What is Form I-765?
If you plan on working while waiting for your green card approval, you’ll need to apply for a work permit by filing Form I-765 (officially called “Application for Employment Authorization”). With a permit (also called an Employment Authorization Document, or EAD), you can prove to prospective employers that you are indeed eligible to work.
(If you’re applying for a family-based green card from abroad, you can’t get a separate work permit ahead of time—your work authorization simply begins once you enter the United States and receive your green card.)
Unless you have some other immigration status that allows you to work (e.g. H-1B), it’s important that you don’t do any kind of paid work until your work permit has arrived.
The good news is that getting a work permit is a relatively easy process, especially if you file the work permit application (I-765) at the same time as the rest of your green card application.
In this guide, we’ll cover the process of filing Form I-765:
In general, it takes about 150–210 days (5–7 months) for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process Form I-765. Previously, USCIS processed work permit applications within 90 days, but a growing backlog has caused additional delays.
Typically, the filing fee for Form I-765 is $410, but the work permit cost depends on a number of factors. The fee could be more if you are required to submit biometrics with your application.
Who needs to pay a biometrics fee?
The following filing categories need to pay an additional $85 biometrics fee, bringing the total for the work permit application to $495:
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
- Principal Beneficiary of an Approved Employment-based Immigrant Petition Facing Compelling Circumstances
- Spouse or Unmarried Child of a Principal Beneficiary of an Approved Employment-based Immigrant Petition
Who is exempt from paying the filing fee?
There is no fee for filing a work permit application if it is included in the same package as your Adjustment of Status (AOS) green card application (as long as your Form I-485 was filed after July 30, 2007).
The Form I-765 instructions has a full list of who else is exempt from paying the fee.
If you are unable to pay the filing fee, you may request a fee waiver by submitting Form I-912 (Request for Fee Waiver) with your Form I-765 and all supporting documentation.
If approved, both the filing fee and the biometrics fee will be waived, and you will pay $0.
According to USCIS, if you are eligible for a family-based green card, you are also eligible for a work permit. As long as you have a pending green card application (Form I-485), you may apply for the work permit. For more info, the Form I-765 instructions include a full list of all the I-765 eligibility categories.
You can file Form I-765 along with your green card application (Form I-485) or at any time after you’ve received a notice that USCIS has received your green card application. If you apply for a work permit in the same package with your green card application, you simply need to include a completed Form I-765 and two passport-sized photos.
Even if you’ve already submitted your green card application, you can still apply for a work permit by filing Form I-765 along with a copy of the notice from USCIS showing that your green card application (including the I-485 filing fee) was received.
Be sure to follow the direct filing instructions for Form I-765. USCIS requires that I-765 applicants file their application with the service center that will process their petition. Previously, applicants would send their application to one service center hub, which would then send their application to a different center for processing. Note: If you are filing the I-765 with another form, such as the I-485, file both forms at the address specified by the other form.
The following documents are needed to file Form I-765:
- Copy of your I-94 travel record (front and back), if available, or a printout of your electronic I-94 obtained from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
- Copy of your U.S. visa (a document placed in your passport)
- Copy of your passport photo page
- Copies of previous work permits (front and back), if any
- Two 2-inch-by-2-inch passport-style photos of yourself taken recently (print your full name and Alien Registration Number on the back of each with a pencil or felt-tip pen)
- Copy of receipt notice (official acknowledgment letter) from USCIS that your green card application (Form I-485) is pending, but only if:
- Your sponsor is a green card holder
- Your sponsor is a U.S. citizen and you’re applying for a work permit after submitting your green card application (which would be unusual)
If you have not been issued a work permit before, you must also submit a copy of one of the following forms of government-issued identification:
- Birth certificate and a photo ID
- Copy of a visa (a document placed in your passport) that was issued by the consulate of a country other than the United States
- Other national identity document with your photo and/or fingerprint
There are two primary reasons that your work permit might be denied. The first is if you filled out the work permit application form (I-765) incorrectly, forgot to sign it, or left out a required element (for example, if you applied for the work permit after your green card application, and you failed to include a copy of the original USCIS receipt notice). The second, less common reason for denial is that your green card application is processed so quickly that you already have an approved green card before your work permit application is finished being processed. This is a good (if rare) problem to have, since once you have a green card, you don’t need a separate work permit in order to legally work.
With Boundless, you get a professionally assembled green card application package — including the work permit application — arranged in the precise format the government prefers. Learn more, or check if you qualify for a marriage-based green card.