VIDEO: Can the spouses of J1 visa holders work in the U.S.?

Can the spouse of a J1 student visa work in the United States, and if so, what are the requirements to get work authorization for that spouse?

Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration attorney practicing immigration law throughout the country out of our offices here in St. Louis, Missouri.

International students who come to the United States on a J1 exchange student visa have a lot of requirements associated with that. One of the questions we get from time to time is whether their spouses, which are called J2 visa holders, whether those J2 visa holders are allowed to work while their spouse is studying as an exchange student on the J1 visa.

In fact, they can, which is really an unusual thing, because you should know that the spouses of F1 students, which is another student visa class, F2 students are not allowed to work. It’s especially true too that even the spouses of employees who are working on an H1B visa, for the most part, the spouses of H1B holders can’t work. These restrictions on work oftentimes put hardships on families that are in the United States.

The law does allow for the spouses of J1 students, exchange students, to work in the United States. The process is relatively straightforward. The J2 visa holder needs to file an I-765, which is a simple one-page form that the immigration service uses for work authorization. It’s a deceptively simple form because you need to support the case with documentation of certain issues related to work authorization.

Number one, you’re going to need to establish your valid J2 status. You need to submit proof that you’re here in J2 status. You need to submit proof that you and your spouse have the means to support yourself economically, and you need to show the deadlines on your J2 visa when they expire.

You file that along with the I-765. You also have to file evidence of the marriage. You have to file a marriage certificate and any documentation you have that your relationship, your marriage to the J1 visa holder is valid and intact.

You’re also going to need to submit passport photos and the filing fee. If you submit all those documents, you have to, in fact, wait until you’re in the United States to apply. You can’t be out of the United States to apply for that work authorization. You have to wait until you arrive. Once you file it, you’re going to have to wait around 90 to 120 days, that’s three or four months, for work authorization to arrive. You’re not going to be able to work while the application is pending. You can’t work until you get the actual work authorization card.

At that point, if you don’t have one already, you’re going to need to go get a Social Security number. It’s those two documents that you’re going to need in order for a US employer to hire you and to employ you. It is a relatively straightforward process. It is an immigration benefit that’s available only to the spouses of J1 visa holders. We hope that you take advantage of it if it’s something that you would like to do. It’s a great benefit that you’re able to work while here if that’s something that you choose to do.

If you have any questions about J2 visa holders working or the filing of the I-765 request for work authorization, we’d be happy to help you sort it out. Just give us a call, 314-961-8200, or you can email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com. Thanks a lot.