You can only work if you have work authorization. If you are in a nonimmigrant status that does not allow for work authorization, such as F-2, H-4*, TD, or O-3, you can only engage in activities that are traditionally filled by volunteers and are never paid. Since dependents in F-2, H-4*, TD, and O-3 status are not eligible to work in the United States, you will need to change status before being able to work. This is a fairly complicated and slow process because it usually involves an employer-sponsored work-eligible status.
Other nonimmigrant statuses may allow you to apply for work authorization, such as J-2, L-2, E-1, 2, or E-3. Until you receive work authorization, the same guidance applies to you, too: you may only engage in activities that are traditionally filled by volunteers and are never paid.
E-1, E-2, E-3, L-2, and J-2 nonimmigrants. You are eligible to apply for work authorization, regardless of whether you have secured specific employment.
Employment authorization document (EAD). International spouses in E-1, E-2, E-3, L-2, H-4 (when eligible), and J-2 status may apply for work authorization in the United States by submitting a Form I-765 to request an employment authorization document (EAD). The USCIS website includes the instructions, the application form, and the current filing fee. The EAD is a temporary work card that may be tied to the length of your current status (12-24 months). You have to wait until you are in the United States before you can submit your application. The EAD processing time varies from three to six months but you can start your job search while the application is pending.
In order to maintain work authorization beyond the expiration of your EAD, you will need to submit a new Form I-765 application at least four months prior to the current EAD expiration date. See the USCIS website for the adjudication times, the instructions, the application form, and the current filing fee. Please contact your spouse's international advisor for information about the EAD application process.
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