As a Director in an international company wanting to work in America, the L1 Blanket, or L1 Visa, was probably the simplest visa to obtain. This is available to anyone in senior management who want to transfer from a UK company to an American branch of the same company. One benefit of this type of visa is that the dependents automatically receive an L2 visa.
With the L2 visas comes the automatic permission to go to school and college (the equivalent of an F1 visa) and particularly include the ability to claim residency in an area. School is always free, but declaring residency is of great financial benefit for the college student who is able to claim a substantial discount of many thousands of dollars.
It is useful to note that only the main applicant can obtain a Social Security Number on entry to America. This number is extremely important as proof of permission to work as well as a generally requested unique identification number. Not having one is very restrictive especially for adults.
When we applied for the L1 Blanket Visa we were pleased to hear that it included permission for the spouse to work. However, either through naivety or not reading the small print, we missed the fact that the work permit still needed to be applied for.
After some misguided discussions with the immigration service we discovered that the spouse has to fill out a form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization. A fee of $340 was also required. We did then receive the work permit but many months of income and work satisfaction were lost.
With the work permit comes the ability to obtain a Social Security Number. You cannot get paid without an SSN.
When thinking of relocating to America it is very important to seriously consider the objectives for your dependents who are, or will become, over eighteen. While they can enjoy the adventure of an American college they will undoubtedly want to earn money in one or more part-time jobs. This would certainly be in the plans of the majority of teenagers in England.
The problem is that as a dependent child on an L2 visa they are treated the same as any other foreign national (alien) wanting to work in America. Although you would not normally expect special treatment for your children, you may think that as they were brought along with you, and still a dependent, then there might have been a fast track way to obtain a work permit – even if it was only temporary until the age of twenty-one, or until the family went home.
However the truth is that the only way one of your dependents can work, other than your spouse, is to be sponsored into temporary ‘seasonal’ work or go through the full process of applying for a Greencard. This process can literally take years.
Having the opportunity to relocate to work in America is a wonderful chance to see how another culture lives and to open up the world to your children. Consider the plans for each individual in your family carefully and you will all be able to make the most of the adventure.
Related article: How to Relocate to the USA