Family members are eligible for H-4 dependent status. Family members are defined as your spouse and/or unmarried children under age 21.
If you are in the process of becoming an H-1B at NIH, provide your family’s information to your IC’s administrative office so that their information is included with the approved FTE case sent to the DIS. Be sure to fully answer item “IV. Family Information" on the I-129 Worksheet, which you will provide to your IC for inclusion with the FTE case.
Family members can have their own independent status if they qualify for it. Keep in mind, however, that your dependents must always maintain a lawful status while in the U.S.
H-4 dependents may study part- or full-time. However, some schools may have special requirements, such as changing to a student visa classification. Contact the school for more information.
Certain H-4 dependents may be eligible for employment authorization. See here for more information.
Depending on the type of activity, the H-4 dependent may or may not be able to volunteer at the NIH. Permissible volunteer activities for H-4 dependents are ones that are recognized volunteer activities. That is, they are open to any person who wants to volunteer and would not displace a U.S. worker. For example, volunteering with the NIH Clinical Center’s Patient Volunteer Ambassador Program would be a permissible, recognized volunteer activity.
HOWEVER, H-4 dependents cannot be “Special Volunteers” at the NIH. Special Volunteers do*not* fit the above description because they provide a service to the NIH, such as research services, direct patient care, clerical support, technical assistance, or any other necessary service for the NIH. The NIH receives a benefit from the unpaid service. Such service requires permission to work.