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Employment Authorization Document

How does the Employment Authorization Document work?

What is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)?

An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is a legal document that enables foreign nationals to work lawfully in the United States. It is commonly referred to as a “work permit” and is officially known as Form I-766. It is a crucial document for non-citizens who wish to work in the US, as it proves their eligibility and authorization to work.

In some instances, an individual may obtain an EAD while waiting for their green card application to be processed. This allows them to work while their application is pending. Additionally, certain visa holders, such as K-1 fiancé visa holders, spouses of H-1B workers, and students with an F-1 student visa, may apply for an EAD to work in certain circumstances.

With an EAD linked to a green card application, individuals are free to apply for any legal job available on the open market. Unlike with an H-1B visa, which ties individuals to a specific employer, an EAD does not limit them to a particular employer.

Having an EAD can be advantageous, as it provides flexibility and freedom in choosing employment opportunities. It is essential to note that the EAD is only valid for a specific period and must be renewed before it expires to maintain legal work authorization in the United States.

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How Much Does an EAD Cost?

The current filing fee for the Application for Employment Authorization Document is $410, plus $85 if you need to have biometrics taken as well.

Who Needs an Employment Authorization Document?

​​If you are a foreign national looking to work legally in the United States and you do not have a green card or a non-immigrant visa that authorizes you to work, you may need to obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), commonly known as a “work permit”. The first step towards obtaining an EAD is to file Form I-765, which is also known as an Application for Employment Authorization.

It is important to note that Form I-765 is not the same as Form I-766. The I-766 is the official name of the Employment Authorization Document. The EAD is the actual document that proves your eligibility to work legally in the United States, while Form I-765 is the application you need to submit to request the EAD.

If you already have a green card or a non-immigrant visa that permits you to work, such as an H-1B visa, you do not need to apply for an EAD. However, if you are waiting for your green card or asylum application to be processed, or if you are on a non-immigrant visa that requires you to obtain an EAD before you can work, you may be eligible to submit Form I-765 to obtain an EAD.

It is worth noting that individuals who are applying for a green card from abroad through consular processing do not need to obtain an EAD, as they will be authorized to work in the United States upon their arrival.

Obtaining an EAD can be a crucial step toward achieving your career goals and building a life in the United States. However, it is important to carefully review the eligibility requirements and instructions for submitting Form I-765 to ensure that you meet all the necessary criteria and submit a complete application.

How to Apply for an Employment Authorization Document?

To apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), all applicants are required to file Form I-765. However, the evidence required to be submitted with the application varies depending on the specific situation of the applicant. Here are some examples of evidence that may be required:

F-1 students seeking off-campus employment due to severe economic hardship:

  • Proof of having been an F-1 student for a full academic year
  • Documentation showing that the job will not interfere with studies
  • Proof of a full course load
  • Evidence that employment will help alleviate severe economic hardship

In addition to the above, there are other subcategories for F-1 students, as well as broader categories, each with its own set of requirements. Nevertheless, all applicants filing Form 

I-765 must attach certain documents, including:

  • A copy of the passport, specifically the page containing the applicant’s photo
  • Two 2×2 passport-style photos with the alien registration number and full name written on the back
  • The I-94 travel record
  • Copies of other work permits, if applicable
  • A copy of the U.S. visa, which can be found in the applicant’s passport

If an applicant is also applying for a green card and has already filed Form I-485, they may need to attach proof that their green card application is pending. Alternatively, they can file Form I-765 simultaneously with their green card application.

In summary, to apply for an EAD, applicants must file Form I-765 and provide evidence specific to their situation as well as the required documents listed above. It is important to carefully review the instructions for Form I-765 and ensure that all necessary evidence and documents are included with the application.

After You Apply for the EAD

Starting to Work

If you are a foreign national and have never worked in the United States before, it is essential to obtain a Social Security number (SSN) as soon as you receive your work permit. The good news is that you can apply for an SSN or a replacement SSN card directly through the work permit application, without having to visit the local Social Security Administration office.

Once you start working, your employer is required to ask you to complete an I-9 form (Employment Eligibility Verification) and provide proof that you are authorized to work in the United States. Having a social security number and a work permit means that employers in the United States are prohibited from discriminating against you based on your immigration status. You will be required to pay payroll and income taxes, just like every other employee in the United States.

It is crucial to pay the required taxes, as failing to do so can lead to significant penalties and jeopardize any future applications for U.S. citizenship. Here are some things to keep in mind regarding taxes:

  • As an employee, your employer will withhold taxes from your paychecks, including federal income tax, Social Security tax, and Medicare tax.
  • If you are self-employed, you will need to pay self-employment taxes (which include Social Security and Medicare taxes) on your income.
  • To file your taxes, you will need to obtain a taxpayer identification number (TIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you are not eligible for an SSN, you can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
  • It is important to keep accurate records of your income and expenses, including any tax forms you receive (such as W-2 or 1099 forms) and any deductions you claim. You may want to consider hiring a tax professional to assist you with your tax preparation.
  • Failing to pay taxes or committing tax fraud can have serious consequences, including fines, penalties, and even criminal charges.

What Happens if I Work Without an EAD?

