How Long is a Work Permit Usually Valid?

A U.S. work permit, or Employment Authorization Document is valid for different periods of time, depending on the current legal status of the applicant.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-766 is also known as an Employment Authorization Document, or EAD. It is also commonly referred to as a work permit. It is an actual identification card that you must carry with you at all times. Regardless of your citizenship or national origin, you must have authorization to legally work in the United States, and all employers in the United States must check the Employment Authorization Documents of all their employees regularly to ensure that their work permits are valid.

Video — How to fill Form I-765 Employment Authorization?

Even if you are not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, you might belong in one of the three following categories of people who qualify for employment authorization:

  • Category 1 is for people who are authorized to seek employment in the U.S. because of their non-immigrant status.
  • Category 2 is for people who are authorized to work for a specific employer because of their non-immigrant status.
  • Category 3 is for people who may be eligible to file for permission to work in the United States.

Some people who are in the first and third categories- including anyone who is waiting to find out the results of a submitted I-485- must apply for a work permit using the I-765, Application for Employment Authorization Document.

There are three reasons the USCIS gives EADs:

  • To prove that an individual is allowed to be employed in the United States for a determined period of time or while they have a certain immigration status;
  • To renew an expired EAD, or;
  • To replace an EAD.

Your EAD card will serve as proof to your employer that you are allowed to work in the United States. In most cases, an EAD will be granted to you for a 1-year period.

How Long Will My Employment Authorization Document Be Valid?

While the majority of EAD cards are good for 1 year, no one will ever be granted a work permit that is valid for longer than their authorized stay in the U.S. How long your work permit is valid for will depend on your current legal immigration status, or what kind of visa you have entered the U.S. on.

For instance, if you came to the United States with a K-1 fiancé visa and applied for work authorization, you could only be granted an EAD card that is valid for the 90 days before your K-1 visa was terminated. While that may seem like it would create an unnecessarily difficult situation for a fiancé who plans to apply for a green card after the wedding and stay in the U.S., it does not in reality. After the wedding, the fiancé may apply to adjust status, and subsequently apply for a work permit that will last for a longer period of time.

Also, some applicants are allowed to renew their EADs if their stay in the U.S. is extended beyond the duration of the original work permit.

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It is important to note, however, that not every person who is allowed to work in the U.S. has to apply for a work permit. Typically, anyone allowed into the United States on a temporary work visa for a specific employer, such as an H-1B visa, does not need to (and actually should not) file an application for a work permit. These individuals may proceed directly to a Social Security office to get a card.

Alternatively, not every immigrant who is in the U.S. is allowed to apply for an EAD. To be eligible, an immigrant must have a separate visa or immigration status qualifying them to apply for a work permit.

The following list includes some, but not all, of the immigrants who are eligible to apply for work permits:

  • Those who have applied for adjustment of status and have a pending I-485;
  • Those who are refugees or have been granted asylum status;
  • Those who are VAWA self-petitioners;
  • Those who have been granted temporary protected status (TPS) or deferred enforced departure (DED);
  • Many of those who are F-1 students (some restrictions apply);
  • Those who are M-1 students in search of practical training at the conclusion of their studies;
  • Those who are J-2 spouses or their minor children;
  • Those who are a K-1 non-immigrant fiancé(e) of a United States citizen or their K-4 children;
  • Those who hold a L-2, T-1, T-2, T-3, T-4, U-1, U-2, U-3, U-4, U-5, V-1, V-2, or V-3 visa.

Note that as of October 5, 2016, USCIS lengthened the validity period for first-time and renewal EADs for asylum applicants from 1 to 2 years. All applications submitted by asylees (category (c)(8)) on or after October 5, 2016 will be effected by this change.

What is the Difference Between the I-765 and the I-766

The I-766, Employment Authorization Document is the actual card given to you by USCIS once your I-765, Application for Employment Authorization Document has been processed and approved, or you have received permission to work in the United States by some other way. The I-766 should not to be confused with the I-765, Application for Employment Authorization Document, which is a form to be filled out and submitted to USCIS to gain permission to work in the United States.

Along with other certain documentation, immigration law requires you to carry with you at all times your Employment Authorization card. This and other documents show that you have registered with INS. It is a misdemeanor if you do not have these immigration papers with you, and though it is a rule not always enforced by the government, it could choose to do so at any time.

Notice the expiration date of your work permit near the very bottom of the card. It is important that you keep track of this date. If your work permit is not valid, you could lose your job or your employer could face troubles with immigration authorities.

If you are eligible to renew your work permit, it is recommended that you do so 3 to 6 months prior to the expiration of your original work permit.

If You Have an Expired EAD

If your EAD has expired but you are still eligible for employment in the U.S., you should submit a Form 765, Application for Employment Authorization to renew your work permit. It’s always helpful to plan ahead, however, you cannot file to renew your work permit more than 120 days before the original Employment Authorization Document expires.

It usually takes approximately 5 to 7 working days after filing your renewal packet before you will get your renewal receipt in the mail. You might receive your new EAD in as little as 3 to 5 weeks after your renewal packet is sent. However, decisions in these cases may take up to 90 days and delays are always possible.

Getting a Replacement EAD

If your EAD card has any mistakes or incorrect information on it that was not the responsibility of the USCIS, you will need to file a new Form I-765 and submit it with the filing fee and any necessary supporting documents. Additionally, you must submit the card that contains the incorrect information.

If, however, you submitted all the correct information in your application and the USCIS made some error while printing that information on your card, they will take responsibility for correcting the error(s). It will not be necessary for you to file a new Form I-765 and submit another filing fee. To get the errors corrected, you should return the original card along with a complete description of the error and the supporting documents indicating the correct information to the National Benefit Center or Service Center where your last employment authorization request was approved.

Regardless of the situation, if USCIS receives an application for a replacement card where the applicant is no longer eligible for employment authorization, the submitted card and application will not be returned to the applicant. Instead, the applicant will be informed that they no longer have a legitimate reason to apply for a work permit.

In the event that you lose your EAD, or it is stolen or destroyed, you can get a replacement by submitting a new Form I-765 with the filing fee- unless you have requested and been approved for a fee waiver. NATO personnel, dependents of specific foreign governments and international organizations do not have to pay the fee for replacing an EAD.

Do You Have a Valid Work Permit?

In an effort to increase security and reduce the number of fake documents, the USCIS launched a redesigned EAD card in October 2011. The state-of-the-art technology of the new card design is meant to stop tampering, discourage counterfeiting, and make authentication of EAD cards easier and faster.

The enhanced features of the new Employment Authorization Document card help employees, employers, and immigration and law enforcement officials easily identify the card as consummate proof that the holder is authorized to work in the United States.

While the document has an updated look and feel, the way an applicant goes about applying for and receiving the EAD card has remained unchanged. EADs granted previously remained valid until the expiration date printed on the card.

The expiration date of the most recent EAD card is located near the bottom of the front of the card. Card holders should stay aware of this date so they know when to file an application for renewal.

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