Q: What is USCIS?
A: USCIS stands for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is the agency of the U.S. government principally responsible in matters dealing with aliens in the United States. This includes jurisdiction over applications for Advance Parole. Prior to March of 2003, the USCIS was called the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). For a brief period of time, it was known as the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS). It is also sometimes just referred to as the CIS. For purposes of this web site, we use the current accepted name of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS.
Q: I am a foreign worker. May I work in the U.S.?
A: According to U.S. Immigration Laws, U.S. employers must make sure all employees, regardless of citizenship or national origin, possess federal work authorization in the United States. If you are not a citizen or a lawful permanent resident, or if you do not have valid non-immigrant worker visa status, such as H-1B or L-1, you may need to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to prove that you can work in the United States.
Q: What is an Employment Authorization Document?
A: Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is a document that authorizes an alien to work in the U.S. for a period of time, usually one year. It is also called a work permit.
Q: What does an EAD look like?
A: An EAD is a plastic card, with the alien's identifying information and photo, and the permit’s expiration date on it.
Q: I am an F-1 student. Am I eligible to apply for an EAD?
A: F-1 students can apply for EAD in the following situations:
An F-1 student seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) in an occupation directly related to studies. After having been enrolled full-time in an approved school for an academic year, an F-1 student is eligible to apply for an EAD.
An F-1 student offered off-campus employment under the sponsorship of a qualifying international organization.
An F-1 student seeking off-campus employment due to severe economic hardship. Alien applicants must submit any evidence, such as affidavits, which detail the unforeseen economic circumstances that cause the request, and evidence that the applicants have tried to find off-campus employment with an employer who has filed a labor and wage attestation.
An F-1 student who has filed an I-485 is eligible to apply for an EAD.
Q: I am a J-2 holder. May I apply for an EAD?
A: Yes, a J-2 spouse or minor child of an exchange visitor may apply for an EAD. Applicants must submit a written statement with supporting evidence showing that the employment is not necessary to support the J-1, but is for another purpose.
Q: I am an M-1 student. Can I apply for an EAD?
A: An M-1 student who is seeking job training after completing his or her studies may apply for an EAD.
Q: I am a K-1 holder. Can I apply for an EAD?
A: A K-1 Nonimmigrant Fiancé(e) of a US Citizen or K-2 Dependent can file an EAD application within 90 days from the date of entry.
Q: I came into the U.S. under the Family Unity Program. Can I apply for an EAD?
A: Yes, if you have been granted legal status under this program, you may file an EAD application, with a copy of the approval letter.
Q: I am the spouse of an E-1 holder. May I apply for an EAD? How do I apply?
A: Yes, you may. You may file your EAD application with the USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over your residence location. You will have to provide evidence of your lawful status and your spousal relationship with a principal E-1, such as your I-94 and marriage certificate.
Q: I am the spouse of an E-2 holder. May I apply for an EAD? How do I apply?
A: Yes, you may. You may file your EAD application with the USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over your residence location. You will have to provide evidence of your lawful status and your spousal relationship with a principal E-2, such as your I-94 and marriage certificate.
Q: I am the spouse of an L-1 holder. May I apply for an EAD? How do I apply?
A: Yes, you may. You may file your EAD application with the USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over your residence location. You will have to provide evidence of your lawful status and your spousal relationship with a principal L-1, such as your I-94 and marriage certificate.
Q: I filed an I-589 petition for asylum four months ago. Can I apply for an EAD?
A: No. An asylum applicant is eligible to file for an EAD only after a 150 day waiting period from the date he filed the original asylum application.
Q: How do I apply for an EAD?
A: You must file the I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) application by mail with the USCIS Service Center or District Office serving the area of your residence. You must also submit other supporting documents, photos, and filing fees. For detailed information about the I-765 filing, you should consult with an immigration attorney.
Q: Where should I file my EAD application?
A: You must file the I-765 application by mail with the USCIS Service Center or District Office that serves the area of your residence. If your EAD application is family-based, you must mail your application to a local USCIS District Office. If your EAD application is employment-based, or you are an F-1, M-1, L spouse, E spouse, K-1 holder, asylum applicant or J-2 holder, you must file your application with the USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over the geographical region in which you live. If you are an asylee or refugee, you must file your application with the USCIS Nebraska Service Center. For detailed information regarding filing locations, please click here.
Q: How long should I wait for the EAD?
