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Can an L1 Dependent Work in the US?

Can L2 visa holders work in the US?

For non-US nationals working in the US under an L1 visa, they may be looking to bring their spouse and children to live with them. This, in turn, may raise the question of whether an L1 dependent can work in the US.

An L2 visa allows an L1 employee to be accompanied by his or her spouse, as well as any unmarried children under the age of 21. Such family members may seek admission in the L2 nonimmigrant classification and, if approved, generally will be granted the same period of stay as the L1 intra-company transferee.

L1 visa holders entering the US to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. All other qualified employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years.

For all L1A visa holders, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years. This slightly differs for L1B employees, where requests for extension of stay have a maximum limit of five years.

Can L1 dependent work in US?

Any non-US national wanting to work in the United States requires some form of authorization. This could be by way of an employment-related visa, a permanent resident card or, as in the case of the L2 spouse, what’s known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Please note, dependent children on L2 visa status are not eligible to apply for an EAD.

An EAD is an official document that must be provided to any prospective US employer to prove a legal entitlement to work in the USA for a specified period of time. Subject to being granted an EAD, there is then no specific restriction as to where the L2 spouse may work, either full-time or part-time.

Once the L2 spouse has an approved EAD, they will also need to apply for a social security number if they don’t already have one.

Why does an L2 visa holder need an EAD?

All non-US employees, including L2 visa holders, need to prove their legal entitlement to work. This is because all US employers are required by law to verify that any person whom they employ is authorised to accept work in the US.

In carrying out the necessary checks, an employer will need to verify the identity and employment authorisation of each person they hire, and complete a Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

Any failure to carry out these checks and complete Form I-9 can lead to both civil and/or criminal penalties being imposed on the employer. Needless to say, most employers will be vigilant in ensuring they comply with the law. The L2 spouse will also risk deportation, and even a possible ban from re-entering the United States, if they accepted unauthorised employment.

What is the application process for an EAD?

Spouses of L1 employees may apply for permission to work by filing a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), together with the relevant fee of $410.

The L2 spouse may also have to pay a biometric services fee of $85, although in some cases s/he may be eligible for a fee waiver from both this and the filing fee, for example, where they are currently experiencing financial hardship that prevents them from paying the fee(s).

In addition to filing Form I-765, the L2 spouse will also need to submit two identical recent colour passport-style photographs, together with documentation in support of the application. When applying as the spouse of an L1 intra-company transferee, the applicant will need to provide the following:

  • Evidence of their lawful nonimmigrant status, for example, a copy of Form I-94, passport or other travel document
  • Evidence of their spouse’s lawful nonimmigrant status, for example, a copy of their spouse’s Form I-94, passport or other travel document
  • Their marriage certificate, or if not available, other secondary evidence of their marriage to the L1 intra-company transferee.

What is the EAD application filing location?

The filing location for Form I-765 is determined by the relevant eligibility category, namely “spouse of an L-1 intracompany transferee” or category “(a)(18)”. For category a(18) the location to send the application will be either the USCIS Phoenix or Dallas Lockbox, based on where the L2 spouse is living.

Where the L2 spouse lives in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands, the address is:

For US Postal Service (USPS): USCIS, P.O. Box 21281, Phoenix, AZ 85036
For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries: USCIS, Attn: NFB AOS, 1820 E. Skyharbor, Circle S, Suite 100, Phoenix, AZ 85034.

Where the L2 spouse lives in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, or West Virginia, the address is:

For USPS: USCIS, P.O. Box 660867, Dallas, TX 75266
For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries: USCIS, Attn: NFB AOS, 2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business, Suite 400, Lewisville, TX 75067.
Can an L2 visa holder change their status?

An EAD card is typically valid for up to two years, but may be renewed as long as the L1 spouse maintains L2 visa status. An L2 visa holder may also seek to change their status from within the USA to a different visa classification.

Finally, in the event that the L1 visa holder decides to apply for lawful permanent residence, the L2 spouse, together with any children under the age of 21, may also be included in this application.

Applying for an L2 visa

To apply for an L2 visa, you will need to file Form DS-160 and submit the necessary documentation in support. This will include a copy of the spouse’s approved I-129 petition and employment verification letter, as well as the original marriage or birth certificate.

If the L1’s family members are already in the United States and seeking a change of status to, or extension of stay in, the L2 classification, they may apply using Form I-539, Application to Change/Extend Nonimmigrant Status.

Need help?

NNU Immigration are specialist US immigration attorneys. From our central London base, we support companies and individuals from across the globe with L-1 visa and L2 visa petitions, ensuring initial eligibility and supporting through the petitioning process, and providing guidance on related issues such as work authorization.

If you have a question about the L2 visa, contact us.

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

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.​

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.

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For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys. 

For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.