The Partner Visa for US Working Visas (E3D, H4, J2, L2)

If you browse around all the immigration forums, this is a topic that always comes up and is a critical issue for a lot of people who plan to relocate for work to the US. To note these partner visas all apply to dependent children (usually have to be under 21) but in this post I will focus on the spouse. Also the requirements are very similar for each so I wont talk about each separately for the most part.

The E3D Visa is the partner visa of the E3 working visa for Australians. (to note the E3D holder does not have to be an Australian citizen)

The H4 is the partner visa of the H1B working visa.

The J2 visa is the partner visa of the J1 visa.

The L2 visa is the partner visa of the L1 working visa.

Now all of these barring the H4 visa do allow the holder to work providing they file form I-765 to the USCIS after entering the country. Usually it takes 2-3 months to receive the EAD card (employment authorization document) upon which time the holder can work.

The J2 visa generally only gets granted to spouses of J1 visa holders whom are here on some form of Internship program and thus generally here for 1-2 years. It is very unlikely a J2 visa granted for a spouse of a J1 holder whom is here on a Work and Travel or Camp USA type program. I know for a fact that many organizations in the visa sponsoring field were actually unaware that a J2 visa holder could work so may have to affirm this in interviews.

The H4 visa is the unfortunate visa of this quartet that has no work priviliges and it doesn’t seem likely anytime soon that it might change..although you never know. Now I know many H4 holders that do work both for organizations that know that it is illegal as well as organizations that are unaware. However it is officially illegal to do so, thus be aware of the risks of your actions.

There is not much else to say about the partner visas other than they have to fill similar forms (but not all) of the forms prior to the US Consulate interview as the primary visa holder. You don’t have to attend the consulate at the same time and can just bring a photocopy of the primary visa holder’s passport and visa but unless circumstances don’t allow it, I always would wonder why couples don’t attend interviews together.

The final point to make is that the United States DOES NOT recognize either defacto/common law couples or same-sex couples whom maybe defacto or married elsewhere. So if your partner wants to come to the US attached to your visa, they must be married to you and usually an original marriage certificate from your area will suffice.

I hope those that come here as couples enjoy the shared experiences together and that you have no problems in getting here to begin with. Honestly if your relationship is honest, you shouldn’t have an issue at all.

Talk soon….



102 thoughts on “The Partner Visa for US Working Visas (E3D, H4, J2, L2)

  1. Hi Kiri,
    A marriage in New York as long as you have all the appropriate licences and registrations and any further docs you need for it to be recognized in Australia. ALl those tenancy agreements and any other forms of proof are to bring with you just in case to your interview to prove the long term nature of your relationship but you seem like you will be fine.

  2. Hi CJ, I have the same question as VJ. My husband is an E3 holder, and I am going to apply for an E3-D visa this year. I am now filling out all the information on DS-160 form, but cannot find the E3D category in the visa category section. Could you please advise me what to do?

    Thank you for your help in advance,

  3. Hi CJ,

    Thanks so much for a wonderful site. This is probably the best resource I’ve encountered about the States full-stop! If possible, I was hoping you could offer some advice for my wife and I please. I am an Australian citizen living in New Zealand and she is a Kiwi. We are moving to the States in August as I am going to be studying at USC. She has a masters degree and her profession is one that qualifies for an E3 visa. What I was wondering was whether, because she is married to me (an Australian), it’s possible for her to apply for an E3 visa? I will be on a J1 visa.

    Thanks again for the wonderful site.

  4. I have some problems when I filled out DS-160 Form online.
    My husband is Australian and he filled out DS-160 as E3 applicant.
    However, I am Chinese so when I tried to pick correct travelling purpose “SPOUSE OF AN E3 (E3D) “, it is not shown in the drop down list, I only can pick”SPOUSE OF AN E1 (E1) “or E2.
    I think the system has a default setting of nationality if you need to apply for E3 or E3D . I changed my nationality to “Australia”, it showed E3D in the drop down list.
    In other words , I can choose E3D if I put nationality “AUSTRALIA” or I can choose E1 if I put my correct nationality “China”.
    What should I do?

  5. For everyone who’s having problems with the DS-160. I called the US embassy in London about this and there seems to be a bug in the system. Only when you fill out ‘nationality: Australian’ will de option of E3D show up in the drop-down menu. They’ll change this back to your own nationality during your visit at the embassy. I have my visa now.

