In today’s fast-paced world, having the right work authorization is crucial for pursuing career opportunities in the United States. One such document that can open doors to a world of employment possibilities is the Employment Authorization Card (EAD).
What is an Employment Authorization Card (EAD)?
An Employment Authorization Card, also known as a work permit or EAD, is a government-issued document that allows non-U.S. citizens to legally work in the United States. It is issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and is often required for employment in the U.S.
Who Is Eligible for an EAD?
- Asylum Seekers and Refugees: People who have been granted asylum or refugee status in the U.S. can apply for an EAD.
- Spouses of Certain Visa Holders: If you are married to someone holding an H-1B, L-1, or E visa, you may be eligible for an EAD.
- F-1 Visa Students: F-1 visa students are allowed to work under specific circumstances, such as on-campus employment or Optional Practical Training (OPT), which requires an EAD.
- Adjustment of Status Applicants: Individuals applying for lawful permanent residence (green card) through certain categories may apply for an EAD while their application is pending.
- Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Recipients: Those granted TPS due to certain conditions in their home country are eligible for an EAD.
- Asylees and U Visa Applicants: Asylees and victims of certain crimes who have applied for a U visa can also obtain an EAD.
Applying for an EAD: Step-by-Step
Now that you know who is eligible for an EAD, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of applying for one:
Step 1: Determine Your Eligibility
Before you start the application process, make sure you fall into one of the eligible categories mentioned earlier. If you’re uncertain, consult an immigration attorney or visit the USCIS website for guidance.
Step 2: Complete Form I-765
Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, is the official document used to apply for an EAD. You can download this form from the USCIS website. Be sure to read the instructions carefully and fill out the form accurately.
Step 3: Gather Required Documents
Along with Form I-765, you’ll need to submit supporting documents, such as proof of your eligibility category, identity, and legal status. This may include a copy of your passport, visa, I-94 record, and any other documents specified in the instructions.
Step 4: Pay the Filing Fee
As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, the filing fee for Form I-765 was $410. However, fees are subject to change, so be sure to check the USCIS website for the most current fee information. You can pay this fee by check or money order payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Step 5: Mail Your Application
Double-check that you have included all required documents and fees. Then, mail your application to the appropriate USCIS address, as specified in the form instructions. It’s essential to use certified mail or a courier service with tracking to ensure your application reaches its destination safely.
Step 6: Attend Biometrics Appointment
After USCIS receives your application, they will schedule you for a biometrics appointment. During this appointment, they will take your fingerprints, photograph, and signature to conduct background checks. Make sure to attend this appointment as scheduled.
Step 7: Wait for Processing
USCIS will review your application and supporting documents. Processing times can vary, so be patient. You can check the status of your application online using the USCIS website.
Step 8: Receive Your EAD Card
Once your application is approved, you will receive your EAD card in the mail. This card typically has a validity period of one or two years, depending on your eligibility category.
Benefits of Having an EAD
Now that you know how to obtain an EAD, let’s explore the exciting benefits it can offer to your career:
- Legal Employment: With an EAD, you can work legally in the United States. This opens up a wide range of job opportunities, giving you the ability to explore your career potential.
- Financial Independence: Having the legal right to work allows you to become financially independent, support yourself, and achieve your financial goals.
- Career Growth: Earning a stable income in the U.S. can contribute to your professional growth. You can gain valuable work experience and build your resume, opening doors to better job prospects.
- Networking Opportunities: Employment often involves interacting with colleagues, clients, and supervisors. Building a professional network can be instrumental in advancing your career.
- Access to Benefits: Many employers offer benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. An EAD allows you to access these valuable benefits.
- Contributing to the Economy: By working and paying taxes, you contribute to the U.S. economy, which benefits both you and the country as a whole.
Maintaining Your EAD Status
Obtaining an EAD is just the beginning. To make the most of it, you must ensure you comply with the rules and regulations governing EAD holders. Here are some essential tips for maintaining your EAD status:
- Renew on Time: Your EAD has an expiration date. It’s crucial to file for a renewal well before your current EAD expires to avoid gaps in employment authorization.
- Stay in Compliance: Abide by the terms and conditions of your visa or immigration status. Violating these terms can jeopardize your EAD and your overall immigration status.
- Notify USCIS of Changes: If you change your address, notify USCIS within ten days of moving. Failure to do so can lead to issues with receiving important notices and documents.
- Understand Travel Restrictions: Be aware of any travel restrictions that may apply to your EAD category. Some EAD holders may need additional authorization to travel outside the U.S.
- Keep Copies of Documents: Maintain copies of all your immigration-related documents, including previous EAD cards, in a secure place.
Whether you’re an immigrant, a student, or someone seeking temporary work, understanding the EAD and the application process is vital.