Bringing your family with you to the US has its own bureaucratic hurdles. Depending on your own visa category, you will have to take different steps to ensure your spouse and children can come with you.
If you are planning to take your family with you to the United States, you obviously need to know what kind of visa your spouse and children need to get in order to join you. You might further be interested in whether your spouse will be able to take up work while living in the US. In the following, you can find information on what visa your family members need to apply for as well as who is eligible for a so called Employment Authorization Document.
Immigration Visa for Your Family
Once your own immigrant visa petition has been approved, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can apply for an immigrant visa with you, based on the same petition. Please note, however, that they have to go through the same immigration visa application process as you, including completing all the necessary forms, obtaining and submitting all the necessary documents, undergoing a medical examination, attending their interview, and paying all required fees.
Visa for Nonimmigrant Worker’s Family
If you are an applicant for a nonimmigrant worker visa, your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 can usually join you during your stay in the US. This is for example the case for the following categories:
H-1B Specialty Occupation
H-2 Temporary Worker
L Intracompany Transferee
O Extraordinary Ability/Achievement
E-1/2 Treaty Traders/Investors
The L-2 Visa
The holder of an L-2 visa does not need to obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to be allowed to work with any employer. According to the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form, it is enough if a person possesses a social security card as long as the card does not state any restrictions such as "Not valid for employment", "Valid for work only with INS Authorization" or "Valid for work only with DHS Authorization". In these cases, the L-2 visa holder needs proof other than a social security card in order to establish employment authorization. Such proof includes the EAD card. It is recommended to apply for an EAD, even in cases where someone does not explicitly need one, in order to be able to prove to prospective employers that the holder is authorized. The spouse of an L-1 visa holder with an EAD is allowed to work freely; dependent children of an L-1 visa holder are not automatically authorised to work in the USA.
The E-2 Visa
the spouse of an E2 visa holder must be granted employment authorization upon filing an application.
The spouse's right to work will persist as long as the principal E2 visa holder remains in status. Any extension or renewal of work authorization will coincide with E2's status.
Whilst working, the spouse may file an application for permanent residency that will ultimately cover the entire family.
The child of the E2 holder (must be under 21 and unmarried) may accompany their parents. However, the child has no statutory right of employment authorization. The child may seek permanent residency via employment sponsorship, by marriage to a US.
The H-4 Visa
H4 visa is issued to the dependent family members (spouse and Children) of H1 visa holders who would like to accompany the H1B visa holder in the U.S. during the period of their stay. This article outlines the complete process for H4 dependent visas for H1B visa holders. In such a case, the principal applicant is always the H1B visa holder. Immediate family members like spouse and children under 21 yrs can qualify for this visa and can apply at the US Consulate in their home country.
As an H4 visa holder, you're not authorized to be employed in the US and are not eligible to get a Social Security Number.