Living in the United States provides many opportunities to experience life in a new country, meet a variety of people, and develop a new worldview. As an H4 visa holder, there are many benefits to moving to the United States as the dependent spouse of an H1B visa holder, but there are also limitations to the visa. One of the most significant barriers is the inability to work in the United States legally.
H4 visa holders are prohibited from working in the United States, and because of that, they are not issued a social security number, which is often required when applying for jobs. However, there are still some legitimate ways to make money in the United States, feel fulfilled, and make quality use of your time.
Nine ways to earn money legally
Earning money on an H4 visa can be a bit tricky. While you’re not allowed to pursue employment actively, you also cannot work remotely for a foreign company or freelance. If you do make money through a passive income source, it cannot be intentional. For example, if you start writing a blog for the intent of eventually gaining paid sponsorship, that may be considered an illegal work activity. Unfortunately, there are no quick ways to make money legally on an H4 visa. But if you’re willing to put in the time and research, here are some options for you to make money while still abiding by the rules of your visa requirements.
1. Get paid for your opinion
Many companies will pay you to take surveys for market research. The amount paid for each survey can be in the form of gift cards, credit points, or some monetary value and may take a while to gain a significant amount. However, the effort is minimal and does not affect your visa status. Before you start taking surveys and providing personal information, make sure you do some research on the website or survey company. Some may not be legit and never payout.
A good tip is to sign up for surveys daily through a variety of survey companies to receive the best payout, but don’t expect to make large amounts of money. Compensation for taking one survey may be less than a dollar, and you may find out you’re not qualified after you’ve completed the survey. Qualifications are often based on demographics, and other criteria, so make sure you’re honest when responding. Create a new email address just for your survey profiles – this helps you to quickly filter new survey opportunities as soon as they become available. And the best tip-never enter your bank account information or pay to join a survey site.
Here are some popular survey sites to help get you started:
2. Try your luck at contests and sweepstakes
Online contests and sweepstakes are an easy way to win money and other prizes. Check out online contest and sweepstakes directories, like The Balance is Everyday website, to track current giveaways, eligibility details, and how to enter.
Check out social media and join any groups that share contest information. You can increase your chances to win by finding contests that award multiple winners or local businesses who are more likely to award prizes to people in their community. Every contest has different rules and requirements, so be sure to read the details before you fill out any forms.
3. Write a book or music
Tap into your creative side to compose music or write a book. If published, you can legally collect royalties. But only if you work with a studio or publisher based outside of the U.S. While not a quick way to earn extra cash, but it’s worth the time and investment if you have a compelling story to tell or music to share. Be sure to claim any income you receive as passive income on your tax forms.
4. Invest in a startup company
Even if you’re not able to work for a company, nothing is stopping you from investing in a business and earning money through the profits. While you may not be able to take part in the running of the company, you get all of the benefits of being a silent partner.
Many peer-to-peer lending websites will allow you to loan money and earn interest from American businesses legally. You can diversify your investment through many small loans or provide large lump sums payments. Prosper or The Lending Club can help to get you started. But before you begin, make sure you understand the market you are investing in and spend the time to research how the startup will use your money. Consult a legal advisor before signing any documents and know the risks before you part with any money.
5. Invest in stocks
When you purchase a stock, you are investing in a small part of a public company. The key is to invest in companies that will grow in value over time so you can sell your stock for a profit. As an H4 visa holder, you can trade no more than four stocks per week to not affect your visa status. Keep in mind that there are fees involved in trading some stocks, which may affect your profit line.
You don’t need a large amount of money to start investing, but you will need to research the most cost-effective way to get involved. Before you dive in, check out stock trading practice sites that will allow you to trade fake money and invest in a virtual stock market.
6. Start a YouTube channel
Like writing a blog, starting a YouTube channel is a bit of a gray area when earning passive income on an H4 visa. If you intend to create a channel to make money, it violates your visa contingencies. However, you can create a channel for fun, and if advertisers find value in your channel, they can pay to place ads and other promotions through your videos.
Making money through this avenue takes time and is not guaranteed. You need first to create a substantial volume of followers and views which doesn’t happen overnight. If you are successful, YouTube will pay you a certain amount of money to keep producing videos and retain your followers. Eventually, you could gain paid sponsorships from advertisers.
7. Become a student
While you may be prohibited from working in the U.S., you do have the opportunity to expand your education. Under H4 status, you are eligible for in-state tuition, and continuing your education can provide you with the skills needed to find an employer to sponsor an H-1B visa. But keep in mind, as an H4 visa holder, you are not eligible for OPT (Optional Practical Training) like F1 visa holders.
8. Change your status
Changing your visa status can provide you with more working opportunities, and an H4 is one of the only visas that will allow for dual intent. Meaning, you can pursue permanent residence without affecting your current visa status. With permanent residence status or a green card, you have the freedom to work wherever you choose. Here are some options to file for permanent residency while on an H4 visa:
- If your spouse has a green card, they can sponsor you for an F2A visa or a marriage-based green card.
- Find an employer to sponsor you for an EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3
- Self-petition for an EB-1A or EB-2 green card with a National Interest Waiver
Another option is to change your status to an F1 student visa. This could open the door for training opportunities that lead to an employment-based visa. To be eligible to change your status, you must meet the following requirements:
- Your spouse has to have a valid H-1B
- You need a valid approved I-20 from a University and an I-901 SEVIS receipt.
If you can meet those requirements, you will need to return to your home country and apply for an F1 visa at a U.S. consulate. Another option is to change your status while in the U.S. The downfall to this option is that the process is long and you will not be issued a new visa, only your status changes.
9. Apply for an EAD
Applying for an I-765 or an Employment Authorization Document can be your best chance to earn an income on an H4 visa, but not all may be eligible to apply. In May of 2015, USCIS director, Leon Rodriquez announced that H4 visa holders would be permitted to work in the U.S. if certain conditions were met.
- Is the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
- Has been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (AC21).
In other words, the H-1B worker of which your H4 visa status relies on must be in the process of obtaining a green card, filed a PERM labor certification and has an approved I-140. Or, your H-1B holder spouse has already applied for permanent residence and is currently on a visa extension that has surpassed the first six years. In either qualification, the H-1B visa must be valid for the H4 holder to apply.
According to USCIS, this rule “seeks to support the goals of attracting and retaining highly skilled foreign workers and minimizing the disruption to U.S. businesses resulting from H-1B nonimmigrants who choose not to remain in the United States and pursue LPR status.”
The current status of the EAD option for H4 visa holders
In 2015, an organization called Save Jobs USA filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claiming that DHS has no authority to grant EADs to H4 visa holders, and the new rule does not protect U.S. workers. The Trump administration has also made steps to reverse the H4 EOD program.
However, the option to apply for an EAD is still available for H4 visa holders at the time of this article posting. The future is unclear for the H4 EOD program and the current H4 EOD holders if the rule is revoked. If you are considering applying for an EOD, be sure to contact a reputable immigration attorney to understand your best options.
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