An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) grants the holder the right to legally work in the United States. It is known by other names, including, a work permit, Form I-765, and other names. A EAD is issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). An EAD is different from a green card, which is related to the individual’s legal immigration status in the United States. 

An EAD is a small plastic card that is similar in size to a credit card. The card lists information about the holder, including:

  • The individual’s name;
  • Contact information;
  • Category of immigration;
  • Alien registration number;
  • Expiration date; and
  • Photograph. 

If an individual holds an invalid, expired, or forged EAD, they may face legal consequences. 

Three types of employment authorization documents are available from the USCIS, including:

  • An initial EAD, for which an individual will file Form I-765 if they are eligible to work in the U.S.
  • A renewal EAD, which is for individuals who are still eligible for employment authorization but their EAD is soon expiring. They should file a new Form I-765; and
  • A replacement EAD. If an individual’s EAD is lost, stolen, or destroyed, they may request a new one by completing a new Form I-765.

The USCIS is no longer required to adjudicate EAD applications within 90 day. This means it is imperative for an individual to file their EAD application early. The majority of applications can be filed 180 days prior to the expiration date of an individual’s current EAD card. Additionally, the USCIS is no longer required to issue an interim EAD card in applications that are not adjudicated in 90 days.

Who Is Eligible to Receive an Employment Authorization Document?

Only individuals who are in certain immigration categories are eligible for an EAD. Some non-resident aliens in the United States may be eligible to file a Form I-765 in order to receive an EAD.

There are more than 40 different immigration categories that allow an individual to file for an EAD. An individual should consult with an attorney to determine what options they have with their current immigration status.

In general, individuals who are sponsored by specific U.S. employers under employment visas, including H visas or L visas, are authorized to work only for that employer while in the country. Their employment status is classified as employment incident to status which means their work authorization is linked specifically to their visa category. Therefore, they generally do not qualify for an EAD card. These individuals may apply for an EAD card after an adjustment of their immigration status.

How Can I Obtain an Employment Authorization Document Card?

The process to apply for EAD work permits begins with filing Form I-765. Non-citizen workers who are interested in applying for an EAD card must file USCIS Form I-765, entitled, “Application for Employment Authorization.” This form can be filed by mail and, in some cases, by an electronic USCIS filing. As noted above, there are sub-categories of EAD applications which may be applied for depending on the individual’s background or circumstances.

Generally, EADs are temporary. They are usually only valid for up to 1 year at a time. In some cases, the EAD application is part of the overall employment visa application process.

There are 3 categories of individuals who may be eligible for worker’s permits, including:

  • Category 1 – individuals who have general authorization to work in the United States as a result of their non-immigrant status; 
  • Category 2 –  individuals who are authorized to work for a specific United States employer as a result of their non-immigrant status; and 
  • Category 3 – individuals in a specific category that requires filing for an EAD. 

An application for employment authorization may be slightly different for each category. An individual should consult with an attorney to determine the exact requirements for their situation.

In order to apply for an EAD, an individual must be authorized to work in the United States based on their immigration status. For example, if an individual is a refugee, an asylee, or a U non-immigrant, they will need evidence of their employment authorization. 

In other cases, in order to apply for an EAD, an individual may be required to get the employment authorization itself for their job. An individual may fit into this category if they have a pending Form I-485, or Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, a pending Form I-589, or Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, or they have a non-immigrant status that allows them to be in the United States, but needs a work authorization the USCIS.

There are other individuals who will need an EAD. These may include students that are seeking particular employment or individuals who are engaged to marry an American citizen.

What If An Application for an Employment Authorization Document is Denied?

There may be many reasons why an EAD application is denied. If an individual’s application for an EAD card is denied, they are permitted to file a motion to reopen their case, or a motion to reconsider. If an individual files a motion to reopen, they must provide new facts as well as evidence that supports those facts.

If an individual files a motion to reconsider, they must show that the EAD application denial was based on an incorrect application of the law or immigration policy to the facts of their case. An experienced immigration attorney can assist with these motions and advise on how to proceed following an application denial.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Employment Authorization Card?

Obtaining an EAD card is not a quick process. The USCIS has a large number of applications, and some are backlogged. In addition, different types of applications may be processed at different speeds.

An EAD application is typically processed in somewhere between 3 to 6 months. Approximately half of the applications are processed within 3 months. However, some applications may take 6 months or longer for approval.

It is important to note that there is a 48 hour waiting period prior to the USCIS processing the actual EAD card that is shipped to the individual. The card is then produced within 96 hours. In most cases, the EAD card should be shipped to the applicant within 6 business days of application approval.

An applicant may file a case status complaint if an EAD application has been pending for more than 75 days. If an applicant receives an offer of employment, they may be able to request an emergency authorization from the local USCIS office. This process is discretionary and the USCIS is not required to grant emergency requests.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with an Employment Authorization Document?

You need the assistance of an experienced immigration lawyer with any Employment Authorization Document issues. The application process for an EAD is complex. There are many requirements and different immigration categories involved. A lawyer will review your immigration status or category, assist you with the EAD application process, and assist with any appeals, if necessary.

In addition, if you have any other issues that arise for the EAD application or are required to appear before an immigration board, your attorney will be there to represent you. A lawyer will know the best evidence to present as well as how to present an effective argument in your case. Hiring a lawyer may be the difference in obtaining your EAD or being denied.