Does my spouse have to renew H4 status when I change H1B employers?

Not necessarily. H4 dependent status is tied to the H1B holder's maintenance of H1B status, not employment with a specific company.

If you stay in H1B status continually, your spouse's H4 status is not impacted when you change jobs. When a new H1B employer files a change of employer petition while an H1B employee is in the US working for another H1B employer (or within the 60-day grace period after quitting, being laid off or fired), the employee typically stays in H1B status during the transition from one company to another.  While H4 dependents always have the option of applying to extend their status when the H1B employee changes jobs, there might not be a benefit to doing so if they have a lot of time left on their current H4 I-94 at the time of the transfer.

It's also important to keep in mind that when an H4 spouse re-enters the US using an H4 visa, she will get a new H4 I-94 valid up until the expiration date of her spouse's most recent H1B petition. This is true whether or not she filed an H4 extension application while in the US. For this reason, it often makes sense to skip H4 extension applications for H4 holders who will be traveling before their current I-94 expires.

Here are a few common scenarios:

  1. Scenario 1: Lots of I-94 time left. The H4 spouse still has 2 years left on his I-94 when his H1B spouse decides to move to a new employer. Because the H4 spouse in this situation has so much time left in H4 status, he may reasonably decide not to spend the time and money needed to file an H4 extension application at this point. 
  2. Scenario 2: International travel planned prior to I-94 expiration. The H4 sp0use only has 3 months of H4 validity left on her I-94, but she also has a valid H4 visa sticker in her passport and plans to travel internationally in two months. When she returns from her trip she will receive a new, extended H4 I-94 expiration date based on her spouse's new H1B petition. In this situation, she will probably decide there is no reason to file an H4 extension application before her trip.
  3. Scenario 3: I-94 expiring soon, no international travel planned. The H4 spouse's I-94 is expiring in 6 months, and he doesn't have any international travel planned. He needs to renew the H4 visa sticker in his passport during his next trip, but the wait time for visa appointments in his home country is very long and he's not sure when he'll be able to get an appointment. In this situation, he will probably decide to file an H4 extension application along with his spouse's H1B transfer petition. 

While this article gives a basic idea of the factors to consider when deciding whether or not to file an H4 extension application, each situation is unique! It's critical to discuss the specific facts of your situation with an experienced attorney prior to deciding what to do in your particular case.