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Clarification of Need for Employment Authorization Documents for Spouses of E and L Nonimmigrants

    Client Alerts
  • October 10, 2006

The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) recently announced that it will issue Social Security Numbers (“SSNs”) to the spouses of individuals in E and L nonimmigrant status regardless of whether the dependent spouse has obtained an employment authorization document (“EAD”) from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”).  The SSA indicates that it implemented this change in policy based on a USCIS memorandum that has not yet been made available to the public. 

Every nonimmigrant who applies for a SSN must provide documents that prove eligibility for SSN issuance.  The SSA’s policy advises that spouses of E-1, E-2 or L-1 nonimmigrants may comply with these documentary requirements by presenting Forms I-94 to demonstrate the required nonimmigrant status and copies of their marriage documents (with English translations as necessary) to prove that they are spouses of E-1, E-2 and L-2 nonimmigrants.  These individuals will be issued Social Security Cards that contain the legend “Valid for Work only with DHS Authorization”. 

It is important to note that the last guidance made available to the public by the USCIS contradicts this policy.  That guidance states that the USCIS must determine that the individual is the spouse of an E-1, E-2 or L-1 nonimmigrant before employment authorization and a document evidencing that authorization can be issued.  To comply with this requirement, the spouse must apply for an employment authorization document (“EAD”) by filing Form I-765 and the appropriate fee with the appropriate USCIS Service Center.

The immigration practice group at Parker Poe recommends that spouses of E-1, E-2 and L-1 nonimmigrants who wish to pursue employment in the United States continue to apply for EADs until the USCIS makes further public statements on this matter.  Spouses may consider applying for SSNs prior to EAD issuance if they need the number for other purposes, such as applying for a U.S. drivers license, opening a bank account, applying for a mortgage, etc. 

Immigration News is an electronic publication of Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP's Immigration Practice Team and is mailed to our clients and friends. Our Immigration Practice Group regularly advises clients on matters involving immigration law. Immigration News is intended to inform its readers of current trends or changes in immigration law. It does not provide answers to specific legal problems. If you have any questions concerning these or other aspects of immigration law, please feel free to contact attorneys Elizabeth Gibbes (864.253.6128 or, Todd Rubin (919.835.4598 or or Charlie Castner (843.727.2670 or or paralegals Pam Estrich (919.835.4497 or, Belinda Cloy (704.335.9066 or or Amy Schuler (704.335.9088 or