H-4 Status for Dependent Family Members

Once you have been granted H-1B status, your spouse and children (under 21) will normally be eligible for H-4 dependent status. H-4 dependents cannot be employed in the United States, but they are allowed to attend school.

Please be aware that any information provided on this page regarding H-4 dependents is simply general information and does not constitute legal advice. MUSC cannot assist you or your dependents with applying for an H-4 visa or completing USCIS Form I-539 and preparing the application requesting a change of status to H-4 or extension of H-4 status.

Applying for an H-4 Visa at a U.S. Consulate

After your H-1B petition has been approved, your dependents may apply for H-4 visas at a U.S. embassy/consulate abroad. You should refer to the website of the consulate where your dependents will apply for more information on the visa application process and the documents required for an H-4 visa application.

If your dependents are approved for H-4 visas, your dependents will be eligible to travel to the United States to request entry in H-4 status. If your dependents are admitted into the U.S. in H-4 status, they will receive I-94 admission records showing H-4 status and the duration of their admission. I-94 records can be retrieved from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection I-94 website.

Applying for a Change of Status to H-4 or Extension of H-4 Status

If your dependents are in the United States, your dependents can request a change of status to H-4 or extension of H-4 status by completing USCIS Form I-539 Application to Change or Extend Nonimmigrant Status.

You are responsible for paying the USCIS filing fees for the I-539 application. You must also provide certain supporting documents along with the Form I-539 (copies of passport, visa, I-94, current or previous immigration documents, etc). Please carefully read the Form I-539 instructions provided on the USCIS website for information on how to complete Form I-539 and how to correctly issue checks for the fees.

Tips for completing USCIS Form I-539:

  • If you (the H-1B beneficiary) are completing the form on behalf of a dependent spouse or child, keep in mind that you will be entering your dependent’s information in the form, not your information.
  • The U.S. mailing address that you enter in Part 1 must be an address where you can receive mail for the next several months. This is the address that USCIS will use to send notices for this case.
  • Part 3, question 1 – The date should match the requested end date of your H-1B status. If you are unsure about this date, contact the Center for Global Health to verify.
  • Part 4 – Pay special attention to the questions that require you to provide additional details in Part 8 Additional Information. Be very detailed and clear
  • Thoroughly review the I-539 instructions provided on the USCIS website while completing and reviewing the form.

You have two options for submitting the I-539 application (Form I-539, supporting documents and checks for the fees) to USCIS:

  1. Submit along with the H-1B petition. The I-539 application can be submitted to USCIS along with MUSC's H-1B petition.
  2. Submit separately to USCIS. The I-539 application can be submitted to USCIS after your H-1B petition has been received by USCIS. The USCIS receipt number for your pending H-1B petition must be entered in Part 3, question 3b of the I-539 form.

If you want the I-539 application to be submitted along with MUSC's H-1B petition (option 1), you must do the following:

  • Sign the H-4 Statement of Understanding and upload it in your Terra Dotta portal
  • Upload copies of supporting documents for each dependent in your Terra Dotta portal
  • Send the original completed and signed Form I-539 form and filing fee checks to either CGH or Sturm & Cont (addresses below)


MUSC Center for Global Health
Attn: Hannah Casagrande
45 Courtenay Drive MSC 203
4th Floor Room SS439
Charleston, SC 29425

Sturm & Cont, PA
Attn: Allison Strange
159 Hall Street
Spartanburg, SC 29302


MUSC cannot assist you with completing or reviewing the Form I-539 for your dependent family members. Furthermore, MUSC is not responsible for the outcome of the I-539 application. The option to submit the I-539 along with MUSC's H-1B petition is a courtesy provided to you, but this does not indicate that MUSC will be assisting you with the actual I-539 application.

If you file an I-539 application for your dependents, your dependents may be required to pay a biometric services fee and complete a biometric services appointment. If biometrics are required, each applicant will receive a biometric services appointment notice from USCIS with further details on the appointment. Please pay special attention to all of the details in the notice. More information on biometric services appointments can be found on the USCIS Biometric Services Appointment website.

If the I-539 application is approved, your dependents will each receive USCIS Form I-797 approval notice showing H-4 status and the validity dates for H-4 status. The USCIS approval notice will have a new I-94 record attached to the bottom showing H-4 status. Each dependent will receive a separate USCIS approval notice.