The benefits of marriage for E’s and J’s

By W. John Vandenberg

We are all familiar with the benefits of marriage, right?  Love, companionship, joint mortgages.  A greencard.  But for immigrants already married to a non-U.S. citizen spouse, being married can mean something just as important – the ability to work.

We process a fair amount of E-1 and E-2 Treaty Traders and Investors, and choosing the lead applicant deserves careful attention. Especially in the husband and wife context.  But we have to always remember that the main applicant can only work for and at the corporate entity that petitioned for them.  That can be a good thing — especially when the company is doing well.  But it is always important to remember that the spouse receives a wide-open Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”).  They get their own social security card, and they can work for whomever — and for whatever — they want.  So it’s important to plan out which spouse undertakes which duties.

The J-1 intern/trainee also allows spouses (J-2’s) to have EAD’s.  So one can imagine that if one spouse is an intern, their spouse can do as much work as they like on their EAD card.  And again — for as much as they can negotiate. This can be very important for start-ups.  They often train persons from overseas because, well, because the United States is really good at IT 🙂  But this may also present an excellent opportunities for a “two-fer” for American companies.  Because if they provide training or an internship to one foreign national, the spouse can be a regular employee on the J-2 visa for the same amount of time.

So immigrants, and the companies who love them, should always remember that with the right immigration strategy, training and expertise can go together like, well, love and marriage.