B would have expired. - The H1B on which spouse has H4.

How would that go? Would USCIS give H4EAD till 2027 under the light of approved extension? Thanks.

Replying to

There is an automatic extension period for H4 EAD holders. As long as you have filed for the H4 EAD renewal before its expiry, you are automatically granted an extension for a few days, providing you with coverage during the USCIS processing period. You can find more details about this provision here -


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