Dependent spouses of individuals transferred with L1 work visas receive automatic work authorization granted by the CBP upon their entry to the United States

Victor Braga
Louanni Ribeiro

After the pandemic, the American immigration system found itself in a scenario of significant delays in the adjudication and issuance of work authorizations for spouses holding L2 status (dependents of beneficiaries of the L1 work visa). In this regard, in March 2022, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) took a significant step towards reducing the administrative burden faced by spouses of individuals with L1 status in the United States.

Now, these spouses automatically receive work authorization upon entering the American territory with the L2 visa.

Thus, the USCIS eliminated the requirement for L2 visa spouses to go through the complicated process of applying for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), enabling them to later apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) as well as engage in work, with or without compensation, within the open-market model in the United States.

It is worth noting that this procedural change occurred in a simplified manner through the electronic Form I-94, a document from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) used for status control issued to all foreigners with temporary visas upon their entry to the United States. Therefore, since the issuance of this groundbreaking policy, the I-94 for L2 spouses bears the designation “L2S”.

This new code allows the spouse to legally work in the American territory simply by presenting their valid I-94. This transformative change is intended to significantly enhance the accessibility of work authorization for L2 visa holders, effectively eliminating a complex layer of bureaucracy that previously hindered their entry into the U.S. job market.

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The modification also has implications for employers of L1 individuals navigating the complexities of transferring key personnel to the United States. The newfound simplicity and cost-effectiveness associated with spousal work authorization under this policy change are positively impacting corporate operations and mobility strategies.

Additionally, it is important to highlight that there has also been a nomenclature update for dependent children of L1 individuals in the I-94 forms. The new code used for children of L1 individuals is “L2Y”, but even with the code change, L2 children are not covered by the scope of this employment authorization policy.

The focus remains entirely on improving employment prospects for L2S visa holders, while individuals with the L2Y designation remain ineligible for work authorization.

In conclusion, the USCIS’s decisive policy revision represents a commendable effort to mitigate administrative complexities and pave the way for easier access to work authorization for L2 visa holders.

This change symbolizes a crucial step towards aligning immigration policies with contemporary needs, streamlining processes, and offering a more agile and less burdensome experience for those seeking to contribute to the U.S. workforce.

References:

https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/alerts/uscis-updates-guidance-on-employment-authorization-for-e-and-l-nonimmigrant-spouses

https://www.uscis.gov/policy-manual/volume-2-part-i

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