Getting a Work Permit under the J2 Visa

Disclaimer: Please note that all the information provided in this post is for informational purposes only. This article was written according to the information available on USCIS website on March 17, 2019.

As a spouse of a Caltech / JPL researcher or student, you may want to work in the US. Unfortunately, not all the visas allow that, but the J2 for example does. However, it is not an intrinsic condition to your visa and you need to apply for an employment authorization (EAD) through the Immigration Services (USCIS).
The first thing you need to acquire to send out your request is a “permanent” address in the US – meaning that you have a long-term address, as the processing time is currently up to 5.5 months. You thus have to be in the US territory to be able to apply for your EAD (you cannot do it prior to your arrival as a J2 dependent).
The next step would be to go to USCIS website and complete the I-765 Form. Make sure that you have the latest version and read carefully the instructions before starting to fill in your document. Along with this form, you will have to provide a bunch of documents to prove that you are legally in the US under the right visa type. You can find a checklist of the required documents here, but be aware that depending on the person who will deal with your case, this might not be enough (I can speak from my own experience).
So here is a more accurate list.

A. General Requirements

  • A copy of your Form I-94: Be sure to take the latest, most accurate version that you can retrieve here. I always include both mine and my spouse’s.
  • Two identical passport-style photographs: They also have to be recent. You can go to any FedEx shop and ask for a passport photo to make sure that all the requirements are met. Using a pencil or felt pen, lightly print your name and A-Number (if any) on the back of the photo.
  • Either your latest EAD or a government-issued identity document: This actually means a copy of your passport. Always include it to your file, even if you have already been granted EADs.
  • A filing fee payable by money order, personal check or cashier’s check: You can find the exact amount here. As of today, it is set to $410.

B. J2-Specific Requirements

  • A copy of Form DS-2019: Include it for both you and the J1
  • Evidence the J1 is currently maintaining status: This means his/her appointment letter for his/her researcher position.
  • Evidence you are still maintaining status: Your J2 should suffice as a proof
  • Evidence of all previously authorized periods of J2 employment (if applicable): Include a copy of all the EADs (= the cards) that you have been entitled – if any.
  • Evidence that any income from this employment authorization will not be used to support the J1 principal foreign national: For this point, you should include the J1 annual gross salary if it does not appear in the appointment letter. What I personally did was to create a table with all our monthly expenses proving that it would not exceed the amount my husband earns each month.
    Example of table:
Example provided for informational purposes only

C. Additional Requirements

In addition to this list provided by USCIS, here are the documents I suggest you join to your request:

  • Marriage Certificate: I personally have been requested to provide it for my third EAD, whilst I did not have to provide it for my second one. Actually, it is mandatory for all the spouse-dependent work authorizations but the J2. I guess it depends on how well your adjudicator knows the J2 requirements, and if you don’t want to experience a 3+ weeks delay for your approval, include it in your file.
  • An introductory letter with a statement that your work authorization will only be used for your personal fulfillment and with a list of all the documents that you are including with your request.

Note that any document you join to your request that is not in English should be accompanied with a certified translation, meaning that the document should contain a note signed by a translator to attest that the translation is accurate and complete to the best of their knowledge and ability (no “sworn” / notarized translation needed).

The validity of your EAD will be the same as your DS-2019, which means that you will have to renew it anytime your DS-2019 is extended. To do so, you will have to go through the whole process again.

Once printed, don’t forget to sign your form I-765! You currently cannot apply online and you have to mail all your documents to USCIS. You should avoid to staple the sheets together. To make sure that they don’t get separated, I personally put them in a clippable report folder. You should also add your name and A-number or USCIS number (if any) on every sheet of your file. Your application can be sent through 4 different carriers: USPS, UPS, FedEx and DHL. The destination will depend on where you live and which carrier you are using. – See USCIS’s “Filing locations for Form I-765“.

A couple of weeks after, you will receive a letter from USCIS acknowledging the receipt of your case with a case number. You can use it here to check its status. Processing times can be found here. Until early 2018, a renewal would take half less processing time than an original request, but it is not the case anymore. So, plan in advance whenever you need to renew your EAD. Note that you don’t have to provide a copy of your visa; the DS-2019 extension is a sufficient proof of your status being maintained.

You cannot start any employment activity as long as you have not received your EAD. Nothing forbids you however to start looking for a job and go to interviews.

Good luck!

Disclaimer: Please note that all the information provided in this post is for informational purposes only.This article was written according to the information available on USCIS website on March 17, 2019.

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