  6. Hi,
    My husband got a new E3 visa for the new employer. But I have the old E3D, with the old EAD card. Do I need to apply for the new E3D, that is compatible for my husband’s new E3?

    I’m planning to go out of the country. So if I don’t get the New E3D (if i need to) can I still come back to USA? or I have to apply for it again?

    Please advise, this is urgent and very important for me, as I’m working for a company.

  7. Hi Labonno,
    If your E3D visa is expired then if you leave the country you will need a new E-3D visa. You have to apply for a new EAD if your current one is expired via the I-765 form again and that can only be done with a valid E-3D visa and being present in the US.

  8. Hi CJ,

    2 Things regarding an E3d:

    1. Can i apply for an E3d in the same visa appointment as my wife’s E3d’s visa appointment or does it have to be a subsequent one after the e3 is granted ?

    2. If i have an e3d and am waiting for my work authorisation, can i apply for an independent e3 if i fit the qualification criteria in order to work sooner



  9. Hi Marc,
    Yes you can apply for the E-3D Visa at the same appointment as the E-3 Visa. That is the way it is usually done by people.
    Any E-3 visa has to be sponsored by an employer so if someone currently holding an E-3D visa wants to switch to their own E-3 Visa then the process is much the same apart from the fact that you can transfer between the two visas within the US. The wait time to receive an EAD vs. to do this type of transfer is probably very similar.

  10. Hi everyone,

    I have a simple question and really hoping someone can help me (the US Embassy sites and people in Canberra, Australia are useless and give you generic, computer-generated responses to every question!!!). I have been offered employment in the USA and I qualify for an E3 visa. However my sponsor/employer have said they have had “difficulties” processing E3 visas in the past due to the fact that they have to be processed by USCIS, and that they would prefer me to come over on a J1. I dont mind which visa type I come over on. My specific concerns relate to my husbands ability to work. I simply want to know if it is easier for him to be granted work on the E3 or J2 (spousal visa)?? The application to work looks the same but I am wondering if there is more documentation/evidence required for him on one of the visa’s vs the other. We want to take the path of least resistance! Can anyone offer advice?
    Thank-you in advance, Rebecca

  11. Rebecca first of all unless the E-3 visa transfer is done while you are in the US transferring from another US visa like B-1/2, J-1. F-1, etc. (not visa waiver tourist) then the USCIS is NOT a part of the process at all so not sure what your employer is talking about. It is only the Department of Labor that is part of the process for an E-3 visa. The only reason I can think of they would want you on a J-1 visa versus and E-3 visa is the lack of the prevailing wage and bachelor’s degree/specialty occupation conditions. Ultimately it means they can pay you less than what they should. With the J-1 visa as well there can be a 2 year home residency rule applied to the visa meaning at the conclusion of the 18 months to the 2 years of your J-1 visa term you may not be able to apply for another US visa for 2 years. You can read about all these things I refer to in the FAQ section of the site. The J-2 visa and E-3D spousal visas have exactly the same conditions and process with the ability to work.

  12. Changing from E3 visa to E3D…

    I’ve searched and searched and can’t find an answer to this one. My husband and I both currently have our own E3 visas. I would like to change to an E3D visa so I can have more flexibility in applying for new jobs.

    If I request this change while in the US by filing the I-539 form (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status), how will that affect my current E3 visa? I understand once I’ve switched to an E3D I can’t work until my Application for Employment Authorization is processed, but I’d like to remain employed for the 2 1/2 or 3 months it takes to process the the I-539, then quit my current job at that time. I’m just worried that my employer may find out what I’m up to (changing visa types/leaving at the end) and that could leave me with no job or E3 visa in the meantime.

    Thanks for your help!

  13. Kaitlyn your current E-3 visa will still be valid until it is actually superceded by another valid US visa, it actually expires or it is invalidated by USCIS or a US Consulate. In your case while another application is pending your current E-3 visa if not expired will still apply.

  14. Awesome, that’s great news. Thanks so much for your reply CJ. Do you know if my employer would be informed by USCIS (or other department) that I have an application in to switch visas?

  15. Thanks again. You’ve just saved answered questions I’ve been trying to solve for months. Really really appreciated your help.

