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H-1B Dependent Information: H-4 Status Holders


Legal dependents (spouse and children) of international students or employees in F-1, J-1, TN or H-1B non-immigrant status may enter the US as F-2, J-2, TD or H-4 visa holders. Their stay in the US is completely dependent on that of the principal alien. If the J-1 exchange visitor withdraws from school or the H-1B holder leaves his or her employment at Dartmouth College and leaves the US, the J-2 or H-4 dependent must leave as well. If the F-1 student leaves the country for an extended vacation term, the J-2 must leave as well. Similarly, if the TN leaves the country, the TD must as well. The following information may help to clarify some of the liabilities and responsibilities associated with a dependent visa status.

Employment Regulations

Dependents in F-2, TD or H-4 status may not accept employment in the U.S. They may volunteer only if the position for which they are interested has always been a volunteer position, and always will be. The CIS or the Department of Labor (DOL) does not allow a dependent to volunteer for a position, and then begin to receive payment for performing the same duties once a change of immigration status is approved. It is possible for the dependent to be offered a paid position, and apply for a change of status to an appropriate visa that allows employment. These opportunities are rare, however, and certain qualifications dictated by the visa type must be met before the visa status change is approved. In addition, employment may not commence until the CIS approves the change. This can take five months or more.


If traveling outside and re-entering the U.S, the dependents need to ensure that they have valid passports appropriate, valid dependent visas, and the proper forms (F-2: I-20 form, J-2: DS-2019 form, and H-4: the I-797 H-1B Approval Notice). The I-20 form held by the dependent must have a travel signature on the form that is no older than 6 to 9 months or within a year on the DS-2019. The H-4 dependent should have the original Notice of Approval for the principle's H-1B status, Form I-797.

Please Note:

  • If the principal and or dependents will be traveling to Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands (ie: Caribbean islands) for a visit of less than 30 days, and their visas have expired, they will be allowed to re-enter the U.S. using those expired visas due to a process called Automatic Revalidation. Please contact the Office of Visa and Immigration Services for more information on this.
  • Your U.S. visa will not be valid to let you enter Canada. Citizens of certain countries are required to have a visa to enter Canada, while others are not. Please go to this website to determine if you need a Canadian visa to visit Canada:

Dependent Orientation

Please visit the following website pages we have created to help international spouses and children adjust to the U.S., and the Dartmouth community. Please contact the Office of Visa and Immigration Services if you have any questions. We are eager to help!

Unfortunately, due to a staffing shortage, the Office of Visa and Immigration Services does not currently offer a formal dependent orientation program. Please explore the following links for more information that may prove helpful to your family once they arrive in the US.

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Nearby Towns

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Local Insurance Companies

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Local Travel Agencies

Local Churches and Synagogues

Local Childcare Agencies

Local Banks

Last Updated: 8/16/17