Senate Bills Authorize Employment for “E” and “L” Spouses

On December 20, 2001, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of two bills that grant work authorization to spouses of persons with “E” and “L” status. On September 5, 2001, these bills (H.R. 2277 and H.R. 2278) were passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. The President is expected to sign the bills into law sometime in early 2002.

The E visa is issued to investors and traders from countries with which the U.S. has trade agreements. L visas are issued to intra-company transferees. Intra-company transferees are employees of multi-national corporations who are working in a professional, managerial, or “specialized knowledge” capacity. At the time of this writing, spouses of these individuals are allowed to accompany them to the U.S. but are not authorized to work unless they have a separate, unrelated immigration status allowing employment. As a result, spouses are forced to forego their careers for the durations of their stays in the U.S. This may make the E or L an unattractive option for individuals with spouses who have careers of their own and could work to the detriment of U.S. companies, should the desired employees prefer not to come to the U.S. if their spouses are unable to work here.

The bills are limited strictly to E and L status and are not yet signed into law. Therefore, spouses of E and L status holders do not presently have authorization to work. Spouses of other non-immigrants, such as H1B (temporary professional workers) and F-1 (students), remain ineligible for employment, unless they possess an alternative immigration status permitting employment.

We advise our MurthyBulletin and MurthyDotCom readers to review their documents carefully and seek advice if they have any questions regarding their eligibility to work. There can be serious problems under immigration law if an individual engages in unauthorized employment.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.