Yes. If you are in the U.S. on an E-1 visa and your spouse wants to work in the U.S., he/she will have to apply for and get a work authorization before starting working.

The Federal regulations expressly state that a spouse of an E-1 visa holder must apply and get a work authorization before he/she can start working in the U.S.

In 2013, the Board of Immigration Appeals issued an unpublished decision that spouses of E-2 visa holders spouses can work without having to apply for a work authorization card. BIA’s argument was that because the Federal Regulations do not clearly specify that spouses of E-2 visa holder have to apply and get a work authorization (and only state that spouses of E-1 visa holders have to apply for a work authorization), they can indeed work without authorization.   The clear wording of the regulations make it impossible to argue that the spouse of an E-1 visa holder does not require work authorization.

Please note that USCIS’s position is that the spouses of E-2 visa holders do require a work authorization, and therefore we strongly advise that spouses of our E-2 clients apply for a work authorization and do not work until they receive a work authorization card.

If you want to read our blog post about the unpublished BIA decision, click here.

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