H-1B Dependents

US law recognizes two categories of accompanying family members for H-1B workers-

  • Spouses (through formal marriage)
    • US law does not recognize common law partnerships for immigration purposes
  • Unmarried children under 21 years

H-4 Dependents and School

H-4 dependents may engage in full- or part-time study. Children in H-4 status may attend public schools and spouses in H-4 status may apply for admission to Purdue as a degree-seeking or non-degree seeking student.

H-4 Dependents and Work

In general, H-4 dependents are not authorized for employment in the United States. However, H-4 spouses of certain H-1B workers may apply for a work permit once the H-1B worker has reached a specific point in the process of obtaining US permanent residence. 

H-4 Dependents and Volunteering

H4 dependents must be extremely careful if they decide to volunteer. Volunteer activities generally encompass charity work. If an activitiy is normally associated with employment - within the US, within an industry, or within Purdue - then the fact that it is unpaid does not convert that activity to volunteering; it stil constitutes employment under immigration law. It therefore is not possible to volunteer for a research laboratory, or volunteer to work in a Purdue classroom or office. Purdue does not permit volunteers holding F-2 and H-4 status to be active in the same departments and on similar projects as paid employees. 

Not all Family Members Require or Are Eligible for H-4 Status

While most countries in the world acknowledge the close relationships of extended family members, the US does not. Family members such as grandparents or grandchildren are not eligible for H-4 status. In general, brief visits might be facilitated using B-1/B-2 status or visa waiver entries (which are, again, technically in B-1 or B-2 tourist status). 

Children who are 22 years or older are not longer considered dependent. If you have a child over the age of 21 years who must accompany you as a dependent, please email intlscholars@purdue.edu

Family members who are engaging in their own activities in the USA do not need to become H-4 dependents solely because another family member has become an H-1B status holder. For example, if you are being sponsored by Purdue in H-1B status, but your spouse currently holds F-1 status and plans to continue their course of studies, then it likely is in their best interest to remain in F-1 status. Upon graduation, most F-1 students are eligible for post-completion optional practical training (OPT) that authorizes employment in the USA. In contrast, H-4 dependents, as noted above, are not authorized to work. 

USCIS Forms used during this step

Form I-539 (for dependents)

Instructions for preparing Form I-539