E2 Visa Work Authorization for Spouses

E2 spouses on a valid, E-2 dependent visa can make an application for an employment authorization document (“EAD”) once they are in the US.

An EAD card confirms the E2 spouse’s eligibility to work, with few restrictions on the type of work that they can take on.

Note that E-2 dependent children are not permitted to be employed in the US.

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What is an EAD?

While you cannot apply for your EAD until you are lawfully in the US as an E-2 dependent, you should secure work authorization before taking up employment in the US.

Whereas the E-2 visa holder is restricted to work with the E-2 company, there are very few limitations on the type of work an E-2 spouse with EAD can undertake. The spouse can work for the E-2 business, start their own business or take up employment for another organization, although exemptions apply, including high-security government-related jobs and jobs that specifically require US Citizenship.

The EAD works as an open market work authorization and offers your spouse great employment flexibility and convenience. All the need to do is file Form I-765 with the fee. Usually, it takes two to three months to issue a permit and afterwards, there is no specific restriction as to where he/she may work. Generally speaking, the spouse can work for any employer and in any job, except certain government jobs that require U.S. citizenship. The employment may be full-time or part-time. Likewise, the spouse may also start his/her own business using the work permit

How long is an EAD valid for?

Dependents included on the E-2 investor visa application are given the same nonimmigrant status and would be typically given the same length of stay as the principal applicant.

The EAD typically will be valid for the shorter of either:

  • the period of time for which the E-2 spouse’s status is valid, or
  • the period of time for which the principal E-2 holder’s status is valid, or
  • two years.

In advance of expiry, if you intend to continue to work in the US, you will need to apply to renew your EAD. The process is the same as the initial application, requiring the same comprehensive supporting documentation to evidence continued eligibility.

How to apply for E2 visa work authorization as a spouse

Complete and file Form I-765 at one of four service centers in the US.

To support the application, the following supporting documents may be required:

  1. Copy of ID passport page
  2. Proof of marital relationship, ideally a photocopy of the marriage certificate.
  3. Photocopy of both sides of your Form I-94
  4. Photocopy of Form I-94 for the principal E-2 visa holder (your spouse)
  5. Any previous employment authorization card issued (front and back)
  6. Any previous I-797 approval notices for employment authorization
  7. Old I-20s if applicable
  8. Signed I-765 form (original signature)
  9. Signed G-28 form (original signature)
  10. Two passport-style photographs compliant with USCIS specifications
  11. Filing fee

USCIS will issue a Form I-797 Receipt Notice to the person named in Part 1 on the I-765 and will send the Receipt Notice to the address listed in Part 1. When USCIS approves the request for an EAD, it will mail the EAD card to the applicant via first-class U.S. mail. Processing times at the various USCIS Service Centers vary, but most EADs are produced in 60-90 days.

How to apply for a social security number

As an E2 spouse, you can also apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) once you receive your EAD. You make the SSN application by filing form SS-5 with the Social Security Administration (SSA).

E-2 dependent children

While minor children (ie under 21 and unmarried) of E-2 holders can apply as dependents to accompany their parent in the US, they will not be permitted to take up paid employment.

They may attend public or private school under the E2 visa status (as can spouses).

Once the child ‘ages-out’ ie, reaches 21, they will no longer hold dependent E-2 status and must in advance secure permission to continue residing or studying in the U.S.

The F1 student visa is a common option as it allows former E-2 dependents to finish their studies in the US.

Alternative options may be available. For example, they may be able to stay on in the US and work in the business if they qualify as E-2 in their own right – this would require them to own 50% of the E-2 business.

Paths to a US Green Card

Since the E-2 visa itself does not lead directly to US permanent residence, it may be possible for the E-2 spouse to pursue options which do open up a path to Green Card eligibility for the family as a whole.

Possible routes which can lead to permanent residence include:

  • EB3 Green Card – for individuals with an undergraduate degree or higher, or a level of certification for a job that requires at least two years of formal training, such as medical professionals, computer programmers.
  • EB2 Green Card – for individuals with advanced degrees such as a PhD or MA, or those with five or more years in their field, provided that they have a US-based employer-sponsor.
  • EB1 Green Card – for ‘Aliens of Extraordinary Ability’ who are recognized leaders in their field. No degree is necessary to be eligible.

Need assistance?

NNU Immigration specialize in all aspects of the E2 visa, supporting principal applicants and their dependents through the USCIS application processes.

If you have a question about US employment authorization or any aspect of the E2 visa, contact us.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.