  16. Hi CJ,

    Just wondering if you (or anyone else) knows if I can switch from E3 to E3D while in the US? I know there’s a change of status form I can fill out but it takes months to process, and I won’t have and E3 visa that whole time. I’m assuming I’ll have to just apply for an E3D in Canada. Is that the only option?



  17. Kaitlyn you can switch from E-3 to E-3D if obviously there is a married spouse who has an approved and unexpired E-3 visa. The E-3D status if approved would correspond with the primary E-3 visa but would have to go through the normal processing period. If you had an unexpired E-3 visa while this was going on you could continue working with you current approved employer but if your E-3 expires then you can stay in US if you have an open application with USCIS just not able to work.

  18. Hi !

    I’m a born Canadian being relocated to the USA for work under an L-1that my employer will be handling. My Fiancé /soon to be wife ( also born Canadian) will be coming along . Can she come into the USA and then apply for L-2 Status or must she apply along with me at the time my employer submits my documents for the L-1 Visa and when we do the border crossing. What documentation will she require? Wed like to apply fro the L-2 in the USA if possible or at the port of entry. We were not going to get officially married until November but my relocation has moved ahead significantly . The lead / wait time for the fiancé visa seems to be long . So we figured why not just have a small party , say the “I do’s” grab the wedding certificate now , make it legal so we can push all this ahead and she can come along and start her application for the EAD and we can just streamline the process. Then throw the big ceremony and everything later as we have planned .. we were thinking it would make life a bit easier for us both.

    can she come in to USA on a tourist visa and apply for L-2? What would the wait times be I wonder?

    hoping you can point us in the right direction ,
    thanks ! J

  19. Hi CJ,

    I have a question here and couldn’t find an answer online.

    I’m currently on B2 visa and want to change my visa to E3d. Do I require to leave USA or can I transfer in USA?

    Thank you.


  20. Joyce you can transfer from B-2 to the E-3D visa within the US following the normal I-129 process if you are eligible with a spouse on approved E-3 visa.

  21. Jonathan your wife if came to the US as a tourist could not transfer to the L-2 visa with the country and she would have to leave to get it. If your employer can get her in on a B-1/B-2 visa as a tourist then she could transfer within the US. Ideally the L-2 would happen at same time as you but yes you would need to be officially married early.

  22. Dear CJ, I read the post, it is very impressive. I have one question. I am a E3D visa holder, applied for EAD on Mar 10th, expecting EAD in 45 days. My spouse on E3 visa would like to change the employer in a week time. Does this effect on processing time of my EAD, as I have to start my job by July 1st.

  23. Hi CJ,
    Your blog was very helpful when my husband and decided to move from Australia to the States. So thanks heaps mate! 😉
    My question is more or less like Patibandla’s: We’ve been here a while now and while I’ve just been made an offer on a great job, things at his work have sort of turned soured for him and he is looking around for another one. Fortunately for him there are several companies looking to hire and willing to sponsor him for another E3 but we’re wondering if I would have to apply for a brand new EAD (my current one is valid until March 2015), and go through the whole 90 day waiting period again if he goes and gets a brand new E3. Or can I still use this current EAD as it is still valid EVEN if he gets a new E3 prior to it expiring? He is willing to stick it out for another 12 months or so just so I can get some US work experience under my belt if it means, I’ll have to be out of work for another 3 months waiting on a new EAD…but I’m hoping I can just use the EAD I have now. Thanks in advance, Sara

  24. Patibandla your E3D visa is tied to your husband’s E-3 visa. So if he is don’t a transfer within the US using the same E-3 visa then your processing will be fine continuing as normal. Remember he can’t officially transfer positions until receiving I-129 approval which usually takes around 2.5-3 months but can stay in same role while application is being processed.

  25. Sara if did a transfer within US on same E-3 visa then your current E-3D visa and related EAD approval would be fine as it attached to that E-3 visa. If he did get a new one outside the US for the new company, your EAD approval would likely still be fine if you have an approved related E-3D visa but it goes into a grey area where there is not much documentation. Practically speaking you should be fine until that expires.

  26. Hi

    My F-1 visa got rejected on 3rd June.I am currently engaged and plan to get married in January 2015.My fiance is a physician doing his residency on J-1 visa with 2 year home residency rule.In my current application I showed my father in law as sponsor (GC holder) as uncle who is a family friend and is funding all my education.However I declared my status as single and didnot give any reference of my fiance or father in law on DS-160.

