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I am in the US on an H-4 visa. Am I permitted to teach Bharatnatyam (classical Indian dance) classes to children in my apartment?

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You're not.

Working on H4 without EAD is illegal and puts you in violation of your status. It doesn't matter what kind of work it is or whether you get paid for it or not. What is forbidden without a valid work authorization is work, not earning money.

The problem with being in violation of your status is that it has a domino effect. Every step towards your green card or naturalization will require your certification that you have never violated your status. It only takes one disgruntled person to tip the USCIS off, and you'll be on your way home in no-time. Do you really want to risk it?

  • You are wrong: path2usa.com/h4-visa-faq – RoboKaren Dec 27 '14 at 13:30
  • @RoboKaren of course I'm right. See your link, Q2 and Q8. As I said, foreigner can only work if he/she has a work permit. H4, currently, doesn't qualify for work permit. Only holders of EAD qualify, and those with special authorization to work for a specific employer (e.g.: H1, L1, etc). H4 doesn't allow you to work. Your own link says so. – littleadv Dec 27 '14 at 19:43
  • I guess the relevant part on the link is this: "(Check if) your volunteering qualifies for a paid job. If it does, refrain from doing it. If it does not, you should probably say yes to it" – SztupY Dec 29 '14 at 7:09
  • Indeed, and "qualifies for a paid job" means it is not by definition volunteering. Examples of volunteering may be helping in a church, volunteering in an organization that only has volunteers (i.e.: no paid employees for this kind of work), etc. Tutoring rarely counts as volunteering. – littleadv Dec 29 '14 at 7:11
  • This all depends on the context. If there are multiple ativities (like dance classes, art classes, etc) in the neighborhood, and everyone is doing it for free, then the n+1th person doing it for free should be fine. If some of them are getting paid to do it, then no, it's not fine. If this is the only activity in the neightborhood, then it's more problematic, as there is no local context to decide on it's status, but as you've stated it's much safer to assume that a local citizen would be paid for it, so it's not legal as well (unless a local board/authority says otherwise). – SztupY Dec 29 '14 at 7:18
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If you don't take any money, then you are not working -- you are just volunteering or having fun with the neighborhood children.

H-4 dependents are not permitted to work in the United States. H-4 dependents, however, may attend school on a full-time or part-time basis, without a new immigration application. They also are permitted to participate in volunteer work with nonprofit-type organizations, for which they receive no remuneration or benefit from the employer. If the work is simply an unpaid position with a for-profit type of employer, it may be considered unauthorized work and, thus, not permissible in H-4 status. This should be discussed with a qualified immigration attorney if questions arise. Source.

The intent of the law is that you should not be replacing any legal worker's wages. I can't imagine anyone seriously arguing that playing with kids in the rec room of your apartment building will fall under the rubric of an "unpaid position with a for-profit" or that you displaced a legal worker with your activities.

If you have expenses that need to be covered (clothing, equipment, music, etc.) then it might be best to ask one of the other parents to collect money on the parents' behalf and for these things out of that fund. You want to keep more than an arm's length away from this type (pr really any type) of financial activity, to be on the safe side.

That being said, the government really has better things to do than chase you down. As long as you make it clear you're that you're teaching on a voluntary basis, for fun, and not taking a salary, there shouldn't be any issue.

Note that this forum post deals with the OP's specific issue of dance classes. The consensus of the others is that volunteering without pay is acceptable.

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    No, whether you take money or not is entirely irrelevant. You're still working. Volunteering is not allowed because it is work. You can only volunteer where it is by definition not a paid job. Giving dance lessons doesn't fit this bill. Volunteering to sing in the church choir - may be. – littleadv Dec 27 '14 at 8:25
  • Volunteering is permissible under an H4. Where did you get the impression it wasn't? – RoboKaren Dec 27 '14 at 14:43
  • Only with charities that do not hire people for pay at all. Where did you get the impression otherwise? Please cite legal references if you claim the law allows working if you're not paid. – littleadv Dec 27 '14 at 19:41
  • Can you cite legal references that say that helping neighborhood kids is considered work? Oh my gosh, then I better report all of the H4s who are raking other people's yards or baking cookies for their kids school bakery sales! – RoboKaren Dec 27 '14 at 23:06
  • People also cross the street on red light, so what? The question was whether it is illegal, not whether she's going to be caught. That said, as I mentioned in my answer - it only takes one disgruntled person a couple of decades down the road to get her in trouble. – littleadv Dec 28 '14 at 2:50

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