I-9=EAD: L-2 Visa Holders Get Work Authorization Stamped At US Port Of Entry

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have refreshed their policy on L2 and E (Treaty Trader, Investor, and E-3 specialty occupation professionals from Australia) dependent visa holders’ right to work in the US. Following a lawsuit win in November 2021, even the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) updated its I-94 travel admission system to especially designate L-2 and E-2 spouses’ authorization to work without applying for an EAD.  

This will be executed by the DHS at all port of entries by March 2022.

This means that L-2 and L-2 visa holders will not require to file a separate Form I-765 EAD application to obtain work authorization. They will automatically be authorized to work upon being admitted to the United States. Now I-94 can be used for I-9 verifications.

What Will Your I-94 Will Look Like Now?

Going forward, the CBP will stamp the I-94 travel admission documents for L & E spouses differently. Unlike previously, I-94s will not explicitly state “work authorized” for these dependent visa categories. Instead, they will be admitted with an “S” after their status to indicate that they are spouses authorized to work.  

It is important to note that L and E spouses who are already in the United States without the S designation on I-94s still need to apply for employment authorization documents (EAD) to work lawfully. Alternatively, if they want their I-94 to reflect work authorization, they will have to leave the United States and return to get it stamped at a US port of entry accordingly. On their return, along with their valid visas, their I-94s will be stamped with the respective work-authorized designation. 

How To Get A Work Authorization Without Departing The US

Some CBP Deferred Inspection offices have the official capacity to update the system so that the I-94 contains the “S” designation. There are over 70 Deferred Inspections Sites throughout the United States and the outlying territories. These sites can be contacted to make corrections to your I-94 and seek the “S” designation on your I-94s.

For copies of the I-94, you can visit the CBP website for a printout.

Visa Extensions For L-2 Visa Holders

The new, but the “S” designation tells employers for I-9 purposes that they are authorized to work for the validity of their I-94s.  When they apply for extensions of their visa status with USCIS, the new I-94s issued as part of the extension approval process will also carry the “S” designation.  

Automatic EAD Extensions

Effective November 12, 2021, USCIS allows for automatic extensions of employment authorization, in certain circumstances, while an EAD renewal application has been filed and is pending with USCIS for H-4, L-2, and now E-1/E-2/E-3 dependent (“E dependent”) spouses. 

H-4, L-2, and E dependent spouses will qualify for automatic extension of their valid EAD for 180 days beyond the date of the EAD expiration if the nonimmigrant spouse:

  • Properly files a Form I-765 EAD renewal application to USCIS before the current EAD expires; and
  • Continues to maintain H-4, L-2, or E dependent status beyond the expiration of the existing EAD as evidenced on Form I-94.

The validity of the expired EAD will be extended until the earliest of:

  • 180 days following the EAD expiration;
  • The expiration of the H-4 / L-2 / E dependent nonimmigrant’s I-94 record; or
  • When a final decision is made on the EAD extension application by USCIS.

You are advised to talk to a professional immigration lawyer who can advise you regarding eligibility, process and duration with regards to your work authorization status in the US.