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Spouse and Dependent Employment

Depending on his or her visa status, an international spouse of an international student, visitor, or employee may be able to seek employment.

Eligible for Employment

Spouses in the following visa categories may be employed after receiving the appropriate authorization.

  • J-2 dependents (spouses of J-1 students and exchange visitors) are eligible for full- or part-time employment. J-2 dependents must file form I-765 with USCIS and receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card before beginning employment. For information on application instructions, please see: Apply for J-2 Dependent Employment.
  • E-3 dependents (spouses of E-3 employees) are eligible for full or part time employment with an Employment Authorization Document Card (EAD). E-3 dependents must complete the form I-765 for E-3 dependent employment authorization.

Ineligible for Employment

Spouses in the following visa categories may not be employed or engage in business under any circumstances.

  • F-2 dependents (spouses of F-1 students)
  • H-4 dependents (spouses of H-1B employees)
  • TD dependents (spouses of TN employees) 

Apply for J-2 Dependent Employment

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may grant a J-2 dependent permission to accept employment in the United States.

Application Process

After entering the United States, you can request for employment authorization (by mail) with USCIS.

  1. Collect the required application documents, listed below.
    Be sure to make photocopies of your entire application for your records.
  2. Mail all of the required documents to the appropriate USCIS Service Center.
    The address can be found in the I-765 Instructions. It is advisable to mail the application from a U.S. Post Office by “certified mail/return receipt requested."
  3. Wait for authorization.
    Do not accept employment until after you have received employment authorization from USCIS and have been issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). After USCIS has received the application, it may take three months or more to be approved.

Note: Authorized employment for individuals in J-2 status is limited to the dates documented by USCIS on the EAD and the end-date usually matches the expiration date on the DS-2019.

Application Materials Checklist

Include the following documents in your application.

  • Completed Form I-765
    Note: Always download and use the most recent I-765 directly from Using an outdated form will result in your application being returned or rejected
  • Check or money order payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the amount listed for I-765 processing
    Note: If using a check for payment, name and address must be printed on the check. Temporary checks are not accepted.
  • Letter to USCIS explaining reason requesting employment authorization (View sample letter)
  • Copies of both J-1 and J-2 DS-2019s (Do not send the originals.)
  • Copy of J-2 visa stamp in passport
  • Copy of J-2's biographical page in passport
  • Copies of both J-1 and J-2's I-94 records (Do not send the originals)
  • Two U.S. passport-style photos, with your name and I-94 number printed on the back of each
    (Visit CVS or Walgreens to get new photos taken-- photos must be less than 6 months old)
  • Copy of Marriage Certificate
    Note: If the certificate is not in English, please provide a translation, either translated by yourself or by someone else. Include a statement to the effect that the person translating the document is fluent in both English and the language of the original certificate and that they certify that the translation is true and accurate.
  • Copies of any previously issued EAD cards (if re-applying for J-2 employment authorization)

Disclaimer Statement

The Northwestern University Office of International Student & Scholar Services (OISS) offers guidance on I-765 and I-539 applications as a courtesy to NU scholars and dependents. We make every attempt to ensure that we provide you with the most up to date information available. However, any advice provided to you by our office does not constitute legal advice. You should always independently check all deadlines and all I-765 and I-539 application documents for accuracy before mailing them or submitting them online to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These applications are personal applications for which you are responsible. The application preparation and USCIS case decision will vary depending on the facts at issue in your particular case.  While OISS exercises best efforts to provide you with the most current guidance, please be aware that USCIS may change its interpretation of applicable policies, procedures, regulations, and eligibility requirements at any time.  OISS is not responsible for, and expressly disclaims liability for, any errors or omissions relating to your I-765 or I-539 application and any decisions made by USCIS.  For legal advice, scholars and dependents are encouraged to consult with a licensed and experienced immigration attorney at their own expense.