J-2 Work Permission

Spouses of J-1 students or scholars in J-2 status are eligible to apply for work permission.

Employment Overview
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How to Apply for J-2 Work Permission

J Exchange Visitor regulations allow a J-2 dependent to apply to USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) for a work permit. The EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) allows you unrestricted work, full-time or part-time. You must be in the U.S. in J-2 status when you submit the application.

The purpose for applying for permission to work cannot be to to support the expenses of the J-1 principal. Rather, the income must be for other reasons such as J-2 career advancement, or for family's recreational and cultural activities. 

Want to learn more?

For an overview of the process and documents, watch our short video below!

J-2 Work Permission Video
If you are in J-2 immigration status, it is possible to apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services-- USCIS for short-- for an employment authorization document, commonly referred to as an EAD card. The purpose of J-2 work permission is NOT to fund your spouse’s living expenses, but rather to allow you to pursue your own personal or professional interests, as well as cultural opportunities for your family.

The processing times at USCIS can be significant and you cannot begin working until you have received your EAD.

So let’s get started!

First, you must be in the U.S. and in J-2 status at the time you apply for work authorization.

You will need to complete two government forms along with seven supporting documents. Don’t worry! The document checklist and other relevant information are all on ISSO’s website. And I can speak from personal experience that when my wife applied for J-2 work permission, she found all the information she needed there for a successful application.

The first document is an original Form G-1145, which allows USCIS to notify you when they have received your application.

The second document you will need is an original Form I-765 application. With this form, you can also request a U.S. Social Security Number. if you don’t already have one. You will need an SSN in addition to the EAD to begin employment.

Next we’ll briefly review your supporting documents. You can refer to all specific instructions on the ISSO website.

You will first need copies of all current and previous Forms DS-2019 for both you and your J-1spouse. Be sure that you have signed the bottom of each form.

You must also send copies of the passport biographic data pages for you and your J-1 spouse. Both passports must be valid for at least 6 months into the future.

The next items are photocopies of your most recent J-1 and J-2 visa pages (If you are from Canada, you will not have these because you are visa exempt).

You will also need copies of your and your spouse’s most recent Form I-94 arrival record.

USCIS will also need two U.S. passport style photos for you only. The photos cannot be more than 30 days old when you send the application.

In addition, you’ll need a brief cover letter that explains why you are applying for permission to work. Check out a sample letter on our website.

Last but not least, you must pay a fee to the USCIS. You can pay by personal check, certified bank check or money order. The ISSO does not recommend using a credit card because of reported issues. Check our website for the specific fee amount.

Before sending your application to USCIS, double-check that you have everything! USCIS can deny your application if your application is not complete in every way, including missing pages and/or signatures.

The ISSO strongly advises using a courier like FedEx or UPS, which will guarantee delivery and provide you with a tracking number.

And don’t forget -- check back to the ISSO website for information on what to expect after you send your application.

Application Process

How to apply for J-2 work permission
Step 1.

Mail your Employment Authorization application to USCIS via FedEx or UPS. 

The ISSO provides the following instructions regarding your application, however, please keep in mind that you are responsible for the accuracy of your application to USCIS and following their step-by-step instructions. For further assistance please review the USCIS Filing Guidance.

J-2 Employment Authorization Application Checklist

** Be very careful that your application is complete before you mail it! USCIS can deny your application if it's missing any required documentation without sending you an RFE (Request for Evidence) Read more.

Want a printable version? Download our J-2 Employment Authorization Application Checklist.

Mailing Instructions

To avoid mailing problems, send your application by FedEx or UPS to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox facilities. The address of the USCIS Lockbox you should use depends on:

  • the type of form you are submitting (I-765)
  • which state you live in
  • whether you are sending by US Postal Service or by courier (FedEx, UPS, or DHL)

To find the current USCIS Lockbox address you should use to send your complete I-765 Application for J-2 Employment, refer to this USCIS page.

Step 2.

Waiting for your EAD

USCIS can take 3 - 5 months or more to process an EAD application. You will receive three documents during this time: 

  1. Within 2-4 weeks you will receive a form I-797 Notice of Action which is a receipt notice. Use this receipt number to check the status of your application online at uscis.gov

  2. Form I-797 Notice of Action. This is your approval notice informing you that your EAD has been approved and will be sent to you separately by the U.S. Postal Service, so check your mail!

  3. Employment Authorization Document (EAD card). Be sure to check that all the information is correct and if there are any errors, contact USCIS immediately. 
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Once You Have Your J-2 EAD

You cannot work after the EAD card has expired

The length of the EAD usually matches the end date on your Form DS-2019 (but will not exceed 4 years).

You may be able to extend your EAD

Extensions of the EAD are possible, up to the end date of your J-1 spouse’s program on the Form DS-2019. Please note that the extension process also takes an average of 3-5 months, so plan ahead.

You cannot work if your spouse discontinues their program

If your spouse discontinues his or her program at Columbia or changes to another immigration status, your J-2 status and your work authorization are terminated. Your J-2 status is always dependent on the valid J-1 status of the principal.