A large number of people visit the United States every year to work, study or join family members who have immigrated there. The H-4 visa is issued to dependents of H-1B visa holders, who can include spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old. Having a valid H-4 visa is of utmost importance for H-4 visa holders, as being out-of-status in the US can have severe repercussions. In this article, we will discuss the grace period for expired H-4 visas and the consequences that come with it.
What is the H4 Visa Grace Period?
Simply put, the H-4 visa grace period is a short period of time after the visa expiration in which an H-4 visa holder can remain in the United States legally. The visa holder generally won’t be charged with being “out of status” during this grace period. The H-4 visa grace period is 60 days.
Work Authorization for H4 Visa Holders
H-4 visa holders were authorized to get work permits under certain circumstances in 2015. Work authorization under H-4 is only available if the H-1B visa holder is:
- The principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) or
- Granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act.
H-4 EAD authorization may be revoked at any time by the USCIS, and while the grace period for H-4 visa holders is generally 60 days, the final rule to remove H-4 EAD authorization would also end the H-4 visa grace period.
Relevance of Filing a Timely Application for Extension
It is essential to file for an extension of the H-4 visa before the expiration date. The USCIS shows no flexibility regarding late applications, so it is recommended that H-4 visa holders file at least 120 days before the expiry of their visas. Having an expired H-4 visa will result in unlawful presence, and without a lawful presence, it won’t be possible to change, extend, or adjust status in the United States in the future.
Actions to be Taken in Case of Late Filing
The USCIS provides instructions that state that anyone who fails to apply for an extension of their visa before its expiration date is expected to leave the US immediately to avoid removal proceedings. In some cases, the individual may be allowed to remain in the US for an additional period (usually no more than 60 days). Late applicants must provide an explanation for the delayed application and satisfy the USCIS that the delay was beyond their control.
Termination vs. Abandonment
In the context of the H-4 visa, the term “termination” often refers to an employer ending the H-1B visa holder’s employment. When the H-1B petition is terminated, the H-4 visa dependent’s visa will be revoked simultaneously. This can be particularly concerning if the H-4 visa holder was in the middle of their visa extension process, as it could cause the application to be abandoned.
Abandonment refers to when an H-4 visa holder applies for a change of nonimmigrant status or adjustment of status and then leaves the United States before USCIS makes a decision on the application. If USCIS doesn’t have enough information to approve or deny the application, they will reject it, causing the visa holder to lose their legal status in the US.
Precautions to Avoid Unauthorized Stay
Staying beyond the visa validity period is called an “unauthorized stay,” and it has serious consequences. It is particularly hazardous to foreign nationals who have overstayed their visas while in the United States. This overstay may result in disqualification from changing or extending their current visa, being barred from returning to the U.S., or even being deported.
If a unforeseen situation arises, such as a health problem or a family emergency, you should seek the guidance of a qualified immigration attorney before taking further actions.
The H-4 visa grace period allows an individual to remain in the United States for a short period of time after their visa expires. It is strongly advised to avoid overstay periods and to apply for extensions in a timely manner. Any late applicants must provide reasonable explanations supporting their delay to the USCIS. Hoping the information shared here has been informative and provides a basic understanding of the H-4 visa expired grace period.
Useful Links and Keywords
Here are some useful links and keywords to navigate through the H4 visa expired grace period:
- H-4 visa grace period
- H-4 EAD authorization
- Out of status
- Unlawful presence
- Change of nonimmigrant status
Q: Can I stay in the US if my H-4 visa has expired?A: If your H-4 visa has expired, you can stay in the United States for 60 days without it being considered “unlawful presence.”
Q: What should I do if I’m late in filing for an extension of my H-4 Visa?A: You should submit a late application along with an explanation of the delayed application to USCIS. Late applicants must establish the reason beyond control for delay.
Q: Can I apply for an H-4 visa while in the United States?A: It is possible for H-4 visa holders to file an application for the H-4 visa extension while in the US. However, changes in US policies or guidance from the USCIS may affect this option.
Q: Can I work in the United States with the H-4 visa?A: H-4 visa holders may work in the United States if they are authorized to work. The work authorization is only available if the H-1B visa holder satisfies certain criteria.