Form I-765 Guide: Work Permit Application

Not everyone in the United States can legally work. If you’re a foreign national, you might need an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to get a job. This work permit allows you to be employed temporarily. If you don’t already have the right to work while in the United States, you can submit online or on paper the Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization to claim both the permission and the EAD card itself.

Even if your visa allows you to work, you might still want an EAD, as it is official proof for employers that you can legally hold a job. In this case, you’d use Form I-765 to get the card, not the permission.

IMPORTANT: The I-765 form doesn’t apply to everyone. If you’re a lawful permanent resident (Green Card) or a certain visa holder (like H-1B), you automatically have work authorization and don’t need Form I-765 or an EAD

What Is the I-765 Form, and When Do You Need It?

Waiting for your Green Card can be exciting, but the question of working legally during that period might leave you confused. Enter Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization, your key to temporary work authorization while your Green Card application is being processed.

Suppose you’re applying for a Green Card through certain categories, like family-based applications, and lack pre-existing work authorization. In that case, the Form I-765 and the subsequent work permit answer your questions. 

If you request a family-based Green Card from another country (e.g., CR1 visa), you’re in luck! Upon entering the U.S. with your approved Green Card, work authorization starts automatically, so there’s no need for an additional EAD application.

The good news is that submitting Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization is relatively straightforward, especially if you submit it with your Green Card application.

IMPORTANT: Waiting for your EAD before engaging in any paid work is crucial. Working without authorization can lead to legal complications, so patience is vital!

Eligibility Criteria for the I-765 Form

If you meet the eligibility requirements for a family-based Green Card, you can also request a work permit. If Form I-485 – your Green Card application – is still pending, you can apply for employment authorization and get an EAD. However, many other categories may file for Form I-765. 

Who Can Apply for Employment Authorization via Form I-765 in the United States?

This table summarizes the main eligibility categories for submitting Form I-765 and applying for an EAD in the U.S. Remember, this is not a complete list, and you should consult an immigration attorney for specific guidance. Moreover, for a complete eligibility list, consult the USICS website


Adjustment Applicant (c)(9, c)(16)

Deferred Action (c)(14, c)(33 - DACA)

Asylee (Granted Asylum) (a)(5)

Asylum Applicant (with pending application) (c)(8)

Paroled as a Refugee (a)(4)

Refugee (a)(3)

Dependent of A-1/A-2 Foreign Government Officials (c)(1)

Dependent of G-1, G-3 or G-4 Nonimmigrant (c)(4)

Dependent of NATO-1 Through NATO-6 (c)(7)

B-1 Nonimmigrant Domestic Servant of a U.S. Citizen (c)(17)(ii)

B-1 Nonimmigrant Employed by a Foreign Airline (c)(17)(iii)

B-1 Nonimmigrant Personal/Domestic Servant of a Nonimmigrant Employer(c)(17)(i)

Spouse of an E-1/E-2 Treaty Trader or Investor (a)(17, c)(12)

Spouse of an L-1 Intracompany Transferee (a)(18)

H-4 Spouse of an H-1B Nonimmigrant (c)(26)

K-1 Nonimmigrant Fiancé(e) of U.S. Citizen or K-2 Dependent (a)(6)

K-3 Nonimmigrant Spouse of U.S. Citizen or K-4 Dependent (a)(9)

Family Unity Program Participant (a)(13, a)(14)

F-1 Student Seeking Pre-completion OPT (c)(2)(a)

F-1 Student Seeking Post-completion OPT (c)(3)(B)

F-1 Student Seeking 17-month Extension for STEM Students (c)(3)(C)

F-1 Student Offered Off-Campus Employment by Qualifying Organization (c)(3)(ii)

F-1 Student Seeking Off-Campus Employment Due to Economic Hardship (c)(3)(iii)

J-2 The Spouse or the Minor Child of an Exchange Visitor (c)(5)

M-1 Student Seeking Practical Training After Completing Studies (c)(6)

Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, or Palau Citizen (a)(8)

Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)/Extended Voluntary Departure (a)(11)


