If you’re coming to the U.S. with your family, making sure that your spouse and children can thrive in their new home is a huge priority. If you are considering an L-1 visa and wonder how it will affect your loved ones, this article about the L-2 dependent visa is for you!
Recent changes for spouses of L-1 visa holders
Before we get into the details, let’s highlight some exciting new changes for the dependents of L-1 visa applicants. As of April 2022, spouses of L-1 visa holders can begin work in the U.S. as soon as they enter on valid L-2 status, with some limitations. This is great news because previously, L-2 spouses would have to enter the U.S. on L-2 status, complete and mail in an application for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and then wait sometimes eight months or more for the EAD to be processed and mailed to them. If you’re looking into the L-1, this recent change will save your spouse months of waiting around and lots of paperwork! More on this later!
Why it is important to ensure your spouse has work authorization
Did you know that it is illegal to work in the U.S. if you do not have an immigration status that allows you to do so? Unfortunately, even if you have a job with a foreign company, it is illegal to continue to work for that company while physically in the U.S. without proper work authorization. This applies to everyone, even the dependents (unmarried children under 21 and spouses) of individuals who hold valid U.S. visas.
Some visas, such as the O-1, may look like a great fit but, unfortunately, do not provide work authorization for dependents. However, if you do get a visa like the O-1, your spouse is not barred from working in the U.S. entirely. If a company wants to sponsor a work visa for them, they are free to work for that company if their visa is approved. If you want to learn more about this process, we’d love to help you out!
Another option to consider is getting a visa that allows you and your spouse to work. One visa that works this way is the L-1, which provides work authorization for the spouse of the L-1 visa holder. You’ll probably find that your spouse’s work authorization is easier to obtain and more flexible than your own. Of course, the most challenging part of the process is getting your L-1 prepared, filed, and approved, but we can help with that!
General information about the L-1 visa and L-2 dependent visa
Many clients who qualify for a few different visas end up choosing the L-1 visa because of how simple it is for their spouses to work in the U.S. Of course, the first thing to consider is whether or not you qualify for the L-1 visa. Read about the L-1A for managers and executives and the L-1B for employees with specialized knowledge.
If it looks like you may qualify for the L-1, your next question might be, what would the L-1 visa mean for your family?
The spouses and children (unmarried and younger than 21 years old) of L-1 visa holders can enter the U.S. with L-2 status. Once they have entered the U.S. on valid L-2 status, spouses have the freedom to work for any U.S. company and attend any U.S. school or university. Children who have entered the U.S. on valid L-2 status can attend any school or university in the U.S. as well.
What to expect when pursuing the L-2 dependent visa
U.S. immigration is often incredibly complicated and confusing. Believe us when we say the L-2 process is quite simple compared to other options!
To begin, you’ll need to make sure your family members qualify for the L-2. You’ll need evidence that they are the spouse or unmarried child (under 21) of someone with an approved L-1 visa (hopefully you!). Unfortunately, other family members such as married children, children over 21, and parents do not qualify.
Once your L-1 visa has been approved, you’ll need to fill out the DS-160 form online and schedule a visa appointment at a U.S. consulate. Qualified family members should also fill out the DS-160 and attend the same visa appointment. However, your family can fill out the DS-160 and attend a separate visa appointment if needed. To prove that your family members qualify for the L-2, you’ll typically need to gather the following documents to submit before the interview or bring with you to the interview:
- Appointment letter for the scheduled visa interview
- Valid passport for each L-2 applicant
- Completed DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application containing a CEAC Barcode for each L-2 applicant
- A passport-style photo for each L-2 applicant
- Spouses: Original marriage certificate, and additional documents proving their marriage to the L-1 visa holder. Examples could include wedding photo albums, wedding invites, and wedding ceremony programs.
- Children: Original birth certificates
- A copy of the principal applicant’s visa holder’s L-1 petition
- An employment verification letter from the principal applicant’s U.S. employer
- The principal applicant’s passport
- The principal applicant’s Form I-797 (approval notice)
- A photocopy of the principal applicant’s income tax return and pay stubs
- Visa issuance fees
After attending the visa interview and receiving an approval, your dependents can enter the U.S on the L-2 visa! After entering the U.S., they can live, work, and study in the U.S. until the validity date on their I-94, which is available online after entering the U.S. As mentioned above, L-2 spouses no longer need to get an EAD to work in the U.S. This is a recent change as of March 2022, so when researching the L-2 visa online, make sure you have the most up-to-date information.
At Legalpad, we’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of professionals looking for the best possible visa option for them and their families. Whether your company is opening up a new office in the U.S. and you want to ensure that your spouse can continue to progress in their career, or you’re an employer trying to expand visa options for your employees, we are here to help!
Connect with our knowledgeable team to learn about what visa or green card options work best for your unique needs.