U.S. Work Permits (EADs)A work permit, also known as an Employment Authorization Document or EAD, is an official document issued by the U.S. government allowing immigrants to work in the United States.

It’s not necessary to be a permanent resident to obtain a work permit; however, individuals must possess an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa that permits both residency and employment in the U.S. Additionally, DACA recipients are eligible to apply for work permits.

The application fee for a work permit typically ranges from $410 to $495, with processing times varying between 2 to 7 months. The cost and duration of processing can differ based on the applicant’s circumstances and their place of residence.

Some applicants may qualify for fee waivers. This blog post provides an overview of U.S. work permits and their application process.

What is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)?

Immigrants residing in the United States and foreign nationals aiming to enter the country cannot engage in employment without explicit permission from the U.S. government.

This authorization is granted in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), commonly known as a work permit or employment authorization card. EADs are official photo identification cards issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) resembling a driver’s license.

What Is the Difference Between a Work Permit and a Work Visa?

Distinguishing between work permits and work visas can be confusing. A work visa allows residency and employment in the U.S. with a specific employer. The employer sponsors the visa, and it remains valid only as long as the individual works for that particular employer. Transitioning to another employer necessitates acquiring a different immigration status.

On the contrary, work permits or employment authorization cards are not employer-specific. Once obtained, a work permit enables employment with any U.S. employer, given the individual maintains a valid immigration status. Renewal of the permit is possible, and the duration of validity varies based on the individual’s immigration status. Renewal timelines differ; for instance, asylum employment authorization cards since May 2022 are valid for 540 days (about 1.5 years).

What Happens if You Work Without a Work Permit?

Working in the U.S. without an Employment Authorization Document poses severe risks. Unauthorized employment can lead to deportation, a 3–10 year entry ban, and substantial difficulties in obtaining temporary or permanent immigration status in the future. Even engaging in short-term or unregistered employment could result in serious immigration consequences.

U.S. employers must verify an individual’s legal authorization to work before hiring. Possessing a work permit allows individuals to demonstrate lawful employment eligibility to prospective employers. It’s imperative not to engage in work in the United States without a valid work permit.

The application process for a work permit is relatively straightforward. Simultaneously applying for a green card allows for a fee waiver.

Who Is Eligible for a Work Permit?

Numerous immigrants are eligible to seek a work permit through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS outlines specific eligibility criteria for individuals seeking employment in the U.S. Some eligible groups include:

  • DACA recipients
  • Holders of K-1 Fiance Visas
  • Asylees
  • Individuals with pending green card applications (adjustment of status)
  • Immigrants with exceptional abilities
  • Spouses of certain visa holders
  • Holders of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)
  • Certain exchange visitors
  • Approved temporary workers
  • F-1 students undergoing financial hardship seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Detailed information regarding immigration statuses allowing work authorization with an employment authorization card can be found in the Form I-765 instructions on the USCIS.gov website.

Who Isn’t Eligible for a Work Permit?

Eligibility for a work permit is contingent upon possessing or qualifying for an immigration status allowing work authorization. Individuals not meeting these criteria are ineligible for a work permit. Tourists (B-1 visa holders) and undocumented immigrants lack eligibility unless they acquire humanitarian status such as asylum while in the U.S.

USCIS does not issue work permits to these individuals, and U.S. employers are prohibited from hiring them.

Individuals who are B-1 Visa Holders or undocumented immigrants seeking employment in the U.S. are advised to consult a lawyer before engaging in work activities. Exploring potential eligibility for a status that allows obtaining a work permit is essential, as working without authorization may hinder future eligibility for such status.

Who Can Work Without Applying for a Work Permit?

Certain categories of individuals do not require a separate work permit:

  • Green card holders (lawful permanent residents) are authorized to work in the U.S. for the duration of their valid green card. Proof of this authorization can be provided to employers by displaying the green card.
  • U.S. citizens do not need a work permit. Instead, they can demonstrate their right to work by presenting their U.S. passport or naturalization certificate.
  • Holders of employment visas such as the H-1B Visa, L-1 Visa, E-3 Visa, and E Treaty Trader or Treaty Investor visas do not need a separate work permit to engage in employment in the U.S.


How To Apply for a Work Permit

Step 1: Apply for an Immigration Status That Allows You To Work

To obtain a work permit, it’s essential to possess an immigration status permitting work in the U.S. Various statuses, from refugees and asylum seekers to students and K-1 fiancé(e) visa holders, allow eligibility for a work permit.

Step 2: Prepare Form I-765

Form I-765, the Application for Employment Authorization, is the primary document needed to apply for a work permit. It involves providing personal and eligibility-related information. Specific questions, such as detailing the most recent entry into the U.S. and selecting the appropriate eligibility code, may require attention.