Applying for a Green Card through certain categories

Granted temporary permission to stay

Granted asylum or refugee status

Seeked asylum on or after January 4, 1995

Granted temporary parole

Granted refugee status

Spouse or child of certain visa holders

Spouse or child of certain visa holders

Spouse or child of certain visa holders

Employed as a domestic servant

Employed by specific airlines

Employed as a domestic servant

Married to an E-1/E-2 visa holder

Married to an L-1 visa holder

Spouse of H-1B visa holder

Engaged to U.S. citizen

Married to U.S. citizen

Participating in specific programs

Seeking Optional Practical Training before studies end

Seeking Optional Practical Training after studies end

STEM students seeking extended OPT

Offered off-campus work by specific organizations

Facing economic hardship

Spouse or child of J-1 exchange visitor

Seeking Practical Training after studies end

Citizens of these specific territories

Granted temporary protection due to conditions in home country


Can file with Green Card application (I-485) or later while pending

Depends on the category. DACA requires filing with I-821D

File after receiving the status

Varies depending on the case

Varies depending on the case

File after receiving the status

It depends on the primary visa holder's category

It depends on the primary visa holder's category

It depends on the primary visa holder's category

Varies by subcategory

Varies by subcategory

Varies by subcategory

File after spouse receives a visa

File after spouse receives a visa

File after spouse receives a visa

Varies depending on the case

Varies depending on the case

File after approval for the program

Varies depending on the program

Varies depending on the program

Varies depending on the program

Varies depending on the program

Varies depending on the program

Can file with or after the J-1 program begins

File after completing studies

File with evidence of citizenship

Varies depending on the program

The work permits are widely available to all non-resident legal immigrants living in the U.S. Whether you are a Green Card applicant waiting for approval, F1-visa student, DACA recipient, K1-visa holder, refugee, or asylum seeker legally allowed to stay in the U.S., you can file for Form I-765 and receive a work permit.

IMPORTANT! As per USCIS news, the holders of certain temporary immigration statuses in the U.S. may be eligible to work legally by obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You can file Form I-765 and qualify for an EAD if you were paroled into the U.S., meaning you received temporary permission to stay. 

IMPORTANT! Also, per USCIS news, Afghan nationals who are paroled into the U.S. and seek employment authorization need a Social Security number (SSN) to work legally. This SSN allows your employer to report your earnings to the government. Applying for an SSN while submitting your Form I-765 for employment authorization is recommended.

Who Cannot Apply for Employment Authorization via Form I-765 in the United States?

Not all foreign nationals can submit Form I-765 and apply for Employment Authorization in the U.S. If you hold a dependent visa associated with specific primary visa categories, obtaining an EAD to work might not be an option.

Specifically, dependents of H, O, F, M, P, Q, and R visa holders are generally ineligible for individual EADs. If your spouse, parent, or child holds one of these visas, their dependent status typically doesn’t permit you to work independently.

However, there are exceptions and nuances to consider:

  • Specific subcategories within these visa types may have pathways to employment authorization. For example, some L-1 intracompany transferee visas (L-2) dependents can qualify for EADs under specific circumstances.
  • You may be eligible for an EAD through other avenues unrelated to your dependent status. Examples include asylum, refugee status, or Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

Consult with an immigration specialist to understand your situation and explore potential options for working legally in the U.S. They can check your eligibility criteria based on your circumstances and guide you through the complex immigration process.

IMPORTANT: Working without proper authorization can lead to serious legal consequences. So, always err on the side of caution and seek professional advice before engaging in any paid employment.

The I-765 Form Processing Time

How long does it take to get my work permit? This is a question many people ask, hoping the answer would be something like “soon.” Unfortunately, things are not that simple.

The USCIS website says that once your I-765 form is approved, you will receive your work permit in about two weeks. The issue here is that USCIS faces enormous backlogs in approving forms I-765. The Form I-765 processing time can be anywhere from 6 months to a year.

The processing time is, of course, affected by the correctness of your application, the validity of your documents, the service center engaged in the processing, and more. 

How Much Does the I-765 Form Cost?

Filing for I-765 opens doors to legal work opportunities in the U.S. But before you embark on this journey, understanding the associated costs and fees is crucial. Here’s a detailed guide to navigating the financial aspects of your I-765 application.

Standard I-765 Form Fee

The standard I-765 filing fee is $520 from April 1, 2024, for most applicants. It covers the general processing of your application. Regardless of the application outcome, fees are final and cannot be refunded.

