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Jan 18, 2023
Guide to the United States

U.S. Employment Authorization Document Guide

The EAD allows foreigners in the U.S. to work legally; those on non-work visas must apply for work authorization to be employed.

U.S. Employment Authorization Document Guide

If you are a foreigner in the U.S. on a visa that does not allow you to work, you will need to apply for work authorization before you can be employed. To do this, you must complete Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. This form requests an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the U.S. government.

The EAD is a document allowing foreigners to work in the U.S. legally for any employer in the country. It is not tied to a specific job or employer, and it allows the holder to work for as long as the EAD is valid.

Who Needs to file Form I-765 for work authorization?

You must submit Form I-765 to the U.S. government if you are a foreigner looking for permission to work in the U.S. or need a Social Security number. You shouldn't submit Form I-765 if you are a lawful permanent resident, green card holder, or are in the U.S. on a work visa because you already have permission to work there.

What documents do you need to apply for an EAD?

You can mail the I-765 Application for Employment Authorization to a USCIS service location or submit it online. To prove their identity and eligibility for work authorization, applicants for an EAD must either upload digital copies of their identification documents or mail in hard copies of those same documents.

Along with the appropriate government forms, an applicant for an EAD will also need to provide the following when submitting their application:
  • A copy of your Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record (front and back), a printout of your electronic Form I-94, your passport or other travel documents;
  • A copy of your last Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (if applicable);
  • Two identical passport-style photographs;
  • Passport or Government issued ID;
  • Evidence of your current immigration status, which makes you eligible to apply for the EAD.

How much does it cost?

The government filing fee for Form I-765 is currently $410. In addition, some applicants are required to pay an $85 fee for biometric services.

Some applicants are exempt from paying the filing fee. Applicants who are Refugees or Asylees applying for an EAD for the first time, victims of trafficking crimes, VAWA self-petitioners, or those filing their Form I-765 in connection with TPS and Adjustment of Status are exempt from paying the $410 fee. If biometrics are required, there is a biometrics services fee of $85. This fee cannot be waived.

What happens once the application has been submitted?

A receipt notice will be provided to you once USCIS has received your Form I-765. You can see from the receipt that USCIS has accepted your fee and received the required documentation. You'll soon get a message about biometric services. The time, date, and place of your appointment at an Application Support Center, or ASC, are specified in this notice. The biometric data you supply during this appointment enables the US government to verify your identity and conduct security and background checks on you.

You may also receive a notice to appear for an interview. However, this isn't required for everyone. Finally, you'll receive a notice of USCIS’s decision on your employment authorization. You or your case manager can check the status of your case with a USCIS online account. If your application is approved, USCIS will issue you an Employment Authorization Document, for I-766, or more commonly known as an EAD card or work permit.

I-765 Application Processing Time

In general, it takes USCIS from 120-210 days or about 4-7 months, to process most applications. In some cases, it can take longer.

How long is the EAD Valid?

The validity of an EAD depends on the applicant’s current immigration status. Most EADs are valid for 1 or 2 years.

How do I get a Social Security Number?

Applicants may also apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) using Form I-765. The Social Security Administration will issue you an SSN and send you your card shortly after you acquire your work permit if you select "yes" to both a question regarding your wish for an SSN and a request for disclosure, as well as by providing certain personal information about your parents.

If you did not request an SSN card on your I-765 application or didn’t receive your SSN by mail, you must visit an SSA office near you to apply for your SSN and card after you receive your EAD (Form I-766) card from USCIS.

When you visit an SSA office to apply for a Social Security card, you should carry the following original documents with you (they do not accept photocopies or notarized documents):
  • Your Form I-766 to prove your immigration status and that you can work in the U.S.
  • A government-issued photo ID showing your identity and age.

You should receive your SSN card approximately 2 weeks after you submit your application.

When should I renew my EAD?

