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Why H-1B and H-4 Visa Holders Should Consider the EB-5 Program

Two H-1B employees working on a project.

Thousands of foreign nationals apply to work in the United States under employment-based visa categories every year.

The most popular of these is the H-1B visa program. About three out of every four H-1B holders are Indian nationals. In many cases, they wish to bring their immediate family members along to preserve the family relationship. Each qualified relative receives an H-1B dependent visa, which is also called an H-4 visa.

However, there are H-1B and H-4 visa limits that can cause problems for those seeking to build a new life in the United States. Better options are available for some individuals.

In this article, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of the H-1B, H-4, and EB-5 visas.

What Is an H-1B Visa?

A family of four posing for the camera, representing h1b dependent visa holders.

The H-1B is a temporary nonimmigrant visa that lasts for three years and is renewable for another three years. Most H-1B visa holders must live outside the United States for at least one year after this six-year period.

While the H-1B renewal process can extend the applicant’s stay to six years, recent updates have introduced a pilot program allowing certain H-1B visa holders to renew domestically without leaving the U.S.​ This program, however, is still very limited and comes with stringent requirements.

H-1B visa holders must have employment sponsors and may face issues with underpayment. It is not easy for those on H-1B visas to change jobs. They also face a great deal of uncertainty and could be required to leave the United States with little notice if they are laid off.

What Is an H-1B Dependent Visa?

The H-1B dependent visa is more commonly called the H-4 visa. Qualified family members of an H-1B visa holder may apply for it by providing evidence of the following:

  • Legal status if residing in the United States.
  • Family relationship between the H-4 applicant and H-1B visa holder.
  • Employment authorization for the H-1B visa holder to work in the United States.

The H-4 dependent visa presents benefits and challenges similar to those of the H-1B.

Like H-1B visa holders, those who have an H-4 can live and study in the United States. In some situations, they can also work.

However, the validity and conditions of these dependent visas are tied to the status of the H-1B principal visa. If the principal visa holder loses their job, then the H-4 holders will lose their immigration status.

Like H-1B visas, H-4 visas also need to be regularly extended. This can be done using Form I-539, which should be signed by the H-1B holder’s primary dependent (unless that person is a minor child).

When Can H-4 Visa Holders Work in the United States?

An Indian EB-5 investor and family member looking at the camera.

Whether H-4 visa holders can request employment authorization and work in the United States depends on the H-1B holder’s status.

If the H-1B nonimmigrant is the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, then an H-4 dependent spouse may work in the United States. The H-4 holder would apply for an employment authorization document by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

Once approved, the H-4 visa holder will be eligible for many U.S. work opportunities. The employment authorization document will usually expire with the H-4 visa, so they will have to apply for extensions to both documents.

Can H-4 Visa Holders Travel Outside the United States?

H-4 visa holders can still enjoy international travel, but they must have the required documentation and are subject to certain limitations.

Documents Required

To travel abroad, H-4 visa holders should carry the following:

  • Visa.
  • Valid passport.
  • H-4 visa stamp in the passport.
  • Although not required, an H-4 holder may also wish to carry a letter from the H-1B holder’s employer indicating this person is still employed. Carrying a marriage certificate and copies of utility bills may also help to answer questions from immigration authorities.

    It’s generally recommended that an H-4 visa holder not travel when the principal H-1B visa is up for extension or set to expire. This can lead to complications with a pending form.

    If you must travel around that time, make sure to travel with Form I-797H Approval Notice as further evidence of the H-1B holder’s status in the country. This will help to avoid problems with the Department of Homeland Security.

    If the H-1B visa expires while outside the United States, the holder must apply for and be approved for an extension at a consulate before returning to the country.

    Enjoy Greater Freedom With an EB-5 Visa

    H-1B and H-4 visa holders are subject to restrictions that do not apply under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. Switching from nonimmigrant status to an EB-5 visa can be the right choice for certain Indian nationals.

    The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) administers this program. Completing the EB-5 application process comes with many professional and personal benefits, as long as the applicant fulfills the program’s requirements.

    EB-5 Visa Benefits

    • Lawful permanent residence in the United States for yourself and qualified dependent family members (spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21).
    • Freedom to live and work anywhere in the United States.
    • Freedom to travel outside the United States temporarily.
    • Access to U.S. healthcare, insurance, retirement, and other benefits.
    • No need to keep reapplying for lawful permanent residence status.

    EB-5 Eligibility Requirements

    • Invest the correct amount in a new commercial enterprise: ordinarily $1,050,000, or $800,000 for a project located in a targeted employment area.
    • Choose either a direct or regional center investment.
    • Ensure the investment creates at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.
    • Submit the required documents for each family member (including marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.) and respond to any questions or requests for evidence from USCIS fully and accurately.

    Even though it is not an explicit requirement, working with an experienced immigration attorney is highly recommended to help you navigate the complexities of the EB-5 process.

    Invest in an EB-5 Project With EB5AN

    A hand holding a green card with the EB5AN logo on it.

    Many Indian EB-5 investors have worked with the EB5AN team to change from H-1B and H4 nonimmigrant status visas to the EB-5 program, gaining Green Cards for themselves and other family members in the process. For example, listen to Rahul’s story.

    Of course, you don’t have to be from India to become another one of our valued clients. We welcome the opportunity to partner with applicants from all over the world.

    EB5AN has helped more than 2,300 families from 60 countries relocate to the United States as lawful permanent residents. Our expert team has more than a decade of experience, and offers clients first-rate, low-risk EB-5 regional center projects with a 100% USCIS project approval rate to date.

    Please book a free call with us today to find out more.