What is the Employment Authorization Document (EAD)?

Commonly known as a work permit, an EAD allows certain visa holders to legally work in the United States. While some visas are employment-based (called employment visas), other visas only permit a visa holder to live or study in the United States. This latter group of visa holders must obtain approval to work in the United States separately from their visa.

Who is Required to get an EAD in Order to Work?

Individuals who hold a visa that does not independently allow them to work in the United States are eligible for an EAD and are required in order to work in the United States. Also, individuals who are waiting to be issued a Green Card can apply for an EAD.

Family-Based Visas

Individuals who are in the United States on a family-based visa need to apply for an EAD in order to work. Family-based visas are available to individuals who are a spouse, fiance, parent, or child under the age of 21 of a primary visa holder. Some examples of family-based visas include:

  • The F-2 visa (family members of a F-2 student visa holder);
  • The L-2 visa (family members of a L-1A or L-1B visa holder);
  • The H-4 visa (family members of H-1, H-2, or H-3 visa holders);
  • The J-2 visa (family members of J-1 visa holders);
  • The TD visa (family members of TN visa holders);
  • The K-3 visa and K-4 visas (family members of a U.S. citizen)
  • The O-3 visa (family members of O-1A, O-1B, and O-2 visa holders).

Student Visas

Individuals who are in the United States on a student visa need to apply for an EAD in order to work. Student visas include the J-1 visa (approved exchange program) and the F-1 visa (full-time students at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or language training program).

Other Visas

Individuals who are in the United States on other non-employment visas need to apply for an EAD in order to work. Such visas include visas for asylees and refugees, victims of human trafficking, victims of crime, and victims of abuse.

Green Card Applicants

Individuals who are applying for a Green Card, which permits a Green Card holder to live permanently in the United States, need an EAD in order to work in the United States while they wait for their Green Card to be approved.

Who is Not Required to get an EAD in Order to Work?

Individuals who are in the United States on an employment-based visa are not required to apply for an EAD. Moreover, individuals who have a Green Card as lawful permanent residents in the United States do not need an EAD. Examples of employment-based visas include the H-1B visa, EB visas, L-1B, O, and P visas.

How to Apply for an EAD?

In order to receive an EAD, a visa holder must apply with the United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) by submitting Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. This form can be filed online or through the mail.

When to File

Form I-765 can be filed anytime after receiving a visa that requires an EAD and while the visa is valid. Individuals who are applying for a Green Card for lawful permanent residence can submit Form I-765 when they submit Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. When Form I-765 is submitted with Form I-485, the applicant must include two passport-sized photos; however, no separate fee is required for an EAD application when it is submitted with the Green Card application.

An individual applying for a Green Card may also submit Form I-765 after applying for a Green Card. To do so, the individual must submit with Form I-765 a copy of the USCIS notice showing the Green Card application and filing fee was received.

Required Documentation

The following documentation is required when filing Form I-765:

  • Birth certificate;
  • Photo identification;
  • Documentation proving national identity;
  • Copy of any foreign country visa;
  • Copy of U.S. visa;
  • Copy of passport biometrics page;
  • Copy of any previous work permits;
  • Two passport-style photos that conform to the U.S. Department of State photo requirements;
  • Copy of I-94 travel record;
  • For Green Card applicants:
    • Copy of notice of receipt of Form I-485 from USCIS;

Other Potential Requirements

After filing Form I-765, an individual may be required to attend a Biometrics Services Appointment with the USCIS.

At the Biometrics Services Appointment, the EAD applicant may be subject to an interview or required to provide his or her fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature in order to verify the applicant’s identity, obtain additional information, and conduct a background and security check.

Separately, an EAD applicant may be required to attend an interview with the USCIS. Like the Biometrics Services Appointment, a notice will be sent in the mail informing the applicant whether an interview is required.

How Long Does it Take for an EAD to be Approved?

Typically, it takes around 6 months for an EAD application to be processed and approved.

How Long is an EAD Valid?

Most EAD’s are valid for only one year. Thus, an EAD must be renewed to continue working in the United States after one year has passed. However, a select few individuals may qualify for EAD’s that are valid for two years. Typically, only individuals who are adjusting their status qualify for a two-year long EAD.

Renewing an EAD

An EAD can be renewed by filing Form I-765 again. An EAD holder should wait until there are at most 180 days from the EAD’s expiration date to file Form I-765. Individuals who seek to renew an EAD do not have to resubmit their birth certificate and photo identification with Form I-765, nor do they have to submit documentation proving national identity and a copy of any foreign country visa.

Individuals who have an EAD while waiting for their Green Card to be approved should seek renewal of their EAD if their Green Card may not be approved before the expiration date. If the Green Card is not approved by the EAD expiration date and renewal isn’t sought, then the individual will lose their authorization to work until the Green Card is approved.

After the EAD is Approved

After an individual receives his or her EAD, they must apply for a social security number with the Social Security Administration (SSA) at the local office in order to begin working. When applying for a social security number, the EAD-holder may need to present the SSA officer their visa (passport) and EAD.

Alternatively, the EAD applicant should be able to apply for a social security number directly on Form I-765. By applying for a social security number through Form I-765, the EAD applicant should not be required to visit their local SSA office.

How Much Does it Cost to get an EAD?

It costs $410 to file Form I-765 and $85 for the Biometrics Services Appointment. Payment must be submitted with the forms in order for the forms to be accepted, processed, and for the application to be approved.