L2 Visa: Guide for L1 Dependents
There are various visa options available to non-US nationals when it comes to working in the United States, many of which allow successful visa holders to be accompanied or joined by their spouse or dependent children.
In this guide, we look at the L2 visa for L1 dependants, a category specifically for the spouse and children of intracompany transferees who have been deployed to work in the US.
What is the L2 visa?
The L2 visa is a visa for qualifying dependants of L1 visa-holders. The L1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for employees of a multinational company or organisation being transferred from an affiliated foreign office to one of its offices in the United States. This could include a parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate of their overseas employer.
There are two types of L1 intracompany transfer visa: the L-1A and L-1B visa. The L-1A visa is for foreign employees who hold an overseas executive or managerial role and will be transferring to an affiliated US office in the same or similar role. In contrast, the L-1B visa is for employees working within a role that requires specialised knowledge about the products, services, policies and procedures within their organisation.
Both of these L1 visa classifications also allow a multinational company or organisation that does not yet have an affiliated US office to send an overseas executive, manager or specialized knowledge employee to travel to the United States with the purpose of setting one up.
What does the L2 visa allow?
An L2 visa will allow a spouse or dependent child to accompany or join an L1 visa-holder in the United States, where L-1A and L-1B visas are available for intracompany transferees working in managerial positions or have specialised knowledge.
Throughout their stay in the US, there will generally be no restrictions on where an L1 spouse can work, provided they are able to provide proof of their L2 status, whereas an L1 visa-holder will only have permission to work for the specific US-based employer that filed their petition. L2 visa-holders can also undertake study in the US on a part or full-time basis.
L2 visa requirements
To be eligible for an L2 visa, the applicant must be either:
- the spouse of the L1 visa holder in a bona fide marriage, or
- the unmarried child under the age of 21 of the L1 visa-holder.
No other relatives of L1 visa holders would be eligible under the L2 route. This means parents, grandparents, siblings and other family members would need to apply under a different visa category to travel and stay to the US, or make use of ESTA visa-free entry if they qualify and are only visiting and not intending to remain in the country.
L2 visa application process
To apply for an L2 visa from outside the United States, the applicant will need to file Form DS-160, pay the relevant fee and submit the necessary documentation in support. The applicant will also be required to provide their biometric information and subsequently attend an interview at their local US Embassy or Consulate where they will need to attend with their supporting documents, including:
- the visa appointment confirmation letter
- the DS-160 visa application confirmation page
- the DS-160 visa application fee receipt
- a valid passport with at least 6 months left prior to its expiry
- any old passports held by the applicant
- a visa-compliant colour photograph
- the I-797 approval notice for the L1 visa-holder
- a copy of the approved I-129 petition for the L1 visa-holder
- a copy of the L1 visa-holder’s passport
- a copy of an employment verification letter from the L1 visa holder’s US employer
- various documents as proof of relationship, including the original marriage certificate for spouses and the original birth certificate for dependent children
- various documents as proof of a genuine marriage to the L1 visa-holder, such as wedding photos, wedding invitations, wedding receipts and honeymoon details
- the pay slips or tax return of the L1 visa-holder if they are already in the US.
In the event that the applicant fails to attend with the necessary documentation, they risk their application for an L1 visa being delayed or even denied. Further, the fact that their spouse or parent has permission to work in the US under L1 visa classification does not guarantee a successful application. Their eligibility will still need to be determined on a case-by-case basis, having regard to the information contained within Form DS-160 and their supporting documentation. The applicant will also need to satisfy the interviewing consular officer of their eligibility, including a genuine family relationship with the L1 visa-holder.
If the applicant is already in the United States under a different classification, and seeking a change of status to L2 classification, they will need to apply to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) using Form I-539, Application to Change/Extend Nonimmigrant Status.
L2 visa cost & processing times
The cost of filing Form DS-160 will be $160. The L2 applicant may also be required to submit other fees depending on their country of residence, such as visa reciprocity fees.
It will typically take between 10 working days to 1 month for an L2 visa application to be processed, depending on which country the applicant is applying from. However, delays could arise if additional documentation is requested. Ideally, the L2 visa application should be filed at the same time that a visa application is made by the L1 applicant. In this way, it will be easier for the applicant to prove that a genuine family relationship exists.
How long does an L2 visa last?
The validity period of the dependant’s L2 visa is directly tied to that of the L1 visa-holder. This means that having been granted admission under L2 nonimmigrant classification, L2 visa-holders will typically be granted permission to stay for the same period as their L1 spouse or parent, where L1 visa-holders entering the US to establish a new office will be allowed an initial stay of 1 year, while all other intracompany transferees will be allowed a stay of 3 years.
