EAD: Employment Authorization Card

An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is given to immigrants who are legally eligible to work in the United States while in the country. Some of those immigrants are granted permission to work upon entry but still need the EAD to prove it.

The EAD is also known as a work permit or employment authorization card. If you are planning to enter the United States to pursue a specific job, you’ll need to get an EAD beforehand. Here, we go over the most common questions about how an EAD works.

employee presentation in office conference room
An employee presentation in an office conference room. With an EAD, you are authorized to live and work in the United States.

How to Apply for an Employment Authorization Card

In order to get an EAD, you must first find out if you qualify. There are several categories under which an immigrant can qualify for a work permit. Those categories are set forth in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations and include:

  • Asylee/Refugee
  • Spouses and children of asylees/refugees
  • Foreign students or nationals
  • Eligible dependents of employees of diplomatic missions, international organizations, or NATO
  • Employment-based nonimmigrants
  • Adjustment-of-status seekers
  • DACA recipients

Once you qualify, you will need to submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization to USCIS. When you submit your application for an EAD to the USCIS, they will examine the evidence you provide and decide whether you fit the criteria. FileRight helps you save money and hassle with our free EAD eligibility quiz.

The USCIS is notoriously slow when it comes to processing applications. Most processing offices will try to complete your application within 5 months, but some can take more than a year. Since filing an application costs money and can take a long time before approval, it’s best to use a service like FileRight to ensure that your application is correct.

Other People Who Qualify for an EAD

Speak with team members at FileRight if you are unsure whether you qualify for an EAD. The list is not limited to those listed above. In fact, other situations in which non-immigrants might qualify for an EAD include:

  • Personal or domestic servants of a nonimmigrant employer
  • Domestic servants of a U.S. citizen
  • Workers for a foreign airline
  • K-1 fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens
  • K-2 dependents
  • K-3 husbands or wives of U.S. citizens
  • K-4 dependents
  • V-1, V-2 or V-3 visa holders
  • People in the following nonimmigrant categories: N-8, N-9, T-1, T-2, T-3, T-4, U-1, U-2, U-3, U-4 or U-5

Alternatively, you might fall into separate categories. People with pending applications for a green card may qualify. 

Who Else Qualifies for an EAD?

Other qualified applicants for an EAD include those who were given paroled immigration status because of the public interest, people with a final order of deportation who have dependents in the U.S. who rely on them for support, and folks that fall into these categories:

  • Violence Against Women Act self-petitioners
  • Nation-based status: Citizens of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau. (These people don’t have to pay a filing fee to renew their EAD with Form I-765.)
  • Foreign students
  • Program members: LIFE legalization applicants. (People who are already members of the Family Unity or LIFE Family Unity Program already have EADs and don’t need to file Form I-765.)

What’s the Difference Between a Green Card and an EAD?

There are several differences between a green card and an EAD. A green card, or legal permanent resident card, proves that you are legally allowed to live and work in the United States. If you have a green card, you do not need an EAD.

Green cards can also be used to reenter the United States after traveling internationally.

An EAD only proves you are eligible to work within the United States. It cannot be used to reenter the United States after traveling abroad. In other words, an EAD allows you to come to the country to work for a specific employer for a specific period of time.

While green cards are usually valid for a decade, EADs have built-in deadlines that are unique to each holder. Your work in the U.S. may only be for a few months, or for a couple years, and your EAD will expire at the end of that period.

What Happens When Green Cards or EADs Expire?

The effect of expiration is also crucially different when discussing green cards and EADs. While you are required to have a valid green card as a legal permanent resident, its expiry does not affect your status. You may simply incur a fine or a misdemeanor criminal charge.

If your EAD expires, it typically means you are no longer legally allowed to work in the United States. Your status also expires, so you will need to leave the country or seek an adjustment of status. Overstaying your EAD could mean:

  • Barred from entering the U.S. for a period of up to 10 years
  • Restrictions on future visas
  • Barred from getting future visas from nearby consulates

In short, you could be removed from the United States and only seek additional EADs or work visas within your country of origin rather than from a more convenient consulate.

How to Check the Status of My Employment Authorization Application

After you have completed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, you will receive a receipt number from the USCIS. This document will let you know the USCIS has received your application and has accepted it for processing.

 The first three characters of the receipt number will be letters. Those letters will be followed by a series of numbers. Here’s an example: MSC-012-345-6789.

Once you have the receipt number you will need to visit the USCIS’ website case status page. Once there, you will enter your receipt number into the space provided and the status of your application will appear.

How Long Is an EAD Valid?

Employment authorization documents have an expiration date. They will typically be valid for one year or two depending on how long you are legally authorized to stay in the United States. Applying for another immigrant benefit may also affect the expiration date of your EAD.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows you to apply for an extension of your work visa if you still qualify as eligible for an EAD. However, you are discouraged from applying for EAD renewal more than 180 days before your current employment authorization card expires. 

If your EAD expires, you will be unable to work in the United States while your new request for an employment authorization document is pending.

Do You Need a Sponsor for an EAD?

In terms of immigration a sponsor typically means someone who will be financially responsible for an immigrant if they get in financial trouble. In the case of EAD’s, people often wonder if they need an employer to sponsor them. Employer sponsorships are not required as part of the process to obtain an EAD.

Do You Need a Certain Job to Get a Work Visa?

Not necessarily. An EAD allows you to work for any United States employer, typically without restriction. However, this can be different in certain circumstances. For example, your situation might require you to work for an employer enrolled in the government’s E-Verify program.  This program allows employers to make sure their workers are allowed to work in the U.S.

Apply On Time to Renew

You can apply to renew your work permit up to 120 days before the original EAD expires.

Beginning January 17, 2017, if you still work in the approved job category and you apply to renew in that category before the EAD expires, then you can keep working for up to 180 days after the expiration date on the EAD.

For the next 180 days, you can show that you have permission to work by presenting your EAD along with the Form I-797C, Notice of Action from USCIS that shows you applied on time to renew.

Applying for an EAD With FileRight

The requirements for a work permit can be confusing, but there’s no need to worry. FileRight will walk you through every step of completing and submitting your employment authorization paperwork. Start off by taking a free quiz to verify that you are eligible before purchasing a filing package. You may also check if you qualify for deferred action for childhood arrivals.

FileRight’s online software will ask a series of questions with clear explanations in English or Spanish. If you need further help, phone support is available at any time. When you’re done, the program will check that you completed every item and that your answers are consistent before producing a properly formatted, official USCIS document. The program provides extensive filing directions, so you’ll know precisely what forms and fees you need to send and where to address them.

FileRight’s safe and secure service will keep you from getting lost in the employment authorization process. Avoid delays and frustration when dealing with immigration authorities by seeking help from experts who are on your side.

How FileRight Helps People Filing for an EAD

Other than our eligibility quiz to help you decide if an EAD is what you need, we also provide a range of services to people seeking employment authorization. Cut down on unnecessary paperwork by getting a FileRight pack with all the specific forms you’ll need to apply for an EAD.

Plus, our instant error reporting software allows you to spot and correct potential mistakes before you send in your application. You don’t want to wait for months only to have the USCIS say you filed something incorrectly! Let FileRight help you put your best foot forward.

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