If you are currently in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa, your spouse may be able to work in the U.S. This article will discuss which spouses of non-immigrant visa holders are/are not authorized to work in the U.S. This post will also discuss how and when your spouse can apply for a work authorization.

Spouses of the following visa holders are allowed to work in the U.S.:

Spouse of E-1 Treaty Trader / E-2 Investor

If you are an E-1 Treaty Trader/ E-2 Treaty investor visa holder, your spouse may apply for authorization to work in the U.S. Your spouse does not have to be a national of a Treaty Country to apply for a work authorization and he/she does not have to have the same nationality as you.

Spouse of E-3 Visa Holder

If you are currently in the U.S. on E-3 Australian Professional Specialty visa, your spouse may apply for work authorization. Even though E-3 visas are only available for Australian nationals, your spouse does not have to be an Australian national to apply for the work authorization.

Spouse of L-1 Visa Holder

If you are a holder of L-1A or L-1B visa, your spouse may apply for the work authorization.

Spouses of J-1 Visa Holder

If you are a holder of J-1 visa, your spouse may apply for a work authorization in the U.S. However, if you are in the U.S. on J-1 visa as au pair, camp counselor, secondary school student or summer work travel visitor, your spouse cannot apply for work authorization.

In addition, your spouse’s employment may not be used to support you as the principal J-1 visa holder.

Spouse of H-1B Visa Holder

Generally, spouses of H-1B workers are not able to apply for work authorization but there are 2 exceptions. If you are currently in the U.S. on H-1B visa, your spouse may be eligible to apply for work authorization in the following 2 scenarios:

  1. You are currently in the U.S. on H-1B status and you are the beneficiary of an approved I-140 petition, or
  2. You have been granted H-1B status under section 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000. This is a situation when you are in the U.S. currently on H-1B status and your Labor Condition Application or I-140 Petition has been pending for at least 365 prior to reaching the 6th year of H-1b status and you obtained status past the 6th

This rule came into effect on May 26, 2015 and the main purpose of this rule was to lessen the economic burden of H-1B workers and their families during the transition from nonimmigrant to green card status.

The Department of Homeland Security recently submitted a proposal to rescind the H-4 spousal work authorization and the proposed rule is currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget.

My spouse is currently outside the U.S. and has not got the visa stamp yet. Can my spouse apply for a work authorization from abroad?

If your spouse is currently outside the U.S. and wants to come to the U.S. on dependent visa, he/she will first have to apply for the relevant visa (E-1/E-2 visa, E-3D, L-2 visa, J-2 or H-4 visa) at the U.S. Consulate abroad. Once the visa is approved and after your spouse enters the U.S. on this visa he/she will be able to file the work authorization application. Your spouse cannot apply for work authorization from abroad but the spouse does not have to stay in the U.S. while the EAD application is being adjudicated.

How does my spouse apply for a work authorization?

Your spouse will have to file and submit Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) to USCIS along with supporting documents. Currently, it takes USCIS around 4-6 months to issue decision on this application. Your spouse is not allowed to work in the U.S. until after the work authorization application is approved and he/she received the work authorization card.

Can my spouse work for any employer? Can my spouse start a business?

Yes and Yes.  Once your spouse receives her work authorization card, he/she may work for any employer (full or part-time) and he/she may also start a business. The spouse is not required to work if they have an EAD card.

Spouses of the following non-immigrant visa holders are not allowed to work in the U.S.:

Spouses of TN visa holder

Spouses of TN visa holders  may apply for TD visa and accompany you in the U.S. but they are not allowed to work in the U.S. However, your spouse may study in the U.S. on TD visa full-time. Please note that your spouse does not have to be Canadian/Mexican national to apply for TD visa.

Spouses of O-1 or O-2 visa holders

If you are O-1 or O-2 visa holder, your spouse may apply for O-3 visa and accompany you in the U.S. but he/she is not allowed to work in the U.S. O spouses may study in the U.S. full/part-time.

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