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Complete guide to obtaining an employment authorization document for temporary work in USA

Getting a visa that allows you to work in the US is quite a long process. It takes a few months or longer to review the documents, attend the interview and get the decision. Those who have a nonimmigrant US work visa also need a permit to start working.

A US work permit can be of two types:

  • Permanent US work permit
  • Nonimmigrant visa US permit

This article will go through the nonimmigrant visa work permit and its details.

What is an EAD Card?

The EAD card, otherwise known as a work permit, is a document issued by USCIS that grants temporary employment authorization to foreigners in the United States. When you get an approved EAD, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sends you thea card. The card looks like a regular ID card as in the sample below, but gives you permission to legally work in the US

The EAD is like a driver’s license for work. When you show your driver’s license, the authorities know you have permission to drive. With the EAD employers know you have permission to work in the US.

ead sample
EAD Card Sample

If you already have a nonimmigrant visa but do not have an EAD, then any employer will not let you start working. Working without a valid EAD could lead to USCIS revoking your visa or you could get deported.

What Are the Requirements for an Employment Authorization Document?

To be eligible to get an EAD, you must fulfill a few criteria. The requirements and criteria are in the EAD Instructions in the USCIS website. As an overview, you must be in these categories to apply for the EAD:

  • Asylee or Refugee and their dependents (spouse and children)
  • Certain nationalities
  • International students (such as F-1 visa or M-1 visa student)
  • Eligible Dependents of Employees from International Organizations, Diplomatic Missions, or NATO
  • Employment-Based Nonimmigrant (such as spouses of L-1 visa, or E-1 visa)
  • Family Based Nonimmigrant (such as fiancé visa, or K-3 visa dependent)
  • EAD applicant who has filed for an Adjustment of Status (you have applied for a Green Card)

The EAD instruction form has an in-depth description of each category. You must read the instructions to see which category you are in. Making mistakes on the category might lead to a rejection of your EAD.

The EAD is only for those who have a US nonimmigrant visa. If you have an immigrant visa or Green Card, you do not need an EAD. Your Green Card serves as a work permit and allows you to work.

How to Apply for an EAD?

To complete the EAD application, there are a few steps which you must follow, as outlined below.

Step 1: File Form I-765

Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization is the main form for the EAD. It is available on the USCIS website and you must download it to start filling it out. Download the form right before you start applying because USCIS frequently makes changes.

The form will have space for you to provide your personal information and answer questions for your category. These questions will also determine the documents you will have to provide.

Step 2: Attach supporting documents

The documents you will attach will be proof that you are eligible for an EAD. Each one of the categories will need extensive documentation. Through them you must prove your status in the US, qualifications, and other evidence. You must attach them to the original Form I-765 which you will submit to USCIS. Examples of documents you must attach are as follows:

  • A copy of the front and back of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record
  • A copy of your last EAD. If you did not have an EAD before, you must submit a copy of a government issued ID such as a passport. The document must have your name, date of birth, and picture.
  • Two identical passport-style photos of yourself. The photos must be within the last 30 days of you applying. You must print your name and Alien Receipt Number lightly on the back of each photo.

USCIS will ask for other documents based on your category. You do not need to attach supporting documents if you are applying for an adjustment of status. USCIS will already have the information on their system if you are in that situation. Otherwise, supporting documents are mandatory.

Step 3: Attach the fee receipts

In the sections below on the cost of the EAD, we will go through how much the work permit costs and how to pay the fee. Regardless of that, you must attach proof of payment to the application. USCIS will not process your EAD if you do not prove you have paid their fees for filing and biometrics.

Step 4: Submit the application

After you have compiled your whole file, you can submit the EAD application to USCIS. There are two ways to file it:

  • By mail
  • Online through e-filing

If you submit by mail, you must check the address carefully. Different states and categories have different USCIS locations so make sure to send it to the right one.

If you submit through e-filing, then you can fill in Form I-765 online and send it to USCIS. But, even if you apply online, you must mail your supporting documents.

Before you submit, remember to make a copy of the documents for yourself. You might need them later if you apply for a renewal or if you lose any of the information.

What is the EAD Card Processing Time?

EAD processing usually takes around 60 to 90 days. USCIS will then send a notice whether they approved your EAD or not.

If they approve your application, then they will mail the EAD card to you. If they deny your EAD, you will get a notice telling you the reasons why you were not an eligible candidate.

How Much Does the EAD Cost?

The EAD application fees are in two parts:

  • The filing fee which is $410
  • The biometrics fee which is $85

So together, the EAD application will cost you $495. You can pay this fee through money order or check if applying by mail. If you apply online, they will also accept debit or credit cards. You cannot pay by cash though.

There are some categories which are exempt from the filing fee. These are:

  • Asylees, Refugees or those Paroled as Refugees
  • N-8 or N-9 nonimmigrants
  • Citizens of Micronesia, Palau, or the Marshall Islands
  • Those Granted Withholding of Deportation
  • Victims of Severe Forms of Trafficking
  • U-1 Nonimmigrants
  • Those dependent of an international organization, foreign government, or NATO personnel
  • Applicants for Asylum
  • VAWA Self-petitioners

Also, if you are not in one of these categories, you can request a fee waiver from USCIS. You can file a waiver if you are in this situation:

  • If you are eligible to file Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver. You can check the instructions in the USCIS website to see if you qualify.
  • You have supporting documentation to attach to the form that proves the following:
    • You or someone living with you is currently receiving a means-tested benefit
    • Your annual household income is below the 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines at the time of your filing
    • You are experiencing financial hardships which do not allow you to pay the fees. Financial hardships can be if you have unexpected medical bills or emergencies.

You can prove you are in a means-tested benefit program if you are in programs such as:

  • Medicaid
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Some examples of programs that do not qualify as means-tested are:

  • Medicare
  • Social Security benefits
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Student financial aid/grants/loans
  • Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance (RSDI)

As for the biometrics fee, there are only three categories of people who must pay it. These are:

  • Those requesting consideration for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
  • Those who have approval for an employment based immigrant petition and have compelling circumstances
  • Spouses or unmarried dependent children of beneficiaries who have approval for an employment based immigrant petition with compelling circumstances

Other categories are not required to pay the biometrics fee.

How Long is the EAD Valid?

After you get your EAD and start working, it is valid usually for 1 year. When the EAD is close to expiring, you must file a renewal within 180 days of it expiry. Depending on the type of visa you have, you can renew the EAD only one time or many times.

What if the EAD Has Incorrect Information On It?

If USCIS has issued your EAD but it has some incorrect information on it, you can file to have it corrected.

If the mistake was not due to a USCIS error, you must submit these documents:

  • A new Form I-765
  • The filing fees
  • Supporting documents
  • The card which has the mistake

If the mistake was due to USCIS error, then you do not need to submit a new Form I-765 or pay any new filing fees. You must submit:

  • The card which has the mistake
  • An explanation of the mistake
  • Supporting documents which prove the correct information

What Kind of Health Insurance Am I Eligible For?

The type of  health insurance you are eligible for as a temporary worker in the United States depends on how long you will be staying in the US. Here are the types of plans available to foreign workers:

  • Short-term insurance
  • Long-term (domestic) insurance

To learn more about the health insurance options for foreign workers visa holders visit the article.

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