USCIS has announced that L-2 and E dependent spouses are no longer required to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to work in the United States. Instead, L-2 and E dependent spouses are authorized to work in the United States simply by virtue of holding L-2 or E status, although they may continue applying for EADs, if desired. In addition, the new policy allows certain H-4 spouses to obtain automatic extensions of their EAD for up to 180 days. The automatic extension also applies to L-2 and E dependent spouses that choose to apply for an EAD as proof of work authorization. Note that the automatic EAD extension is available in only in limited circumstances.

These changes are a welcome departure from USCIS’ previous policy, which required L-2 and E dependent spouses to apply and wait for an EAD to be issued before they could begin working. In addition, L-2, E, and H-4 dependent spouses were not previously eligible for automatic EAD extensions.

USCIS and CBP have begun annotating L-2 and E entry and approval documents (Form I-94) with an “S” designation to indicate that the holder is a dependent spouse and thus eligible to work. The documents with an “S” designation can be used by L-2 and E dependent spouses to show employers they are authorized to work in the United States.

Moreover, USCIS announced on March 18, 2022 that it will begin mailing new notices beginning on April 1, 2022, with the new codes to E or L spouses age 21 or over who have an unexpired Form I-94 that was issued before January 20, 2022.