As fun as it seems to be in the USA for a new immigrant with all the glam, great lifestyle, wide roads, and endless options, the reality hits when you’re on a restrictive visa. It’s not funny when they call H4 visa a dependent visa because you are financially and emotionally totally dependent on the primary (H1B or F1) Visa holder.
If you think it can’t get any worse, you are wrong again because while on H4, you cannot freelance or work online. The rules say that you cannot do any job with the intention to earn money from it. Also, you cannot apply for online jobs in your home country as well. Yes, all of that is illegal and can even cause deportation!
This makes it so difficult for the dependent visa holders who are most skilled, holding Master’s degrees, Ph.D., physicians, and business owners to be unemployed until their visa status changes or they get a work permit.
So, what can an H4 Visa holder do with all the free time they have?
Below are some of the ways in which you can earn money or at least make yourself eligible to work in the US with a little bit of investment in your future self:
- Giving your POV (Point of View): Yes, you can get paid for filling out surveys for some companies, if you meet their requirements. They might be looking for a certain age group of people, a specific gender, certain shopping preferences, etc. If you qualify, you get to complete the survey. But just so you know, The pay is not very attractive. They hardly pay up to $5. Most of them are in the range of $0.1 to $0.5. Also, be very careful about who to trust when filling out these surveys. Most of them could be fake or fraudulent. Below are some of the trusted companies with whom you can sign up to. They are known for good customer service and payment consistency.
- Converting your visa to F1: Though this doesn’t immediately give you any financial benefit, it gives you the necessary independence to study and apply for jobs through OPT (Optional training program) thereafter. It is like investing in your future which also gives employers a chance to know your skills before they sponsor your H1B. For this, you might want to apply for an F1 from your (home country) so the process is completed quickly. Keep in mind, it requires a significant investment of thousands of dollars to attend school in the States. So consider this option only if you don’t have a Masters’s degree and if you have adequate funds or the ability to take loans.
- Applying for a work permit: Before you look at this option and jump in excitement, there is a big dependency (again) on your spouse or primary H1-B holder. You can apply for an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) on H4, only if your spouse has an approved I-140 or PERM application which is an important step in getting a Green card (Permanent residency) or had filed for an extension beyond 6 years of H1B Visa for his/her skills here in the US. Yes, it’s a huge hurdle to get your EAD because your spouse must be sponsored for a Green card (which is again dependent on your spouse’s status) by his employer and the rules and laws around this.
- Creating your own YouTube channel: If you are entertaining, creative, or have videography skills then it might come to use here in the long run. Again, you should not create a YouTube channel with the intent of directly earning money. A little gray area here is that you can create videos for fun which other YouTubers find great to collaborate or advertise.
- Finding an employer to sponsor you: A literal miracle if you can find an employer who can sponsor (file H1B) you even before you start working! If you have a skill that is hard to find among locals then employers can go through the recruiting and sponsoring process so that you can start working for them. When this happens you can move from H4 to H1B visa directly.
- Writing a book or creating music: If you like to write or you have a great story to tell or if you have a great sense of music that is unique then you can go ahead. The only caveat is it has to go through a publisher or composer in a different country and collect your royalties (pay percentage per album/book).
- Investing in stocks: This might be a lifesaver for you. The most attractive one of all the above options is investing. You can invest in stocks or a specific start-up that you feel strongly about with some saved-up money. It can start with as less as $5 as they offer fractional shares too. You also need to have the patience and interest to research good stocks that pay dividends (percentage of profits) or even for that matter index or mutual funds, which have scope for growth in the future irrespective of market fluctuations. Otherwise, if you try to time the market or just invest in any stock blindly then you might lose all your money. So be careful while putting your money out there in the market.
In conclusion, I suggest earning some money by filling out surveys and investing whatever little amount you get into the right stocks as that would be a viable option if you don’t have the opportunity to convert your visa in any of the above ways.
These are some of the legal ways in which you can earn on H4, though not very easy to become rich quickly, it will help you invest in yourself and indulge in some skill building.
Note – The above laws and restrictions might change as per political administration in power. Please check them once again before you take a step in any direction.
And remember it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you are considering applying for a change of status of visa, be sure to contact a reputable immigration attorney to understand your best options.
Sources: How to earn money on an H4 visa
About the Author: Madhuri Gumma is a full-time Software Engineer at Microsoft and a blogger at Indian Diaries Abroad. She is born and raised in India and is currently living in Seattle, USA. In her free time, she loves gardening, hiking, and listening to classical music.