To prevent any problems or delays in your capacity to work, we advise that you renew your EAD as soon as possible. You can submit an application for renewal as early as six months before your existing work permit expires.

You must submit a new Form I-765 and the necessary paperwork to renew your work permit. A copy of your most recent work permit and two passport-sized photos are also required. The processing time for work permit renewals can be 150 days or more.

The individuals in the following categories are eligible to request an EAD using Form I-765

  • Refugee – (a)(3)
  • Paroled as a Refugee – (a)(4)
  • Asylee (granted asylum) – (a)(5)
  • Granted Withholding of Deportation or Removal – (a)(10)
  • Pending Asylum and Withholding of Removal Applicants and Applicants for Pending Asylum under the ABC Settlement Agreement – (c)(8)

  • J-2 Spouse or Minor Child of an Exchange Visitor – (c)(5)
  • M-1 Student Seeking Post-Completion OPT After Completing Studies – (c)(6)

  • Dependent of A-1 or A-2 Foreign Government Officials – (c)(1)
  • Dependent of G-1, G-3, or G-4 Nonimmigrant – (c)(4)
  • Dependent of NATO-1 Through NATO-6 – (c)(7)

  • B-1 Nonimmigrant Who Is the Personal or Domestic Servant of a Nonimmigrant Employer – (c)(17)(i)
  • B-1 Nonimmigrant Domestic Servant of a U.S. Citizen – (c)(17)(ii)
  • B-1 Nonimmigrant Employed by a Foreign Airline – (c)(17)(iii)
  • Spouse of an E-1 Treaty Trader, E-2 Treaty Investor, or E-3 Specialty Occupation Professional from Australia – (a)(17)
  • Spouse of an L-1 Intracompany Transferee – (a)(18)
  • Spouse of an E-2 Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Investor – (c)(12)
  • Spouse of an H-1B Nonimmigrant – (c)(26)
  • Principal Beneficiary of an Approved Employment-Based Immigrant Petition Facing Compelling Circumstances – (c)(35)
  • Spouse or Unmarried Child of a Principal Beneficiary of an Approved Employment-Based Immigrant Petition – (c)(36)

  • K-1 Nonimmigrant Fiancé of U.S. Citizen or K-2 Dependent – (a)(6)
  • K-3 Nonimmigrant Spouse of U.S. Citizen or K-4 Dependent – (a)(9)
  • Family Unity Program – (a)(13)
  • LIFE Family Unity – (a)(14)
  • V-1, V-2, or V-3 Nonimmigrant – (a)(15)

  • Adjustment Applicant under Section 245 – (c)(9)
  • Registry Applicant Based on Continuous Residence Since January 1, 1972 – (c)(16)
  • Renewal EAD for National Interest Waiver Physicians

  • Legalization Temporary Resident Pursuant to INA Sections 245A or 210 – (a)(2)
  • N-8 or N-9 Nonimmigrant – (a)(7)
  • Applicant for Cancellation of Removal – (c)(10)
  • Applicant for Legalization Pursuant to INA Section 210 – (c)(20)
  • Applicant for Legalization Pursuant to INA Section 245A – (c)(22)
  • Parole – (c)(11)
  • Deferred Action – (c)(14)
  • Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – (c)(33)
  • Final Order of Deportation or Removal, including Deferral of Removal under the Convention Against Torture – (c)(18)
  • LIFE Legalization Applicant – (c)(24)
  • T-1 Nonimmigrant – (a)(16)
  • T-2, T-3, T-4, T-5, or T-6 Nonimmigrant – (c)(25)
  • T Nonimmigrant Adjustment of Status – (c)(9)
  • U-1 Nonimmigrant – (a)(19)
  • U-2, U-3, U-4, or U-5 – (a)(20)
  • U Nonimmigrant Adjustment of Status – (c)(9)
  • VAWA Self-Petitioners – (c)(31)
  • A-3 or G-5 Nonimmigrant – (c)(14)

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