Who Is Exempt from Paying the I-765 Form Filing Fee?

Some individuals are exempt from paying the I-765 filing fee. These categories include:

  • Afghan nationals: As of 2023, if you’re granted parole and seek work authorization (eligibility category (c)(11))), you can file for an EAD for free. It covers initial and replacement applications.
  • Military personnel: Current or former service members paroled under the Immigrant Military Members and Veterans Initiative (IMMVI) program don’t have to pay the filing fee. Remember to indicate “IMMVI” on your form and provide supporting documentation like your D.D. Form 214.

How to Pay the I-765 Form Fee

You can pay your I-765 fees via:

  • Money order: A reliable and secure option.
  • Personal check: Ensure it’s payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” Do not use any abbreviations. 
  • Cashier’s check: A guaranteed payment method.
  • Credit card: Pay conveniently using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.

When you pay your I-765 fees, avoid submitting one payment for multiple forms, which might delay processing. By carefully navigating the I-765 costs and following these tips, you can benefit from an easy application process and focus on achieving your work authorization goals.

IMPORTANT! The cost of U.S. immigration forms and applications is subject to change. Consult the official USCIS website for the most current fee information before submitting documents to prevent delays or denials. 

What Documents Are Required to File Form I-765?

Filing Form I-765 for a work permit is your first step to legally working in the U.S. But before you begin, gathering the necessary documents is essential. Here’s a table summarizing what you’ll need, along with helpful explanations:


Copy of I-94 travel record (front & back) or electronic I-94 printout

Copy of U.S. visa (if applicable)

Copy of passport photo page

Copies of previous work permits (if any)

Two recent passport-style photos

Receipt notice for pending green card application (Form I-485) (under specific circumstances)

Government-issued ID (if no previous work permit)

* Birth certificate & photo ID

* Visa from a non-US consulate (if applicable)

* National ID with photo/fingerprint


Proof of your legal entry and current immigration status

Valid visa documentation

Identification with photo and biographical information

Demonstrates prior work authorization (optional)

Official identification photos

Proof of ongoing green card application

Additional identity verification

Valid forms of identification

Alternative ID with photo and visa information

Government-issued document as proof of identity


All applicants

Visa holders seeking EAD

All applicants

Previously authorized applicants

All applicants

Only if sponsored by a green card holder or applying after filing for a green card

First-time applicants without prior work permits

IMPORTANT! Always double-check the official form instructions for any category-specific requirements. Do not submit the originals of your documents, only copies. Always keep copies of your I-765 submission packet for your records

How to Apply for Employment Authorization with the I-765 Form

Form I-765 application can take a combined path (Green Card application) and a standalone path (submit I-765 form later). Here is a breakdown:

The Combined Application: Form I-765 and Form I-485

  • Submit Form I-765 with your Green Card application (Form I-485) right from the beginning. This can speed up the process of getting your work permit. Simply complete Form I-765 with two passport-sized photos and include them with your I-485 package.

    If you’re filing Form I-765 with I-485 and use mail to send both forms, send them to the same address specified on the I-485 form.

The Standalone Application: Form I-765

Even if you’ve already filed for your Green Card, you can apply for an EAD later. Just complete Form I-765 separately and attach a copy of the USCIS notice confirming they received your I-485 form (including the filing fee).

If you file Form I-765 online, create a USCIS online account and follow the steps and instructions to submit your application via their website

IMPORTANT! Always follow the current filing instructions for Form I-765. USCIS assigns applications to different service centers for processing. Don’t rely on older information that might direct you to an outdated address

How to Fill in Form I-765: Instructions

Completing Form I-765 carefully and accurately can expedite the processing your work permit application. Refer to the official USCIS filing instructions for detailed guidance and updates, and never forget to double-check your information and documents. Let’s see some key points you need to know about:


Part 1: Reason for Application

Part 2: Identification Information

Part 3: Statement and Signature

Part 4: Interpreter's Contact Information (if applicable)

Part 5: Statement and Signature of the Person Who Prepared Forms (if applicable)

Part 6: Additional Information


Choose reason

Valid visa documentation

Identification with photo and biographical information

Interpreter's details

Preparer's details

Optional details


Select whether you're applying for a new work permit, renewal, or replacement.

