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L-2 EAD: How to obtain work authorization for L-1 Visa Dependents

L-2 visa holders can work in the U.S. by obtaining an employment authorization document (EAD). Here’s how you can get an EAD.

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What is an L-2 visa?

Eligible dependents of L-1 nonimmigrant visa holders can come to the United States on an L-2 dependent visa. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines “eligible L-2 dependents” as immediate family members, namely a legally married spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21. As it is a dependent visa, L-2 visa holders can only stay in the US for the same period of the L-1 primary visa holder.

Among the many privileges of an L-2 visa holder is eligibility to work within the U.S. Your EAD will allow you to work in the U.S. whether full-time or part-time, in the office or remotely, offline or online.

Note that only the spouse of an L-1 visa holder is allowed to apply for an EAD. Children with an L-2 visa are not eligible to apply for an EAD but may enroll in a U.S. school.

Obtaining an EAD involves filing the required documents with the USCIS. Once approved, you will be issued your EAD card, which you can then use to find work with a U.S. employer.

L-2 EAD application process

L-2 visa holders may apply for an EAD before they apply for a job or receive a job offer. Note that U.S. employers are not involved in the EAD application process; all fees and forms are the responsibility of the EAD applicant. As such, it may be worthwhile to consult an immigration attorney during the process to ensure a smooth application process.

L-2 EAD required documents

  • Completed Form I-765 (Application form for Employment Authorization)

  • Official receipt for the filing fee ($410). This fee is non-refundable regardless of the USCIS’s decision on your application. Payment may be made through money order, personal check or cashier’s check. USCIS Lockbox facilities may also accept credit card payments using Form G-1450 (Authorization for Credit Card Transactions)

  • Biometric services fee ($85) where applicable

  • Form I-797 (Approval notice of your spouse’s L-1 visa)

  • A copy of your current passport

  • Copies of your and your spouse’s I-94 (Arrival-Departure documents) proving that you both entered the U.S. legally

  • Two colored passport-style photos of yourself. If you are e-Filing your Employment Authorization Application on the USCIS website, you don't need to provide these photos. Instead, you will need to visit a USCIS service center to capture your photograph, fingerprints and signature electronically.

  • A copy of your Social Security Number (SSN) if you already have one

  • Proof of your marriage to the primary L-1 visa holder (marriage certificate, wedding album, wedding invitation, etc).

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How do I submit an L-2 EAD application?

After completing the application form and gathering the required documents, your next step is deciding how you want to submit your EAD application.

Sending your application by mail preferred, since it is generally less complicated. You may also still be required to send your documents by regular mail later even if you opt for the e-Filing process. In any case, make sure to have a copy of all your documents in case they are needed in the future.

Mailing Addresses for L-2 EAD Applications

If you’re going to mail your application, consider using a certified service such as U.S. Express Mail, FedEx or UPS. You’ll also need to take note of the appropriate mailing address based on your state of residence in the U.S.

The USCIS has two lockbox facilities that handle applications:

1. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Attn: I-765 2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business Suite 400 Lewisville, TX 75067

This mailing address is for L-2 spouses in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

2. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ATTN: AOS 1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S Suite 100 Phoenix, AZ 85034

This mailing address is for L-2 spouses in the following states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Upon receipt of your EAD application, the USCIS will mail a receipt of notice (Form I-797) along with a 13-digit receipt number to the address listed on your application. You can use this receipt number to check your EAD Status online on the USCIS website.

How long is the processing time of an L-2 EAD?

L-2 EAD application processing times tend to vary from one USCIS service center to another, but the process generally takes 60 to 90 days.

If your EAD application is approved, USCIS will mail your plastic EAD card via first-class U.S. mail. If your application is denied, USCIS will also notify you accordingly after the processing time.

In some cases, you may receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS. When that happens, the processing time of your EAD application effectively begins from the time they receive your RFE response.

EAD card delivery time

If you check the status of your EAD application online and it shows ‘Card sent for printing,’ then your card should arrive at your mailing address within 5 to 7 days. Make sure that your mailing address includes your apartment number on the I-765 form, so there are no delivery issues.

What do I do if the EAD card has incorrect information?

Per USCIS, if an issued EAD card contains incorrect information due to an error on their part, you’ll need to submit a letter detailing the error along with evidence showing the correct information.

The card should also be included with the letter and submitted to the service center or National Benefits Center that approved your application.

What is the validity period of an EAD?

An L-2 EAD is typically valid for two years at a time and is subject to renewal or extension as long they and their L-1 spouse have valid visas.

Since the L-2 visa is dependent on the primary L-1 visa, if your spouse loses their L-1 visa status, then your EAD card becomes invalid.

EAD Extensions

If your L-2 visa is extendable, you may apply for an EAD extension before it expires. This allows you to avoid working in the U.S. illegally.

The procedure for extending an EAD is essentially the same as obtaining a new one, including the necessary supporting documentation and filing fees. Remember to apply for your L-2 EAD extension at least four months before its expiry to allow USCIS enough time to process your application.

If your spouse’s L-1 visa is set to expire and you want to continue working in the U.S., you may switch your visa status to another nonimmigrant visa that allows for an EAD, like the H4 visa. Of course, this means your L-1 spouse must first change their status to an H1 visa.

Alternatively, you can apply for an adjustment of status and switch to permanent residency through the Green Card program. If successful, you’ll no longer need an EAD.

Working with a pending L-2 EAD extension or renewal

While USCIS may issue an L-2 EAD renewal receipt notice, that doesn't mean your employer will accept it as a suitable substitute for an actual EAD card. That’s why it’s important to apply for an extension long before the EAD expires.

What else do I need to work in the U.S.?

After obtaining your EAD, you’ll want to get a social security number (SSN) from the Social Security Office, if you don't already have one. Present your EAD card, other supporting documents and a completed Form SS-5 at your nearest Social Security Administration office. An SSN is one of the important documents you’ll need to start working and get paid legally in the U.S.

The takeaway

There you have it! An L-2 EAD can definitely come in handy during your stay in the U.S. helping you support your L-1 spouse and the rest of the family. Speaking of staying in the U.S., have you given any thought to how your living conditions will be after obtaining your EAD? Credit cards, phone/internet plans and car leases are just some of the few necessities to living and working in the U.S. However, obtaining these services at reasonable rates often requires a solid U.S. credit history. So how do you go about it since you’re a newcomer? 

One of the best ways is through the Nova Credit Global Credit Passport®, a document that essentially serves as a bridge between your credit history from your home country and U.S. creditors and service providers. Your application will be evaluated against this Credit Passport instead of a zero credit history which improves your chances of success. 

At the moment, Nova Credit has partnered with Credit reporting agencies across Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Korea, Nigeria, Mexico, India and the United Kingdom. 

Moved to the U.S. from Australia, India or the UK?

Put your international credit score to work in the United States

Access your free international credit report to see which U.S. credit cards you could already be eligible for. No SSN is required to start your U.S credit history.

Select Country...

More from Nova Credit:

The ultimate guide to the L-1 visa

An overview of the L-1A visa for non-immigrant workers in the United States

A guide to the L-1B Visa for non-immigrant work in the United States

How to get an L-1 Visa extension

Everything you need to know about the L-2 Visa for L-1 dependents

L-1 vs. H-1B: Which work visa is right for you?

Your guide to L-1 Visa requirements