This is for all the spouses that took “one for the team” by joining their partners to move to the United States. Some of you quit your day job to make it all happen and to support your better half’s career. While migrating to the US is very exciting and it takes a while to take it all in and get adjusted, it all ends up becoming familiar and a daily routine starts to form while you might be stuck at home, not being able to work. Your profession and degrees may not allow you to find the same job in the US without retaking classes and getting an American degree, but at first you’re not even able to work at all due to lack of a work permit as the spouse of the visa holder – your partner.
Here’s the first step to get you out there to find a job. You’ll have to apply for a work permit, also called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
Who is eligible for a work permit?
There are many different types of visas and not all of them allow spouses to even apply for a work permit. Here’s a list of visas, that allow spouses to apply for an EAD:
- E-1 Treaty traders and qualified employees
- E-2 Treaty investors and qualified employees
- E-3 Certain “specialty occupation” professionals from Australia
- L-1A (L-2 for spouse) Intracompany transferees in managerial or executive positions.
- L-1B (L-2 for spouse) Intracompany transferees in positions utilizing specialized knowledge.
- K-1 (Non-US Citizen Fiancé(e) to a US Citizen)
- K-3 (Non-US Citizen (spouse) married to a US Citizen)
- J-1 (J-2 for spouse) Exchange visitors
Who is not eligible?
Spouses with popular visa categories like H-1B, CW-2, H-4, O-3, R-2 are unfortunately not able to apply for a work permit as long as they are holding this visa status according to www.uscis.gov.
How to contribute without work authorization?
It’s not a good feeling if you’re willing to work but your visa type doesn’t allow it. If you are looking for ways to contribute to the household income, there are other ways to financially contribute by improving your financial intelligence. The smarter you manage your households income, the more money you have in your pocket – without a work permit. Research for opportunities like House or Land Flipping, Affiliate Marketing, Investment Opportunities. You could even look into Extreme Couponing, where you can save your family a lot of money by just being a smarter shopper. Saving money by shopping smart is not the same as earning additional income, but it’s something. And there are incredible savings that people get by playing the coupon system.
You can also invest in your education and take some classes or go to college to prepare yourself for your return to your country, if that is an option. You’ll make yourself more marketable by earning additional degrees abroad and in the end landing a better job back home than you had before – earning more money at last.
How to apply for a work permit
You can apply for your work permit by mail. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Form I-765 (download here)
- Filing Fee ($380 at the time of this article, check here for current rate)
Make the check payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Spell it exactly like that.
- Copy of your I-94 form (front and back)
- 2 identical photos (passport format 2×2 inch). Write your name and I-94 number on the back with a pencil or felt pen. Don’t use a ball-pen because the USDHS doesn’t want it to leave pressure marks.
- additional documents depending on your visa status. It may be a copy of your marriage license, birth certificate or other documents. See I-765 Instructions for further details.
Check out the I-765 Instructions to find out what Service Center you need to send your application to. After everything has been mailed you will get a confirmation in the mail with further instructions. You may have to go to the Application Support Center (ASC) to provide biometrics like fingerprints, photo and signature. The confirmation letter will tell you date and time of your appointment and what additional documentation you’ll have to bring.
How to renew your EAD
You’ll have to go through the same procedure than above including the same filing fee. Pay attention to your I-94 expiration date, because your work permit will expire on this date as well. You might get an EAD that’s only valid for a few days or months depending on the date on your I-94, so time your application smart.
If you already have a job, it’s always good to get a cover letter from your HR department to help speed up the process. That shows the USDHS the importance of an approved work permit for you and your company and may speed up the process a little.
Nothing happens and you’re near the 90 day mark or beyond
The first application for a work permit can take almost up to 90 days, sometimes even a little longer. I’ve been in your shoes and I got really nervous the first time, always wondering if I’ve made a mistake with my documents or the form. To get clarification I made an appointment at the nearest InfoPass field office through http://infopass.uscis.gov/
Here I was being helped and learned that, for whatever reason, my application got stuck somewhere in the system and the USCIS officer was able to get it back on track. A few days later I received my work permit in the mail.
This information is not legal advice and is for guidance only. While I have made every effort to link accurate and complete information, I cannot guarantee it is correct.
Photo: © DOC RABE Media – Fotolia.com