The L-2 visa helps to keep families together when one member has to travel to the United States for work. If you are the spouse or child of an L-1B or L-1B visa holder, you may be able to travel to the U.S. too. In this guide, we provide a comprehensive review of everything you need to know about the L-2 visa category for L-1 dependents.
What is the L-2 visa?
Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 years are eligible to accompany L-1 visa holders on the L-2 visa. While there are definite advantages to having L-2 status, there are also limitations. Learn more about the L-1 visa here.
Which dependents are ineligible for an L-2 visa?
Parents, grandparents, and other family members apart from the spouse and children won’t qualify for L-2 status, even in situations where the L-1 visa holder is the primary caretaker or breadwinner. However, they may still be able to visit the U.S. on a B-2 visitor visa where they’re temporarily allowed to stay in the country until their visa expires.
Required documents for an L-2 visa
Before you may apply for an L-2 visa, you’ll need to submit several documents to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to prove your eligibility. You’ll be provided with a specific list of required documents, most of which will include:
- Appointment letter for the visa interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy
- Valid passport for each applicant
- Completed DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application containing a CEAC Barcode
- A passport-style photo
- Your original marriage certificate (for spouses), supported by any other documents proving your marriage to the L-1 visa holder (wedding photo album, wedding invites, wedding ceremony program, etc.)
- Original birth certificates (for children)
- A copy of the approved L-1 visa holder’s petition
- An employment verification letter from the primary L-1 visa holder’s U.S. employer
- The L-1 holder’s passport
- L-1 holder’s Form I-797
- Photocopy of the income tax return and pay stubs of the L-1 visa holder
- Visa application and issuance fees
In some cases, the U.S. consulate may request additional supporting documents that should be submitted within a specified deadline. Because the processing time for an L-2 visa may take as long as 30 days, it’s usually a good idea to file your L-2 visa application at the same time the L-1 visa is being submitted.
L-2 visa duration and extension
The validity period of the dependent’s L-2 visa is directly tied to that of the L-1 visa holder’s. In the case of L-1A visa holder dependents, the L-2 visa holders may stay in the U.S. for up to seven years while dependents of L-1B visa holders may stay in the U.S. for up to five years.
The L-2 visa may also be renewed or extended following the renewal or extension of the L-1 visa holder’s status. All this can be done while remaining in the U.S.
However, if you’re outside of the U.S. when your L-2 visa expires, you’ll have to renew it before you’ll be allowed to re-enter the country. The processing time may take several weeks depending on how busy the U.S. embassies or consulates are.
Working in the U.S. on an L-2 visa
If you’re an L-2 spouse, you may apply for an Employment Authorization Document as soon as you arrive in the U.S. instead of waiting until you’ve found an employer.
The USCIS will evaluate your EAD application and may request for additional evidence. These specified documents will then have to be submitted within deadlines specified by USCIS. Once your application is approved, you can start looking for employment. You’ll also need to visit the Social Security office and apply for a Social Security Number if you don’t already have one.
Where can L-2 visa holders work?
There are generally no restrictions on where an L-2 visa holder can work in the U.S. as long as they have an approved EAD. This is known as open market employment authorization. An approved EAD is normally valid for two years at a time and can be renewed as long as the candidate remains in the valid L-2 visa status.
Your L-1 visa holder spouse, however, can only work for the U.S.-based employer that filed for their petition.
Studying in the U.S. on an L-2 visa
Both the L-2 spouse and children may study at a school in the U.S. on a part-time or full-time basis. If you or your child are planning to study in the U.S., you may want to contact the school’s admissions office to inquire whether you can pay in-state tuition fees as an L-2 visa holder. In-state tuition fees are usually much lower than the standard tuition rate.
Change of L-2 visa status
As an L-2 visa holder, you can apply to adjust your visa status to another visa such as an F-1 student visa, H-1/H-4 work visa or L-1 visa if you meet the specific visa requirements. If you’re working with an EAD, you may also ask your U.S. employer to sponsor you for an H-1B visa, for example.
What happens if the L-1 visa holder changes their status?
Since the L-2 is a dependent visa, it may not always be easy to switch to a different visa. For example, if the primary visa holder changes their status from L-1 to H-1, then you will also have to switch to the H-4 visa. Alternatively, if the primary visa holder is able to secure a new L-1 visa while on H-1 status, then the dependents are allowed to change the status from an H-4 visa to an L-2 visa.
Important Note: If you changed your status from an L-2 to an H-4 visa because the L-1 visa holder changed to H-1 status, the EAD that you received while on L-2 will no longer be valid. Fortunately, it’s possible for H-4 visa holders to get an EAD if they want to work in the U.S. Check out our guide on obtaining your EAD as an H-4 visa holder.
L-2 visa and Green Card
One of the biggest advantages of the L-1 visa category is that it is considered to be “dual intent,” meaning holders can apply for eventually apply to become a permanent resident (Green Card holder). As an L-2 visa holder, you are bound directly to the L-1 visa holder so you too are eligible for a Green Card. If the L-1 visa holder’s permanent residency application is approved, you may also get your Green Card.
The L-2 visa offers terrific opportunities for pouses and children of L-1 visa holders to live, work and study in the U.S. While it’s important to understand the nuances of this type of dependent visa, it’s equally important to know the steps to be approved for L-2 status so your family can stay together in the U.S. Building a new life in the States, however, can be daunting because credit history is important in securing things necessary for everyday life from credit cards to utilities and even your apartment.
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