U.S. immigration regulations allow individuals in J-2 status to obtain authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work in the United States. A person in J-2 status can be given authorization to work if the income from the work is not for the support of the J-1 family member with whom the J-2 is affiliated.


In order to apply for work authorization, a person in J-2 status must mail a completed application for employment authorization to USCIS. When USCIS approves the work authorization application, an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will be issued. USCIS usually takes about 90 days to issue EADs, which are valid for one year (or until the end date listed on the DS-2019, whichever is earlier) and must be renewed annually (ideally, around four months before expiration). You cannot begin employment (or continue employment) until you have a valid EAD.

Send the following documentation, arranged IN THE ORDER listed below:

  • Application Fee - The cost is $410. Personal checks or money orders must be in the exact amount and payable to "United States Department of Homeland Security." Personal checks are preferable to money orders, because they can more easily be traced in case of problems.
  • Two identical "natural color" passport photos – These are U.S.-style passport photos – that must have been taken within the last 30 days. Passport photos taken in your home country will not be acceptable. Lightly print your name and your SEVIS number on the back of each photograph with a pencil to prevent problems should your photographs become separated from your I-765 application. Local businesses that typically take passport photographs include drugstores, copy centers, and the post office. ISSS does not encourage you to attempt to take these photos yourself.
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
    • Please use your home address on the form, not the address of ISSS
    • Section 27, Eligibility Category: You must enter the code C 5
  • A letter from you explaining why the employment is desired, specifically stating that the income derived from employment will not be used for the support of the J-1 exchange visitor. You should also indicate the source and amount of support for the J-1 exchange visitor. & A J-2 does not need to demonstrate financial need to receive employment authorization.
  • Copy of your (J-2) DS-2019
  • Copy of the DS-2019 of the J-1
  • Copy of your most recent Form I-94 (front and back) or you can print from this website
  • A copy of BOTH your passport photo/information page showing the passport expiration date AND your most recent U.S. visa
  • A copy of your previous EAD, if you have ever had one before. If you are applying for a renewal or replacement, tick the box above item 1 on the I-765 to indicate whether you are applying for “Replacement” or “Renewal of my permission to accept employment.”

Where to Mail the Application

The address to which you send your employment applications depends on the state listed in your mailing address you provided in the form I-765. Please see the “USCIS Lockbox Filing Locations Chart For Certain Employment-Based Forms” link to determine the address to mail your application.  If, for example, the mailing address you list on your form I-765 is an Iowa address, then you currently (as of Fall 2023) mail your application to the Chicago Lockbox. But do check the site above to always to confirm the most appropriate since USCIS sometimes makes unannounced updates.

IMPORTANT! Follow the USCIS process to track issuance and delivery of your EAD card.

  • If you do not follow these instructions, you risk not having your EAD card delivered and be unable to work.
  • The card will be mailed to the address you put on the form I-765. Make sure that your name is listed with the postal service as being able to receive mail at that address! DO NOT use the ISSS address or another University of Iowa department address.
  • Delivery of your EAD card will require your signature or that of someone you delegate.
  • Sign up for a "Case Status Online" account as instructed in the link above.
  • Register for "Informed Delivery" as instructed in the link above.
    • It may be a good idea to choose to have the US Postal Service hold your card at your local post office until you can go in person to retrieve it and sign for it. This is something you can arrange in "Informed Delivery."
  • Remember that it is your responsibility to update USCIS should you move to a new address before your EAD is approved. The EAD card will not be forwarded and instead would be returned to USCIS, causing considerable delay for you and ISSS cannot impact this.

​Processing Information

About 3-4 weeks after you mail your application, you should get a special receipt letter from the USCIS called a Notice of Action. Remember to keep this letter, since it will contain a special number beginning with letters such as “LIN...” that refers to your specific application. If you do not receive the Notice of Action after 5 weeks, please notify the ISSS.

The Notice of Action also has a phone number that you can call to check on the status of your application. This number is generally busy during the day, so you may have more success getting through late at night. You now also have the option of checking online. To do so you must have the LIN number from your Notice of Action.

Decision on Your Application

The average processing time for J-2 employment authorizations is currently 3-4 months. If your application is approved, your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card will be mailed to you. In the very unlikely event that your application cannot be granted, you will receive an explanation for the denial. Likewise, if USCIS requires additional or supporting documentation before they will proceed with your application, they will send a letter to you requesting additional information.

Social Security Number

Individuals in J-2 status who have an EAD can be issued a Social Security number. Apply at the Social Security Administration Office (1100 6th Street, Suite 100, Coralville, lA). You will need your EAD card, passport, DS-2019, and I-94 card.