study in h4 or f1 visa

Study in H4 Visa or F1 Visa? 3 Options with Pros and Cons


H4 visa holders in USA can attend college U.S.A. they have three options based on visa status to attend the college. They are

  1. Study in F1 visa ( H4 to F1 Visa )
  2. Study in H4
  3. Study in H4 and F1 Visa

Following question is was posted in the forums and this article was inspired buy this question :

 I have 3 years Bachelors degree from India. So I have to do a bridge course along with my Masters degree. My main confusion is to study in H4 or in F1.

Everyone says changing to F1 is better because of scholarships TA, RA and OPT. But the Fees for International students, F1 Visa stamping and approval are the risks involved.

I have a 2 year old kid and there is no one to take care of her. There is no one in India to help me. I think it is better to study in H4 (As Resident fee is lesser than International student fee) and then apply for H1B though I’ll lose OPT and wait till H1B.

My concerns are money (considering the bridge course too), my kid and the processes involved.

I have not come across even a single person/blog saying its better to study while on H4. I’m really confused. Can you suggest me what would be better for me? I really could not come to a conclusion for almost a year so please help me.

Answer to your question depends on the your need and wants. Let me explain the pros and cons of  3 options I have listed above along with my recommendation.

Study in H4 or F1 Visa?

Here’s some factors you need to consider before deciding to attend college in USA in H4 visa

  • Visa Status
  • Finance
  • Career Goals

So, answer to your question depends on the visa situation and financial impact due to in-state and out-of-sate tuition fees and your career goals.

1. Study in F1 Visa

To study in F1 visa, you have to get admission and then apply for H4 to F1 Change of Status.

It’s simple process to apply for H4 to F1 Visa. You can do in online in 30 minutes.

Why are you going to college in first place while on H-4 visa?

If the answer could be one of the following

  1. Get a job (  Not get stuck in H4, but find a job in USA )
  2. Just get a an education to help your family business
  3. Other Reasons

If your primary goal is to get a job in USA and H-1B Visa, then studying in F1 visa should be way to go.


Getting H-1B from H4 visa is a pain and cumbersome process.

H4 visa holders who have applied via consulting companies know what I’m talking about.

Here’s the path you can take to study in F1 and apply for H1B Visa

  • H4 to F1 Visa
  • F1 Visa to CPT ( if you want Internship)
  • F1 Visa to OPT
  • Job with OPT
  • OPT to H1B

2. Study in H4 Visa

This is pretty straight forward option. You can start attending college ( Full-time or Part-Time) in H4 Visa status.

Here’s few instance when studying in H4 will be beneficial

  • You already have H1B visa counted under cap, then converted to H4.
  • H4 for EAD rule gets published, then you can study in H4, then use the EAD to get a job.

But, if your goal is to get Full Time job and H1B visa, then I don’t recommend this option.

Reasons Not to Study in H4

Finding a job, then applying for H1B while in H4 visa is close to impossible.  You should already know this by know. Plus, getting a direct full-time job from H4 is also tough.

I doubt you want to invest 1 to 2 years of your time and money and end-up not finding a job or H-1b Visa.

Here’s an example  :

  • Graduate  in May 2014 (example).
  • H1B cap could be over by April 2014.
  • So, you have to wait till April, 2015 to apply for H1B
  • Start working from October 2015.

Other than consulting company, you are less likely to find an employer who can hire you before April 2015, apply for H1B and wait till October 2015 for you to start working.

3. Study in H4 and F1 Visa

This is hybrid option. You can start studying in H4 Visa,  then change your status to F1 after 1 year or so.

It again depends on your preference and university rules with respect to CPT and OPT rules.

Trust me here. Before you take this approach, talk to the university’s International Office where you plan to study. They can be a pain some times. with all the rules on when you can apply for CPT.

If you want to apply for internship via CPT, then university will have established rules on when you are eligible to apply for CPT.

  • Should you complete 2 semester in F1 to be eligible for CPT
  • Should you just complete 2 semester in college  in H4 visa then change to F1 and then get CPT?
  • Or you may be willing not to do internship and spend almost entire course in H4, then convert to F1, so you can apply for OPT?

That’s why I said earlier, choice of converting from H4 to F1 visa depends on your need and wants.

What is more important to you?

  • Getting F1, Internship via CPT, then OPT and then job and H-1B Visa? ( you will pay of out of state fees )
  • Study in H4, Pay In-state fee, then change to F1 just before graduation.
  • Complete entire course in H4 with in-state fees and take risk with job and H-1B visa?

So, you know all the options. There are pros and cons for all the approach.

My Recommendation – Study in H4 or F1 visa?

I would go with Study in F1 visa or Study in H4.

  • F1 visa
    • If your goal is to get a job and H-1B Visa.
  • H4 Visa
    • If your spouse is close to getting green card
    • you already have an H-1B visa counted under the cap
    • In-Sate Fees is more important than job.
  • H4 and F1
    • In-State Fees while in H4
    • Out of State fees for while in F1
    • Apply for OPT and then get a job

I have made some assumptions here :  You are eligible to get In-state fee in the state you live. If you have been in a state less than 1 year, then you may not be eligible to get In-State Fees.

University will ask you to provide proof for residency requirements ( like State Tax filing, Drivers License, etc).

Your Scenario :

You have a 2 year old kid. Which means, you have to send the child to the day care ( if you are not already doing that). That’s an added expense for you when you go to study in college ($1000 per month).

You need to ask the following questions

  • Can I afford to pay $1000 per month and still pay out of state fees in F1 Visa?
  • Should I study in H4 for 1 year and then convert to F1 Visa? This will save 1 year worth Out of State fees.
  • Should I study 1 year degree instead of 2 year program?
  • Can I find 1 year degree program near your home?
  • What if  1 year programs are in different location and you have to move to new place?

Don’t jump into conclusion. Ask tough questions, write down the questions and answers.

You have to have to clear understanding about the plan, financial impact and risk options.

Then make an data driven decision, not based on emotions.

Hope, this helps.

Share this article with your H4 Visa friends circle.

Let me know if you have any other questions on attending college in USA on H4 or F1 Visa.