How Spouses of E, H, and L Visa Holders Can Get Employment Authorization Cards

When a foreign citizen comes to live and work in the United States, their spouse will often come with them. If your spouse has a visa, you are generally allowed to accompany them and live in the United States. You are not automatically allowed, however, to get a job and work in the United States.

Here’s a common situation: A married foreign citizen gets a job in the United States. Their spouse moves with them, and after a few months, gets bored of hanging around the house. Although they did not come intending to work a job, they now just want to find one and stay busy. In order to work, they need to obtain an Employment Authorization Card.

An Employment Authorization Card states that someone who is not a lawful permanent resident can legally work in the United States. It is issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office. If you want to get a job in the United States, you must show your employer your Employment Authorization Card to be hired.

Employment Authorization Cards are valid for up to two years from when you receive them. You can renew your card, although the process takes five to six months. For this reason, if you intend to renew your Employment Authorization Card you must apply for it six months in advance of your card expiring.

All spouses of E, H, and L Visa holders can apply for Employment Authorization Cards. They are only for spouses, not for other dependents. For the purpose of this article, we are only discussing E, H, and L Visa holders. Employment Authorization Cards are available to other individuals in the U.S., but the rules greatly vary.

What about spouses who are physically located in the United States with their partner but working virtually for a company in their home country? This is another common situation, where a bored spouse without an Employment Authorization Card will seek out virtual work they are eligible for. The legality of this situation is a little murky. To be on the safe side, we recommend spouses still get an Employment Authorization Card in this scenario.

If someone is physically located in the United States, they are expected to pay taxes here. Paying taxes requires a Social Security number, which in turn requires an Employment Authorization Card to receive. 

If you are the spouse of an E, H, or L Visa holder, getting an Employment Authorization Card is in your best interests. It will allow you to work in the United States or virtually in other countries. Just remember to apply to renew it six months before it expires! For help with your Employment Authorization Card or any other immigration matters, contact Valvo & Associates today!

By Brandon Valvo