Securing a non-immigrant work visa leads to important opportunities for a professional who desires this status. It can also provide opportunities for their closest family members. Individuals with certain non-immigrant employment visas can potentially bring their spouses and unmarried minor children with them when they travel to the United States for their jobs.
Their spouses can typically stay in the country for as long as they can renew their visa for, and they can possibly also seek permanent residence in the future, should they meet the requirements. However, the spouse of the person with a work visa is subject to certain limitations regarding their economic activity in some cases.
When do the spouses of those with non-immigrant work visas potentially qualify for employment opportunities themselves?
When there’s an E or L visa involved
The E visa program provides opportunities for those with resources that they intend to invest in domestic businesses, while the L visa program allows those transferring within the company where they already work to enter the United States for a new position. When someone obtains either an E or L visa, their spouse who secures a related visa will have an opportunity to work in the United States while here legally. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determined in 2021 that the spouses of those with E and L visas also have work authorization. They can seek a job or possibly even work as self-employed professionals.
When there’s an H visa involved
The H visa program allows domestic companies to hire workers with exceptional skills or special educational backgrounds to fill skilled positions. The spouses of those with H visas, like skilled professionals with H-1B visas, will generally require USCIS authorization to seek employment. However, they do have the opportunity in some cases to submit paperwork to USCIS to obtain authorization for employment. Once their spouse begins the process of becoming a permanent resident, they can potentially request authorization to begin working.
Persons who don’t understand their rights as spouses of those with visas may fail to take advantage of potentially beneficial opportunities. Consulting with a competent U.S. attorney to learning more about the rules that govern spousal opportunities may help those seeking work in the United States create the best opportunities for their families.