Work Permit: A Guide for Immigrants

Getting a U.S. Work Permit

Getting a work permit is the U.S. is very important. Permission to work gives you access to jobs and, in most places, a drivers license. Work authorization is also an easy way to show that you are in the U.S. with permission. This proof of consent to be here is very vital if you’re ever find yourself interacting with immigration officers.

In this article, we’ll answer the most common questions noncitizens have about work authorization in the U.S.


What is a Work Permit?

A work permit is a card given to certain noncitizens in the U.S. that allows them to work. The government refers to permits as “Employment Authorization Document” or “EAD” for short. An immigration agency called USCIS issues EAD cards to noncitizens.

Practical reasons to get work authorization

Work authorization serves many practical purposes:

  1. First, it shows everyone that you are here in the U.S. with permission. Meaning, you have an approved or pending application for an immigration status.
  2. Second, many states require proof that you are here legally before they give you a drivers license.
  3. Third, you can obtain a social security number. A social security number is an identification number used to file taxes.  You can use it obtain several other things like credit cards or bank loans.

How to Get Work Authorization

There are two steps to getting work authorization from USCIS.

Step One

Step one, you must have a pending or approved application that entitles you to work legally.  Here is a list of some of the pending or approved applications that allow you to get a permit:

  1. Pending form I-485, application for a green card
  2. Pending or approved form I-589, application for asylum
  3. Valid or approved F1 international student status.
  4. Approved for deferred action, such as an approved form I-821, DACA
  5. Approved or pending form I-918 for victims of qualifying crimes

These are a few examples of how you can qualify.

Step Two

Step two, you apply for the permit with USCIS.  USCIS uses the form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.  When you apply, you will complete this form and send a copy or proof that you have a pending or approved petition or application that qualifies for you to work.

How Much A Work Permit Cost in the United States?

The filing fee for Form I-765 is typically $410. There is also an $85 fee for biometric services, i.e., a fingerprint and picture appointment. There are times when either the $410 or $85 or both are waived, meaning you don’t have to pay them.

For example, if applying for your permit using a pending asylum application then you don’t pay the $410. Another great example is when you’re renewing your permit after you filed aform I-485. A form I-485 is an application for a green card and if you’re renewing the permit while waiting then there’s no fee.

The amount you pay all depends on your specific application. The best way to make sure you send the right fee is to read the Form I-765 instructions here.

How Will I Know if My Permit Was Approved?

You’ll know that the government approved your work permit application when you get a notice that arrives in the mail.  The card itself typically arrives a few days later via priority mail from the U.S. Postal Service.

How Long Does an EAD Last in the US?

USCIS issues work authorization usually for one year, but the length of time can vary. The validity time of  a permit depends on how you a qualify for it. For example, if you are applying because you have a pending green card application then the permit lasts for one year. However, if you are applying because you are a Dreamer or DACA then the permit lasts two years.

When Will my Social Security Card Expire?

A social security card does not expire.  Sometimes the government issues it temporarily, however. When you only have work authorization and no permanent status then you’ll get a number that is only yours temporarily.

Renewing Your Work Permit

What is the cost of renewing a permit?

Renewal of an EAD typically costs $410 or $495. $410 for the renewal and $85 for a biometric fee, i.e., fee for taking your fingerprints and pictures. Whether you need to pay the biometric fee of $85 depends on how you qualify for the permit.

What do I need to renew my work permit in the United States?

To renew your work permit, you need to file the Form I-765 with USCIS. You will need to include the reason you qualify for the renewal and filing fees. Renewal of a work permit typically costs $410 or $495. $410 for the renewal and $85 for a biometric fee, i.e., fee for taking your fingerprints and pictures.

How many times can work authorization be renewed?

There is no limit to the number of times that a work authorization card can be renewed. The limitations on renewal largely depend on how you qualify for the work permit in general. For example, you can renew your work permit if you have a pending Form I-589, Application for Asylum. If your asylum application is denied, however, then you can no longer renew your work permit.

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