In 2002, Congress modified the existing immigration laws so that L and E dependent spouse visa holders could work in the United States. However, obtaining the employment authorization documents (EAD) was still complex, lengthy, and costly. Due to long adjudication times, it would take upwards of a year before these spouses could get approval from the agency. As a result, these families would be impacted financially due to the gaps in permissible work. In reaction to this compounded issue, a major class-action lawsuit was filed in the Western District of Washington against USCIS. Shergill v. Mayorkas was settled in November of 2021. As a result, USCIS amended the policies to grant E-2 and L-2 spouses annotated arrival documents (I-94 records) to act as evidence for their EADs. E-2 and L-2 visa holders are now granted EADs upon admittance into the U.S. by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), thereby eliminating the need to go through a lengthy process.
What is L-2 and E2 EAD?
The L-2 visa is for spouses and dependent children (under the age of 21) of L1B visa holders to accompany them to the United States.
Can parents and other family members come on an L-2 visa?
No, grandparents and relatives who are not the spouse or dependent children cannot get an L-2 visa but they can apply for a visitor visa (B-2).
An EAD is an employment authorization document which serves as proof that you are permitted to legally work in the country.
In November of 2021 USCIS extended the validity of the work authorization by 180 days to reduce the likelihood of employment gaps while USCIS is processing new requests.
L-2 EAD Required Documents Checklist
Below are the required fees and L-2 documents to obtain work authorization:
- Required filing fee: $410
- Biometric service fee: $85
- Form I-765 – this is the application for the employment authorization document
- Copy of L-1 approval notice from a primary visa holder
- Copy of passport
- Copy of spouse’s I-94 – this serves as evidence that your spouse came into the U.S. lawfully
- Copy of your own I-94 – this serves as evidence that you came into the U.S. lawfully
- Two passport-style photos
- Copy of SSN (if you have one)
- Document showing proof of marriage – marriage certification, photos of the wedding, etc.
L-2 EAD Process & Processing Time
The application can be submitted online or through the mail. Be sure to keep a file with copies of all the documents you submit just in case anything happens. If you select the mail option the address you send it to will depend on which state you reside in. The processing time for L-2 EAD will depend on which service center is processing it however, in 2022, processing has been between 7.5-13 months for EAD based on being an L-2 spouse of an L-1 visas holder. You can check the exact time for your particular service center by going to the USCIS processing time.
First select the Form you are applying with, in this case the I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. Next, select the Form Category, Based on being an L-2 spouse of an L-1 nonimmigrant. Finally, select the field office or service center processing your case and click “get processing time.”
Guidance from USCIS
As of January 30, 2022, USCIS and CBP started issuing I-94 Forms with new Class of admission codes for certain E and L spouses. In addition, on March 18, 2022, USCIS issued a policy guidance update stating that they would be sending notices to E and L visa holders (over 21 years old) with unexpired Form I-94 issued before January 30, 2022, to serve as evidence of employment authorization and legal status. Therefore, based on this practice, an EAD will not be required for these eligible individuals.
Since the November 2021 announcement, the Department of Homeland Security added new Class of Admission (COA) codes to distinguish between E and L spouses and children. As of Jan. 30, 2022, USCIS and CBP began issuing Forms I-94 with the following new COA codes for certain E and L spouses: E-1S, E-2S, E-3S, and L-2S. An unexpired Form I-94 reflecting one of these new codes is acceptable as evidence of employment authorization for spouses under List C of Form I-9.
L-2 Visa Work Permit Validity Period
The L-2 visa EAD work permit is typically valid for a period of two years since it is contingent on the L-2 visa (which is subsequently valid based on the primary L1 visa holder’s status). If the L-2 visa expires sooner than your EAD validity will be the same. In the event that your spouse (the primary L-1 visa holder) has their status terminated early, yours will expire at the same time.
How to Submit
To ensure all documents are properly filled out and submitted, it’s highly recommended to seek the aid of a qualified immigration attorney. They’ll be able to submit the forms through the e-filing process or by mail to the proper address. They will use a certified service as well to ensure it arrives to its destination.
Where to Mail
If you live in Arkansas, Alabama, Connecticut, Deleware, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, DC, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Mississippi, South Carolina, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, West Virginia, the U.S. territories of P.R or the Virgin Islands, you should mail it to:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Attn: I-765 2501 S. State Hwy.
121 Business Suite 400 Lewisville, TX 75067
If you live in Arizona, Alaska, Colorado, California, Idaho, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, South Dakota, Oregon, Ohio, Washington, Wisconsin or Wyoming, mail it to:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
AttN: AOS 1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100 Phoenix, AZ 85034
Working with pending EAD
If your L-2 EAD is pending renewal or extension, your employer may or may not accept the renewal receipt notice as a replacement for the actual EAD card. For that reason, you should really plan to apply for the extension prior to the expiration.
E2 and L-2 EAD renewal
You are able to apply for an L-2 EAD renewal up to 4 months before it’s set to expire.
What’s Next for L-2 and E-2 Work Authorization?
Are you the spouse of an E or L visa holder and over 21 years old with an unexpired Form I-94 (issued before January 30, 2022)? If so, USCIS will mail you a notice around April 1, 2022, and you can use this notice along with your unexpired Form I-94 (showing E-1, E-2, E-3, #-3D, E-3R, or L-2 status) as evidence of your work authorization. If you fit the aforementioned criteria and have not received your notice by April 30, you should email [email protected].
Note: USCIS will only send notices to individuals identified as qualifying spouses based on a Form I-539 approved by USCIS. Individuals who received Form I-94 from CBP should visit www.cbp.gov.