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Applying for an Employment Authorization Document

If you are a foreign national in the United States you may be eligible to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to work legally depending on your immigration status. Find out more below.

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What is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)?

Foreign nationals who meet specific eligibility criteria can work in the United States by filling for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This work permit is available for qualifying visa holders and their dependents, asylum seekers and their dependents, international students, certain nationalities, and individuals awaiting their status adjustment.

Those granted a work permit will receive an employment authorization card issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This card will contain basic biographic information such as name, photo, birth date, the gender you identify as, immigrant category, country of birth, and immigrant registration number. This card is used to prove that the individual can legally work in the United States for the fixed amount of time stated on the EAD card.

people at work

Who needs an Employment Authorization Document?

A variety of foreign nationals are eligible for Employment Authorization Documents provided that their legal status in the United States allows them to apply. Lawful permanent residents do not need to apply for an EAD unless they are adjusting their status and in the United States at the time.

Those who are eligible to apply for an EAD include the following:

How to apply for an EAD?

Those who are eligible to apply for a work permit can obtain their EAD by following these basic steps:

  1. File Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization)
  2. Gather supporting documents and attach them to the application
  3. Pay the filing fees
  4. Submit the application

Form I-765 can be downloaded from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website where it is regularly updated. You must have the latest version of the form before you send it off otherwise it could delay the processing time of your application.

After the form is completed, the applicant will be asked to attach documents to support their EAD application. The supporting documents that need to be attached to the I-765 Form will depend on the circumstance, eligibility criteria, and immigration status of the person applying for an EAD.

Before sending the application and supporting documents to the USCIS, the applicant will need to pay the fees for both the application and the collection of biometric information. The receipt of the filing fees should be included in the application package or the EAD will not be processed.

Once the application is put together along with the inclusion of any necessary filing fee, the applicant can then submit the package either by post or online via e-filing.

If sent by post, it’s important to make sure that the application package will be sent to the correct USCIS location assigned for that specific state and/or immigration category. Those who file online will still need to mail their supporting documents to a designated USCIS location. As always, make copies of the form, receipts, and documents submitted for safekeeping and future use in case of renewal.

What documents are needed for an EAD?

The specific documents that will need to be submitted with Form I-765 will depend on the individual’s circumstance, immigration category, and eligibility criteria. However, most EAD applications will require the following supporting documents:

  • A front and back copy of the applicant’s Form I-94 (Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Record) or a printout of their electronic Form I-94
  • Passport or another travel document
  • A copy of the last EAD (if applicable)
  • Two identical passport-style photographs
  • Form G-28 (if represented by an attorney or accredited representative)
  • A copy of a government-issued identity document (if the applicant was not previously issued an EAD)
  • A copy of the applicant’s U.S. visa (if applicable)
  • Copy of receipt notice from USCIS (if filing Form I-485)

Consult with an experienced immigration attorney or visit the USCIS website for more information on the specific documents you will need to include to support your EAD application.

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How much does an EAD cost?

The filing fee for an EAD is comprised of the following costs:

  • Employment Authorization Document processing fee: $410
  • Biometrics: $85

The filing fees can be paid online by debit or credit card. If filing for an EAD by post, the fees can be paid with a money order, personal check, or cashier’s check. You must pay the fees ahead of time as service centers are not able to process credit card payments. All checks must be payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. All fees are final and non-refundable.

coffee shop workers

Who is eligible for a fee waiver?

Applicants who are applying for the first EAD can have their EAD processing fee waived if they are one of the following:

  • A refugee
  • A person paroled as a refugee
  • An asylum-seeker in the United States
  • N-8 or N-9 nonimmigrant
  • A citizen of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, or Palau
  • A person granted Withholding of Deportation
  • A victim of a severe form of trafficking (T-1 Nonimmigrant)
  • A person applying under Temporary Protected Status if you are filing an initial TPS application and you are under 14 years of age or over 65 years of age
  • A victim of qualifying criminal activity (U-1 Nonimmigrant);
  • A dependent of a certain foreign government, international organization, or NATO personnel
  • An applicant for asylum and Withholding of Deportation and Removal (an applicant filing under the special ABC procedures must pay the filing fee)
  • Any current Adjustment of Status or Registry applicant who filed Form I-485 on or after July 30, 2007, and paid the appropriate Form I-485 filing fee
  • A Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioner

