I’m moving to America from the UK with my wife who has an L1 visa. I have an L2 as her spouse and will be applying for an EAD (work permit) to work in the USA. While we wait for the EAD to come through (can take 5 months), can I continue to work remotely for my UK employer while living in the USA without a work permit? Thanks
While your question is slightly different for this one below (different visas), the answer is the same:
That is, in general, you cannot work in US Soil without proper authorization, even for a company abroad. However, the other answers in the question provide some insight about what that look like in the real world.
Update: L2 and E spouses are now considered authorized to work incident to status. Therefore, working while in the US without having an EAD is definitely not considered illegal employment.
There are potentially two issues here, neither of which has clear answers.
Whether you can work remotely for a foreign company if you don't have work authorization in the US. This has been asked in many past questions on this site and there are many answers, but none of them can cite a clear official rule that says it is considered unauthorized employment or a violation of status.
Whether an L2 spouse is authorized to work even before getting an EAD. (If the answer to this is yes then question #1 is moot.) Although it may seem at first to be no, since L2 spouses get EADs, some have argued that it is actually yes. The main arguments include the text of the statute, 8 USC 1184(c)(2)(E), which says:
In the case of an alien spouse admitted under section 1101(a)(15)(L) of this title, who is accompanying or following to join a principal alien admitted under such section, the Attorney General shall authorize the alien spouse to engage in employment in the United States and provide the spouse with an “employment authorized” endorsement or other appropriate work permit.
which seems to imply that employment authorization is automatic and must be provided, and is not subject to discretion or approval.
Also, the Social Security Administration considers L-2 spouses without an EAD to be authorized to work for the purposes of being able to issue a Social Security Number:
- Aliens employment-authorized without specific DHS authorization
For COAs displaying a double asterisk (**) (non-immigrant E-1, E-2, and L-2 classifications), the spouse is also authorized to work without specific DHS authorization.
Spouse of an intra-company transferee.
The alien must submit either:
- an EAD (Form I-766) showing “A-18” under Category; or
- evidence other than an EAD that proves the L-2's lawful alien status (e.g., I-94) and a marriage document as evidence that he or she is the spouse of the principal L-1 alien.
although the SSA is arguably not authoritative on immigration matters.
That forum post above also links to this blog article that reports that, during litigation, a US Attorney agreed that L-2 spouses without EADs did not work illegally, although it doesn't provide specifics.