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June 21st 2023

What is an EAD? The complete guide to U.S. work authorization

An Employment Authorization Document is a work permit, issued in the form of a small card, that proves an individual’s right to work in the U.S.

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An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is a work permit, issued in the form of a small card, that proves an individual’s right to work in the U.S. for a specific period of time. All U.S. employers are required by law to ensure that employees, regardless of citizenship or national origin, can work in the United States. 

In this post, we will explore what you need to know about securing an EAD.

The basics

You’ll need to apply for an EAD If you have a nonimmigrant status such as an F-1 or M-1 visa that allows you to be in the U.S., but requires permission from USCIS in order to work. Similarly, you will need to request employment authorization if you have a pending Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, or  Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal.

If you are a lawful permanent resident, you do not need to apply for an EAD.  Your Green Card is considered evidence of your employment authorization. You also do not need to apply for an EAD if you have a nonimmigrant visa that authorizes you to work for a specific employer (for example, H-1B, L-1B, O, or P visa-holders do not need EADs). Learn more about H-1B visas in our ultimate guide.

Dependent visas and EADs 

L-2 visa holders, dependents of L-1 visa holders, can also typically apply for EADs. Similar rules also usually apply to many J-2 visa holders, dependents of J-1 visa holders who are in the U.S. for research, study or training. While H-4 visa holders, dependents of H-1B visa holders, were previously permitted to apply for EADs, their ability to apply for work permits is currently being debated in American courts.

The permit typically lasts for one year. While the expiration date can vary depending on the specific case, anyone planning to remain in the country must renew their EAD before it expires. 

How to apply for an EAD

If you decide you want to live and work in the U.S. and you already possess or are applying for a visa or green card, then the next step is to get either an EAD or a H1B, depending on the criteria above.

In order to apply for an EAD, you will need to fill out Form I-765. You will also need to attach photos of yourself and documents that prove your eligibility. You will then need to submit to the USCIS. 

Filling out the form

Form I-765 is relatively short, but there are some questions beyond basic information that may generate some confusion. 

Here are some common questions answered:

Question 22: This question asks about your most recent entry into the U.S. That means that if you took a recent holiday, or if you returned to your home country for just a few days, you should count this as your most recent entry.

Question 29: Many people find this the most difficult question of the form. It asks you which eligible category you belong to; you can get the answer by consulting the I-765 instructions. These are also available on the USCIS website.

The most common categories are:

  • A-5 – Someone granted asylum

  • A-12 – Those with temporary protected status

  • C-3C – Students doing post-completion training

  • C-5 – Spouses of J-1 exchange visitors

  • C-9 – Anyone who has a pending adjustment of status application

The form offers three spaces to enter your category, but you only need to fill in the number of letters present in your category.

You’ll also be asked to attach a copy of proof of your eligibility. If you fall into the A-5 category, then you will need to attach a photocopy of the asylum office letter or of a judge’s order that granted you the asylum. Form I-765 instructions explain what kind of proof document to include.

This can be more difficult if you are awaiting news of a pending application. In this case, you won’t have proof of eligibility. You don’t need to provide documentation in this case; rather, the USCIS will seek out that information once it exists.

Costs and fees

You’ll need to provide a small fee in order to apply for the EAD. This amount can change without notice. However, at the time of this writing the total cost is $410. For those requesting deferred action, there is an additional $85 biometrics fee.

Keep in mind that you may not be required to pay the fee if you fall into certain categories. Those who are currently filing for a Green Card will not need to pay the fee until they receive confirmation. You can check online in order to find out what fees if any apply to your particular circumstances.

Submitting the form

You must send the EAD by postal mail. You can refer to the website for contact information, as the address will depend on your eligibility category. If you use U.S. mail versus package/courier service, you’re required to use a different address as well.


  • Make sure to read everything twice

  • Make copies of everything, including the EAD

  • Keep copies of all correspondence

You will receive written confirmation from the USCIS by mail if your application is successful. Make sure that you provide the correct address as the EAD itself may be mailed to you along with this confirmation, or in some cases you may be required to pick it up at your local USCIS office.

If your EAD is denied, USCIS will provide an explanation, which should provide any information you may need in order to re-apply.

EADs with incorrect information

You will be required to re-file the Form I-765 (and repay the filing fee) if you make an error that results in an invalid card. However, you may be able to waive the filing fee if you ask a representative. You’ll need to supply all the requested documents as before, along with the EAD card that contains the mistake, to ensure there are not two different cards available.

If the USCIS made the error then you can request a replacement by submitting the EAD with the error to the service center or the National Benefit Center that was responsible for approving your previous I-765. Your I-765 will still be eligible so there is no need for you to fill it out again. You also will not be expected to repay the fee.

You should also include a cover letter that explains the mistake, along with documentation that proves the correct information. For instance, if you have a misspelling in your name, then you should include a copy of your driver’s license or passport that shows the proper spelling.

Renewing an EAD

EAD cards are only valid for a temporary period of time. They are intended to be valid for set periods, often around one year at a time. This helps to ensure that the holder won’t possess a valid EAD when they no longer possess a valid Visa.

However, circumstances can of course change, and you may find yourself still in the country and still working but with your EAD about to expire. In this case, you will be able to apply for a new EAD. The good news is that this is a relatively straightforward process, as with the initial application.

First, you should ensure that you are still eligible for the EAD. If you are not eligible, then your application will not get processed and you will have wasted significant time. 

Another crucial thing to check, is that you still fall within the window of renewal. If you wait too long, then you will miss the opportunity – and this is a mistake that can lead to disappointing devastation in many cases.

The renewal window closes once your EAD expires. It also does not open until 180 days prior to expiry. Thus, you should wait until there are at most 179 days left until your expiry before you fill out your renewal application.

It is a very good idea to leave extra time however. The more time you give yourself, the better you will be able to cope with any unforeseen setbacks.

The form that you will be required to fill out is once again the I-765. This is good news, as you should at this point already be familiar with how to file it!

You will also need to pay another $410 filing fee, along with a biometric service fee of $85. As before, these fees are subject to change and are dependent on the specific person that is applying.

What about lost and stolen EADs?

Showing an EAD is necessary in a number of situations, and if you lose the document, then you won’t legally be permitted to continue working in the country. For this reason, you need to inform the authorities as soon as possible. Fortunately, there are processes in place to help you acquire a replacement.

To get your EAD replacement, you will need to file the I-765 once more. This process will be the exact same as the first time you filed. The only difference is that you will need to ensure that you select that you would like to request a replacement this time. 

The takeaway 

Once your EAD application is successful, you should make sure to carefully read the enclosed documentation and to set a reminder so that you don’t forget to renew the document as needed. Congratulations: you are now eligible to work in the United States! As long as you have a visa and green card, you’ll be able to enjoy earning money in the land of opportunity.

There are many more important documents and steps to take before you’ll be ready to move to the country however. For example, did you know that your credit history doesn’t automatically transfer with you when you immigrate? That means that companies and financial institutions will have no record of your previous financial history. In turn, that can make it very difficult to secure loans, secure an apartment lease, mobile phone companies, and other service providers.  

Nova Credit's Credit Passport® technology helps people bring their credit history with them when they move to the U.S. While your credit history won’t be transferred to national bureau databases, Nova Credit partners with companies to include information from your Credit Passport® in applications to make it easier for newcomers to get approved for credit cards, loans and other products. Once you establish a U.S. credit account using the credit you’ve earned, you can start building a local credit history. Nova Credit currently connects to international credit bureaus in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico, Nigeria, South Korea and the UK. 

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