CALL US: +44 (0)20 8004 3492

Can I Work While My US Visa Application is Being Processed?

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Table of Contents

Can I Work During Marriage Green Card Processing?

If you are applying for a Green Card based on Marriage from within the US, you may want to understand if you can work while your Green card application is pending.

To work lawfully in the US, you will need work authorization. Whether you can work while your application is pending will depend on your current immigration status. 

Once granted a Green Card, you will attain work authorization but during petition processing, your permission to work will depend on your circumstances, and specifically whether your spouse is a US citizen or a US permanent resident. 

If you are already in the US with lawful status under a work visa, such as the L-1 or H-1B visa, your right to work will not be affected by your Green Card application and you can continue to wor within the conditions of your visa. 

If you do not already hold authorization, you will need to apply for permission to work. 

This comes in the form of an Employment Authorization Document which you will need to verify to your (prospective) employer that you are permitted to carry out the work on offer. 

You cannot apply for an EAD from overseas; you must be in the US. 

When you can apply for EAD will depend on the status of your spouse. 

If you are married to a US permanent residence holder, you apply for the EAD once you have a visa number and have become eligible to make your Green Card application. This can mean waiting around 20 months once you have gone through the required stages of establishing the marriage relationship, and waiting for Green Card availability. 

If your spouse is a US citizen, however, the EAD application is usually made along with the initial Green Card application package containing the I-485.

EAD application processing can take up to six months. This is significantly longer than in previous years due to a growing backlog of applications. 

The EAD application (Form I-765) must be completed and signed by the non-US spouse, not the US citizen or permanent resident.  

There is no cost for making the EAD application. 

In general, if you are married to a US citizen, you should expect your Green Card to take around 12 months or if you are married to a US permanent resident, the process can take up to 3 years.

Supporting documents 

Your application will require a number of documents to be submitted, particularly if this is your first time applying for an EAD.

Additional identification documents are required if you haven’t previously been issued a work permit.   

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.

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.

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.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.


Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law, (The Legal 500, Who's Who Legal and AILA) and an experienced and trusted advisor to large multinational corporates through to SMEs. She provides strategic immigration advice and specialist application support to corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, artists, actors and athletes from across the globe to meet their US-bound talent mobility needs.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals.

Need legal advice?

Book a fixed-fee telephone consultation with one of our US immigration attorneys.

Need legal advice?

Book a fixed-fee telephone consultation with one of our US immigration attorneys.

Share on social

Arrange a fixed-fee telephone consultation with one of our US immigration experts.

For advice on any aspect of US immigration, contact our attorneys.