J-2 Employment Authorization

J-2 dependents are eligible to work in the U.S. as long as they meet certain conditions first.

I am a J-2 dependent. Am I eligible to work in the U.S.?

Yes, you can work as long as you meet certain conditions first. You must apply for and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) from the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). Also, your employment must not be for the purpose of supporting your J-1 spouse. 

When can I start to work?

You cannot start working until you receive your EAD card from the USCIS. You are eligible to work as long as the EAD card is valid (meaning the work authorization dates on the card have not expired, your J-1’s status has not expired and your J-1 has not left the U.S. except for a temporary visit.) 

Are there any limits on the number of hours I can work?

No. While the EAD card is valid, you are eligible to work full or part-time.

Are there any limits on where I can work and the kind of work I can engage in?

No. You can work on-campus or off-campus in any field of work.

How do I apply for an EAD card?

IMPORTANT - Form I-765 Version Update

USCIS has released a new version of Form I-765 (refer to the edition date on the lower left hand corner of the form). Additionally, USCIS has stated that there will be a NEW I-765 as of 10/02/2020. This form has not yet published and is available in preview mode only, so you have an opportunity to see what it looks like.

Any OPT application postmarked on or after October 2 will be required to have this new edition dated 10/02/2020. 

The current edition of Form I-765 is dated 08/25/20.

  • If it is postmarked before October 2, 2020, USCIS will continue to accept the 08/25/20 edition.
  • If it is postmarked on or after October 2, 2020, USCIS will not accept the 08/25/20 edition.

The updated edition of Form I-765 is dated 10/02/20.

  • If it is postmarked on or after October 2, 2020, USCIS will accept the 10/02/20 edition.
  • If it is postmarked before October 2, 2020, USCIS will not accept the 10/02/20 edition.
Application postmark date Form Version Used Base I-765 Fee
Before October 2, 2020 Must use 8/25/20 edition $410
On or after October 2, 2020 Must use 10/02/20 edition $550

It is your responsibility to ensure that USCIS receives the correct form and fee payment.
USCIS Application Fee Changes

USCIS published information on fee increases as a Final Rule effective October 2, 2020. 

  • I-765 Application for Employment Authorization fee increases to $550
  • I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status fee increases to $390
  • Biometric Services fee decreases to $30 (biometrics are not required for OPT)

Submit the following documents to the USCIS Lock Box:

  • Completed original Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) 
    • Form I-765 (fillable online
      • In Item 16, write, “ (c) (5) ()” [last parentheses left blank] 
    • Be sure that the address you use on your Form I-765 is an address where you will receive mail in 3-4 months.  If you change your address before receiving your EAD, you may not receive the card at the new address.
  • Form G-1145(E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance)
  • Application fee of $410.
    • This should be a check (from a U.S. bank) or a U.S. money order payable to the “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”.
    • Write the 11-digit number from your I-94 on your check or money order.
    • Don’t forget to sign and date the check. 
    • You can find an example check for reference.
  • Photocopy of J-1’s valid DS-2019
  • Photocopy of J-2’s valid DS-2019
  • Photocopy of the front and back of the J-1’s newest I-94 card OR print-out of electronic I-94 (available on CBP's page).
  • Photocopy of the front and back of the J-2s newest I-94 card OR print-out of electronic I-94 (available here).
  • Photocopy of J-1’s valid passport biographic page and J-1 visa stamp 
  • Photocopy of J-2’s valid passport biographic page and J-2 visa stamp 
  • Photocopy of your marriage certificate, translated into English 
  • Photocopy of any previous EAD cards (if you have applied before)
  • Two (2) identical natural color photographs of yourself, taken within 30 days of your application and not previously used for another purpose.
    • Please review the specifications for the photos.  
    • If your photos do not meet USCIS requirements exactly, your EAD card will not be issued.
    • In pencil, write your name and I-94 number lightly on the back of each photo.
    • Photos can be taken at most drug stores (Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid) or at the UB Law Library, 211 O’Brian Hall (Tel. 645-2204).
  • A letter from the J-2 requesting employment authorization and stating why the employment is desired.
    • Refer to the sample letter for guidance.
    • The letter should state why you want to work and provide evidence that your income will not be used to support your J-1. 
    • It is a good idea to include a budget or a statement of expenses as well.

Be sure to photocopy your entire Employment Authorization application for your personal records.

Where do I send my Employment Authorization application?

The address to use depends on the mailing address listed on your I-765. Please refer to the USCIS website for details.

You should use a reliable, express delivery service (e.g. UPS, FedEx) to mail your application. Utilizing an express delivery service will enable you to track your application and its delivery. Please save your receipt.

How long will it take for my Employment Authorization application to be processed?

Processing time at the USCIS is estimated to be 6-12 weeks. However, processing times vary widely depending on the time of year and the workload at the Service Center to which you send your application. You can check the USCIS website for current processing times: Note: You cannot begin employment until you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the USCIS and the “start date” printed on the EAD card is effective. 

How long is the EAD card valid?

The USCIS can issue an EAD for a long as four years or for the duration of the J-1’s program, whichever period is shorter. However, the USCIS has the authority to issue the EAD for a shorter period of time. The validity of the EAD card may not exceed the J-1’s program termination date or end date—even though it is still valid on its face.

What happens when my EAD card expires?

If your EAD card expires, you will have to stop working until you receive a new EAD card.

When should I apply to extend my EAD card?

In order to avoid any interruption in J-2 employment authorization, it is important to submit a new Form I-765 request to the USCIS prior to the expiration of your current EAD, if you are eligible. The earliest you can submit your application is 120 days before the end date on your current EAD card.

If your DS-2019 will expire at the same time as the EAD card, and your J-1 spouse has not yet completed their academic program, then the J-1 must apply for and receive an extension of stay. Once a new DS-2019 is issued, the J-2 spouse can apply to extend their work authorization.

Will I be able to obtain a Social Security Card?

When you receive your EAD card, you will be able to apply for a Social Security Card. For more information on applying for a Social Security Card our SSN page

Will I have to pay taxes?

Yes. In addition to paying federal and state income taxes, you will also have to pay Social Security taxes.