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Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of H-1B visa holders are considered dependents and are eligible for H-4 status. H-4 visa holders are eligible to stay in the United States only while their spouses or parents are in the United States maintaining legal H-1B visa status.

Persons in H-4 status are not permitted to work in the United States. They may apply to change their immigration status to H-1B if they qualify for the specialty occupation requirement and find an employer who is willing to file a petition on their behalf. Although a person in H-4 status cannot obtain a Social Security number, he or she may apply for an individual taxpayer identification number instead of a Social Security number. This will be needed, for example, if the H-1B employee will claim a tax exemption for the H-4 dependent.

H-4 visa holders may study in the United States, full-time or part-time, for the duration of the H-1B’s period of stay. As employment is not permitted, they are not able to hold graduate assistantship positions.