The L1 visa-holder may apply for an extension of stay in increments of 2 years, until they have reached the maximum limit of 7 years for L-1A employees or 5 years for L-1B employees. The L2 visa can be extended at the same time as the renewal of the L1 visa-holder’s status.
Can L2 visa-holders work?
Any non-US national wanting to work in the United States, including L2 visa-holders, will need some form of authorization to be able to legally undertake paid employment. The permission required for an L1 visa-holder to undertake work in the US for the parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate of their overseas employer is inherent within their grant of leave.
Equally, following a USCIS policy announcement on 12 November 2021, spouses of L1 visa-holders in valid L2 status are now considered employment-authorized incident to their status. This essentially means that USCIS will consider spouses under L2 classification to be authorized to work in the US based on their valid nonimmigrant L2 status.
Do L2 visa-holders need employment authorization?
L2 visa-holders must be able to prove their valid L2 status, or they could risk deportation and a possible ban on re-entering the United States. This is because all US employers are legally required to verify that anyone they employ is authorized to accept and undertake work in the United States. Using Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) the employee must first attest to their employment authorization, and present their employer with acceptable evidence of their identity and permission to work. The employer must then examine this documentation to determine whether it reasonably appears to be genuine and relates to the employee in question, recording the document information on the form.
Following the L2 employment authorization rule change in November 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has added a new Class of Admission (COA) code so as to distinguish between L spouses and L children. Further, as of 30 January 2022, USCIS and US Customs and Border Protection began issuing Form I-94 to spouses of L1 workers using the new ‘L-2S’ admission code.
Having regard to this new COA code, DHS-issued evidence of L2 employment-authorization based on nonimmigrant status that is acceptable for completion of Form I-9, includes:
- an unexpired Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) with a notation reflecting L-2S nonimmigrant status: this is acceptable as evidence of employment authorization for L spouses under List C of Form I-9;
- an unexpired Form I-94 with a notation reflecting L2 status, together with a notice from USCIS regarding the new admission code: USCIS will send qualifying spouses with a Form I-94 issued before 30 January 2022, that was notated with L2 status, a notice regarding the new L-2S code that, together with an unexpired Form I-94 reflecting L2 nonimmigrant status, serves as evidence of employment authorization under List C of Form I-9;
- an unexpired Employment Authorization Document (EAD): the spouse of an L1 visa-holder is no longer required to request employment authorization to prove their legal entitlement to work in the US, but may still file Form I-765, with a $410 fee, in order to obtain an EAD. An EAD can be presented to employers as evidence of both identity and employment authorization acceptable under List A of Form I-9;
- an expired EAD, together with additional documentation to show the EAD is automatically extended: certain L spouses will qualify for an automatic extension of their existing Form I-766 EAD if they filed a renewal Form I-765 based on the same nonimmigrant status and they have an unexpired Form I-94 showing L2 or L-2S nonimmigrant status.
Normally, DHS regulations allow for an automatic extension period of up to 180 days from the expiration date stated on an EAD. However, as from 4 May 2022, DHS has temporarily increased this period to up to 540 days for eligible renewal applicants. This means that any automatic EAD extension will continue until either the end date on Form I-94 showing valid L2 or L-2S nonimmigrant status, the date any application to renew the previous EAD is approved or denied by USCIS, or 540 days from the ‘card expires’ date, whichever comes first.
Does an L2 visa lead to a green card?
One of the biggest advantages of the L1 visa is that it is considered to be ‘dual intent’. This means that L1 visa-holders can eventually apply to become a permanent resident, also commonly known as obtaining a green card, provided they meet the qualifying requirement.
This also means that if the permanent residency application of the L1 visa-holder is approved, the L2 visa-holder may also be eligible for a green card. This is because the L2 visa status is directly tied to that of the L1 primary visa-holder.
NNU Immigration are London-based US immigration attorneys. We provide specialist advice and guidance to workers and their families applying for US visas, including applications for the L2 visa. For expert advice on your visa eligibility and the application process, contact us.
L2 visa FAQs
Can you work on a L2 visa?
USCIS will consider spouses under L2 classification to be employment-authorised based on their valid nonimmigrant L2 status. This means that there is no longer a requirement to apply for an Employment Authorization Document in all cases.
What is difference between L1 and L2 visa?
An L1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for employees of a multinational organisation being transferred from an affiliated overseas office to one of its offices in the United States, while an L2 visa is for dependants of L1 visa-holders.
Can L-2 apply for green card?
As L-2 visa status is directly tied to that of the L-1 primary visa holder, and an L-1 visa is a dual intent visa, the L2 visa-holder may also apply for a green card.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.