Applicants applying for a renewal EAD will not need to pay a filing fee if they are one of the following:

  • A citizen of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, or Palau
  • A person granted Withholding of Deportation
  • A dependent of a certain foreign government, international organization, or NATO personnel
  • Any current Adjustment of Status or Registry applicant who filed for adjustment of status on or after July 30, 2007, and paid the appropriate Form I-485 filing fee

Furthermore, biometric services fees must be paid if the applicant is one of the following:

  • An applicant with a pending asylum application requesting an initial or renewal EAD
  • A person requesting consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
  • A beneficiary of an approved employment-based immigrant petition who is facing compelling circumstances
  • A spouse or unmarried dependent child of a beneficiary of an employment-based immigrant petition who is facing compelling circumstances
  • An applicant for Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) long-term resident status

For the latest updates regarding filing fees and waivers for certain applicants, visit the USCIS’s Form I-765 webpage (a government agency website with the latest instructions and updates).

How long does it take to get an Employment Authorization Document?

Normally, Employment Authorization Documents are processed within 5-7 months. The amount of time it takes to process the application will depend on the USCIS service center and if they are experiencing any backlogs. For your application to be processed as quickly as possible, EAD applications must be filed accurately with all relevant supporting documentation.

If approved for an EAD, the applicant will be mailed an employment authorization card. Those who are denied will be given notice detailing the reasons why their Form I-765 was denied.

How long is the EAD valid?

An EAD is valid for 1 year. Those who are applying for an EAD as part of their adjustment of status will receive an EAD that is valid for up to 2 years.

Individuals who are residing in the United States for longer terms and working via a valid EAD will need to renew their work permit each and every year or be forced to take a vacation from any income-paying activities. Applicants can file for a renewal permit as early as 180 days before their current work permit expires. To apply for work permit renewal, applicants will simply need to re-file another Form I-765 along with a copy of their last EAD.

Can Employment Authorization be refused?

An EAD can be denied for a variety of reasons. In general, most work permit applications are denied due to Form I-765 being filled out incorrectly (ex. Failure to provide a necessary signature, omitted sections that are required, no USCIS receipt notice included, etc).

Another reason could be that the applicant is simply not eligible for the work permit based on their immigration status. Whatever the reason for an EAD being denied, the applicant will usually receive a letter stating the reason why the EAD application was refused.

Working in the United States

Part of working in the United States means obtaining a Social Security number (SSN) which you must have to legally work in the United States. Applying for a Social Security card or even replacing one can be done when you fill out Form I-765. On that form, you will find a section where you can request an SSN card if you don’t already have one.

After you start working, your employer is required to have you complete an I-9 form where you will need to show proof (work permit) that you are legally allowed to work in the United States. All working individuals in the U.S. must pay payroll and income taxes, regardless of nationality or immigration status. Failure to pay taxes can cause complications in any future application for United States citizenship.

Working in the United States without Employment Authorization

Working illegally in the United States without an authorized work permit can cause serious immigration problems for future applications. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will closely scrutinize any past infractions when processing future U.S. visas including green card applications.

Serious penalties for working illegally in the United States without a valid work permit include:

  • Deportation
  • Ineligibility to change or extend visa status
  • Inadmissibility Grounds for Future Entry
  • Ineligibility for Status Adjustment

For those interested in pursuing a future living in the United States, it is best to avoid any immigration infractions. Therefore, it is highly advised to apply for an employment authorization document as soon as you arrive in the United States if you are eligible to do so and not work without a valid work permit.

How can IAS help?

Over the years, our trusted immigration law firm has helped many people navigate the complicated world of the U.S. immigration system. Whether it be a green card application or tourist visa, we are here to help take the stress out of the application process. Our lawyers are highly trained in all areas of U.S. immigration law and can provide you with an attorney-client relationship you can trust.

Our services are tailored to your individual immigration needs, ensuring that you receive the highest standard of assistance for your issue. The services we offer include:

  • Advice sessions
  • Application assistance
  • Document and application checks
  • Fast-track application services
  • Appeal assistance

Get in touch with us today at +1 844 290 6312 to find out how we can best help you. We are here to help you online, over the phone, or in person.

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