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EAD – Proof of US Work Authorization

EAD – Proof of US Work Authorization

Under US law, all workers – regardless of nationality and immigration status – have to show they are authorized to work in the USA. US employers meanwhile have to verify all new emloyees’ identities and their eligibility to carry out the work on offer.

Certain visa holders need an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) before they are legally allowed to work in the US.

The EAD, or work permit, is a card issued by USCIS that can be used by foreign nationals across a number of different immigration categories to prove their eligibility to work in the US. It looks much like a driver’s license and is valid for a year at a time.


Do you need an EAD?

You will need to have a valid EAD to work in the US if your immigration status grants you work authorization or if you are required to have permission to work, for example student visa holders require USCIS permission to work.

The following categories of foreign workers are eligible to apply for an EAD:

  • Individuals awaiting a decision on an adjustment of status or Green Card application
  • Spouses and fiances of US citizens (K-1 visa holders)
  • Refugees
  • Asylum seekers permitted to stay in the US
  • Students seeking particular types of employment
  • F-1 students on an Optional Practical Training program
  • J-2 spouses or minor children of exchange visitors
  • Dependents of foreign government officials
  • Nationals of certain countries given Temporary Protected Status (TPS) due to conditions in their home countries
  • Individuals who are DACA eligible
  • Citizens of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau
  • Other workers depending on circumstances such as some visa beneficiaries and their dependents

If you have valid nonimmigrant status and are sponsored by a specific US employer, you will not need an EAD, e.g. H-1B, L-1B, O, or P visas, and following a rule change in 2021, spouses of E2, H1B and L1 visa holders also may not have to apply for an EAD.

Green Card holders (ie lawful permanent residents) do not need an EAD to work lawfully in the US. The Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) instead acts as evidence of work authorization.


How long are EAD cards valid for?

EAD’s are temporary so that they do not go beyond the validity of the individual’s visa.

Usually they are issued for one year, but this can vary.

The expiry date is printed on the front of the card to indicate to employers the period of work authorized to work.

To continue working lawfully in the US, and provided you remain eligible to work, you will need to renew your EAD before it expires. You can apply to renew up to 180 days before the expiry date.


What does the EAD card show?

The EAD card looks much like a driver’s license, with a photograph of the holder, their personal details, visa classification, dates of authorized employment and any employment restrictions.


How much is an EAD?

The filing for an EAD card is $410 (as at the time of writing).

Some categories of applicants will also have to pay an $85 biometric services fee including individusls requesting consideration of DACA and main beneficiaries of an employment-based immigrant petition who is facing compelling circumstances and their spouses or unmarried dependent children.

Some applicants may be exempt from paying fees.


Difference between an EAD card and a Green Card

It is important not to confuse the EAD card with a Green Card – they are two very separate and different things.

A Green Card allows the holder to enter and remain in the US as a lawful permanent resident. This encompasses permission to work in the US in any kind of role. Accordingly, US citizens and permanent residents do not need an EAD.

It is the underlying visa or Green Card which determines an individual’s immigration status and permission to enter the US.

An EAD relates only to verifying an individual’s permission to work in the US. It does not confer any rights to enter or remain in the US. Further, EADs are only issued where the individual has a valid visa or lawful US immigration status.


Difference between employment authorization and H1B work permission

The H-1B classification grants specific work permissions to visa holders and their spouses, which are not to be confused with the EAD. H-1B visa holders do not need to apply for an EAD card. Their permission to work forms part of their visa benefits but, importantly, is limited to performing a qualifying role for a qualifying US sponsor (ie the petitioning employer) per their USCIS H-1B petition. Other work visas such as the L1 and E2 also provide employment authorization to the holder inherent within the visa classification and subject to the specific visa rules.


Replacing a lost or stolen EAD

To replace a valid EAD, file form I-176 ensuring you opt to ‘replace an existing’ card.

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

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Nita Nicole Upadhye is the Founder & Principal Attorney at NNU Immigration. A recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law, Nita successfully acts for corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, and athletes from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications, and talent mobility to the USA.

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.​

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.

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For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys. 

For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.