A: It usually takes 3 months to process an EAD application. For the EAD application of an asylum applicant, the processing time is usually one month.
Q: I have been waiting for over 3 months since I filed the EAD application, and I need an EAD badly. What can I do?
A: You may request an interim Employment Authorization Document. You must go to your local USCIS district office and bring with you proof of identity along with any other documents that USCIS might have sent you regarding your employment authorization application.
Q: How quickly can I obtain my interim EAD?
A: For national security purposes, the USCIS will not issue interim EADs immediately after the applicant’s request. It may take some time for the USCIS to perform a background check on applicants before issuing interim EADs.
Q: How can I check the status of my EAD application?
A: To check the status of your application, please contact the USCIS office that received your application. You should be prepared to provide the USCIS staff with specific information about your application.
Q: My application for an EAD was denied. How can I appeal?
A: If your application for an EAD is denied, you will receive a letter that will explain the reasons for the denial. You will not be allowed to appeal a negative decision to a higher authority. However, you may submit a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider with the office that made the unfavorable decision. By filing these motions, you may ask the office to reexamine or reconsider their decision. A motion to reopen must state new facts that are to be provided in the reopened proceeding and must be accompanied by affidavits or other documentary evidence. A motion to reconsider must establish that the decision was based on an incorrect application of law or policy, and further establish that the decision was incorrect based on the evidence in the file at the time the decision was made.
Q: Will my EAD ever expire? If so, what can I do?
A: The EAD or work permit is usually valid for one year. After that one must apply for a renewal EAD. It is recommended that you apply six (6) months before the date your current EAD is scheduled to expire.
Q: What can I do if my EAD gets lost or destroyed?
A: You can get a Replacement EAD, which will replace the EAD that got lost or destroyed. Please contact the USCIS office that processed your application and sent you your EAD.
Q: I am an F-1 student who is seeking an EAD for my OPT. My application has been denied. May I appeal its decision?
A: No, you may not appeal the decision. However, you may submit a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider with the office that made the unfavorable decision (see appropriate question above).
Q: I am an F-1 student and wish to submit an EAD application for my OPT. When is the deadline to file the application?
A: According to SEVIS rules, you must submit your application for the EAD prior to the completion of all course requirements for your degree OR prior to the completion of your course of study. Different schools may have different rules regarding this matter; please consult the international student office at your school.
Q: I am an F-1 student who filed my I-140 and I-485 petitions concurrently. I also filed an I-765 for an EAD. What is the impact to my F-1 status if I use the EAD?
A: If you don't use the EAD to work, you might be able to keep your F-1 status. If you use the EAD, you are no longer in F status. Rather, you would be in I-485 pending status, which means if your I-485 application is denied before the completion of your study, you can no longer stay in the U.S. to finish the program.
Q: I am an H-1B visa holder, and I have already filed an I-485. Do I need to apply for an EAD?
A: No, you need not. As an H-1B holder, as long as you maintain a valid H-1B status, you may work for your H-1B sponsoring employer.
Q: I am an H-1B holder. I filed an I-485 and an I-765. What is the impact to my H-1B status, if I use the EAD?
A: As an H-1B holder, you can work for your H-1B sponsoring employer in your H-1B status. Once you use EAD to work for your current employer or any other employer, you will no longer be in your H-1B status. Rather, you will be in I-485 pending status, which means if your I-485 application is denied, you can no longer stay in the U.S. as an H-1B holder, and will have to leave the country.
Q: I am an H-1B holder who has filed an I-485. After taking a trip abroad, I used my Advance Parole to return to the U.S. Given the situation, I am curious what my current status is. Should I use the EAD to work for my H-1B employer at this point?
A: You can resume working for your current H-1B employer without using your EAD. If you do this, you will be able to preserve your H-1B status; your employer may apply for an extension of your H-1B if necessary. However, if you use your EAD to work for your H-1B sponsoring employer or for any other employers, you will essentially be giving up your H-1B status and be in I-485 pending status.
Q: Who is handling my case if I retain Z&A?
A: Our attorneys handle our clients' cases individually by preparing petition letters, contacting clients, and following up on pending cases. That is why we have more attorneys than clerks. Our law clerks' main objective is to help attorneys prepare clients' packages, and each client's package will be reviewed by one of our most experienced attorneys for final checking before it is sent out to the USCIS.
(Updated 10/10/2012 by AD)
For more information about the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), please click on one of the following topics below: