How to Apply for an Employment Authorization Card

Foreign nationals who are temporarily living in the U.S. can ask for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD or work permit) by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. An EAD would give you permission to work in the U.S. It is a laminated card that shows your photo, personal information, and visa status.

Before 2010, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) gave out different types of EADs. What type of EAD a person received depended on the reason why the temporary resident was allowed to work. Here are the types of EADs that the USCIS gave out before 2010:

  • Form I-688, Temporary Resident Card—This card was given to foreign nationals who had Lawful Temporary Resident status (LTR) in the U.S.
  • Form I-688A, Employment Authorization Card—This card was given to foreign nationals who had applied for LTR but hadn’t received that status yet.
  • Form I-688B, Employment Authorization Document—This card was given to nonimmigrants such as refugees, parolees, asylees and dependents of lawful permanent residents (green card holders).

Today, there is just one kind of EAD: Form I-766, Employment Authorization Document. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will no longer accept any version of a Form I-688 as proof of your identity. So Form I-766 is now the only EAD that you can show the Social Security Administration to apply for a social security number (SSN).

Step One: Determine Whether You Can Apply for an EAD

An EAD is not a green card; green cards are for permanent residents. Again, EADs are work permits for visitors who are temporarily in the U.S. The following people shouldn’t use Form I-765 to request an EAD:

  • Green card holders
  • Conditional green card holders
  • Nonimmigrants who already have permission to work for a specific employer

Temporary residents with one of the following USCIS immigration statuses can usually file Form I-765 to request an EAD:

  • Humanitarian status—This includes refugees, people paroled as refugees, asylees and people with a pending application for asylum. (Asylum applicants can’t apply for an EAD until at least 150 days have passed since they filed their asylum claim. They must include special documents with their application. Which documents they need to include depends on when they filed their asylum claim and whether they are in exclusion or deportation proceedings.)
  • Deferred status—This includes temporary residents with the following status:
  • Deferred Enforced Departure
  • Extended Voluntary Departure
  • Temporary Protected Status
  • Applying for Temporary Protected Status with Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status
  • Withholding of Deportation or Removal. (People who have this status don’t have to submit a filing fee to renew their EADs with Form I-765.)
  • Applying for Withholding of Deportation or Removal
  • People who file Form I-881, Application for Suspension of Deportation or Special Rule Cancellation of Removal, along with their EAD application
  • People in Deferred Action who can prove they need the money they’d get from working
  • People in Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals who can prove they need the money they’d get from working. They must include an $85 USD biometrics fee with their application and go to a meeting with the USCIS to have their biometrics (fingerprints, photo, and signature) taken.

Nonimmigrant status—This includes the following types of people:

  • 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

Dependent status—Husbands, wives, minor children or unmarried children of certain people, including the following:

  • Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office workers
  • Workers for a diplomatic mission
  • International organization workers
  • NATO workers, diplomats, and workers on United Nations missions. (These international workers don’t have to pay a filing fee to renew or replace their EADs with Form I-765.)
  • Exchange visitors
  • E-1/E-2 treaty traders or investors
  • E-3 specialty professionals from Australia
  • L-I intracompany transferees
  • E-2 CNMI investors. (A person with a CNMI EAD can work only in the Mariana Islands. Special documents must be included with their EAD application.)

Other status—This includes the following types of people:

  • People with pending applications for a green card. (People who applied for a green card after July 30, 2007, don’t have to pay a filing fee to renew their EAD with Form I-765.)
  • People 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
  • 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.)

Step Two: Fill Out Form I-765 and Send It to the USCIS with Your Required Documents

After you determine which temporary visitor category you are in that allows you to ask the USCIS for an EAD, you’ll need to complete Form I-765 to apply for an EAD. You’ll need to include the required documents for your category with your application and:

  • The Form I-765 filing fee of $380 USD. Send a personal check, money order or a cashier’s check from a U.S. bank in U.S. dollars. Do NOT send cash. Make the check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” Sometimes fees change, so it’s always a good idea to check the current price. You can do this by calling the USCIS at 1-800-375-5283. The hearing impaired can call 1-800-767-1833. Or you can check the USCIS forms website or Form G-1055, Fee Schedule.
  • Mailed applications should include a copy of both sides of your Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record—if you have one and aren’t applying for an EAD based on a pending adjustment of status application. Unless your application is based on childhood arrival to the U.S., your application must include copies of the front and back of your last EAD, if you had one. People who have never had an EAD should include a copy of a government-issued ID.
  • Two passport-style photographs of yourself
  • You can attach Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, to the front of your application package and the USCIS will send you an email when it receives your application.

Temporary visitors who are filing Form I-765 along with another immigration form should mail both of the forms to the USCIS address required for the other form. People filing Form I-765 by itself need to mail it to the correct address for their application category.

After you file Form I-765, the USCIS might ask you to go to a biometrics appointment. Your application could be denied if you don’t go. Of course, it’s always a good idea to be on time and truthful.

Temporary EADs are sometimes available for people who filed properly but haven’t gotten a response within 90 days. If this happens to you, you can call 1-800-375-5283 to ask for a temporary EAD.

Step Three: Make Sure the Information on Your EAD Is Correct

EAD recipients who made a mistake on their application that caused the USCIS to give them an EAD with the wrong information will have to file Form I-765 again. They will need to send in the card with the error and a new filing fee with their application.

If the card has a mistake that’s the USCIS’s fault, send the incorrect card to the USCIS center that approved your application for an EAD. Include a letter that explains what is wrong with the card.

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