Provide full name, address, marital status, travel history (I-94 number, CBP reporting date), date of birth, immigration status, country of origin, alien registration number, relevant USCIS receipt/approval numbers, Social Security number (optional), USCIS Online Account number (optional), eligibility category code.

Indicate if you completed the form independently or with help from an interpreter.

If you used an interpreter, have them sign, date, and provide their contact information.

If someone else prepared your form, have them sign and date it and provide their information (including business details if applicable). If the interpreter also prepared the form, they complete Parts 4 and 5. If a lawyer prepared it, they must submit a signed Form G-28 separately.

Use this space to provide additional information relevant to your application or clarify your answers.

When to File Form I-765 to Renew Your Work Permit

If you need to renew your work authorization before it expires, you must file Form I-765 for EAD renewal. This table gives you a quick overview of what you need to know:

This table provides a general overview. For specific details, check the official USCIS instructions or consult an immigration attorney. Remember to keep track of your EAD expiration date well in advance, as early renewal avoids delays and ensures uninterrupted work authorization.



U-1 Family Member

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

* Pre-completion OPT: Up to 90 days before enrollment

* Post-completion OPT: Up to 90 days before or 60 days after program end

* STEM Extension: Up to 90 days before the current OPT expires

M-1 Practical Training

Asylum Applicant

* Recommended Approval: Apply immediately upon receiving notice.

Adjustment of Status Applicant

NACARA 203 Applicant


H-4 Spouse of H-1B

Dependent on VAWA Self-Petitioner

CNMI Long-Term Resident Applicant


6 months before expiration

Same time as Form 918 or later

Employment can't start before completing a full year.

File within 30 days of DSO recommendation.

For 24-month extension.

With Form I-20 & I-539 (if applicable)

After 180 days of pending application

No need to wait 150 days.

With Form I-485 or separately (with evidence)

With Form I-881

With evidence of current and valid parole status

With Forms I-539 & I-129

With the parent's application

With Form I-955


Don't file more than 180 days early. Renewal EAD won't be backdated or postdated.

Depends on your preference.

File before the program ends, but no more than 90 days early.

EAD cannot be issued before this waiting period.

File together for convenience.

If eligible, file both forms together.

EAD won't be issued if parole is expiring soon.

File all forms together for efficiency.

Only for specific categories.

File both forms together.

The I-765 Denial Reasons and How to Manage a Denied Employment Authorization Application

Receiving a denial on your I-765 work permit application can be disheartening, but it’s important to remember that it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the road. Understanding the reasons for the denial and taking the appropriate steps are crucial for moving forward.

When USCIS Denies Your I-765 Application

If USCIS reviews your application and determines you’re ineligible for an EAD, you’ve received a case denial. In this situation, it’s best to seek legal counseling. An experienced immigration attorney can analyze the denial notice, identify the reasons for disapproval, and advise you on the best action. This might involve:

  • Appealing the decision: This formal process challenges the original decision based on legal arguments or new evidence. It requires strict adherence to deadlines and specific procedures, making legal guidance invaluable.
  • Exploring alternative pathways: Depending on your circumstances, alternative options for obtaining an EAD might exist. Your attorney can assess your eligibility for different categories and guide you through the appropriate application process.

When USCIS Rejects Your I-765 Application

A case rejection differs from a denial. Rejection means USCIS couldn’t review your application due to an error, usually on the I-765 form. This could be:

  • Missing information or signatures
  • Incorrect fees
  • Incomplete supporting documents

If you receive a rejection notice, don’t despair. Usually, fixing the error and resubmitting the application is within your reach, often without legal help. Here’s what to do:

  • Carefully read the rejection notice: This document identifies the errors you must address.
  • Fix the error(s) meticulously: Ensure all information is accurate, complete, and presented according to USCIS guidelines.
  • Resubmit the application: Attach the corrected form, any required documents, and the returned filing fee.
  • Wait for review: USCIS will re-evaluate your application without requiring a new fee.

Get Started with Form I-765 Today to Apply for U.S. Work Authorization!

If you want to work legally in the United States, start your I-765 application today! Use Immigration Direct’s online, easy-to-use software for a seamless application free of mistakes. Get tailored filing instructions depending on your eligibility and situation and ensure USCIS has no reason to reject or deny your EAD application.

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