Prepare your Employment Authorization | Form I-765

For newcomers to the United States, some of the most common questions pertain to the Employment Authorization Document (EAD or work permit). What is it? How do you get one? Who needs one? Who doesn’t?  How long does it take? How much does it cost?

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In this article, we will answer all of those questions and more.

Let’s start by addressing the first question. What is an Employment Authorization Document or work permit? Well, to put it simply, this is the official paper many foreigners, including some new immigrants need to get a job while they’re in the United States. It is roughly the same size as a U.S. driver’s license or Social Security card, and features the immigrant’s photograph along with identifying information. This information includes the holder’s full name, date of birth, country of origin, alien registration number (if applicable), and gender. The expiration date is also printed on the card.

How do you get one? Again, the answer seems simple. In order to obtain an EAD or work permit, you have to apply for one by filling out and submitting Form I-765, which you can get here. Unlike other United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) forms, this one has just two pages. However, you must complete the entire form, answering all questions truthfully. If a question does not apply to you, put “N/A” in the appropriate space. If the answer is “none,” put that in the appropriate space. Do not forget to sign the application and submit it with the required fee.

Here are some more basic rules for completing Form I-765. By following them, you will reduce the likelihood that your application is rejected based on a technicality. First, type the answers to all questions, or use a black pen, and be sure to write neatly. If you need extra room attach an extra sheet of paper to the form with your name, alien registration number (A-number) (if you have one), at the top. Be sure to include the part and item number that for which you are supplying the information, and sign and date each extra sheet.

Most of the form is easy to fill out. For example, first-time applicants should check the box marked “Permission to accept employment” under “I am applying for…” Items one through 19 also require basic information, such as your name, date of birth, U.S. mailing address, gender, marital status, nationality, current immigration status and so forth. The trickiest part of the form — and the one that most often results in delays or disqualification — is item No. 20. In this section, you are asked to provide the letter(s) and number(s) for your eligibility category, based on the instructions.

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In the instructions for Form I-765, you will see that there are eight eligibility categories. These are:

  • Asylee/refugee (including their spouse and children)
  • Nationality
  • Foreign students
  • Eligible dependents of employees of diplomatic missions, international organizations or NATO
  • Employment-based nonimmigrant
  • Family-based nonimmigrant
  • EAD applicants who have filed for adjustment of status
  • Other categories

Within each category, there are specific sub-categories. For example, within the Asylee/Refugee category, there are separate classifications with detailed explanations for each one. These are: 

  • Refugee
  • Paroled as refugee
  • Asylee (granted asylum)
  • Asylum applicant (with a pending asylum application) who filed for asylum on or after January 4, 1995

Immediately after the heading for each sub-category, you will see letters and numbers in parentheses. For example, after the heading for “Refugee,” you will see (a)(3). After the heading for “Asylee (Granted Asylum),” you will see (a)(5), and so on. Find the letters and numbers for your category in the instructions and enter them in the spaces provided   for item No. 20.

In the instructions pertaining to eligibility, you will also find important information about which supporting documents and forms (if any) to file with Form I-765. For instance, if you qualify to apply for an EAD (work permit) as a refugee, (a)(3), you must file Form I-765 with a copy of either your Form I-590, Registration for Classification as Refugee, approval letter; or Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, approval notice.

Here’s another example. If you are the nonimmigrant spouse of a U.S. citizen admitted to the United States on a K-3 visa (or the dependent of such a person, admitted on a K-4 visa) you must provide evidence of your admission along with Form I-765. This includes copies of your Form I-94, passport, and K-visa.

All applicants must provide the following with Form I-765:

  • Two identical color photos of yourself, taken within a month prior to your application that meet the specifications mandated by USCIS
  • Identification, such as a passport, visa, or national ID that meets the specifications mandated by USCIS
  • A copy of Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record (front and back), if available, unless you are filing under the (c)(9) category

Most applicants must also pay a $410 filing fee, but there may be additional fees depending on the eligibility category. You can double-check the amount by visiting and then clicking on “forms.”