    We intend to apply for J-2 after marriage.Do you think this current student visa rejection will jeopardize my chances of getting a J-2.

    Thanks in advance.


  27. Hi CJ

    Firstly thanks for this website which has been such an invaluable resource to me in planning a move to the states!

    I am currently in the US with my fiance on ESTA visas – our plan was to use these 90 days to find jobs and make the move here. I have been offered a great job but he is still looking. I am wondering whether to ensure he gets an E3D we should get married before I get my visa, or is he able to add himself to my visa any time in the future (i.e. potentially if his 90 days on ESTA are up and he hasn’t found a job), even if our marriage certificate will be dated after my visa issue date?

    Any advice would be marvelous!


  28. Hi,

    I have recently renewed my E3 with a different employer, my wife’s EAD expired in September. We have applied for extension in July, its been over 2.5 months.

    Question: Can E3D work during this time period?
    Question: what is the timeline for this process?

    I knew that after this approval, we have to apply for EAD it will take around 4-6 weeks?

    Question: I94 expires in October2015, does this mean that she can work untill this period with out having the approval?

  29. Hi Everyone,

    Firstly THANKS in advance for any help on my questions !!

    Here’s our situation, my wife and I are in the US and both have separate E3 Visas. She is thinking about quitting her job and be dependant on my visa. I have read the blog pages and gov sites, but still have a few questions which are below:

    1. If she quits, her employer will retract her E3. I presume that gives her just 10 days to stay in the country. Is my assumption correct?

    2. I know she can lodge and E3D/EAD which appears pretty straightforward. Am I correct in saying she can do this at any point in time and does NOT need to wait for her employer to retract her current E3?

    3. When she lodges her EAD does she have to leave the country?

    4. Finally, how long does and EAD take to process. From what I can tell, from this blog, people tend to say 4-6 weeks. Again is that correct?

    THANKS AGAIN for any help provided.


  30. Question I haven’t seen here. I am on E3 and my wife and children on E3D. We have been told that while my wife can work, our kids on E3D cannot and also cannot study at university while on this visa. (They have to convert to F1). Is this correct?

  31. Hi CJ

    First of all, thank you for the great website!

    I would really like some help as I cannot seem to find any information in this! So any info would help me out. (I find a lot of info on E3 visas but NOT on E3D)

    I have an E3D visa now that my husband has E3 which is great. This is our first time so we went back to Australia to process everything.
    My question is: If I wanted to transfer to E3 visa myself, would I have to go back to Australia again to apply for it or can I go to Canada or somewhere (that’s not the US) to apply? It states in the Canberra website that a first time applicant must apply in Australia however, technically it isn’t my first time as I currently hold the E3D visa… or is it?

    Any advise would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you!

  32. Hello!
    Great site – many of my questions have been answered 🙂
    Quick one – I am an Australian on an E3 visa. My husband is also on an E3 and I would like to switch over to his (E3-D).
    He doesn’t have any leave left, so I will be applying outside of the US without having him with me. Do you know any countries that have allowed this? I know it states that the E3 holder doesn’t need to be present at the interview, however when i contacted the US consulate in Nassau they said my husband would need to be present. Any tips appreciated!!

  33. Hi CJ,

    Great site with lot of info about E3.

    Q : Do i need book a seperate slot for the visa interview & do my wife need to attend the e3 visa interview along with me, do they ask her any questions and does it effect the visa approval ?

  34. Hi there. I am on an E-3 visa and my husband is on an E-3D visa. I am looking to change employers and most likely will leave the country to get an new visa as I hear transferring it takes a long time. I have read conflicting opinions about the ramifications for him in this scenario. If If I do this, would he also need to reapply for his E-3 visa again and would he also need to get a new EAD (thus meaning he would have to quit his job and likely wait 3 months to work again)?
    I have also read that as long as I have a valid E-3 visa, that he nothing would change for him and that it is possible for me to hold 2 x E-3 visas at one time- eg. I could get the E-3 visa with new employer, then quit my job, 4 weeks later I start with the new employer. Is that a true scenario? Thanks!!

