Employment Authorization Document (EAD), Explained

Discover how to obtain a Work Permit in the United States.

What is an Employment Authorization Document?

The Employment Authorization Document (EAD), also known as Form I-766, Work Card, or Work Permit, is a small, plastic card issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that serves as proof of an individual’s authorization to work in the U.S. It is granted to eligible non-citizens who fall under specific immigration categories, providing them with the opportunity to support themselves and their families financially while they reside in the country. Possessing a work permit not only offers immigrants the chance to contribute to the U.S. economy but also allows them to gain valuable work experience and develop their professional skills, which may be essential for future immigration processes, such as applying for a green card or adjusting their immigration status.

Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Commonly known as Work Permit or Work Card in the United States.

Purpose of the EAD

The primary purpose of the EAD is to enable eligible immigrants to seek and maintain employment in the United States without violating their immigration status. It ensures that employers can verify their employees’ work authorization while complying with U.S. immigration laws. Additionally, the EAD facilitates access to essential services such as obtaining a Social Security Number (SSN) and a driver’s license.

What is the difference between the Form I-765 and Form I-766?

The Form I-765 is an application form used by foreign nationals to request an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The Form I-766 is not an application form but rather the actual Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by USCIS to eligible foreign nationals who have successfully applied for work authorization using Form I-765. Form I-766, commonly referred to as the EAD card or Work Permit, serves as proof of the individual’s authorization to work in the United States.

Familiarize yourself with common immigration terms and their meanings.

This article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of the EAD, eligibility, and its significance for immigrants seeking employment opportunities in the U.S.

Eligibility for EAD

Determining eligibility for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is an essential step in the application process. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has outlined specific immigration categories that qualify for an EAD. Below, we discuss these categories in detail to help you understand if you may be eligible for employment authorization.

Some individuals are not eligible for an EAD, such as those with certain nonimmigrant visas (e.g., B-1, B-2, or J-1) or individuals without any legal immigration status. Additionally, individuals with certain criminal convictions or immigration violations may be deemed ineligible for a Work Permit.

Asylees and Refugees:

Individuals who have been granted asylum or refugee status in the United States are eligible to apply for a Work Permit. Asylees and refugees have the right to work in the U.S. as a part of their protected status, but obtaining an EAD can help them demonstrate their work authorization to potential employers.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Holders:

TPS holders are non-citizens from designated countries facing temporary, extraordinary conditions, such as armed conflict, natural disasters, or other significant circumstances. These individuals are eligible to apply for a Work Permit, allowing them to work legally in the U.S. during their TPS designation.

Adjustment of Status Applicants:

Immigrants who have filed an application to adjust their status (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) to that of a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) may also be eligible for an EAD. While their Green Card application is pending, a Work Permit allows them to work legally in the United States.

K-1 Fiancé Visa Holders:

Foreign nationals who have entered the United States on a K-1 visa, also known as the fiancé(e) visa, are eligible to apply for an EAD while they await their marriage and subsequent adjustment of status to marriage-based permanent residency.

F-1 Students Seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT):

International students on an F-1 visa can apply for an EAD to participate in Optional Practical Training (OPT), a temporary employment opportunity related to their field of study. OPT is available for up to 12 months, with additional extensions possible for certain STEM degree holders.

DACA Recipients:

Individuals who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status are also eligible to apply for a Work Permit. DACA recipients are protected from deportation and can work legally in the United States with a valid EAD.

Other Eligible Categories:

There are numerous other categories of immigrants who may qualify for an EAD, including, but not limited to, individuals with pending asylum applications, certain U visa holders, and some spouses of employment-based visa holders.

Application Process for EAD

Applying for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) requires submitting the correct forms and supporting documents, as well as paying the appropriate filing fees. In this section, we will guide you through the application process, including information on processing times and renewing or replacing an EAD.

Required Forms and Documentation:

Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization:

To apply for an EAD, you must complete and submit Form I-765, along with the required supporting documents. This form is available on the USCIS website and includes detailed instructions for completing and submitting the application.

