Employment Authorization Document (EAD), Explained

Learn more about EADs: what they are and who is eligible

What is an Employment Authorization Document?

An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is sometimes referred to as a work permit — or, more officially, Form I-766. With this document, you can prove that you are eligible to work legally in the United States. Those who have applied for a green card while living in the United States may obtain an EAD in order to work while their application is pending. Likewise, K-1 fiancé visa holders, spouses of H-1B workers, and students holding an F-1 student visa may all apply for a work permit in certain situations.

If your Form I-766 is linked to your green card application, you can apply for any legally sanctioned job that’s available on the “open market” — meaning, your work permit will not bind you to a particular employer, as with an H-1B.

In this guide, we’ll provide a broad overview of the EAD, addressing some of the more frequently asked questions along the way:

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Who Can Get One?

To obtain a work permit, you’ll need to file Form I-765, otherwise known as an Application for Employment Authorization. If you already have a green card, or if you’re employed in the United States with a non-immigrant visa (such as an H-1B), you do not need to apply for an EAD, as your visa already authorizes you to work. If, however, you’re waiting for your green card or asylum application to go through — or if you’re in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa that allows you to work but first requires you to get an EAD — then you may be eligible to submit Form I-765.

Note that green card petitioners applying from abroad (via consular processing) do not need to obtain an EAD because they will be authorized to work in the United States upon their arrival.

How Do You Get One?

All EAD applicants will need to file Form I-765, but the types of required evidence will vary depending on your situation. If, for example, you’re an F-1 student looking for work off-campus due to financial difficulties, you’ll need to attach evidence such as the following:

  • Documentation showing you’ve been an F-1 student for a full academic year
  • Proof that a job will not interfere with your studies
  • Documents proving you have a full course load
  • Proof that employment will help sidestep “severe economic hardship”

These are just a few examples that pertain specifically to “F-1 Students Seeking Off-Campus Employment Due to Severe Economic Hardship.” There are other subcategories for F-1 students, in addition to a range of broader categories — each with its own set of requirements.

By and large, anyone filing Form I-765 will need to attach the following documents:

You may also need to attach proof that your green card application is pending, if you are applying for an EAD after you’ve already filed Form I-485. Alternatively, you can file Form I-765 simultaneously with your green card application.

If you’re looking to apply for a green card and a work permit at the same time, Boundless can help. Get started today!

What if Your Card Expires or You Lose It?

The process for getting a new work permit is relatively straightforward. Ultimately, before you apply for a renewal or replacement, you want to make sure you are still eligible for employment authorization. If so, you can use the steps outlined below to obtain a new EAD.

Renewing Your EAD

If your work permit has expired, or if it will expire within the next 6 months, you can renew it by simply filing a new Form I-765. You will also need to pay a filing fee (as with the original application), unless you’ve applied for a fee waiver and have received approval.

Replacing Your EAD

If your work permit has been mutilated, lost, or stolen, you can, as above, file Form I-765 (with any required fees). If you’re expecting an EAD but haven’t received one, you can send an inquiry to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) services notifying them that the card has yet to be delivered.

If, on the other hand, you receive your card but it is factually incorrect (at no fault of USCIS), you can, again, submit Form I-765, with a filing fee, the original permit, and any required evidence (listed in the filing instructions).

Finally, if USCIS made any errors on your EAD, you can send the erroneous document, any documents supporting the proposed correction, and a clear description of the error, to the National Benefit Center or, alternatively, to the service center that processed your most recent Application for Work Authorization. There’s no need, in this case, to file Form I-765 or pay any fees.

Filing a green card application can be a daunting task. The EAD is just one aspect of a much larger process. With Boundless, you can fill out all the necessary forms in under 2 hours. Get started today!