How to Obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

employment authorization document

If you are not a US citizen and you want to work in the US, you need to get a special document called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or a work permit. The EAD is issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and it allows you to work legally for a limited time. The EAD card also proves your identity and your right to work in the US. Furthermore, getting an EAD is very important for your career and your financial well-being.

Why is an Employment Authorization Document Necessary?

U.S. employers must check to make sure all employees, regardless of citizenship or national origin, are authorized to work in the United States. Having an EAD is one way to prove that a noncitizen is authorized to work in the United States for a specific period.

Who is Eligible for an Employment Authorization Document?

If you are a non-citizen who qualifies, you can fill out Form I-765 and mail it to your local USCIS office to apply for an EAD. You can work with an EAD while you wait for your green card application to be processed.

You need to apply for an EAD if you:

  • Can work in the U.S. because of your immigration status or situation (for example, you are an asylee, refugee, or U nonimmigrant) and need proof of that.
  • Need to ask for permission to work; in other words, you need to get employment authorization itself.
  • Have a pending Form I-485 to become a permanent resident or adjust your status.

There is no need to apply for an EAD if you are a lawful permanent resident.

How to Apply for an Employment Authorization Document

Here are the steps to apply for an EAD:

  1. Check if you are eligible: To be eligible to get an EAD, you must fulfill certain criteria. The requirements and criteria are available on the USCIS website.
  2. File Form I-765: Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, is the main form for the EAD. It is available on the USCIS website, and you must download it to start filling it out
  3. Attach supporting documents: You must attach supporting documents to prove that you are eligible for the EAD. 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.
  1. Attach the fee receipts: You must attach proof of payment to the application. USCIS will not process your EAD if you do not prove you have paid their fees for filing and biometrics
  2. Apply: Once you have completed the application and attached all the required documents, you can submit your application to USCIS.
  3. Wait for approval: If USCIS approves your request, they may send your EAD in the mail. Otherwise, if they deny your EAD, you will get a notice telling you the reasons why you were not an eligible candidate

Note: If you have filed an adjustment of status or immigration application (Form I-485), you can apply for an EAD. An EAD authorizes you to work for any employer in any position anywhere in the United States. No employer may reject you purely because you apply with an EAD. 

Categories of Eligibility for Employment Authorization Documents

The following are some of the categories of eligibility for EADs:

  • Asylum seekers: Asylum seekers who have filed Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, are eligible to apply for an EAD after 150 days from the date of filing their application.
  • Students: F-1 students who are attending a full-time degree program at a U.S. school are eligible to apply for an EAD after completing 12 months of study.
  • Spouses of H-1B visa holders: Spouses of H-1B visa holders are eligible to apply for an EAD if they are not already authorized to work in the United States.
  • Certain other categories: There are several other categories of eligibility for EADs, including refugees, parolees, and victims of human trafficking.

Differences Between Employment Authorization Documents Based on Category

The main differences between EADs based on category are the length of validity, the requirements for applying, and the restrictions on employment.

  • Length of validity: The validity period of an EAD depends on the category of the individual who receives it. For instance, asylum seekers usually get an EAD that lasts for one year, while spouses of H-1B visa holders usually get an EAD that lasts for two years.
  • Requirements for applying: Depending on the category of eligibility, the requirements for applying for an EAD may differ. For instance, asylum seekers need to file Form I-589, while students need to be in a full-time degree program.
  • Restrictions on employment: Different categories of eligibility may have different employment restrictions. For instance, only some employers can hire asylum seekers, but spouses of H-1B visa holders can work for anyone.

Related: What are the requirements for a Green Card?

Employment Authorization Document Renewal and Extension

When to Renew or Extend an Employment Authorization Documents

To avoid losing your work authorization, you need to renew or extend your EAD before it expires. You can find the expiration date on the front of your EAD card. For renewals, you should apply at least 60 days before the expiration date. For extensions, you should apply at least 180 days before the expiration date.

Renewal or Extension Process

To renew or extend your EAD, you must follow the same steps as when you applied for it. These are:

  • Fill out Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
  • Attach copies of your current EAD, your passport, and your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record.
  • Submit your application and pay the fee.

How to Replace Employment Authorization Document

If you need to replace your EAD, follow these steps:

  • Check if you are eligible for a new EAD.
  • If you are a student, get a new I-20 from the Office of Global Services.
  • Fill out a new Form I-765 and submit it online or by mail. You also need to pay the required fee and attach the necessary documents.
  • Write a letter explaining why you need a replacement EAD. If your lost your EAD or someone stole it, include a copy of the police report.

Common Reasons for Employment Authorization Document Denial

There are several reasons why an EAD application may be denied. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • You are not eligible for the type of EAD you are applying for.
  • You have not provided all of the required documentation.
  • There is a mistake on your application.
  • You have a criminal record.
  • You have a pending immigration case.

If your EAD application is denied, you will receive a letter from USCIS explaining the reason for the denial. You may be able to appeal the denial.

Advantages of Having an Employment Authorization Document

  • An EAD allows non-citizens to work legally in the United States.
  • It can provide more security in the work they are doing, even if it is in the service sector.
  • It can better expose non-citizens to working environments before they receive their green cards.
  • It is easier and less expensive to obtain than other employment authorization options like H-1B

Limitations and Restrictions of Employment Authorization Documents

  • EADs are not valid indefinitely and the USCIC issues it to be valid for short periods like a year at a time.
  • EADs do not give someone the right to enter the U.S.
  • The authority does not give EADs to someone without a visa or other qualifying document authorizing them to be in the U.S.
  • EADs are not stand-alone documents on their own and you must tie them to an underlying status, to which the authority will issue EADs.
  • If the underlying status ends, the right to work in the U.S. also comes to an end. 

Comparison with Other Employment Authorization Options

  • EADs are available to non-resident immigrants living in America, while H-1B visas are issued for highly skilled technical workers.
  • EADs are easier and less expensive to obtain than H-1B visas. 
  • H-4 EADs are more flexible compared to H-1B visas, especially when taking a leave of absence or gaps in employment. 
  • Green card holders possess more advantages than EAD holders, such as traveling freely in and out of the country.

Final Thoughts – Employment Authorization Document

If you are not a citizen but want to work in the US, you may need an EAD. This is a document that permits you to work. But getting an EAD is not easy. You have to fill out forms and follow the rules. Sometimes you may need help from a lawyer or an expert. You also have to keep up with the immigration news. The rules for EADs can change anytime.

Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Attorney About How to Get Employment Authorization Documents?

If you require assistance from an immigration lawyer, our services are available to support you. To arrange a consultation with a skilled and well-informed immigration attorney who can provide answers to your inquiries and offer the necessary legal guidance, please contact our office at 914-481-8822.

Posted byCynthia Ude


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