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L and E Visa Spouses Authorized to Work in US without Work Permits

two partners in business attire standing outside their workplace

In a policy alert published by USCIS on November 12, 2021, USCIS made two announcements in a promising attempt to alleviate the burdens faced by H-4, E, and L nonimmigrant dependent spouses experiencing severe delays in the issuance of work permits by USCIS. First, USCIS expanded the ability of E, H-4, or L nonimmigrant dependent spouses to qualify for an automatic extension of work authorization for up to 180 days. Second, USCIS announced that dependent spouses of those who hold an E or L visa are authorized to work pursuant to their status, and therefore no longer need a separate work permit. To learn more about the changes, please click here.

The second change which allowed E and L vias spouses to work in the US without applying for a work permit was originally delayed as CBP needed to update their Form I-94 system. To learn more about the I-94 system, please click here. To learn more about what to do when your I-94 is expiring, please click here. CBP needed to change their system to add annotations to E and L spouses’ Form I-94 to indicate that they are dependents of E and L visa holders. It is this annotation that will authorize these visa spouses to work without a work permit. As of January 31, 2022, CBP has confirmed that the annotation system is live. This means that all E and L visa spouses who enter the country after this date and receive the new annotation, will be allowed to work without a work permit. This new annotation will also apply for E and L visa spouses who change or extend their status while inside the US after this date.

E and L visa spouses who entered the country before the January 31, 2022 date and did not receive the new annotation on their Form I-94 cannot work without a work permit. These individuals will either have to apply for a work permit, leave and re-enter the country to receive the new annotated Form I-94, or apply for an extension of status while inside the country (if their Form I-94 is close to expiring).

The new E and L visa categories on the Form I-94 are listed below. Bolded items are those eligible for this change:

  • E-1S – Spouse of E-1
  • E-1Y – Child of E-1
  • E-2S – Spouse of E-2
  • E-2Y – Child of E-2
  • E-3S – Spouse of E-3
  • E-3Y – Child of E-3
  • L-2S – Spouse of L-1A or B
  • L-2Y – Child of L-1A or B

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