I-765 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) - The Missing Manual

Form I-765 – Employment Authorization Document (EAD): The Missing Manual

What is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)?

Form I-765 is used to request an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). An EAD is a work permit that allows immigrants waiting for green cards, F-1 students, and certain other types of immigrants to work in the United States for a temporary period of time.

For green card applicants, Form I-765 is filed along with Form I-485 – Adjustment of Status. Though it is optional, there is no reason not to file it: it costs nothing extra and is automatically generated by GreenCardHero.

It comes in the form of a plastic card. When applying for a green card, you have the option of also filing for your Travel Document, a.k.a. Advance Parole Document, using Form I-131. If you do, you will get a “combo card” which combines both the work and travel authorization. If you did not apply for a travel document, the card will  be marked “not valid for reentry to U.S.”.

Who needs an EAD card to work?

You will need an EAD to work in the US if:

  • You have a pending I-485 Adjustment of Status case (i.e. you are waiting for your green card).
  • Your immigration status does not allow work without permission. F-1 and M-1 students fall into this category.
  • You are an asylee, refugee, or awaiting asylum.

Source: USCIS: Employment Authorization Document

Who doesn’t need an EAD card to work?

You do not need an EAD to work in the US if:

  • You are a permanent resident.
  • You have non-immigrant status that allows you to work without a work permit. This includes H-1B, L-1, and O-1 visas.  See 8 CFR § 274a.12 for a full list (Scroll down to “Aliens authorized for employment with a specific employer incident to status or parole.”)

What’s my eligibility category? (I-765 Part 2, Question 27).

The I-765 asks why you qualify for Employment Authorization. There are many categories of immigrants who qualify, but the most common categories are:

  • (c)(9) – Immigrants awaiting their green card, with a pending I-485 Adjustment of Status.
  • (c)(3)(B) – F-1 Students for their first year of OPT.
  • (c)(3)(C) – F-1 Students with STEM degrees for their 24 month OPT extension.
  • (a)(6) – K-1 fiances or K-2 dependents.
  • (c)(26) – Spouse of H-1B status immigrant.
  • (a)(18) – Spouse of L-1 status immigrant.

You can see the full list here, or in the I-765 instructions, page 2-14.

How long does it take to get an EAD after filing Form I-765?

Processing times vary widely by the service center processing your application.  Currently, it is taking from 3 to 7.5 months to process I-765’s based on green card applications, and 1.5-3 months to process those based on F-1 OPT. Please see the USCIS processing times, though you should note that the times are not very reliable. In particular, the processing time seems to be getting longer all the time.

What if my EAD expires?

Immigrants awaiting their green cards are generally issued EAD cards valid for one year. Unfortunately, I-485 Adjustment of Status applications are routinely taking longer these days, and it is likely your EAD will expire before you have your green card.

The good news: it is simple to renew your EAD if you have a pending I-485. To do this, simply file another I-765 within 180 days of your expiration. Remember to check the box for renewal in Part 1.

You do not have to worry about your EAD expiring before the renewal is approved: As of 2017, your work permit is renewed for 180 days automatically as soon as you submit the renewal application.

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