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Form I-765 and the Work Permit, (EAD card) Explained

Everything you need to know about the Application for your Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

This guide covers the cost, timeline, and process for filing Form I-765, also known as the Application for Employment Authorization. An approved Form I-765 grants the applicant an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card), also known as a work permit.

What is Form I-765?

Form I-765, (officially called “Application for Employment Authorization”), is an application used by foreign nationals to obtain employment authorization in the U.S. 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.

What is a Work Permit?

A work permit (also called an Employment Authorization Document, or EAD card) proves to prospective employers that you are eligible to work in the United States for a specific period of time. The EAD card is similar in size to a Social Security card and includes the card holder’s name, photo, birth date, visa classification, and the dates for which they are authorized to work in the United States.

USCIS redesigned Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) in 2023. Here’s what an EAD card looks like:

EAD card
2023 EAD Card Redesign

Boundless Tip

If you’re applying for a family-based green card from abroad, such as a CR1 visa, you won’t need to apply for a separate work permit ahead of time—your work authorization automatically 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.


Boundless bundles your green card with your work permit for no extra charge!

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Form I-765 Cost

Typically, the filing fee for Form I-765 is $520 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 when applying for a work permit?

The following filing categories need to pay an additional $85 biometrics fee, bringing the total for the work permit application to $750:

  • 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?

The Form I-765 instructions has a full list of who else is exempt from paying the fee.

Fee waivers

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.


Form I-765 Processing Times

In general, it takes about 3.7 months for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process Form I-765.

Previously, USCIS processed work permit applications within 3.7 months, but a growing backlog has caused additional delays.

USCIS Form I-765 Sample

The cost for to file I-765 could increase significantly in 2023. To avoid the higher fees, it’s important to file your application before the proposed rule goes into effect. Learn more about what Boundless can do to help.


Work Permit Eligibility

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 card — then you may be eligible to submit Form I-765.

Boundless Tip

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.

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, you may apply for a work permit. For more information, the Form I-765 instructions include a full list of all the I-765 eligibility categories.


Who Can File Form I-765?

Family-Based Categories

As described above, marriage and family-based green card applicants can gain work permits while waiting for their applications to be processed. But certain family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents can request work authorization even if they haven’t yet applied for their own green card:


Categories based on Nationality

There are some people who can apply for work authorization based on the country they are from. The following situations allow citizens of certain countries to apply for work authorization in the United States:

  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Citizens of El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are eligible for work authorization under TPS. The U.S. government is seeking to end many of these countries’ TPS designation, so check the USCIS website for updates.
    • Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). Citizens of Liberia are eligible for work authorization under DED. This program is currently projected to end by March 30, 2020. Check the USCIS website for updates.
  • Citizens of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, or Palau. Citizens of these countries can enter the United States under an agreement with the U.S. government. They must apply for work authorization, but can then work in the United States without restriction.
  • Spouses and children of E-1 Treaty Traders. The spouses and children of people from eligible E-1 treaty countries who are in the United States conducting international trade can apply for work authorization.

Foreign Students

Most foreign students are not allowed to work in the United States (except in specific, on-campus positions) while they complete their studies, but they can apply for work authorization in the following circumstances:

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT). Students in F-1 status can gain temporary work authorization after their degree program ends as part of the Optional Practical Training program. J-1 visa holders use the Academic Training program, which is similar but doesn’t require a work permit.
  • Internships with an International Organization. Students with an internship offer from a qualified international organization can apply for work authorization to complete the internship.
  • Economic Hardship. USCIS sometimes grant work authorization to students facing economic hardship. This is only available to students who have already studied in the U.S. for at least a year, and who face financial difficulties due to circumstances beyond their control.
  • Spouses and children of J-1 exchange visitor programs. The spouse and children of J-1 students, or students participating in a study-based cultural exchange program, are eligible to apply for work authorization.
  • Students at Vocational Schools Seeking Practical Training. Vocational school students can also apply for work authorization to get practical training in their field of specialty.

Asylee / Refugee and spouses and children

If you’re admitted to the United States on humanitarian grounds, you’ll usually be able to work right away, without needing to file a work permit application:

  • If you entered the United States as a refugee, then you, your spouse and your children are authorized to work, and you don’t need to request a work permit. You’ll be given a work permit when you arrive in the United States, or soon thereafter by the organization that helped you resettle.
  • If you are granted asylum by USCIS once you’re already in the United States, you and your family are eligible to work in the United States. Your work permit will be issued automatically, and you won’t need to file an I-765.
  • If you are granted asylum by a judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals then you will need to contact USCIS to obtain work permits for yourself and your family. You’ll be given instructions when you are granted asylum.

How to Apply for a Work Permit

You can file Form I-765 along with your Adjustment of Status (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.


Required Documents

The following documents are needed to apply for a work permit (EAD) by filing 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
  • Another national identity document with your photo and/or fingerprint

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.

