Employment Authorization Cards Q&A

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues employment authorization documents (EADs), commonly referred to as employment authorization cards or work authorization, to foreign nationals who fall into certain categories or carry certain statuses. The cards, obtained by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, provide the necessary documentation required to work as an employee at U.S. businesses.

What is an employment authorization card?

Certain categories of foreign nationals with permission to work in the United States receive employment authorization– an EAD card. The card shows authorization to work in the United States for a specific time period. U.S. employers verify the work authorization of all employees, regardless of citizenship or national origin.

Who can get an employment authorization card?

Immigrants who hold Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, as well as foreign nationals categorized as asylees or refugees or who hold U nonimmigrant status, can get an employment authorization card.

Others who can receive an employment authorization card include foreign nationals who have:

  • A pending Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
  • A pending Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal
  • A nonimmigrant status that allows for presence in the United States, but without permission to work in the United States without first seeking USCIS permission– e.g. F-1 or M-1 students

Green cards held by lawful permanent residents (LPRs) indicate work authorization. In other words, green card holders aren’t required to get an employment authorization card in order to work in the United States.

Nonimmigrant visas like H-1B, L-1B, O and P include authorization to work for specific employers. These visa holders aren’t required to get an employment authorization card.

See the Form I-765 instructions. The USCIS provides a complete list of eligibility categories.

What is the validity of an employment authorization card?

DACA beneficiaries receive employment authorization lasting 2 years. However, the validity of most employment authorization cards lasts for only 1 year. The length of time depends on each individuals immigration status. An immigrant never receives authorization to work for a period longer than their permission to stay in the United States.

Importantly, foreign nationals who arrive in the United States under any particular visa category can request an adjustment of status in order to prolong their stay and to extend the duration of the work authorization. As an example, an immigrant arriving in the United States using a fiance– K-1– visa can get a work permit lasting 90 days, which corresponds to the visa termination. Once married, the K-1 visa holder can apply to adjust status and receive extended work authorization.

What to do if my employment authorization card has expired?

Immigrants with expiring employment authorization cards renew their work permission by submitting a new Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and also the filing fee. As long as the immigration status of the applicant allows for continued eligibility, USCIS can extend the work authorization.

USCIS usually accepts requests for work authorization extensions no more than 180 days from a current card’s expiration date.

How to apply for renewal of employment authorization card?

The USCIS requires applicants who are seeking to renew their employment authorization card to submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Along with filling out the 1-page form, applicants include the fee, photos, and copies of documents proving eligibility.

Eligibility as an asylee, for example, include the letter from the asylum office or a judge’s order granting the asylum.

Applicants filing for adjustment of status or for temporary protected status (TPS) aren’t required to include proof of eligibility beyond the status applications.

How to check the status of my employment authorization card application?

After filing Form I-765 and the accompanying materials, USCIS issues a 13-character Application Receipt Number, which applicants use to check their case status. Although the number on the receipt includes dashes (“-”), only the other characters– letters, numerals, and asterisks (“*”)– should be entered.