If you pay by check or money order, the amount must be payable in U.S. dollars and come from a U.S. account. The application, filing fee and supporting documents should be sent to the address specified here unless you are filing Form I-765 along with other forms.

You do not have to pay the filing fee if you are filing Form I-765 under the following categories:

  • Refugee (a)(3)
  • Paroled as refugee (a)(4)
  • Asylee (a)(5)
  • N-8 or N-9 nonimmigrant (a)(7)
  • Citizen of Micronesia, Marshall Islands or Palau (a)(8)
  • Granted withholding of deportation (a)(10)
  • Victim of Severe Form of Trafficking (T-1) category (a)(16)
  • U-1 nonimmigrant (a)(19)
  • Dependent of certain foreign government, international organization or NATO personnel (c)(1), (c)(4) or (c)(7)
  • Applicant for asylum (unless you are an applicant filing under the special ABC procedure), category (c)(8)
  • VAWA self-self petitioner (c)(31)

Along with the general instructions for Form I-765, there are special filing instructions for applicants in certain categories. This is especially important to note if you are an Asylum applicant with a pending asylum application who filed for asylum on or after January 4, 1995, filing under the (c)(8) classification. This is because you cannot apply for an EAD when you file your asylum claim. Instead, you must wait for a minimum of 150 days before applying for a work permit. Failure to do so will result in the rejection of Form I-765. If you fail to show up at mandatory hearings or interviews associated with your application for asylum you will also be ineligible for an EAD.

The 150-day waiting period does not affect you if your application for asylum was recommended for approval. In other words, you can apply for a work permit by filing Form I-765 as soon as you receive this recommendation. Be sure to include the following with your completed and signed application:

  • A copy of your USCIS “acknowledgement mailer”
  • Additional proof that you filed Form I-589 with USCIS
  • Documentation showing that your Form I-589 was filed with an immigration judge at the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)
  • Or other proof that your application for asylum is still subject to official review

There are also special directions for asylum applicants meeting different criteria, which are included in the instruction packet for Form I-765. Be sure to review them carefully to see which one pertains to your specific circumstances, when to apply for an EAD, and which supporting document to provide.

Finally, it is important to note that you do not need a work permit if you already have a Green Card. However, if you should apply for an EAD by filing Form I-765 if you want or need to work while your application for lawful permanent residence is pending.   

Special filing instructions for “EAD applicants who have filed for adjustment of status” are also included in the general instruction package for Form I-765. For example, if you file your request for a work permit under category (c)(9), you must also provide documentation to prove that your Form I-485, Application for Permanent Residence, is pending. If you are filing Form I-765 as an adjustment applicant based on continuous residence since January 1, 1972, (category (c)(9)), you must also provide documentation that Form I-485 is pending. Because there are no waiting periods, applicants in both categories can file Form I-765 when they file Form I-485.

Once USCIS gets your Form I-765, it will check to make sure that you signed it and sent the correct filing fee (if necessary). If you sent the wrong fee, or forgot to sign the application, the form will be sent back to you so you can make the necessary corrections. If not, USCIS will review it to make sure it has been filled out properly and you have provided all of the necessary supporting documents. Failure to meet all of the requirements may result in the rejection of your application. USCIS may also reject your application if you don’t go to any mandatory appointments or interviews.

If your application is approved, USCIS will send your EAD to you or let you know where to get it. If USCIS denies your application, it will send you an official notice explaining the reasons for the rejection.

In general, USCIS has 30 to 90 days to make determinations about work permit applications. Applicants filing under asylum/refugee classifications usually receive a decision in 30 days, while applicants filing under other classifications usually receive a decision within 90 days.

If you have already filed an application for an EAD that was rejected it is important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney. At IMMIF, we can help find out what went wrong with a previous application, or help you fill one out for the first time. We can also reduce the risk of costly delays by checking your form before you file it. No matter what your needs or concerns may be, we are here to help.

Complete your immigration paperwork using our online software. We make it easy!

Complete your immigration paperwork using our online software. We make it easy!


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