Evidence For F-1 Students Applying for a Work Permit

  • 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.


Reasons Your Work Permit Could Be Denied

A work permit may be denied for a variety of reasons. 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.

U.S. Immigration can be complex and confusing. Boundless is here to help. Learn more about what Boundless can do to help.


What Happens Next?

Getting ready to work

If you’ve never worked in the United States before, you’ll need to get a Social Security number (SSN) as soon as you get your work permit. Fortunately, you can apply for a Social Security number or replacement Social Security card directly through the work permit application itself, without having to visit the local Social Security Administration office.

When you start work, your employer is required to have you complete an I-9 form (Employment Eligibility Verification) and to show proof that you are allowed to work in the United States. As long as you have a social security number and a work permit, it’s illegal for employers in the United States to discriminate against you because of your immigration status. You’ll be required to pay payroll and income taxes in the United States, just like everyone else.

Failure to pay required taxes can result in many serious penalties and can jeopardize any future application for U.S. citizenship.

Consequences of Working Without Authorization

Working in the United States without a work permit can put your entire green card application at risk. USCIS will closely scrutinize any green card application from an applicant who has previously worked without authorization. USCIS can overlook unauthorized employment only in some very specific situations—for example, spouses of U.S. citizens who have previously worked without authorization will not be barred from receiving a green card.

The penalties for working without authorization include being barred from entering the United States for three or ten years, depending on how long you were working without a permit. For example, if you work without authorization while in the United States on a tourist visa and later apply for a student visa, your unauthorized employment will make you ineligible for that student visa.

You are required to have a work permit even for short-term or informal employment. Getting paid for even just a few hours of work without authorization can cause serious immigration problems in the future. Fortunately, applying for a work permit is relatively easy, especially if you submit the application at the same time as your green card application. Having an Employment Authorization Document (aka Work Permit or EAD card) means you’ll be able to start (or continue) your career in the United States well before your green card application is processed. Even if you’re unsure whether you’ll be working in future, it’s a good idea to apply for a work permit in case an excellent professional opportunity comes along!

Do you have confidential questions about how your employment situation might affect your green card application? With Boundless, you get an independent immigration attorney who can help you understand your options. Learn more about what Boundless can do to help.


If your Work Permit was Lost or Stolen

The process for getting a new work permit is relatively straightforward. 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 card (work permit).

Renewing Your EAD Card

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 a Lost EAD Card

If your work permit has been mutilated, lost, or stolen, you can, as above, file Form I-765 (with any required fees). Once the Form I-765 application is pending with USCIS for green card applicants, it will automatically extend their work authorization up to 180 days while they await a replacement EAD card.

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 EAD 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 card, 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!


Form I-765 FAQs

Individuals who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents, but who wish to obtain authorization to work in the United States, need to complete the Form I765.

If you are in the U.S. and you are applying for a family-based green card, have a K-1 fiancé visa, or are the spouse of a H-1B visa holder, then you may be able to apply for a work permit so you can work while you are in the U.S. Students who are studying in the U.S. with a F-1 student visa may also wish to apply for a work permit.

There are a number of reasons why someone might need to complete Form I-765. For example, an individual might need to obtain employment authorization if they are waiting for a green card through the adjustment of status process, seeking asylum in the United States, if they are DACA recipients, or if they have been granted refugee status.

Work permits issued through the adjustment of status (AOS) process are valid for two years. This applies to initial (first-time) EADs through adjusting stats, as well as renewal EADs while the AOS application is still pending.

If you have a valid EAD card, you may be able to use it as identification.

Form I-765 can be completed online or by mail. If you are completing the form online, you will need to create an account with USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). Once you have created an account, you will be able to access the form and complete it electronically. If you are completing the form by mail, you will need to print out the form and then complete it by hand.

When completing Form I-765, you will be asked to provide personal information such as your name, date of birth, and address. You will also be asked to provide information about your immigration status and your employment history.

The filing fee for Form I-765 is $520. For green card applicants with a pending Form I-485, it costs $260 to file Form I-765.

The completed Form I-765 should be sent to the address that is listed on the form instructions. The address will vary depending on your location and your specific circumstances.

There is no set filing date for Form I-765; however, it is generally advisable to file as soon as possible after your immigration status has been granted or after you have been authorized for employment in the United States.

If you are already working in the United States with a valid H-1B visa, through the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program for recent graduates, or through any other work visa, you don’t have to stop working just because you’re applying for a green card.

But it’s still a good idea to submit an application for a work permit when you apply for your green card. That’s because there are no obvious disadvantages to having two types of work authorization at the same time, and having a work permit based on your green card application gives you peace of mind—for example, in case your H-1B visa isn’t renewed, or if you’d like to switch employers or start your own business. The work permit based on your green card application is an “open market” Employment Authorization Document—that is, it doesn’t tie you to one particular sponsoring employer.


Want answers on cost, wait time, and required documents for a green card? Boundless can help! Get started today!