The J-1 is not an employment based visa status, but the regulations allow J-1 Exchange Visitors to be paid for activities related to the program they came to pursue. If the department hosting your program chooses to pay you for your research activities that payment is already authorized and no additional authorization is required. If any department or person other than the one hosting your program offers to pay you for any reason you will need to contact the ISO to determine whether that activity is allowable and/or requires additional written authorization.
No employment or payment from a U.S. source outside UVA can occur without prior discussion and written permission from the ISO. In some cases payments from non-UVA sources can be authorized as long as the activity is specifically related to the program activities or research activities under which your program has been sponsored. Authorization is in the form of a letter from the ISO. Authorization letters must be obtained prior to engaging in the activity for which you will be paid.
It is also important to understand your rights in the workplace in the U.S., whether your are paid or unpaid. Please review the following brochure published by the US Department of Labor:
J-2 dependents are eligible to apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for employment authorization through an application process that can take up to 3 months to process. The application and instructions are linked here: https://www.uscis.gov/i-765
Employment may not begin until the J-2 has received the work permit, called the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The EAD allows the J-2 dependent to work in any job, full-time or part-time. Employment cannot extend beyond the end date on the EAD. Extensions of the EAD are possible, up to the end date on the DS-2019. Please note that the extension process also can take up to 3 months to process. If the extension has not been approved, employment must stop until the extension has been granted. Plan ahead if employment needs to be continuous (without any gaps between work authorization periods).
You are welcome to contact the ISO and make an appointment to speak with an advisor in advance of applying for employment authorization OR accepting volunteer positions. Unauthorized work, including an inappropriate volunteer position will violate both the J-2 and your J-1 legal status. Appointments can be made through our website here: https://connect.issp.virginia.edu/