Form I-766, or the Employment Authorization Document, is an identification card issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to certain immigrants who are authorized to work in the United States. It is a form of proof of employment authorization and identity. You may be wondering what the difference between Form I-766 and I-765 is. In this complete guide, we’ll go over that and much more so that you can be well on your way to working in the United States with the proper documentation!

New Update 10/27/23: Select Renewal Applications for Employment Authorization to Receive Automatic Extension 

What is Form I-765?

Form I-765 is the actual employment authorization document. It is the certificate that proves you’re eligible for employment, while the I-766 is the actual card that can also be used to prove work eligibility. Many people favor the actual card (Form I-766) because it can easily fit in a wallet versus a certificate document (Form I-765). So if you need to apply for an employment authorization document you would file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

Who is Eligible for Form I-766

Can anyone get a work permit? Not quite. The following foreign nationals are considered eligible for work authorization:

  • K-1 visa holders
  • Spouses of E1, E2 and H1-B visa holders
  • F-1 visa holders
  • M-1 visa holders
  • L-2 visa holders
  • Refugees
  • Individuals eligible for DACA
  • Applicants for green cards who have applied for an Adjustment of Status or are waiting for adjudication on their case
  • Individuals with U nonimmigrant status
  • Citizens of Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands

It’s worth reiterating that just because you are eligible does not guarantee that you will be granted an EAD. You must still submit a completed application and be approved by USCIS. We highly recommend working alongside a qualified immigration attorney to ensure the best chances of approval. Even the most minor mistake can cost timely delays, additional fees, and possibly denial.

Tip: If you are a lawful permanent resident, you don’t need to apply for an EAD since your Green Card is evidence of employment authorization. 

Important Rule Automatically Extends Expiring EADs for Certain Renewal Applicants

A temporary rule published on May 4, 2022 and effective until October 15, 2025 increases the automatic extension period for application renewal applicants who have filed Form I-765 from 180 days to 540 days from the date on written on their EAD.

This increase will be available to eligible renewal applicants with pending Forms I-765 as of May 4, 2022, including those applicants whose employment authorization may have lapsed following the initial 180-day extension period, and any eligible applicant who files a renewal Form I-765 during the 540-day period beginning on or after May 4, 2022, and ending October 26, 2023. I

How to Apply for Form I-766

You can apply for Form I-766 by submitting Form I-765. If you are working alongside an attorney you’ll also need to submit Form G-28.

The following documents are needed to apply for an employment authorization document:

  • Copy of U.S. visa
  • Two passport-style photographs
  • Copy of your travel record (I-94)
  • Copy of the page in your passport that shows your country of birth
  • If you have a marriage-based green card application a copy of that
  • Copy of your current EAD if you have one

The filing fee for Form I-766 is $410. If you are filing for one of the categories below, you must also pay the $85 biometric service fee:

  • (c)(35) Beneficiary of an approved employment-based immigrant petition facing compelling circumstances;
  • 9c)(36) Spouse or unmarried dependent child of a beneficiary of an employment-based immigrant petition facing compelling circumstances;
  •  (c)(37) Applicants of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands long-term resident status (not eligible for a fee waiver)
  • Requesting consideration of DACA

Note that there is also no fee waiver for (c)(33) filers as well as (c)(37) filers.

Processing Time for Form I-766

In some cases, the processing time can take fewer than six months, which makes it relatively faster in relation to the processing time of a Green Card application. If you receive a Request for Evidence, additional delays are likely to review the additional information and documents you send. Once you are approved, you will receive the EAD card in the mail, which is proof of your eligibility to work legally. If you are not approved, USCIS will inform you of the reason why.

Form I-766 Sample

form i 765 sample

Individuals Not Eligible for Form I-766

As previously mentioned, not everyone is eligible for an employment authorization document. Those that are not eligible for Form I-766 include:

  • Individuals on a visa for vacation/pleasure
  • B-2 visitors
  • Individuals in transit at a U.S. port-of-entry
  • Exchange
  • Students on F1 status who are looking to work on campus or take part in a paid curricular practical training
  • Temporary nonimmigrant employees who work for a sponsoring organization and are on H, I, L-1 or O-1 status

Renewing Your EAD

In order to renew your employment authorization card you will need to do the following:

  1. Check the Expiration Date: To determine when you should renew your EAD look at the expiration date on your current card. You are able to start the renewal process up to 180 days before the current EAD expires. Pro Tip – File for your renewal at least 120 days before the expiration date to prevent any gaps in employment authorization.
  2. File Form I-765: Complete this form by answering all questions accurately, then sign, and date it. It’s advised to have an immigration attorney assist you.
  3. Gather all necessary supporting documents including the previous EAD card, I-94 arrival/departure records, etc.
  4. Submit the required fee. Check with your attorney to know if you have to pay any other fees or qualify for a fee waiver. 
  5. Send your application with the fee to the address listed on the form. Always send these by certified mail with a return receipt request so you can ensure proper delivery.

The EAD (I-765) renewal application process can take between 2 and 16 months. This is largely dependent on your current status in the U.S. and the service center handling your case. Check out this Work Permit (EAD) Renewal: The Complete Guide to I-765 Renewal in 2023.

If you have a pending application for adjustment of status, you can file Form I-765 concurrently with your Form I-485 application.

how to renew your ead

Form I-766 Frequently Asked Questions 

Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions about this topic:

Does an EAD grant me the right to live in the United States?

No, it is not a visa, it is a document that gives you only the right to work in the U.S. legally. In order to apply for Form I-766 you need to have a valid visa.

What is the I-766 form?

Form I-766 is an i.d. card issued by USCIS which basically demonstrates you are authorized to work in the United States

Is Form I-766 a Green Card?

No, this is not a green card. You need to have a valid visa in order to apply for an employment authorization document.

Is I-766 the same as I-765?

They are similar but not exactly the same. Form I-765 is the actual employment authorization document (the certificate that proves you’re eligible for employment) while the I-766 is the actual card that can also be used to prove work eligibility.

Is Form I-766 a visa?

No, it is not a visa, it’s an employment authorization document.

What is the difference between I-766 and I-765?

The I-766 is the actual card (one that can fit easily in a wallet) and Form I-765 is the actual employment authorization certificate (larger document) that proves your eligibility.

Is I-766 a permanent resident card?

No, it is not a permanent resident card.

How do I get an I-766 document?

The steps are outlined in the steps above.

What is a U.S. employment authorization card?

An employment authorization card is issued by USCIS and proves an individual’s right to work legally in the country. This is not to be confused with a green card.

Is an employment authorization card the same as a green card?

No, these are not the same thing. An EAD or Employment Authorization Card is issued by USCIS and grants an individual to work legally in the United States for a specific period of time. It is typically issued to individuals who are not U.S. citizens but who are authorized to work in the United States for a specific period of time. A Green Card, also known as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document that proves that an individual is a lawful permanent resident of the United States. This means that they are authorized to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. A Green Card holder can also apply for U.S. citizenship after meeting certain eligibility requirements.

How do I get a U.S. employment authorization card?

You will need to file Form I-765.

Who issues the employment authorization card?

USCIS issued employment authorization documents.

Can I get a work authorization card?

This depends on a number of factors and is best determined by a qualified immigration attorney who can examine the specifics of your case. Schedule a consultation to find out if you qualify for a work authorization card today.

How much is a work authorization card?

The filing fee for Form I-766 is $410 but you may also need to pay an additional biometric service fee.