Supporting Documents:

In addition to Form I-765, you must provide supporting documents to prove your eligibility for a Work Permit. These documents may include:

  1. Proof of your current immigration status, such as a copy of your I-94 arrival/departure record or your visa.
  2. Evidence of your eligibility category, such as an approval notice for an underlying immigration petition or a copy of your pending application.
  3. Passport-style photographs taken within the last 30 days.
  4. Additional documentation, depending on your specific eligibility category.

Filing Fees and Fee Waivers:

EAD Filing Fees:

The current cost of applying for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is $410. Additionally, there may be an extra charge of $85 if you need to have your biometrics taken as part of the application process. It is important to review the USCIS fee schedule to determine the correct fee for your application. Some applicants, such as refugees or asylees, may not be required to pay a fee for a Work Card.

Fee Waivers:

USCIS offers fee waivers to qualifying Work Permit applicants who can demonstrate an inability to pay the filing fee. To request a fee waiver, you must submit Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, along with your Form I-765.

Processing Times and Expedited Requests:

EAD Processing Times:

The processing time for an EAD application varies based on the applicant’s eligibility category and the USCIS service center handling the case. You can check the current processing times on the USCIS website to get an estimated timeframe for your application.

Expedited Requests:

In certain cases, applicants may request expedited processing of their EAD application if they can demonstrate a severe financial loss or meet other specific criteria. To request expedited processing, you must contact the USCIS service center handling your application and provide supporting evidence for your request.

Renewing or Replacing an EAD:

Renewing an EAD:

Work Permits are typically valid for one or two years, depending on the applicant’s eligibility category. To renew your EAD, you must submit a new Form I-765 and the required supporting documents before your current EAD expires.

Replacing an EAD:

If your EAD is lost, stolen, or damaged, you can apply for a replacement Work Permit by submitting a new Form I-765, along with the required supporting documents and the appropriate filing fee.

Applying for a Social Security Number

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a unique nine-digit number issued to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and eligible non-citizens by the Social Security Administration (SSA). It is required for various purposes, including employment, taxation, and accessing certain government services.

When submitting your Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, you have the option to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) concurrently. To do this, you must answer “Yes” to the questions in Part 2, Item Numbers 27.a to 29 of Form I-765, which pertain to applying for an SSN and issuing a Social Security card. By choosing this option, you do not need to visit a Social Security office in person.

If you have already received your Work Permit and did not apply for an SSN concurrently, you can still apply for a Social Security Number. This involves gathering the required documents, completing Form SS-5, and visiting your local Social Security office to submit your application.

Rights and Restrictions Associated with the EAD

An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) grants foreign nationals the right to work in the United States. However, there are certain rights and restrictions that come with having a Work Permit. In this section, we will discuss the benefits, limitations, and potential restrictions associated with holding an EAD.

Employment Benefits:

Authorization to Work in the United States:

With a valid EAD, you are legally authorized to work for any employer in the U.S., unless your Work Permit specifies that you are restricted to a specific employer.

Access to Social Security Number (SSN):

Once you have an EAD, you are eligible to apply for a Social Security Number, which is required for various purposes, including employment, taxation, and accessing certain government services.

Ability to Obtain a Driver’s License:

In many states, including Georgia, having a valid Work Permit allows you to apply for a driver’s license, which can be essential for transportation and identification purposes.

Limitations and Restrictions:

Validity Period:

EADs are typically issued with a validity period of one or two years, depending on your eligibility category. You must renew your Work Permit before it expires to maintain your authorization to work in the U.S.

Tied to Underlying Immigration Status:

Your Work Permit is tied to your underlying immigration status. If your immigration status changes or is terminated, your EAD may no longer be valid, and you may need to reapply under a new eligibility category, if applicable.

Specific Employer Restrictions (if applicable):

In some cases, your EAD may be restricted to a specific employer, such as those with a Work Permit based on a non-immigrant visa that requires employer sponsorship (e.g., H-1B or L-1 visas). In such cases, you are not authorized to work for any other employer without first obtaining a new EAD or changing your immigration status.

It is essential to understand the rights and restrictions associated with your Work Permit to ensure compliance with U.S. immigration laws and avoid any potential issues with your immigration status.