If you work(ed) in the U.S. without authorization, you can risk jeopardizing your entire green card application, and can even be barred from re-entering the country in the future. In some specific cases, working without authorization is overlooked. For example, spouses of U.S. citizens are typically forgiven for working without authorization. (However, if you are caught making a misrepresentation or lying on an application, it is not forgiven/overlooked).

Here are some important points to keep in mind regarding work permits and employment authorization:

  • Working without a work permit can be a serious offense that can put your entire green card application at risk. USCIS will scrutinize your application more closely if you have worked without authorization, and may even deny it altogether.
  • There are some limited exceptions to the requirement for a work permit. For example, spouses of U.S. citizens who have worked without authorization may be able to obtain a green card without being barred due to their unauthorized employment.
  • Even short-term or informal work requires a work permit. It’s important to understand that even if you’re only working for a few hours, getting paid without authorization can lead to serious immigration problems down the line.
  • Applying for a work permit is relatively straightforward, especially if you submit your application at the same time as your green card application. Having a work permit allows you to start building your career in the U.S. and can open up new professional opportunities for you.
  • In order to work in the United States, you’ll also need a Social Security number. Fortunately, you can apply for a Social Security number at the same time as your work permit, making the process more streamlined.
  • Once you have a work permit and start working in the United States, you’ll be required to pay payroll and income taxes just like everyone else. Failure to pay these taxes can lead to serious penalties and may even jeopardize your chances of obtaining U.S. citizenship in the future.

Overall, obtaining a work permit is an essential step for immigrants hoping to build their lives in the United States. By following the rules and guidelines set forth by USCIS, you can avoid the serious consequences of working without authorization and build a successful career in your new home country.

Renewing or Replacing Your EAD

Obtaining or renewing a work permit is a relatively simple process, but it’s essential to ensure you’re still eligible for employment authorization before applying for a new one. Here are the steps you can follow to get a new EAD:

Renewing Your EAD

  • If your work permit has expired or is set to expire within the next six months, you can renew it by filing a new Form I-765.
  • You’ll need to pay a filing fee unless you’ve applied for a fee waiver and received approval (or have a pending Adjustment of Status I-485 Application).

Replacing Your EAD

  • If your work permit has been lost, stolen, or mutilated, you can file Form I-765 (with any required fees).
  • If you haven’t received your EAD despite being eligible, you can inquire with USCIS services to notify them that the card has yet to be delivered.
  • If your EAD has a factual error, you can file Form I-765 with a filing fee, the original permit, and any required evidence to correct the mistake.
  • If USCIS made a mistake on your EAD, you can send the erroneous document, documents supporting the proposed correction and a clear description of the error to the National Benefit Center or the service center that processed your most recent Application for Work Authorization. In this case, there’s no need to file Form I-765 or pay any fees.

It’s crucial to note that filing a green card application can be a complex process, and it’s important to make sure you follow all the required steps correctly. Additionally, make sure to keep your work permit up-to-date as working without authorization can jeopardize your green card application and future immigration prospects.

Additional Questions

Which individuals are required to have a work permit?

If you are currently in the United States and are pursuing a family-based green card, have a K-1 fiancé visa, or are the spouse of an H-1B visa holder, then you may be eligible to apply for a work permit. This will allow you to work while you are waiting for your immigration application to be processed. Additionally, F-1 students who are studying in the United States may also wish to obtain a work permit.

Having a work permit can be incredibly beneficial for those who wish to earn an income while they are in the U.S. waiting for their immigration status to be finalized. For example, if you are a spouse of an H-1B visa holder, you may be able to work for any employer in the United States. However, it is important to note that there may be some restrictions on the type of work that you can do, depending on the specific visa category and work permit you hold.

If you are a student studying in the United States with an F-1 visa, you may also be eligible to apply for a work permit. The work permit may allow you to work on-campus or off-campus, depending on your situation. However, it is important to ensure that you maintain your student status and comply with any regulations set forth by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when it comes to working with an F-1 visa.

Overall, having a work permit can be a valuable asset for those who wish to work in the United States while waiting for their immigration application to be processed. It is important to review the specific eligibility requirements and restrictions for your particular situation before applying for a work permit.

How Long is the Work Permit Valid?

Work permits obtained through the adjustment of status (AOS) process remain valid for a period of two years. This includes the first-time Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) obtained through the AOS process, as well as subsequent renewals of the EAD while the AOS application is still under consideration.

Can the Work Permit be Used as a Form of Identification?

Yes, the Employment Authorization Document may be used as a form of identification.

If I Already Have Work Authorization, Do I Need to Apply for an EAD?

It is quite common for individuals who came to the United States on a student visa or temporary work visa to fall in love with and marry someone in the United States. If you are already working in the United States with a valid work visa such as an H-1B visa or through the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program for recent graduates, then there is no need to discontinue your work just because you are applying for a green card. However, it is still advisable to apply for a work permit along with your green card application.

Having two types of work authorization at the same time doesn’t have any apparent disadvantages, and having a work permit based on your green card application provides you with peace of mind and more flexibility. For example, if your H-1B visa is not renewed, or if you want to change employers or start your own business, having a work permit based on your green card application can be beneficial. This type of work permit is called an “open market” Employment Authorization Document, meaning it does not restrict you to a particular sponsoring employer.

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