Applying for EAD
In addition to securing a US visa for temporary employment, you will also need to have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to work lawfully in the US.
The EAD is required to evidence that you have the required permission to work while in the US. Attempting to start work without employment authorization is unlawful, putting you at risk of your visa being revoked and of being deported.
The EAD card is similar to a driver’s license. It is valid usually for 1 year. You will need to file a renewal within 180 days of the EAD expiring. The number of times you can renew your EAD will depend on the work visa you hold.
For Green Card holders, an EAD is not required. The Green Card acts as your work permit and proves your authorization.
How to Apply for an EAD
1. File Form I-765
You apply for your EAD using Form I-765; a one-page document available for download on the USCIS website.
The form is relatively straight forward to complete. You will be asked to provide certain personal information and to identify which category you are applying under for work authorization.
2. Compile & submit supporting documents
Unless you are applying to adjust your status, it will be mandatory to provide documents with your form to act as evidence that you are eligible for an EAD. Expect the documentation to be extensive. You will need to submit sufficient proof of your status in the US, your qualification and other relevant requirements relevant to the category you are applying under. For example, you may need to provide:
- A copy of your previous EAD, if you have one.
- Government-issued identification, such as your passport.
- A copy of your Form I-94 (arrival/departure record).
- Two photographs of you, in the required format and with your name and Alien Receipt Number on the reverse of each.
3. Attach proof of fee payment
Your application will not be processed without evidence that you have paid the required fee(s). See below for a breakdown of the costs of applying for an EAD.
4. Submit your application
Once complete, you can submit your application either by post or online (e-filing). In either case, supporting documents must be submitted by post.
It is advisable to make a copy of the full bundle for your own records.
Confirming EAD eligibility
While the application process itself is relatively straight forward, the complication comes in determining the grounds for your eligibility for work authorization (question 16 on Form I-765).
US work permits are only available to limited groups of immigrants. Typically, this includes individuals with temporary permission to be in the US eg through a work visa, or those applying for a Green Card (or adjustment of status).
To be eligible for work authorization, you must fall under one of the following categories and select as appropriate on your I-765:
- Employment-Based Nonimmigrant
- Family Based Nonimmigrant
- International students (such as F-1 visa or M-1 visa student)
- EAD applicant who has filed for an Adjustment of Status (you have applied for a Green Card)
- Certain nationalities
- Asylum seeker or refugee and their dependents (spouse and children)
- Eligible dependents of employees from international organizations, diplomatic missions, or NATO
Selecting the wrong category for your circumstances can result in your application being refused.
This means evidencing that you qualify under the relevant category by providing supporting documents that evidence of your status. The type of documents to submit will therefore depend on the nature of your status.
If you are already applying for an adjustment of status, you won’t need to provide supporting documents to prove your eligibility.
How long is the EAD processing time?
You should expect to receive a decision on your EAD application in around 90 days.
If approved, you will receive notification and your EAD card by post. If your application is refused, you will be informed by letter. This will also contain the grounds for refusal.
How much is an EAD?
The EAD application fee is $495. This is made up of:
- Filing fee: $410
- Biometrics fee: $85
Some exemptions waivers to the fee are available.
EAD fee exempt:
- Asylees, Refugees or those Paroled as Refugees
- N-8 or N-9 nonimmigrants
- Citizens of Micronesia, Palau, or the Marshall Islands
- Those Granted Withholding of Deportation
- Victims of Severe Forms of Trafficking
- U-1 Nonimmigrants
- Those dependent of an international organization, foreign government, or NATO personnel
- Applicants for Asylum
- VAWA Self-petitioners
EAD fee waiver:
You may be able to request a waiver of the EAD fee if:
- You or someone living with you is currently receiving a means-tested benefit eg Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps), Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Your annual household income is below the 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines at the time of your filing
- You are experiencing financial hardships which do not allow you to pay the fees. Financial hardships can be if you have unexpected medical bills or emergencies.
Fee waivers are requested using Form I-912.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.