Impact of EAD on Other Immigration Processes

An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) primarily allows foreign nationals to work in the United States. However, it is essential to understand how obtaining an EAD might impact other immigration processes, such as adjusting your status, extending your visa, or applying for citizenship. In this section, we will discuss the potential effects of having a Work Permit on various immigration processes.

Adjustment of Status:

An EAD does not directly impact your adjustment of status application for a Green Card (Form I-485). It merely grants you the authorization to work while your adjustment application is pending.

If you have a pending adjustment of status application, obtaining a Work Permit allows you to continue working in the U.S., even if your current non-immigrant visa expires. This can be beneficial, as the processing time for adjustment applications can be lengthy.

Extending or Changing Non-immigrant Visas:

Obtaining an EAD does not automatically extend your non-immigrant visa or change your immigration status. You must still file separate applications for visa extensions or change of status requests.

While the Work Permit itself does not impact your visa extension or change of status application, your employment situation and the reason for your EAD might be considered by USCIS when evaluating your extension or change of status request. It is essential to consult with an immigration lawyer to ensure you maintain compliance with your visa requirements.

Applying for Citizenship:

An EAD does not directly impact your eligibility for U.S. citizenship. However, having a valid Work Permit and maintaining employment in the U.S. may demonstrate your attachment to the country, which is a factor considered during the naturalization process. Maintaining an EAD and adhering to its associated rights and restrictions can help demonstrate that you have consistently complied with U.S. immigration laws, which is an essential requirement for naturalization.

It is crucial to understand how having a Work Permit may interact with other immigration processes to ensure that you maintain your immigration status and make informed decisions about your immigration journey in the United States.

Common Issues and Solutions

While the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) application process is generally straightforward, applicants may encounter certain issues or challenges. In this section, we will discuss some common problems and their potential solutions to help you navigate the Work Permit application process more smoothly.

Delays in Processing:

Processing times for EAD applications can vary, and delays are not uncommon. These delays can cause hardships for applicants who need work authorization to support themselves or their families.

While there is no guaranteed way to speed up Work Permit processing, you can ensure your application is complete and accurate to minimize the risk of delays due to requests for additional evidence. In some cases, you may be eligible to request expedited processing if you can demonstrate a severe financial loss or meet other specific criteria.

Lost or Damaged EAD:

If your Work Permit is lost, stolen, or damaged, you may face difficulties in proving your work authorization to employers or government agencies.

In such cases, you should apply for a replacement EAD by submitting a new Form I-765, along with the required supporting documents and filing fee. Make sure to explain the reason for requesting a replacement and provide any relevant documentation (e.g., a police report for a stolen Work Permit).

EAD Renewal:

If your EAD expires, you will lose your authorization to work in the United States, which may lead to job loss or other financial difficulties.

To avoid this issue, submit your EAD renewal application well in advance of your current EAD’s expiration date. This will give USCIS sufficient time to process your Work Permit application and ensure that you maintain continuous work authorization.

Incorrect Information on EAD:

If your EAD contains incorrect information, such as a misspelled name or wrong date of birth, it may not be accepted as valid proof of work authorization.

To correct any errors on your EAD, submit a new Form I-765, along with a letter explaining the mistake and any supporting documentation to verify the correct information. In most cases, USCIS will issue a corrected EAD without charging an additional fee.

By understanding these common issues and their solutions, you can better prepare for the EAD application process and address any challenges that may arise. If you encounter a complex issue or need legal advice, it is always recommended to consult with an experienced immigration attorney.

At Glenn Immigration Law Firm in Atlanta, our knowledgeable and dedicated team of immigration experts are ready to assist you with your EAD application and any other immigration-related concerns. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for professional and affordable immigration advice and support tailored to your unique situation.

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Work Permit FAQs

Navigating the intricacies of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) process can be challenging, and you may have questions about eligibility, application procedures, and other related topics. To help you better understand the EAD process, we have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that address some of the most common concerns and inquiries.

Can I work while my EAD application is pending?

