H1B, H4, and H4 EAD concurrent filing and H4 approval with H1 premium processing. Since January 2023, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has allowed H1B dependents, H4 visa holders, to apply for their H4 EADs (form I-765) and H4 visa applications concurrently with the H1B application (I-129) under the Edakunni Settlement.
This means that H4 visa holders can now apply for both their H4 visa and H4 EAD at the same time as the primary H1B petition. This change significantly reduced H4 EAD processing time, allowing H-4 visa holders to start working in the US more quickly.
Edakunni settlement applies to L2 dependents as well, but these days L2 visa holders don't require EAD. You can read about L2S work authorization in more detail below.
Related: Work authorization for L2 visa
Between 2015 and January 2023, the process for obtaining an H4 visa and an H4 EAD was a two-step process.
First, the H4 applicants would have to apply for an H4 visa.
Once they receive the H4 visa, they can then apply for an H4 EAD.
Related: H1B grace period after layoffs
The two-step process could take several months and often caused significant delays for H4 visa holders who wanted to start working in the US. When H4 and H4 EAD applications are filed separately, the H4 processing time to get both applications approved could take up to 6 to 11 months, depending on the service center backlog, and sometimes even longer.
Table of Contents: H4 and H4 EAD Concurrent Filing
As per the Edakunni Settlement, USCIS will concurrently adjudicate H4 and H4 EAD applications with the principal's H1B (I-129) petition if they are filed together as a bundle.
The term "Bundle" refers to the processing by USCIS of multiple forms together as a package. The term "properly filed together" means packaged together and filed at the same time and in the same location, consistent with USCIS form instructions.
If the H4 and H4 EAD applications were submitted separately or after the principal's H1B petition, the Edakunni settlement will not apply to your case. Reference: Forbes
H4 EAD Processing Time (2023)
In October 2023, the H4 EAD processing time for 80% of cases is between 3 to 6 months, depending on which service center is handling your request. Currently, four service centers process H4 EAD (I-765) applications i.e. the application for employment authorization based on being an H4 spouse of an H1B nonimmigrant and these are their H4 processing times.
H4 EAD processing time for Standalone application (not filed with I-539 H4) [C(26)] are as follows:
California Service Center: 4.5 months
Texas Service Center: 7 months
Nebraska Service Center: 5.5 months
Vermont Service Center: 3 months
H4 EAD processing time for COS application (filed with I-539 H4) [C(26)] are as follows:
California Service Center: 4.5 months
Texas Service Center: 7 months
Nebraska Service Center: 5.5 months
Vermont Service Center: 3 months
Visit the USCIS website to get the latest H4 EAD processing times as these details keep getting updated. Note that you can get premium processing for H4 EAD for COS (filed with I-539) under Edakunni Settlement.
You can find the service center by the state from where you are applying or by the application receipt number. Refer to the first three characters of your H4 EAD application receipt number.
WAC – Western Adjudication Center (California Service Center)
SRC – Southern Regional Center (Texas Service Center)
LIN – Lincoln Service Center (Nebraska Service Center)
EAC – Eastern Adjudication Center (Vermont Service Center)
Related: How to apply for H4 EAD?
H4 EAD Premium Processing
As of October 2023, there is no H4 EAD premium processing offered by USCIS. However, EAD premium processing is available for certain F-1 visa categories including (C)(3)(A), (C)(3)(B), or (C)(3)(C) of the I-765 form, with a premium processing fee of $1,500 and processing time of 30 days.
Related: Request for USCIS premium processing
It's important to note that H4 EAD does not fall within these eligible categories. The category for H4 EAD (Employment Authorization Document) is (C)(26) on the I-765 form.
So, as of October 2023, H4 EAD does not have a premium processing option available but you can still get H4 EAD within 15 days if your employer properly files an H1B extension/transfer (I-129) with premium processing along with an H4 visa application and H4 EAD, all bundled together as per Edakunni Settlement explained earlier.
Related: Indian passport renewal in the USA
You need to file the H1B extension/or transfer, H4 (COS), and H4 EAD concurrently with H1B (I-129) premium processing in the same package at the same time, in the same location, and in most cases, all three (H1B, H4, and H4 EAD) should be approved within 15 days if there is no RFE, and usually, H4 EAD is dispatched within 10 days. The fee for Form I-129 premium processing is $2,500.
H4 EAD Eligibility
It is important to note that not all H-4 visa holders are eligible for an H-4 EAD. To be eligible for H4 EAD, the H-4 visa holder's spouse must be in H-1B status and either:
Have an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, or
Be in the sixth year of their H-1B status and have a pending Form I-140.
The H-4 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows spouses and dependent children (under the age of 21) of H-1B visa holders to enter and stay in the United States. The H-1B visa is a temporary work visa for foreign workers in specialty occupations, and their spouses and children are eligible for H-4 visas.
Related: H1B options after layoffs
While H-4 visa holders are not allowed to work in the US, they can apply for employment authorization through the H-4 Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
H1, H4 and H4 EAD Concurrent Filing
Note that you can not file an H1B petition yourself so the following steps apply only when your employer is willing to file an H1B extension/transfer (I-129), H4 visa (COS, I-539), and H4 EAD (I-765) together.
On January 25, 2023, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) resumed the practice of adjudicating Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) and Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) for H-4 and L-2 derivatives in conjunction with the underlying I-129 for the principal applicant, allowing for concurrent filings.
The initial step involves preparing the I-129 application for the primary H1B visa holder, whether it's a renewal or transfer.
If the H-1B visa holder's dependents are also seeking H-4 visas, their change of status applications (I-539) should be filed concurrently with the primary H1B application (if applying within the US). If dependents are coming from India, it would be a DS-160 form, not a change of status.
