J-2 dependents—both spouses and minor children—may be granted permission to work by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), provided it can be demonstrated that the income from such employment is not for the support of the J-1 student or scholar. In order to obtain work permission, the J-2 dependent must state, and ideally show evidence, that there are already sufficient funds to cover the educational and living expenses of the J-1 student or scholar and dependents. For example, employment may be used to support the family's customary recreational and cultural activities and related travel, among other things.
Note that it is against the law to work without permission from USCIS—the J-2 dependent must apply for and receive an EAD card before work may begin. Work is only allowed within the dates printed on the EAD. Also be aware that income earned by J-2 dependents is subject to Federal, State and Social Security taxes.
View answers to frequently asked questions.
The J-2 must submit a paper I-765 form and supporting documentation by mail to USCIS. Note that the I-765 was updated as of July 2018, to a version expiring 5/31/2020. USCIS’s instructions on filing the I-765 can be found at this link. Below is the full list of documents that should be included in the application.
It is strongly recommended that the J-2 and/or the J-1 student or scholar meet with an immigration coordinator at the Office of International Affairs to review all materials and discuss the procedure before mailing.
Materials to include:
- Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance – This form is optional but strongly encouraged. Place on top of the first page of your application materials. This form can be found at uscis.gov/g-1145.
- Cover Letter – Should be written by the J-2 dependent, and addressed to “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.” It should briefly state: (1) why the employment is desired; (2) that the J-1 has adequate funds to cover his/her own tuition and fees, as well as living expenses for the entire family; (3) that money earned will not be used to support the J-1 student or scholar.
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization – This form can be found at uscis.gov/i-765. If this is the first time you are applying, check the box for “Initial permission to accept employment.” If you have never been issued a Social Security number and wish to apply for one using this form, check “yes” for question 14. The “Eligibility Category” for question 27 is (c)(5). We recommend having an advisor at OIA review your completed I-765 before you mail the application.
- Copies of J-1 and J-2 Forms I-94 – A print-out of the electronic I-94 card form (or copy of both sides of the paper I-94 card if you still have one). To access the I-94 go to cbp.gov/i-94. Must be provided for the J-1 and J-2.
- Copy of Most Recent Admission Stamp – This stamp is found in your passport indicating the date you last entered the country. The stamp should be marked J-1 D/S.
- Valid Passport – Copy of photo page, renewal page if original has expired, and pages showing amendments such as name changes, corrections, etc. Passport copy needed for the J-2 dependent only.
- Copy of J-1 and J-2 Forms DS-2019 – Copy the most recently issued form, and make sure that it has been signed by the J-1/J-2 at the bottom of page 1 prior to photocopying. Must be provided for the J-1 and J-2.
- Proof of J-1’s funding – Provide documentation to support what is stated in the cover letter regarding the J-1’s adequate financial resources. This can include a bank statement in the J-1 student or scholar’s name, a family bank statement with affidavit of financial support, a copy of the J-1’s Graduate Associate contract, fellowship letter, or government letter of financial guarantee.
- Two Identical Photographs – Photograph instructions are on the Form I-765 instructions under Required Documentation. Photographs must not have been taken more than 30 days prior to the submission of your application. Stores advertising “Passport Photos” are typically able to issue the required photographs; do not take or print the photos yourself. Write your last name and I-94 number lightly in pencil on the back of each photo. For more photo specifications, review the information shown on page 20 (1., C.) of the Instructions for Form I-765, linked from this page of the USCIS website.
- Copy of proof of relationship – This is optional, but recommended. For a J-2 spouse, submit a copy of the marriage certificate. For a J-2 child, submit a copy of the dependent’s birth certificate. Provide a translation for documents if needed.
- Previously Issued EADs – Photocopies of any previous employment authorization documents (EAD), if applicable.
- Filing Fee – For current fee rate, check the USCIS I-765 webpage (uscis.gov/i-765). OIA recommends paying via check or money order, payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. To pay by credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover), applicants will need to submit the Form G-1450, which can be found at uscis.gov/g-1450. Please be sure to use a secured form of payment if choosing this option.
For where to mail your application, see the filing addresses page of the USCIS website. This link shows the addresses for the USCIS lockbox locations where J-2 I-765 applications are sent. If you are listing an Ohio address on the I-765, you will send your application to the lockbox in Phoenix, AZ.
Within approximately two weeks of when your application is mailed, you should receive a paper I-797 receipt notice to the mailing address you listed on the I-765. This is a very important document that you should retain. The notice will show your receipt number, which you can use to track the status of your case on this page of the USCIS website. If you included the Form G-1145, you should also receive an e-mail or text message with your receipt number.
You can expect a response from USCIS within 3-4 months of when your application is receipted. If the work authorization is approved, USCIS will issue the J-2 an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and mail it to the address indicated on Form I-765. It is a plastic card, approximately the size of a driver’s license. If the application is denied, USCIS will reply indicating reason(s) for denial.
Important Note: The name of the J-2 dependent must be on the mailbox or the Postal Service will not deliver the card. Also, mail from USCIS may not be forwarded to a new address by the Postal Service—you must notify USCIS of any address changes directly online. OIA recommends avoiding an address change while the application is pending, whenever possible.