November 28, 2023

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U.S. Makes It Easier For L-2 Visa Holders To Secure Working Status – Work Visas

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A recent policy change from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services (USCIS) automatically authorizes dependent spouses of
intracompany transferees to work in the United States.

In March 2022, USCIS announced it had 
updated its policy manual
 to reduce the administrative
burden for L-2 visa holders – dependent spouses of L-1
intracompany transferees – looking for work. Specifically,
L-2 visa holders will no longer have to apply for an employment
authorization document (EAD). This will provide L-2 visa holders
much easier access to working authorization in the U.S.

Prior to this policy being announced, the process for obtaining
work authorization required a dependent spouse to apply for L-2
status upon entry or via a Change of Status application once in the
U.S. Once L-2 status was issued, they then had to apply for work
authorization. The Change of Status applications from within the
U.S. carried a filing fee of approximately US$455 and took several
months to process. Work authorization applications carried a filing
fee of approximately US$495 and also took several months to
process. Processing times increased significantly during COVID-19,
leaving dependent spouses waiting more than 12 months to receive
work authorization.

USCIS’s backlog and the extreme processing times triggered
this new policy, which allows automatic work authorization for
eligible individuals.

Form I-94 Now Serves as Employment Authorization

I-94s are issued to all aliens entering the U.S. On January 30,
2022, USCIS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection began issuing
I-94s to Canadian dependent spouses with a new L-2S class of
admission code for L-2 visa holders.

An unexpired I-94 form that includes an L-2S code is now
considered evidence of employment authorization for Canadian
applicants. This acts as employment authorization in the place of
an EAD. In addition, L-2 visa holders who entered the U.S. before
January 30 and have an unexpired I-94 form will receive a notice in
the mail serving as evidence of employment authorization.

These updates follow a November 2021 USCIS policy announcement
confirming that L-2 visa holders would be authorized for employment
in the U.S. based on their valid L nonimmigrant status. Also in
November, USCIS began automatically extending the EADs of L-2 visa
holders if they applied for a renewal before their EAD expired.
This measure was also aimed at lightening the administrative burden
and the backlog created by COVID-19 closures.

Change Comes as Welcome News for Companies Transferring

For employers looking to transfer senior executives, managers or
other professionals to the U.S., the recent policy change from
USCIS comes as welcome news. It will make it easier and more
cost-effective for spouses of intra-company transferees to work in
the States.

These new issuance rules apply to categories of dependent status
holders who would have otherwise been entitled to employment
authorization under the previous policy guidance (L-2, E-2 and
H-4 spouses). L-2 status dependent children are still
not entitled to employment authorization. The new code assigned to
dependent children for their I-94s is L-2Y, which is not eligible
for employment authorization.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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