  35. My wife is here on a E3D and she would like to study. I can’t seem to find any info on this scenario …

    Hey Mani, probably a bit late, but yes your wife has to attend.. If you have kids take them as well.. They tend to rush you through if you have kids hanging around getting bored.. 🙂

  36. Hi,
    I have recently got married. My husband will start working in J1 visa in San Francisco, CA, USA from 11th Jan 2016. His company will issue DS2019 form for me as a J2 dependent. With that once I reach San Francisco, I can apply for the work permit and can also work.
    My current employer is Infosys Limited India.
    My query is with this J2 dependent visa along with the work permit can I work for Infosys project in San Francisco.
    Please let me know what are the legal procedure to do the same.

    Rashi Pant

  37. CJ

    1. Upon E3 renewal, does E3D also need to be renewed?
    2. Upon E3D renewal, does EAD also need to be renewed?


  38. Hi Cj,
    My fiancé is currently applying for an E3 visa from within Australia and is due to start work early April in NYC.
    We are getting married at the end of Feb at which point I’ll be able to apply for the E3D visa.
    His employer, with the help of an immigration lawyer, is completing the application process for him. However, since we are not yet married, my visa has not been included in this process.
    I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed by the visa process. Do I just follow instructions on applying for an E3 visa to apply for the E3D? I s would like to get it all sorted as soon as possible as I would like to be able to work sooner rather than later.
    Any tips/advise you can offer would be very helpful!
    Thank you!

  39. Hello,
    I have been with my partner for 10 years, and we plan to get married next month. Can they apply for an E3-D as soon as we do that? or should we wait?

  40. Hi, I am on an E3 and my husband is on a E3-D. I have been trying to find a reliable source to confirm what kinds of work he can do on the E3-D.

    I think I read at some point it could be either casual, part time or full time work but I have since found a few posts talking about E3-D being able to be an independent contractor (much like a sole trader back in Australia).

    Can you please confirm if this is the case?

  41. Does an E3 visa holder require an EAD card?

    I’m under the impression that our actual visa is proof of our employment eligibility, but a contractor of my employer (security services) is asking for an EAD. Can anyone clarify?

  42. My husband is in the US under the E3. Yesterday I started applying for the E3D in Rome, as I’m Italian and I was recommended to apply from my home country. Does anyone know how long it takes to have the E3D issued? I’m trying to search for information but this was the only helpful forum where I could find other people talking about the specific topic I care of. Thanks!

  43. Hi There,

    I am currently on H1 B visa and my husband is on E3 Visa. I would like to change my visa status to E3-D (dependent) visa. Below are my questions.

    1. Can I transfer my H1B visa to E3-D (dependent) visa while staying in US and start working without going out of US . I am planning to go out of country after a year and get my visa stamped, so would like to check my options, if I can start working while in US before the visa is stamped.

    2. My GC I-140 is approved in 2014 and my priority date is in 2013. If I change my visa status from H1B independent visa to E3 – D dependent visa, can I still maintain the same GC status with the same priority date?

    3. After changing my visa status to E3 Dependent visa from H1 B and in future if I want to change back to H1B to get the GC, will the same priority date be used. And If I want to transfer back to H1B should I follow the H1B lottery process or can I just follow the transfer process without entering the lottery system (Note: I have been in US from past 9 years)

    Please let me know the update, it will be very helpful for me.


  44. Hi, must I file an i-765 and i-539 together if renewing my E3D? I did not need to file an i-539 when I applied for my EAD the first time. Cheers.

  45. Hi,

    Looking for some advice on E-3D and EAD renewal.

    Both expire in August 2018. We hope to do the visa renewal in July 2018.

    Does that mean I cannot get a new EAD card until I get the visa in my passport?

    Essentially I’m looking for a new school position and now is the hiring period. School ends in June and starts again in Sept. Am I doomed for employment opportunities as prospective employers will only see that my work authorisation is only until Aug 2018?

    And I can’t get away for renewal until the end of school hence why we’re renewing in July.

    Thanks in advance.

  46. Hi there,

    I’m currently in the US on an E3-D Visa and am in the process of applying for my EAD. I worked for myself back in Australia as a freelance graphic designer and was wondering if I am allowed to continue doing freelance work remotely for my Australian clients while living here? (earning money into an Australian bank account) Or do I need to wait for my EAD to be approved to be able to work not only here but in Aus also? I have heard many differing things about this and it seems to be a bit of a grey area with no one able to give me a solid answer and the USCIS customer service number is next to useless.


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