Understanding the Difference Between Employment Authorization Document and Work Visa

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The United States allows foreign workers to work in various employment categories in the United States. Only the foreign workers who are granted permission to get employed in the United States, may work there. There are different employment categories and the conditions and eligibility requirements vary according to the category.

A work visa must be obtained by a foreign national to work in the United States. Similarly a non-immigrant who is in the United States on temporary basis must obtain an Employment Authorization Document by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. This EAD will grant permission to a non-immigrant to work in the United States lawfully, until the EAD is valid.

Employment Authorization Document

An Employment Authorization Document is a work permit that allows the holder to work legally in America. US citizens do not require work permits to work in the United States. Similarly a lawful permanent resident does not require a work permit to work in the United States.

A foreign national other than a US citizen and a Green Card holder must obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), to work in the country. EADs issued by the USCIS permit the holders to work legally for any US employer. An EAD allows the holder to work in the United States, it does not grant the holder any immigrant status in the United States and it is not the same as a Green Card.

EADs are generally valid for a period of two years and at times EADs valid for a year are being issued by the USCIS. When your EAD is close to expiration and if you wish to continue working in the United States, you must apply for renewal and your US employer will not be a part of the application process, as an EAD is not employer-specific.

Work Visa

Foreign nationals who seek to reside temporarily in the United States for a particular time period and to work for a particular employer, may be granted a work visa. Work visas are temporary non-immigrant visas granted to foreign nationals who come to the United States to work there temporarily.

Few common non-immigrant work visas are H1B, L1A, L1B and TN work visas. Foreign workers who seek to obtain work visas must be sponsored by US employers. The sponsoring US employer must start the process six months prior to the anticipated date of joining. Work visas are generally granted for around three years. If the worker wishes to work for an extended period of time, he can apply for a extension and the work visa may be extended for up to six years.

The foreign worker who works in the United States, with a work visa may be able to work for the specific employer who sponsored him. He may not be able to switch jobs and if he wishes to work for a different employer, the foreign worker must obtain a new work visa and must be sponsored by the new employer. There are certain categories of work visas that allow the holders to apply for permanent resident status, while in the United States as a non-immigrant

Both, an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and a non-immigrant work visa allow the holders to work in the United States, but both documents are not the same. The eligibility requirements for an EAD is different from that of a work visa. Hence it is wise to understand the difference between both the documents.

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