Work Authorization for J-2 Dependents

J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for a work permit in the U.S. from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  The application process takes 3-4 months and when complete, the J-2 dependent will receive an employment authorization document (EAD).  The J-2 dependent may not begin employment until he or she has the EAD in hand.  With a valid EAD, a J-2 dependent may work in any job, full- or part-time, paid or unpaid.  The EAD is usually valid for one year or the duration of the DS-2019 whichever is shorter.  Extensions are possible but also take several months therefore to ensure continue work authorization, J-2 dependents should reapply 3-4 months before the EAD expires.  To apply for an EAD, the J-2 dependent must be currently in the U.S. and should complete the following steps:

  1. Complete the I-765 Form:
    • For question 14, write “J-2 exchange visitor”
    • For question 15, write “J-2 exchange visitor”
    • For question 16, write “(c)(5)”
    • Don’t forget to sign the I-765 form and include your telephone number and date
  2.  Attach the following documents:
    • Written statement indicating that your employment is not necessary to support the J-1 due to the fact that the J-1 has adequate funding already (specify J-1’s funding source and amount) but is for other purposes (such as travel, vacation, recreational activities, etc.)
    • Funding evidence - copy of J-1’s financial documents used to obtain J-2 visa
    • DS-2019’s – for both J-1 and J-2
    • I-94 record (J-2’s) – download from if you did not receive a paper card
    • Visa copy (J-2’s)
    • Passport copy – biographical page of J-2 passport
    • 2 Passport Photos
    • Proof of Relationship – marriage or birth certificate in English or translated into English
  3.  Attach a check to Form I-765 (staple or paperclip):
    • Make check to: U.S. Department of Homeland Security
    • Check amount is $380.00
    • Write your name and “EAD” in the memo field
  4. Mail to USCIS (ISS recommends using UPS, FedEx, or DHL to mail the application):
    To mail via UPS, FedEx, or DHL, use this address:

    Attn: AOS
    2501 S. State Hwy. 121, Business
    Suite 400
    Lewisville, TX 75067

    To mail via the U.S. Postal Service use this address:

    PO Box 660867
    Dallas, TX 75266

Do I need an EAD if I am just volunteering? 

Working without authorization is a serious violation of one’s immigration status therefore if you are ever unsure whether an unpaid “volunteer” position you are considering requires an EAD, please speak with your International Support Services advisor. 

An EAD is required if USCIS considers a person to be performing work, even if it is unpaid “volunteer” work.  This means that even though a job might be unpaid, USCIS still considers the activity working if a person is performing a job that is normally paid or if other people performing the same or a similar job are compensated.  In general, an unpaid position at Virginia Tech for which you perform work on a daily or consistent basis is still considered “work” and would require an EAD.

Some kinds of volunteering are ok and do not require an EAD, for example, helping at a school, church, or charity event.  Generally, an EAD is not required if other people doing the same activity are also not paid, especially if the work or services are performed for a charity, religious or community organization or other non-profit entity.