In most cases, you cannot work in the United States until you have received your EAD card. However, certain categories of applicants, such as F-1 students applying for post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), may be authorized to work while their EAD application is pending, under specific conditions.

Can I travel outside the United States while my EAD application is pending?

Traveling outside the United States while your EAD application is pending may have consequences on your immigration status, particularly if you have a pending adjustment of status application. In such cases, it is recommended to obtain Advance Parole before traveling.

Can I extend or renew my EAD?

Yes, you can extend or renew your EAD by submitting a new Form I-765, along with the required supporting documents and filing fees, before your current EAD expires. It is essential to apply for renewal of Work Permit in a timely manner to ensure that you maintain continuous work authorization in the United States.

How do I replace a lost, stolen, or damaged EAD?

To replace a lost, stolen, or damaged EAD, you must submit a new Form I-765, along with the required supporting documents and filing fees. In your application, explain the reason for requesting a replacement and provide any relevant documentation (e.g., a police report for a stolen EAD).

Can I have more than one EAD based on different eligibility categories?

Yes, you can have multiple EADs based on different eligibility categories. However, each EAD application must be filed separately, and you must meet the eligibility requirements for each category.

Can I work for any employer with an EAD?

In most cases, an EAD allows you to work for any employer in the United States. However, there may be restrictions if your EAD is based on a specific non-immigrant visa that requires employer sponsorship (e.g., H-1B or L-1 visas). In such cases, you can only work for the employer specified on your EAD.

Can I change jobs or employers with an EAD?

With an EAD, you can generally change jobs or employers without any restrictions, as long as your new job is consistent with your EAD eligibility category. However, if your EAD is restricted to a specific employer (e.g., based on an H-1B or L-1 visa), you must obtain a new EAD or change your immigration status before changing employers.

How long is an EAD valid for?

EADs are typically valid for one or two years, depending on your eligibility category. The validity period is indicated on the EAD card itself. It is essential to renew your EAD before it expires to maintain your work authorization in the United States.

Can my EAD be revoked?

Yes, USCIS can revoke your EAD if they find that you are no longer eligible for work authorization under the category for which it was granted, or if you have violated the terms and conditions of your immigration status. It is crucial to maintain compliance with your immigration status and work only as authorized by your EAD to avoid potential revocation.

How does the expiration of my EAD affect my immigration status?

The expiration of your EAD does not directly impact your underlying immigration status. However, it does mean that you are no longer authorized to work in the United States. It is crucial to renew your EAD before it expires to maintain continuous work authorization and comply with U.S. employment regulations.

Can I expedite my EAD application?

USCIS allows expedited processing of EAD applications in specific circumstances, such as severe financial loss, humanitarian reasons, or emergency situations. To request expedited processing, you must contact the USCIS Contact Center and provide evidence supporting your request. Keep in mind that expedited processing is granted on a case-by-case basis, and not all requests will be approved.

Can I appeal a denied EAD application?

If your EAD application is denied, you can file a motion to reopen or reconsider the decision with USCIS. This process involves submitting a Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion, along with the required filing fee and any additional evidence or documentation supporting your case.

How does the EAD affect my spouse and dependents?

The EAD itself does not confer any benefits or work authorization to your spouse or dependents. However, if your spouse and dependents are in the United States under specific non-immigrant visa categories, they may be eligible to apply for their own EADs, depending on their immigration status.

Can I start my own business with an EAD?

In most cases, an EAD allows you to start your own business in the United States. However, it is essential to ensure that your business activities are consistent with your EAD eligibility category and that you comply with all applicable federal, state, and local regulations.

What happens if I lose my job while on an EAD?

If you lose your job while on an EAD, your work authorization remains valid until the expiration date on your EAD card. You can search for a new job and continue working without any additional authorization, as long as the new job aligns with your EAD eligibility category. However, if your EAD is tied to a specific employer (e.g., based on an H-1B or L-1 visa), you must obtain a new EAD or change your immigration status before starting a new job.

How can I check the status of my EAD application?

To check the status of your EAD application, you can visit the USCIS Case Status Online portal. Enter your receipt number, which can be found on your Form I-797, Notice of Action, and click “Check Status” to view the current status of your application.