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 the application is approved, 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 work permission 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 takes several months for approval.   Therefore, to ensure continuous work authorization, J-2 dependents should reapply 3-4 months before their current 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
    • Also, complete form G-1145
  2.  Attach the following documents:
    • Letter from the J-2 dependent requesting work permission indicating that their employment is not necessary to support the J-1 due to the fact that the J-1 has adequate funding (specify J-1 exchange visitor's funding source and amount.   The letter should state that personal income earned by the J-2 will be used for recreational and cultural activities (such as travel, vacation, incidental courses, etc.)
    • Funding evidence - copy of J-1’s financial documents
    • DS-2019’s – for both J-1 and J-2
    • I-94 records - for both J-1 and J-2 – download from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home
    • Visa copy - for both J-1 and J-2
    • Passport copy – for both J-1 and J-2
    • 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 $410.00
    • Write your name and I-765 application in the check's 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:

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

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

                USCIS
                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.