Can My Spouse Work in the US If I Get an E2 Visa? How to Get Work Authorization
One of the crucial questions for many E2 investors is “Can my spouse work in the United States?” Great news: your spouse can get permission to work in the US!
Work Permit (EAD Card)
If you are approved for the E2 visa, your spouse (with a few additional documents and an interview at the US consulate in your home country) will usually be granted the E2 derivative visa. This means that they will be able to come with you to live in the United States.
While you will have automatic permission to work at the approved business once you come into the US with the E2 visa, your spouse will need separate permission from USICS in the form of an i140 EAD if they wish to work at another business in the United States.
The Process to Get an EAD
- Once you enter the United States, your spouse can file the I-765 form with USCIS. This form asks for a lot of basic information about your spouse, but generally it is straightforward.
- A few weeks after filing, your spouse will get a receipt letter from USCIS in the mail. This means that the application has been received, but it doesn’t bestow any authorization to work.
- After approximately 3-6 months of processing time, your spouse should receive approval or denial in the mail from USCIS. This notice will come in form of a letter indicating that the I-765 has been approved or denied.
- If the notice indicated approval, a couple of weeks later, they will get the actual EAD work permit. This permit looks similar to a driver’s license.
- Once your spouse has this employment authorization document (the EAD card), he or she will have permission to work anywhere in the United States for the validity date listed on the card.
Working in the United States as the Spouse of an E2 Investor
When your spouse has the EAD card, they can apply anywhere they has an interest. In addition, your spouse can work for your business or even start a new business. However, please note the expiration date on the EAD card. This will likely not be the same date that the E2 visa expires.
Renewing the EAD Work Authorization Card
You can renew the EAD card early, and, since it takes several months to get approval, it would be wise to begin the renewal process on the first possible date that you can. The renewal process is the same as the initial application process.
Leaving the U.S. while the I-765 Is Pending
It is always advisable for your spouse to wait in the U.S. during the EAD application period. However, if absolutely urgent, your spouse can likely leave the United States while the I-765 is pending. Please note that they MUST be in the U.S. at the time that the I-765 is received by USCIS. Therefore, your spouse should be in the U.S. when the I-765 is pending and should be in the U.S. until they gets notice of receipt in the mail. Again, leaving during the application period is not advisable and could lead to complications. This should only happen when your spouse has an urgent matter outside of the U.S.
Getting a Social Security Card for Your Spouse
Your spouse may get a Social Security number in the United States as soon as they arrive, but it does not grant any sort of work authorization. In fact, the Social Security card does little more than track an individual for tax purposes and allow for ease in some processes (getting a bank account, getting a driver’s license). If your spouse chooses to get a Social Security number before having work authorization, the card will be printed with the language: “NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT.”
Instead of getting an SSN, I typically advise clients to get an ITIN number. This should work in most instances (driver’s license in some states, bank account, etc.) in the short term. If your spouse waits to get the Social Security number until they has the EAD card, the process may be more streamlined. And at that time, the card can be used in all instances (including at the workplace).