J-2 Work Authorization


If you are the J-2 dependent of a J-1 Exchange Visitor, you can apply for work authorization through US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This page will guide you through the application process, which can take 3-4 months.

General Guidelines

  • OIA recommends that you file your application by mail. 
  • At the time that you mail the application, you must be physically present in the United States and must hold valid J-2 status, and the Exchange Visitor must hold a valid J-1 status, as shown on your I-94 Arrival/Departure record.
  • Your income may not be used to support the J-1 Exchange Visitor.
  • USCIS usually authorizes work until the expiration of the J-1 Exchange Visitor's permission to stay in the United States. To find that date, look at item 3 of the J-1 Exchange Visitor's DS-2019, "Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status." It is up to the discretion of the officer to decide the validity of the employment authorization document (EAD card).
  • You may work only after you have obtained your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS. The EAD is an identification card with your photograph, personal information and start and end dates of your permission to work. Note the end date and ensure that, if you need an extension, you apply in plenty of time so as not to have a gap in your employment authorization. The approval of your extension request may take 3-4 months.
  • With J-2 work authorization, you may work part-time or full-time, at any job, for any employer. There is no legal limit to the amount that you may earn.

Steps to Apply for a J-2 Work Authorization

Step 1.  Documentation to Assemble

Step 2. Mailing Your Application

Step 3. Tracking Your Application

Step 4.  Wait 3 to 4 Months While Your Application is Pending at USCIS.

Step 5. Receive EAD and Start Working

Step 6. Renewing Your Work Authorization

Other Important Information

STEP 1.  Documentation to Assemble

1. Form I-765 "Application for Employment Authorization".

Do not submit this form electronically. Please carefully read and follow the instructions for Form I-765 that are provided by USCIS, and also note the following:
    Make sure to mark one of the boxes where it asks, "I am applying for..."

  • #1. Print neatly, your entire name as it appears on your passport and DS-2019 and spell out your middle name.

  • #3. Enter your address in the Chicago area. We recommend that you include the last 4 digits to the end of your zip code to help with mail delivery of the EAD card.  Check the U.S. Postal Service website to look up your full zip code.  If, for some reason,     your United States address during the period of application will not be in Illinois, ask OIA how to proceed. If you might be moving and decide to use a friend's address, where your name is not on the mailbox, you should write "c/o" (for "in care of") and your friend's name all on the same line with the street address. Make sure your name (or your friend's name) is on the mailbox.

  • #14. Enter the eleven-digit serial number from your electronic I-94 record or paper I-94 card.

  • #19. Enter "J-2 dependent"

  • #20. Enter (c)(5), and leave the third set of parentheses blank. Above the three sets of parentheses, write "J-2 work permission".

Make sure all questions on the form have an answer. If a question is not applicable to you, then write N/A (N/A = "Not Applicable").

2. A letter (see sample) from you, the J-2 applicant, to the USCIS Service Center requesting work permission. You should include the following:

  • The reason you want want to work, some worthwhile interest, or activity that might include family travel or recreational or cultural activities.

  • Proof that your earnings are not necessary for the J-1 Exchange Visitor's support. Your letter should indicate the sources and amount of the J-1 Exchange Visitor's support, and include a short budget or statement of family expenses to demonstrate that his or her resources are adequate without any income from your employment.

3. Two photos to the standards of Department of State specifications.

  • These pictures are the passport style photos in color. Satisfactory photos are on campus available, for a charge, at the ID & Priveleges Office, located in Regenstein Library. On the back of each photo, print your name lightly with a pencil. Put the photos into a small, transparent plastic bag and staple it to the top of Form I-765. Be sure to include new pictures, ie, pictures that have not been used with a previous immigration application.

4. A check for the filing fee (see the USCIS website for the current fee) made payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security."

5. A photocopy of the J-1's DS-2019, "Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status."

6. Documentation of you and your spouse's I-94:

  • If you entered the U.S. on or before April 29, 2013: Photocopy of your I-94 Departure Record card, front and back.

  • If you entered the US on or after April 30, 2013: Visit the USCBP website to retrieve and print out a copy of your electronic Form I-94

7. A photocopy of your own DS-2019.

8. Photocopies of the identity pages of your passport. This includes the page that has your photograph and biographic information.

