How to Convert an H4 Visa to an H1 Visa


H4 dependent visas are issued to the spouse and children of an H visa temporary worker in a specialty occupation. As an H4 visa holder, you are allowed to live in the United States with the H visa worker for the duration of his permitted period of work. This is generally no longer than six years. During this time you may not work. To obtain an H visa, you will not receive preferential treatment as an existing H4 visa holder; you must completely fulfill the criteria for the H visa in your own right, as your spouse or parent did.

  • Determine if you meet the criteria for the H-1B specialty occupation visa. You must have the minimum of a bachelor's degree in a subject related to the field you will work in and a firm job offer from a U.S. employer. You must prove that you have the specialty skills to fulfill the duties of a job that cannot readily be fulfilled by a U.S. worker. Specialty occupations include those in medicine, law, education, scientific research, engineering, architecture, sports and entertainment. The list of specialty occupations to qualify for H visas changes annually and can be checked with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

    Your prospective employer must obtain a Labor Condition Application from the Department of Labor to be authorised to hire a foreign national for a specific position and to ensure that the foreign worker will be treated in compliance with U.S. labor laws.

  • Get your prospective employer to complete U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-129 -- Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. The prospective employer has to complete this form and to apply on your behalf. In addition to providing your biographical data to support the application, you must also provide copies of documents including your current passport, your H4 visa, your degree certificate, other educational or work-based licensure certificates and any other documents that validate your claim to be a specialty worker, such as awards and publications.

  • Submit the completed form and supplementary evidence to the USCIS. As at 2011, you must pay a filing fee of $325, and the prospective employer must pay $1,500, or $750 if he employs less than 25 people. These fees must be included with the application form.

  • Wait to receive notification from the USCIS that your visa application has been approved. You will be required to go to your nearest USCIS office to be issued with the visa in your passport. The processing time for this type of visa is approximately four months.

Tips & Warnings

  • Remember that even if you fully fit the criteria for an H visa, you are not guaranteed to receive one. There is always more demand than there are visas available. To stand the best chance of being issued a visa, it is best to apply for your visa in January, since allocations of H visas often run out by midyear.
  • You must not start work until you are in receipt of your H visa.


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