Employment Authorization Document (EAD), Explained

Table of Contents

Those traveling to the U.S. for any type of reason usually will need to begin to make money at some point in their trip, especially if they are planning on staying in the country for longer periods. Luckily, the United States has put a special work document in place to make this happen for those living legally here.

This is where an employment authorization document is handy. Application for this document can be straightforward at times, whereas at other times, the process can become complicated. In the article below, we will explain more about this type of document, what the requirements are, and how to apply for it.

What Is an Employment Authorization Document?

An Employment Authorization Document, commonly known as an EAD, is a document that allows noncitizens living legally in the United States the ability to work. These documents are available for a year, and allow those to legally work in any field while living in the United States.

This document doesn’t allow someone to stay living legally in the U.S., and it’s not allowed to be used as an entry into the country either. This document solely proves that a non-citizen living in the country on any visa is legally allowed to work.

An EAD is different from a green card, because a green card doesn’t in fact grant someone residency legally in the country. A green card also enables someone to work legally in the U.S. as well and allows easier travel.

On the other hand, you cannot travel on an EAD and you must have a valid and legal visa before obtaining this document. However, both of these documents have an expiration date but are able to be renewed easily.

Mistakes on your USCIS application forms can lead to rejection, denial, or delay in processing your application. Prepare your application safely and securely with our Immigration Lawyer and online software to eliminate costly mistakes and file correctly. Get Started Now.

What Is Interim EAD

An Interim EAD is a temporary document that will allow you to work legally while you are in the process of waiting for your EAD or if you have filed for a renewal. This interim document was put into place because of the backlog USCIS was experiencing.

If you obtain an interim document of this sort, you must be aware that it has a validity of 240 days. You can do various things if your EAD card isn’t mailed out to you by then or approved. These things we will explain in more detail in the coming sections.

Eligible Categories for an EAD

If you are in any of the categories we are about to list below; you can start your EAD application process. Those that are eligible for an employment authorization document include:

  • Green card applicants who are waiting for an adjustment of their status
  • K1 visa holders
  • Refugees or asylum seekers who are legally allowed to stay in the U.S
  • DACA recipients
  • F1 visa-holding students who are part of a U.S.-based training program
  • Citizens of Micronesia, the marshall islands, and Palu

Ultimately, this type of work permit is available to all non-resident but legal immigrants living in the United States. However, there are some that are not eligible for this type of work document.

Eligibility for an initial EAD based on compelling circumstances

To qualify for an initial Employment Authorization Document (EAD) based on compelling circumstances, the applicant must satisfy the following eligibility criteria:

  • The principal applicant who is in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd employment-based preference category is the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers.
  • When filing the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, the principal applicant must be in either valid E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, O-1, or L-1 nonimmigrant status, or within an authorized grace period.
  • The principal applicant has not submitted an application for adjustment of status.
  • The principal applicant is unable to obtain an immigrant visa based on their priority date, as indicated by the relevant Final Action Date in the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin at the time of filing Form I-765.
  • The applicant and their dependents fulfill the requirement of providing biometrics as necessary.
  • The applicant and their dependents do not have any felony convictions or two or more misdemeanor convictions.
  • USCIS, at its discretion, determines that the principal applicant presents compelling circumstances that warrant the granting of employment authorization.

Non-Eligible Categories for an EAD

Unfortunately, if you are a foreign national that is dependent on H, O, F, M, O, P, Q, and R visa holders, you cannot apply for an EAD.

How To Apply for an EAD

When it comes to applying for an employment authorization document, various steps should be followed. However, it’s essential to first note that in order to apply for these legal working documents, you must be in the U.S. on a valid and legal visa.

If you are here legally, you are able to apply for a work permit or EAD. Some of the steps you should follow in order to obtain this document will be explained more in detail below.

File Form I-765

First and foremost, filling out the necessary application is key. Form I-765 is crucial for applying for a work permit, which is ultimately what an EAD acts as. This form can be found on the USCIS website and can be downloaded and filled out at your earliest convenience.

Ensure that all the information you are providing in this form is accurate and complete. Simply follow the instructions on the sheet and complete the form.

Attach the Documents

Once the form is complete, you need to include mandatory documents and additional information. In order to successfully apply for this document, one needs to prove that they are qualified to work within the U.S.

Along with Form I-765, you will need to provide sufficient documentation as to why you are applying for this permit. Some of the documents you may need include the following:

  • A copy of the I-94 arrival and departure record used to enter the country
  • A copy of any form of official identification, which includes a passport or government issued ID
  • Two passport-style photographs

Attach the Proof of Filing Fee

After your application is completed and the necessary documentation is attached, you can pay your filing fee. This filing fee is $410 and can be made payable to the USCIS. This fee can be paid by money order, cash, or check.

Additionally, you will need to undergo a biometrics exam, which will require another fee. The price of this exam is $85 unless the fee is waived. In the coming sections, we will explain more in detail about the filing fee exemption.

Submit the Application

Once the above steps are completed, you are finally able to submit your full application. Again, before fully submitting your application, check to ensure everything is filled out to completion and that all the requested documents are included.

When this is done, you will be able to submit your application by mail. Or, if you choose the online submission option, you can submit your application via an online portal.

The Processing Time of EAD

The average processing time of an EAD will vary based on the circumstances and backlog the USCIS has. Generally, these applications will take up to 90 days before a decision is officially made. However, you are able to track your application.