Additionally, the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, should be submitted together with the H-4 visa application. This form is used to apply for an H-4 EAD. Ensure that you include the required filing fees and other supporting documentation, such as a copy of their passport, I-94, and marriage certificate, which are similar to the documents needed when applying for H4 EAD for the first time.
USCIS will process both the H-1B (I-129) and H-4 visa (I-539) applications simultaneously. If the H-4 change of status is approved without any RFEs, USCIS will then proceed to process the H-4 EAD (I-765) application.
Upon approval of the H-4 EAD application, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to the H-4 visa holder. The H-4 EAD is typically valid for the same duration as the H-4 visa.
For faster processing, consider requesting premium processing for I-129 to speed up the overall process.
Related: B1/B2 visa for parents'
H4 EAD Expedite Request
An H4 EAD expedited request is a formal appeal submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to accelerate the processing of an H4 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) application. There are no fees for this request.
This is different from USCIS premium processing for which you pay an upfront fee. Expedite requests are typically made in cases of urgent humanitarian circumstances or severe financial loss to the applicant or their employer. Read more about this in the following post.
The request must be supported by compelling evidence and documentation, clearly demonstrating the urgency and necessity for expedited processing. USCIS evaluates each request on a case-by-case basis and may approve the expedited request if the provided evidence meets the criteria for expedited processing.
However, it is essential to note that expediting the H4 EAD application is not guaranteed, and USCIS has the sole discretion to approve or deny the request based on the merits of each case.
In conclusion, concurrent filing of H-4 visas and H-4 EAD can significantly reduce processing times and get H-4 visa holders to work in the US faster. However, not all H-4 visa holders are eligible for an H-4 EAD, and it is important to stay up-to-date on any changes in policy regarding H-4 EADs.
H4 Processing Time
H4 processing time for applications based on DS-160 (first visit to the US) can range from 2 to 6 weeks. However, if you are applying for a change of status within the US, it may take between 2.5 to 4.5 months for 80% of cases.
It's important to note that you cannot apply for H4 EAD from outside the US. You must be physically present in the US to submit the H4 EAD application.
DS-160, First visit to the U.S.
If you are applying for an H4 visa for your dependents coming to the U.S., then similar to a B2 tourist visa, you will need to fill out the DS-160 form. The good news is that the interview wait time for an H4 visa interview is much shorter than that for a B2 tourist visa.
As of October 2023, the appointment wait times for the H visa type in various cities are as follows (please note that these times may change in the future, and you can check the current wait times here).
New Delhi: 3 calendar days
Mumbai: 18 calendar days
Kolkata: 13 calendar days
Chennai: 3 calendar days
H4 Change of Status, Form I-539
When applying for a H4 change of status within the United States using Form I-539, such as transferring from another visa category to H4 dependent status, the processing time may vary and typically falls between 2.5 to 4.5 months, depending on the service center handling your case.
As of October 2023, the processing times for I-539 change of status to H4 dependent with I-765 are as follows (please note that processing times may change, and you can check the current processing times here).
California Service Center: 80% of cases approved within 4.5 months
Texas Service Center: 80% of cases approved within 3.5 months
Nebraska Service Center: 80% of cases approved within 3.5 months
Vermont Service Center: 80% of cases approved within 2.5 months
FAQs on H4 EAD Concurrent Filing
How does Edakunni Settlement affect H4 and EAD premium processing?
The Edakunni Settlement means that if you applied for H4 (COS, I-539) and H4 EAD (I-765) along with the main H-1B application (I-129), USCIS will review them together. But if you filed H4 and H4 EAD separately or after the H-1B, this rule doesn't apply. It's a good idea to submit all the applications together under I-129 premium processing to get the benefit of this rule.
Can I work for any employer without a sponsorship requirement or start a business with my H4 EAD?
With an H-4 EAD, you have the freedom to work for any employer in the US in a job that's legally allowed. Starting a business with H4 & H4 EAD is possible. However, it won't change your status. You're subject to H-4 restrictions, including not working without H-4 EAD.
Do H4 and H4 EAD get approved together?
No. First USCIS adjudicates the H4 application, once that's approved H4 EAD will be processed. While they are related, approval of the first does not guarantee approval of the other.
Can I apply for H4 and EAD at the same time?
Yes, you can file H4 and EAD at the same time if you are converting from another visa to an H4 visa within the US. Basically, if you are doing a change of status (I-539).
No, If you are applying from outside the US, you can not apply together. You have to get an H4 visa first and be physically present in the US to apply for H4 EAD.
Can you apply for H4 and EAD together?
No, and yes if applying within the US.
How much is the H4 processing time with the H1B premium under the Edakunni Settlement?
15 days, with a fee of $2,500, which is used for I-129 premium processing.
In the year 2023, what is the H4 visa processing time?
The H4 visa processing time for applications based on DS-160 (for the first entry into the US) can vary from 2 to 6 weeks. However, if you are applying for a change of status (Form I-539) within the US, it may take between 2.5 to 4.5 months for 80% of cases. Alternatively, if you opt for concurrent filing with an H1B petition under premium processing, the H4 processing time will be significantly reduced (Edakunni Settlement).
Is it possible to do an H4 extension with H1B premium processing?
Is H4 change of status premium processing available?
No, there is no H4 change of status premium processing. Form I-539 which is used for change of status has a premium processing option available only for F, M & J visas. Reference USCIS.
Is there H4 EAD premium processing?
No, there is no H4 EAD premium processing as of October 2023. The EAD premium processing option is only available for F1 visa categories. Read more.
Next: Apply H4 EAD
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