EAD – Employment Authorization Document

Your guide to the U.S. EAD, the employment authorization document needed to legally work in the United States.

What does EAD mean?

EAD stands for Employment Authorization Document. This document, commonly referred to as a “work permit”, is an identification document (like a driver’s license) that proves your right to work in the U.S. This document is granted to immigrants whose visa includes work authorization.

How is a green card different from EAD?

A green card is the document issued to U.S. permanent residents. Both a green card and an EAD prove your right to work in the U.S.; however, they have other key differences. Mainly, green card holders’ immigration status is permanent, meaning their work authorization does not expire. EAD holders only have the right to work for a limited period of time, as specified on the EAD or on their visa.

Below are images of the most current green cards and the most current EAD’s. While green cards do have an expiration date, it is only the card that expires and not the permanent residency status. Green card holders can continue to legally work in the U.S. with an expired green card. The expiration date on an EAD generally signifies the end of the period you are allowed to work in the U.S. If you extend your visa, you will likely need to apply to renew your EAD.

Green Cards

Green card issued after May 1, 2017:

 

 

 

 

Previously issued green card:

 

EAD’s

EAD issued after May 1, 2017:

 

 

 

 

Previously issued EAD:

 

How long can you have an EAD?

EAD’s are issued for a specific period of time, as determined by your visa. Generally, your EAD will be valid for the same period of time as your work visa. If you extend your visa, you should apply to renew your EAD before it expires.

Do you need a sponsor for EAD?

You don’t need a sponsor for an EAD as EAD’s are issued to people who already have permission to work in the United States. While you don’t need a sponsor to apply for an EAD, you may need a sponsor to receive a U.S. work visa.

Below is a chart of temporary worker visa categories, as provided by the U.S. Department of State. All of these visas require you to have a U.S. employer sponsor, who must file the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129). Other visas may provide limited work authorization, such as some student visas. Refugees and asylees also often qualify for work authorization.

Visa categoryGeneral description – About an individual in this category:
H-1B: Person in Specialty OccupationTo work in a specialty occupation. Requires a higher education degree or its equivalent. Includes fashion models of distinguished merit and ability and government-to-government research and development, or co-production projects administered by the Department of Defense.
H-1B1: Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Professional – Chile, SingaporeTo work in a specialty occupation. Requires a post-secondary degree involving at least four years of study in the field of specialization. (Note: This is not a petition-based visa. For application procedures, please refer to the website for the U.S. Embassy in Chile or the U.S. Embassy in Singapore.)
H-2A: Temporary Agricultural WorkerFor temporary or seasonal agricultural work. Limited to citizens or nationals of designated countries, with limited exceptions, if determined to be in the United States interest.
H-2B: Temporary Non-agricultural WorkerFor temporary or seasonal non- agricultural work. Limited to citizens or nationals of designated countries, with limited exceptions, if determined to be in the United States interest.
H-3: Trainee or Special Education visitorTo receive training, other than graduate medical or academic, that is not available in the trainee’s home country or practical training programs in the education of children with mental, physical, or emotional disabilities.
L: Intracompany TransfereeTo work at a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of the current employer in a managerial or executive capacity, or in a position requiring specialized knowledge. Individual must have been employed by the same employer abroad continuously for 1 year within the three preceding years.
O: Individual with Extraordinary Ability or AchievementFor persons with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or extraordinary recognized achievements in the motion picture and television fields, demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim, to work in their field of expertise. Includes persons providing essential services in support of the above individual.
P-1: Individual or Team Athlete, or Member of an Entertainment GroupTo perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete or as a member of an entertainment group. Requires an internationally recognized level of sustained performance. Includes persons providing essential services in support of the above individual.
P-2: Artist or Entertainer (Individual or Group)For performance under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the United States and an organization in another country. Includes persons providing essential services in support of the above individual.
P-3: Artist or Entertainer (Individual or Group)To perform, teach or coach under a program that is culturally unique or a traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performance or presentation. Includes persons providing essential services in support of the above individual.
Q-1: Participant in an International Cultural Exchange ProgramFor practical training and employment and for sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of your home country through participation in an international cultural exchange program.

How to get an EAD?

You can get an EAD by applying for one with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The application is Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. You may qualify for an EAD if you fit into one of the following categories:

  • Asylee/ Refugee and their spouses and children
  • Nationality categories
  • Foreign students
  • Eligible dependents of employees of diplomatic missions, international organizations, or NATO
  • Employment-based nonimmigrants
  • Family-based nonimmigrants
  • Adjustment of status categories

Check to see if you qualify to file the I-765 application with our FREE quiz.

What is the processing time for an EAD?

The processing time of an EAD application can vary depending on where and when you file. You can check the status of your I-765 application online or by phone with the USCIS. To check your status online, go to https://egov.uscis.gov. To check your status by phone, call 1-800-375-5283.

Can an EAD be renewed?

Yes. You can renew an EAD using Form I-765 as long as you continue to have valid work authorization through your immigration status.