9. A copy of your last EAD, front and back, if you are applying for a renewal of your J-2 work permission.

10. Form G-1145 (Optional) By completing this form, you can elect to receive an email and/or text message from USCIS notifying you that your application has been accepted.

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Step 2. Mailing Your Application

  • You can find the correct Lockbox address on the USCIS website.
  • We recommend mailing your application through secure mail with delivery confirmation/tracking, such as U.S. Postal Service Certified Mail. You can also use services such as FedEx, UPS, or DHL.
    • If mailing by FedEX, UPS or DHL: you must use the lockbox street address instead of the PO Box address.  You can find the correct Lockbox address on the USCIS website.  The destination is based on the address you are using on your I-765.
  • Make a copy or scan of your completed application before mailing it; keep the copy in a safe place along with your mailing reciept
  • Double check the mailing address on the I-765 is correct - this is where USCIS will mail the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
    • The address on the I-765 must be valid at least 4-5 months into the future
    • If you are sending to friend or family member, their name must be on the address line of the I-765 (e.g. 'C/O Emily Friend, 1432 Friend Street).  If the name and address will not fit in the box, you can hand write the C/O information above or next to the address box. if your friend's name is not on the I-765, your packet will not be delivered to their address.
    • If you are sending to a friend or family member's address, make sure the return address on your envelope has both of your names on it (e.g. 'Emily Friend, Attn: You, 1432 Friend Street...).  This will help make sure the application is sent back to you correctly in the unlikely event the post office sends it back to you as 'undeliverable'.
  • The cost of mailing your J-2 Work Authorization application will differ from the cost of mailing a standard letter. Visit the post office in person or check the USPS website to ensure you include sufficient postage on your package. Contact USPS or go to the post office if you have any questions about their services or mailing policies.

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Step 3. Tracking Your Application

Approximately 4-6 weeks after mailing your application, USCIS will send you a notice of receipt on Form I-797.  You can check for updates to your case and sign up to receive email notifications online at the USCIS Case Status website. If you filed Form G-1145 with your application, you will also receive text and/or email updates on your case.

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Step 4. Three to Four Month Wait While Your Application is Pending at USCIS.

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Step 5. Receive EAD and Start Working

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Step 6. Renewing Your Work Authorization

Apply early: If your current EAD expires before you receive the renewal, you will have to stop working and wait until it arrives. You can apply for renewal of your work authorization no more than 180 days before your card expires. Note that before applying for a new EAD, you and your J-1 Exchange Visitor may have to extend your permission to stay.  More information is available on the extension page for students. If your spouse is a J-1 scholar he or she should speak with the Human Resources or Academic Affairs administrator in his or her department about the possibility of obtaining an extension.

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Other Important Items

Social Security Number (SSN): To begin paying you, your employer will need your Social Security number, which you can obtain by applying for a Social Security card. Please see Social Security for more information.

USCIS Form I-9, "Employment Eligibility Verification." When you begin work, you and your employer must complete Form I-9, which requires you to document both your identity and your authorization to work. For Form I-9, your EAD card is acceptable proof of both.

Social Security taxes: As a J-2 dependent you are subject to Social Security (F.I.C.A.) taxes on your earnings. This is in contrast to J-1 students, who are exempt from Social Security (F.I.C.A.) taxes for their first five years in the United States, as long as they continue to declare non-resident status for tax purposes (see Internal Revenue Service Publication 519, "U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens").

Federal, state, and local taxes: Your earnings as a J-2 dependent will be subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes; also, employers are required by law to withhold those taxes from your paychecks.

Federal, state, and local taxes: Your earnings as a J-2 dependent will be subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes, and employers are required by law to withhold those taxes from your paychecks. By April 15 of each year, you must file a federal income tax return and a Form 8843, "Statement for Exempt Individuals," covering the prior calendar year -  whether you owe more taxes or not. OIA usually sponsors a tax workshop in early March of each year, and you can access some tax information and resources on our website. However, OIA staff members are not able to answer tax questions.

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