Step 3: Prepare Your Supporting Documents

Six supporting documents need submission along with Form I-765:

  • Copy of passport photo page
  • Copy of current U.S. visa (if applicable)
  • Copy of Form I-94 travel record or electronic I-94
  • Copies of previous work permits
  • Recent passport-style photos
  • Receipt notice from the U.S. government (if applicable)

Additionally, first-time work permit applicants must provide specific identification documents.

Step 4: Pay the Filing Fee

USCIS charges a processing fee, typically $410 for most I-765 forms. Some applicants, like those adjusting status to a green card or initial asylum work permit applicants, may qualify for fee waivers. Payment methods include money order, check, or credit/debit card with Form G-1450.

Step 5: Submit Your Work Permit Application

Complete Form I-765, gather supporting documents, pay the fee, and submit the application to USCIS. A cover letter specifying the contents is advisable. Most categories require mailing the application, and the correct submission address depends on various factors detailed on the USCIS website.

How Long does it take to Get a Work Permit?

Upon submitting the application to USCIS, processing generally takes 2–7 months. Some categories may have expedited processing.

USCIS issues a receipt notice within 2-3 weeks of filing, allowing applicants to track their application status online using the provided receipt number.

What Happens After  Getting the Work Permit?

Upon receiving a work permit, individuals who have never worked in the U.S. before must acquire a Social Security number (SSN) to work legally. Form I-765 allows applicants to apply for an SSN concurrently with their work permit application.

This option can be selected on the form itself. When commencing work, the employer will request completion of Form I-9 and verification of work eligibility, where the work permit and SSN serve as valid proof. Having a Social Security number and work permit protects against discrimination based on immigration status.

However, employment in the U.S. subjects individuals to payroll and income taxes, akin to other workers. Failure to pay these taxes can significantly impact future U.S. citizenship prospects.

Process of Switching or Renewing the Work Permit?

Immigrants in different circumstances often seek to switch or renew their work permits. Switching to a different immigration status that permits work requires submitting a new Form I-765.

For instance, someone on Optional Practical Training (OPT) marrying a U.S. citizen might apply for a work permit alongside their marriage green card application, even if the current permit is valid.

Renewing a work permit is crucial to avoid employment gaps and can usually be done up to 180 days before expiration. It’s advisable to initiate renewal well in advance, considering USCIS processing times, especially for statuses like asylum.

What to Do if USCIS Denies Your Work Permit Application?

USCIS may reject a work permit application due to various reasons, such as application errors or ineligibility for work authorization.

Mistakes on Form I-765, insufficient supporting documents, or applying without the required immigration status can lead to rejection. If USCIS denies an application, seeking legal advice or consulting an immigration attorney is recommended.

Although reapplication might be possible, doing so after rejection can be challenging. Legal guidance can increase the chances of approval upon reapplication and facilitate starting work legally in the U.S.

Summing Up!

The U.S. Work Permits (EADs) are vital for immigrants seeking lawful employment. Obtaining an Employment Authorization Document opens doors to job opportunities, but it’s crucial to adhere to eligibility criteria and follow the application process diligently.

A work permit, coupled with a Social Security number, safeguards against discrimination and allows lawful work in the U.S. Compliance with tax obligations is essential. Properly applying, renewing, and addressing rejections with legal guidance ensures a smooth path to authorized employment in the United States.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of EAD?

An EAD grants legal authorization to work in the U.S., although it offers fewer privileges compared to a green card. It displays an expiration date, typically one year from the issuance date, and can be renewed.

Individuals with a valid Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766 or Form I-688B) can obtain a Social Security number.

How many days does it take to get a work permit in the USA?

Obtaining a US I-765 work permit typically takes around 150 to 200 days. Previously, the processing time for I-765 was approximately 90 days. However, due to increased applications leading to backlogs, there is now a delay.

Applicants currently experience a wait time of 5 to 7 months as the standard processing time for I-765 has extended.

What is the easiest way to get a work permit in the USA?

To secure a work permit (EAD), applicants need to file an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765), adhere to the provided instructions, and pay the requisite filing fee.

Depending on the immigration category, the EAD work permit’s validity can range from 1 to 2 years.

What are the conditions for EAD?

Requirements for an Employment Authorization Document:

Application for adjustment of status to a permanent resident.

Spouse of an E1 treaty trader, E2 treaty investor, or L1 intra-company transferee.

Spouse or child of a J1 exchange visitor.

How much is the USA work permit?

Applying for a work permit costs between $410 and $495.

The processing time varies from 2 to 7 months, contingent upon the reason for application and geographical location. Some applicants might be exempt from paying the application fee.

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