J1 EAD: Can J1 Visa Holders Get Work Authorization?

Updated on June 20, 2023
At a Glance: A J1 visa is issued to individuals who come to the U.S. for work or training programs. There are 14 categories eligible for a J1 visa, and it requires an authorized sponsoring agency. J1 visa holders can work on and off campus depending on the program, and dependents can apply for a J2 visa. J2 visa holders need an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to work in the U.S. They can apply for the EAD by submitting various documents. Once approved, they can work and apply for a Social Security Number, and their EAD is dependent on the J1 visa holder’s status.

Traveling abroad is almost always an exciting prospect. Coming to the U.S. for study, research or training related reasons has even more opportunities that you can be excited about. J1 visa holders usually come to the U.S. either to study or to exchange knowledge as a professor, researcher or specialist. You are allowed to be in the U.S. but the big question is are you allowed to work here as well? Or do you need additional authorization through a J1 visa EAD?

Let’s take a look at the requirements for J1 and J2 visas when it comes to working and being employed in the U.S.

What is a J1 Visa?

J1 visas are typically given to people who come to the U.S. for work or training related programs. There are 14 different categories of people who are eligible to apply for a J1 visa. J1 visas are only granted to people who have an authorized sponsoring agency (a U.S. employer, school, or a government institution).

J1 visas are mostly valid for 12 months at a time, but it depends on the length of the program associated with the visa. It has to be renewed regularly. The conditions of the renewal are based upon the report submitted by an officer overseeing the progress of the J1 visa holder. The visa holder has a Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) that monitors their progress. The success of your renewal application is based on your efforts. Applying does not automatically mean success.

There are two categories in the J1 visa group:

  1. J1 Exchange Visitor Student
  2. J1 Exchange Visitor – Professor, researcher or specialist

J1 Exchange Visitor – Student

If you are on this visa, you will be in the U.S. predominantly to study. The program you attend must be authorized by the government in order for you to be eligible for a J1 visa. A visa holder on this visa must take a full course and needs to be in good academic standing with their academic institution.

J1 Exchange Visitor – Professor, Researcher, Specialist

Credentialed professors, researchers, and specialists are allowed to get a J1 visa on the basis of the mutual exchange of knowledge and expertise in their dedicated fields. Professors and researchers’ stay can be extended for up to five years. Specialists typically only get a year to be in the U.S.

J1 Visa Employment Work Overview

Now the important question – are J1 visa holders allowed to work in the U.S.? And if yes, do they need a J1 EAD to be eligible? What can you do to get a J1 EAD?

J1 Exchange Student Employment Work Overview

J1 students living and studying in the U.S. are allowed to work for 20 hours per week on campus and only within the field of their studies. They do not need a J1 visa EAD to be employed on campus, they only need written consent from their RO (Responsible Officer). In rare circumstances, a J1 student will be allowed to work off campus if their RO authorizes them to do so.

J1 Exchange Professor, Researcher, or Specialist Employment Work Overview

J1 exchange visa holders filed a form DS-2019 as part of their application process. Professors, researchers, and specialists are allowed to work according to the details of their DS-2019. You, therefore, don’t need a J1 EAD in order to work on a J1 exchange visa.

What is a J2 Visa?

A J2 visa is given to someone who is dependent on a J1 visa holder (like a spouse or dependent children) and who needs to travel with the J1 visa holder to the U.S. Not all J1 visa categories and programs allow for dependents to join them on a J2 visa, so eligibility will largely depend on the J1 visa holder’s purpose for being in the U.S. The validity of a J2 visa and/or renewal is dependent on the J1 visa. A J2 visa will only be valid for as long as the original J1 visa is in place.

J2 Dependent Visa EAD

Do you need specific authorization to work in the U.S. if you have a J2 visa?

The DS-2019 of a J2 visa holder doesn’t allow them to work within a certain field of expertise as with a J1 exchange visa. You, therefore, need to get a J2 visa EAD (Employment Authorization Document) before you will be allowed to work in the U.S.

J2 EAD Documents

Here is a short list of documents you will need to apply for a J2 visa EAD:

  • Form I-765 – This is the application for your Employment Authorization
  • Fee payment – You need to include $465 for the filing fee and the biometric services fee to process your application (if this is a stretch, consider applying for a J1 visa loan)
  • Passport style photos – Two identical passport style photos
  • A written statement of application – A written statement stating your J1 spouse’s income is enough to support all their dependents and that you aren’t requesting an EAD because of financial lack
  • Copy of marriage certificate – Stating the bona fide marriage to your J1 spouse (if for a J2 spouse)
  • Copy of birth certificate – This is necessary for the EAD application of the J2  dependent child
  • A written job offer – Stating the reasons for employment, for example for professional development. This is important to show that the need to work is not to  support your family
  • E-Notification – A form G-1145 if you want to receive electronic communication regarding your application

J2 EAD Application Process

Follow the instructions to file your application and make a copy of everything you are submitting with your application. The USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) may issue a Request For Evidence (RFE) which just means you need to submit the copy you made of your initial application. Also, make a copy of the RFE – just in case.

Make sure you submit your application correctly and, if necessary, mail the application to the address required (which will be based on the state you reside in).

What Comes After the J2 EAD Application?

After you have received your EAD, you can take a look at and expect the following:

  • Authorization to Work: You are now authorized to work in the U.S. You will obviously not be eligible for jobs that are only reserved for U.S. citizens, but you can work anywhere else. Even on the campus where your J1 spouse is working.
  • Social Security Number: You can now apply for a Social Security Number (SSN). You need to present your valid passport, visa, form I-94, Form DS-2019 (both the J1 and J2 visa holders’) and your EAD.
  • Dependency on J1 Status: Your J2 EAD will be valid as long as your J1 spouse’s visa is valid or until the EAD expires (whichever happens first). An EAD extension is possible if your J1 spouse maintains their J1 status.
  • Tax Implications: All local taxes are applicable to your employment on a J2 visa EAD. You need to file social security, Medicare, federal, state and local income taxes.

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People on J1 visas don’t need a J1 EAD to be eligible for employment in the U.S. A form DS-2109 for a student, professor, researcher or specialist will serve the purpose of a J1 visa EAD. Their spouse or dependents on J2 visas do, however, need a J2 visa EAD before they can work. Follow the guidelines above to apply for your J2 visa EAD so you too can grow your career while you are in the U.S.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.