When you apply for an EAD and submit your application, you will receive a receipt with a tracking number. This number will allow you to check the status of your application and get updates as to which stage your application is in.

The Cost To File Your EAD Form

As stated in the previous sections, the cost to file an application for an EAD, comes to around $140. And, you will need to undergo a biometric screening test, which totals to around $85. Together, the total price to file and receive your EAD is $495.

This total payment can be done in cash, check, or money order. But, if you have filed your forms online, cash is not accepted. However, as stated before, there are some categories of people who are exempt from paying this fee.

Who Is Exempt From the Filing Fee?

This fee is waived if you fit into the following categories:

  • U-1 nonimmigrants
  • Refugees or those who are seeking asylum
  • NATO personnel or government workers
  • N-9 or N-8 nonimmigrants
  • Citizens of Micronesia, marshal islands or Palu

Who Can Waive the Filing Fee?

Additionally, some individuals can get their filing fee waived; however, USCIS must request this. Some situations that may allow you to waive fees include:

  1. Your household income falls below the 150% poverty guideline mark
  2. You are experiencing financial hardships such as medical bills or emergencies
  3. You are eligible by qualifying means based on Form I-912
  4. You can prove you are in a means-tested benefit program, which includes Medicaid, TANF, food stamps, or supplemental security income

And, sometimes, you are able to waive your biometrics fee as well. This can only be done if you are in the eligible categories this applies to, such as:

  • Those in DACA consideration
  • Those with compelling circumstances
  • Those who have approval for employment-based petitions
  • Spouses or unmarried and dependent children with compelling circumstances

How Long Is Your EAD Valid For?

Your employment authorization document is valid for different lengths of time, depending on the application. Usually, it’s typically good for a year; however, your legal status and visa will fully determine the validity of your permit.

It’s recommended also to extend your EAD if it reaches its end 180 days before the end date. This is easily done, however, you must renew your EAD if you wish to keep working legally in the U.S. while residing here.

What To Do If There Are Errors in an EAD Card?

At times, the USCIS can make mistakes due to the high volume of people’s documents they are checking over and deciding on. It isn’t uncommon for mistakes to arise on your EAD card. And when this happens, you must have it corrected.

If USCIS has committed an error, you must first write a letter explaining the error they made. Along with this letter, any supporting documents that back up the inconsistency or incorrect information on your document will be helpful. And, within this packet you send back to USCIS, you will need to send your EAD as well.

On the other hand, if you have made an error, you will need to start the work permit process from scratch. This means, starting with a new I-765 form, supporting documents and paying another fee. Additionally, within your application, you will need to include your card that contains the errors.

What To Do If Your EAD Card Is Not Delivered?

Your EAD will get approved and then will be sent to you via a generated system. However, in some cases, recipients still need to receive their cards in the mail. You will know if your card has been lost in the post because the online portal system will say when your card is shipped.

When you see that your card has been shipped, but you have received it yet, then you need to create an inquiry to USCIS. By doing so, you will need to provide the U.S. postal services tracking number they gave you and include it in your inquiry.

Additionally, adding significant information, such as your EAD number, recipients from your application fees, and the date you filed for your document, will be helpful.

What To Do If A Card Is Delayed?

In the past, when cards were delayed in the mail, recipients were able to request an interim EAD. This document allows you to continue working legally while waiting for your updated EAD and can only be given if your card is delayed for 90 days when filing on time.

However, in 2017 this procedure was eliminated, and a 180 day mark was added. This means that USCIS will have 180 days to process the initial application or a renewal application and has a longer amount of time to approve or deny your request.

And, it’s worth noting that now, if your card is delayed for any reason, under the maximum amount of 180 days, you are unable to work legally. Meaning you must take a break from work, or push back the start date of your job in order to follow the process legally.

What If Your Card Expires or Is Lost?

When your EAD expires, you are able to apply for an extension. This extension is only able to be completed 180 days before your card expires. Then, you must submit the renewal application.

In order to file for a renewal, you will typically need to follow the normal application process. This can be done by submitting a new I-765 form, paying the filing fees, and adding all the necessary documentation to show legality.

On the other hand, if your card is lost, you must request a replacement card by filing Form I-765. This form follows the normal application process; however, USCIS is notified that this application is due to the loss of your original document.

EAD Is Denied… What’s Next?

On the rare occasion that your EAD application is denied, you may be able to change your fate. Although you cannot get the decision appealed, you can submit a motion to reconsider the final decision.

By filing these motions, you are simply asking USCIS to have another look at your application and make a new decision. By filing a motion, you must also add new facts or evidence-based documents to ensure that your favorable outcome is met.

However, by simply filing a motion for reconsideration, there is no guarantee that the decision will change. But it’s a step in the right direction to a different possible outcome.

Need Help Obtaining Your EAD? Contact Us!

Now that you have a bit more background on this fantastic type of work permit, there’s nothing stopping you from applying for your EAD. We understand that sometimes the application process can seem complex and overwhelming, however, our support is always readily available.

At ImmigrationDirect, we know how stressful immigration paperwork can be. This is why we offer modern solutions with user-friendly software. If you required to consult an immigration lawyer for your problems contact us today to begin your EAD application process!

Not Sure Where to Start?

Check Your Application Status

Scroll to Top
immigration direct logo