Applying for J-2 Employment Authorization

Important Points to Consider:

  • USCIS issues work authorization for a J-2 under strict guidelines from the State Department, which oversees the J program, and has directed that employment for J-2 dependents may not be used to provide the basic needs or educational expenses of the J-1.
  • USCIS routinely requests an accompanying family budget that demonstrates the income is not essential to the support of the family.
  • It is possible for EAD applications to be denied. Thus, employment for a J-2 with an EAD should be casual, and of a nature that can be given up easily in the event a new EAD is delayed or not approved.
  • Spouses who have professional employment objectives should investigate an independent source of work authorization. Remember, however, that the J program’s terms may make it impossible for a spouse to change status after arrival in the US. J-2 work authorization is not intended to accommodate dual-career couples or provide the basis for professional employment.
  • Only spouse dependents of J-1 Exchange Visitors who have entered the U.S. in J-2 visa status are eligible to apply to the USCIS for employment authorization.
  • Employment authorization is valid for any type of employment and even several jobs at the same time. The application does not depend on an offer of employment, nor is it restricted to any previous area of experience the applicant may have.
  • Applications (initial requests and extensions) may take 90-120 days to be processed.
  • Applications cannot be expedited and are sometimes delayed, for example, if CIS returns the application with requests for evidence (e.g. the family budget).
  • A social security number is needed before work can commence, but can be applied for only after the card is issued.
  • Authorization is generally valid for four years, unless the current DS-2019 expires earlier, in which case the permit will be issued to the end date of the DS-2019.
  • If the J-1’s DS-2019 is expiring, the J-2 will have to wait for the extension of the DS-2019 before the employment authorization can be renewed. To prevent gaps in employment authorization, a J-2 should apply for a new EAD in anticipation of this processing time. It’s also possible for extensions of the EAD to be denied.
    • Dependents of J-1 scholars: The timing of a J-1 extension is entirely at the discretion of the J-1’s host department. J-2 applicants for an extension of employment authorization should not expect or rely upon the host department to time the extension of a J-1’s program to facilitate the timely submission of J-2’s employment authorization.
  • If the J-1 changes his or her status to another classification, such as H-1 or F-1, the J-2 will have to change their status to H-4 or F-2, respectively and therefore, stop employment once the change of status becomes effective.  Even though the J-2 may still have a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD), they are not permitted to work unless their spouse holds J-1 status.

A J-2 dependent may apply to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services for work authorization. The authorization is granted on a card, mailed to the applicant if and when the authorization is granted. This card is known as an Employment Authorization Document, usually referred to as an EAD.

The J-2 Employment Authorization application process is done by mail only. There is NO personal or "walk-in" application procedure. ALL items listed below comprise a complete application for Employment Authorization.

Please follow the step-by-step instructions below:

  1. Fill out Form I-765 - Application for employment authorization. A link to the I-765 form and instructions may be found here

    Guidance for common questions:

    • Question 9- if you DO NOT have a Social Security number, enter "NONE"
    • Question 10- the Alien registration number (A-number) is issued to those who have applied for Permanent Residence OR are renewing their Employment Authorization.
      • If you have such a number, enter it here.
      • If you do NOT have such a number, enter the number from your I-94 card/electronic record
      • Note: If you find that you can only type the first nine digits of your I-94 number in Section 10, we recommend that you add the last two digits of your eleven digit I-94 number by hand when you print out the form. This is a known issue/bug with this form.
    • Question 12- "Date of last entry" (meaning your MOST RECENT entry into the U.S.) will be found on your I-94 card/electronic record.
    • Question 14- Enter "J-2 Exchange Visitor dependent"
    • Question 15- Enter "J-2 Exchange Visitor dependent"
    • Question 16- Enter: "(C) (5) "--ignore the last set of parentheses

    • Your signature MUST be in BLACK ink as the EAD scanner sometimes cannot pick up blue ink.
    • Sign your name so that it fits between the lines. Do not touch the line above or below or else you will receive a "Request for Evidence" from the immigration service stating that the "applicant's signature is not acceptable."
    To see an example of an acceptable signature, click here (this is a PDF document) >>

  2. Enclose a check for fee as noted in I-765 form instructions made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Visit the USCIS website for current filing fees. (*USCIS fees change periodically, and if the wrong fee amount is sent, the application will be returned.)
  3. Enclose a photocopy, back and front, of your I-94 card ( the small white card that was stapled in your passport by the USCIS inspector when you entered the U.S.).
  4. Enclose a photocopy of J-1's (principal alien's) DS-2019.
  5. Enclose a photocopy of J-2's (dependent) DS-2019.
  6. Enclose photographs:
    • Two identical full-frontal color passport photographs measuring 2" by 2". The head of the image should measure between 1" and 1 3/8". (Click here for more information about the specifications.)
    • The photos should be recent, no more than 30 days old.
    • These photos can by taken at the I-Center's Overseas Resource Center or at any other place that takes good passport photos.
    • Print your name and I-94# on the back of both photos (Size: 2” X 2”).
    • Place them in an envelope.
    • Write your name and your I-94# clearly on the envelope.

    Attach both the fee and the envelope containing the photos to the I-765 Form using paperclips.

  7. Enclose a photocopy of your passport: Do NOT send your Passport! Include only the pages containing the expiration date of your passport and the photo.
  8. A copy of your marriage certificate:
    • Note: if it is not in English, it will have to be translated either by you or someone else. Any translation should include a statement to the effect that the person translating the document is fluent in both English and the other language and that they certify that the translation is true and accurate.  Click here to see how the translation should be formatted.
  9. Enclose a cover letter:

    This letter should state something along the lines of the following:

    "I am applying for employment authorization as a J-2 dependent. My husband (or wife) is currently in J-1 visa status as a student (or scholar) and has sufficient funds for his (or her) support. Any income from my employment will NOT be used to support the J-1. I will use this income for purposes of cultural enrichment and recreation." You may elaborate on what types of cultural or recreational activities you wish to pursue (although it is not required).

    Also add a statement that you have included the previously mentioned documents.

    NOTE: If you have been previously issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), make sure that you make a photocopy of that document and include it with your application.

  10. Mail all documents to the USCIS address found here. It is strongly advised that you mail it by "certified mail with a return receipt" or by courier service (e.g. FedEx) to have proof that your application was received. 

Keep in mind that you are NOT permitted to work until you receive the EAD card. USCIS has stated that they expect to be able to process your work permit in 60 to 80 days, though it could possibly take more than 90 days. The Bechtel International Center cannot assist in expediting the issuance of the EAD.


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