The L-2 visa is a secondary visa that allows the immediate family of an L-1 visa holder to accompany him to the United States. Like the L-1 visa, it is considered a nonimmigrant visa. L-2 visa holders are entitled to remain in the US as long as the primary L-1 visa holder is entitled to stay, and they must leave the US whenever the L-1 visa holder’s period of stay expires.
Who is Eligible?
The spouse and children may accompany the primary L-1 visa holder to the United States. The children must be under the age of 21, however.
The marriage must be bona-fide (in other words, it cannot be a “common law” marriage or a local equivalent, and it cannot have been entered into for the sole purpose of obtaining immigration benefits). Please note the the US government now recognizes same-sex marriages as bona fide.
Only the spouse and children of the L-1 visa holder are eligible for L-2 status. The L-1 visa holder’s parents, for example, are not eligible, even if the L-1 visa holder is their primary caretaker.
Travel: L-2 visa holders may freely travel in and out of the US during the period of validity of their L-2 visa. Note that the visa validity period is not the same as the period of stay.
If you are in the US in another visa status and you adjust your status to L-2 without leaving the US, you will not be issued an L-2 visa at all, although you will be permitted to remain in the US in L-2 status. In this case, if you leave the US then you will need to apply for an L-2 visa at a US embassy or consulate in order to return to the US.
Work: The spouse of an L-1 visa holder may work in the United States part-time or full-time by applying for and receiving an Employment Authorization Document. The children of an L-1 visa holder may not work in the United States.
All L-2 visa holders may study in the US either part-time or full-time.
Period of Stay
As an L-2 visa holder, you may remain in the US as long as the primary L-1 visa holder is allowed to remain. Typically, an L-1 visa holder is permitted to stay in the US for an initial term of two years (but only one year for an L-1A visa holder who works for a newly-established US office). Extensions are typically granted in two-year immigrants. The maximum period of stay is seven years for L-1A status and five years for L-1B status.
Dual Intent and Permanent Residence
Both the L-1 and L-2 visas are “dual intent” visas, which means that you can apply for permanent residence (a “green card”) without jeopardizing your L status. Most L-2 visa holders who eventually obtain green cards do so as a consequence of the primary L-1 visa holder obtaining permanent residence.
The most common way that an L-1 visa holder obtains permanent residence in the United States is by applying for and receiving EB1C permanent resident classification.
The requirements for this classification are similar to the requirements for the L-1 visa (although more stringent), and like the L-1, the primary holder’s spouse and children (under 21) are eligible for this status as well.
Following is a rudimentary list of some of the documents you may need to apply for L-2 status at a US embassy or consulate abroad:
The primary L-1 visa holder’s approval notice from the USCIS (Form I-797).
Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application). When you complete this form online, you will also be issued a confirmation. Be sure to print both
Form DS-160 and the confirmation.
A passport with at least one blank page, that is valid for the entire requested period of stay in L-2 status.
At least one passport-style photo.
The original of your marriage certificate, if you are the spouse of the primary L-1 visa holder.
An original of your birth certificate, if you are the child of the primary L-1 visa holder.
A written approval of the primary L1 visa holder, expressing his desire for you to accompany him to the United States.
An employment verification letter issued by the primary L1 visa holder’s employer.
Visa application fee ($190 at the time of this writing).
Other financial data of the L1 visa holder, if the L1 visa holder is already working in the US.