Foreign nationals are required to have authorization to work in the U.S. Some nonimmigrant visas, such as the H-1B or L-1, are authorization within themselves. However, others do not automatically allow you to be employed. Working without a work permit is a violation of labor law, which may result in punitive action for such employees and the organization they work for.
To legally obtain or remain in employment in the United States, you will need to apply for and obtain a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). An EAD card is a license that proves your eligibility to apply for and accept a job offer in the U.S.
How to Apply for EAD Work Permit: A Step by Step Guide
File an I-765 Form
You will need to file an I-765 to apply for a work permit. The form is available on the USCIS website as a free download and has different sections containing several questions, most of which are self-explanatory. You will need to fill out the sections of the form that are applicable to your case.
Before submitting, you will be asked to provide relevant documents as supporting evidence. Your category status will determine the types of materials you’ll be required to provide. To avoid errors, try to first go through the instructions on how to fill out the form, which are also available on the website for free. Check the category status and be sure you understand the requirements before filling out the form.
Attach Supporting Evidence As Proof of Eligibility
Every EAD applicant must prove that they are qualified to work in the U.S. You will need to submit your I-765 with copies of documents that prove you’re an eligible applicant. Some of the general documents that must be submitted include:
- A copy of your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. This must be front and back
- A copy of a government-issued ID (e.g. passport). If you have been previously issued an EAD, you must submit a copy of your last EAD.
- Two identical passport photographs
- If you are represented by an accredited representative or an attorney, you will need to submit a G-28 form.
Apart from the above documents, the USCIS may also ask you for other items depending on your case. This EAD application checklist gives a breakdown of what is required of each applicant. Do not attach original documents with your I-765 unless you are specifically asked to do so by the USCIS.
Attach the Filing Fee
For your form to be processed by the USCIS, you must attach the required fee. Currently, the Employment Authorization filing fee is $410 while the biometrics fee is $85 – meaning you will pay a total of $495.
This fee can be paid using a money order, cashier’s check, personal check, or credit card. You are not allowed to pay with cash. If this is your initial application and you belong to any of the following categories, you are not required to pay the filing fee:
- Refugees; asylees or paroled refugee
- N-8 or N-9 nonimmigrant
- Citizen of Micronesia, Marshal Islands, or Palau
- Granted withholding or deportation
- T-1 Nonimmigrant
- U-1 Nonimmigrant
- VAWA self-petitioner
- Dependent of certain foreign governments, international organization, or NATO personnel
Other applicants not listed above may also be eligible to request for a fee waiver, especially those who are experiencing financial hardship.
Submit Your EAD Application
Before submitting the form, double check the requirements to be sure the form doesn’t have any errors, and all the required documents have been attached. You will also need to check the website for the right address to submit your form. The best way to ensure that the form has been completed correctly is to have an immigration attorney look at it.
Each category has a designated address if you are submitting by mail. You also have the option of submitting online with e-filing. Before submitting, ensure you make and keep a copy of each of the documents and checks as you may need them later.
Employment Authorization Documents What Processing Time
Applications for employment authorization usually take up to 90 days before a decision is made by the USCIS. When submitting your application, you will need to fill out and attach a G-114 E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance and attach it to the first page of your I-765.
This will enable you to receive updates on the processing status. The USCIS will send you a message to let you know that your application has been received. You will also get a notice of the date and time for your biometric screening, which is going to be at your local USCIS Application Support Center (ASC).
After the whole process, the USCIS will send you a notice telling you that your work permit application has been approved or denied. If your application is denied, you will be told the reasons for the denial. You can avoid a delay or denial by ensuring everything is in place with the initial form.
Also, don’t forget to append your signature in the form. The USCIS officials will not process any application without the applicant’s signature. If your application is approved, your employment authorization card (a plastic-laminated ID) will be sent to you via mail.
How Long Is an Employment Authorization Document Valid For?
The EAD validity period depends on each applicant’s eligibility category. This is because the USCIS is not going to issue you a work permit with a validity period longer than your visa stay. Generally, an EAD is issued with a one-year validity period and, depending on your status, you may be allowed to renew it for a certain number of times as permitted by your visa type. To continue working legally in the U.S., you must file a renewal of your EAD within 180 days of the expiration of the current one.
What if My EAD Card Has Errors?
Sometimes, employment authorization is issued with incorrect information on the card. This error may be from the applicant or from the USCIS officials. If you notice any incorrect info in your card, you can file to have it corrected.
For incorrect information that is attributed to USCIS error, you will need to submit:
- A letter explaining the error
- Supporting documents to prove the incorrect information was due to USCIS error
- The card containing the errors
For incorrect information that is not attributed to USCIS error, you will need to submit:
- A new I-765
- Supporting documents
- Pay another filing fee
- The card containing the errors
Non-Delivery of Employment Authorization Card
Usually, after the approval of your EAD application, the USCIS will generate and mail your card to you. However, there are times when applicants don’t receive their cards even after the case status online indicates that their cards have been mailed to them.
If non-delivery of card occurs, you will need to create an inquiry with the USCIS. You can do this by providing the United States Postal Service tracking number of the mail received and other necessary information on your application, such as the receipt number, A-Number, and the date you filed your EAD.
What If My Application for Employment Authorization Documents Is Delayed?
In the past, EAD applicants whose card adjudications were delayed beyond 90 days had the opportunity to request for and get an interim EAD, which allows them to continue working legally while waiting for the final decision on their application.
However, this was eliminated in 2017. Instead, the USCIS made the provisions for a lengthy period of 180 days to file for a card renewal before the expiration of the current one. This will give them ample time to process the application.
It is, therefore, an applicant’s responsibility to file for renewal as early as possible to avoid delay. Working without a valid EAD is termed unauthorized employment, which is illegal.
Employment Authorization Document Denial
If your application for your EAD is denied, you will receive a letter to that effect as well as the reason for the denial. You will have the option of filing a motion to reopen or to reconsider the proceeding. A motion to reopen the case must be based on a documentary of evidence of new facts, while a motion to reconsider must be based on an incorrect application of law or policy in the USCIS earlier decision.
For any of these options, you must have enough evidence to support your claim. You may also file combined motions to reopen and reconsider. You must, however, know that it is still within the right of the Administrative Appeals Office to uphold or reverse the earlier decision. This is why it is crucial to carefully avoid any error that may lead to denial when applying for your EAD.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Without a work permit, getting or remaining in employment in the U.S. is legally impossible for nonimmigrants, and this may translate to a looming economic hardship for you and your dependents. A promptly and thoroughly filed I-756, with the help of a professional, will help you to avoid delay or denial in your application.
At Immi-USA, we have a team of immigration lawyers that are highly experienced in EAD processing. We have helped many of our clients file for and acquire their work permits without delay. For any issue concerning your EAD or any other immigration matter, you can book a consultation with one of our lawyers today by simply filling out this free contact form.