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Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

U.S. employers must check to make sure all employees, regardless of citizenship or national origin, are allowed to work in the United States. If an individual is not a citizen or a lawful permanent resident, that individual may need to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to prove he may work in the United States.

Certain classes of applicants for immigration benefits are entitled to an interim employment authorization document (EAD), which is a Department of Homeland Security (I-688B / I-766) document issued to certain categories of aliens who are not legal permanent residents (LPR).

An EAD gives a person legal status to work in the United States but has fewer privileges than a green card. It shows an expiration date (usually one year from date issued) and is renewable.

Any alien with a valid Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766 or Form I-688B) can be issued a Social Security number.

There are instances when an EAD is required for a foreign student before a Social Security number can be assigned.


Nonresident Aliens entitled to an EAD document:

  • Foreign nationals in the United States pursuing the final stage of permanent residence
  • Refugees
  • Certain applicants for political asylum:
    • Asylees are considered "work authorized incident to status" and may continue to work lawfully even after an EAD is expired
    • Asylees may work without an EAD, if they have evidence of their asylee status
  • Nationals of certain countries given Temporary Protected Status (TPS) due to adverse conditions in their home countries
    • Determined by the U.S. Attorney General
    • Typically receive a one-year period of employment authorization
    • May apply for an EAD

Category Designation

The basis for the EAD can be identified via the category designation in the center front of the card. The eligibility code on the EAD should describe why the NRA has the EAD, which usually gives some clue to the underlying immigration status.

Designation "C" in the center of the card (i.e. C09 or 274a.12c):

  • Must re-verify the expiring work authorization
  • Must present a newly issued card or another List A & C document from the I-9

Designation "A":

  • Work authorized incident to status
  • Must re-verify the expiring work authorization
  • May be able to provide proof of status

EAD Categories

The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues EADs in the following categories:

  • EAD: This document proves you are allowed to work in the United States
  • Renewal EAD: You should apply for a renewal EAD six months before your original EAD expires
  • Replacement EAD: This document replaces a lost, stolen, or mutilated EAD. A replacement EAD also replaces an EAD that was issued with incorrect information, such as a misspelled name
  • Interim EAD: If USCIS does not approve or deny your EAD application within 90 days (within 30 days for an asylum applicant; note: asylum applicants are eligible to file for EADs only after waiting 150 days from the date they filed their properly completed original asylum applications), you may request an interim EAD document

Other Employment Authorizations

8 CFR 274a.12(b) lists employer-specific aliens who do not get EADs, but use their endorsed I-94 as employment authorization documents. This group includes but is not limited to E, H, I, J, L, O, P, R, and TN aliens.

The only time an H-1B will have an employment authorization card is if their employer has sponsored them (or they've self-petitioned) for a green card and they've gotten the EAD from filing an I-765 with the green card paperwork.

The most common scenario is that the cardholder was "sponsored" for permanent residence by a U.S. employer or relative, such as a spouse. In this case, an H-1B alien can apply for an adjustment-based EAD when the "sponsor" files the petition. The category in this case is C09. An H-1B in this case can work either under H-1B status or unrestricted under the EAD.

Not Work-Authorized

8 CFR 274a.12(c) lists aliens who are not work-authorized incident to status, but are entitled to apply for employment authorization (EADs). They may not, accordingly, work in the United States until they apply for and receive EADs.

A-1 / A-2: Dependents of foreign diplomatic personnel may be employed with prior DOS and CIS approval and are eligible for unrestricted temporary work authorization for the duration of the principal A-2s assignment.  Those A-2s have EADs and may work, including self-employment.

  • E-2: spouses are authorized to accept unrestricted employment and must apply for an EAD
  • F-1 students eligible for OPT: During OPT a student would still have F-1 status derived from the university from which he/she graduated. The student would also have an EAD that does not indicate any particular school.During the OPT period a students work authorization is unrestricted as long as the job is at the appropriate level within the field of study. It is not uncommon for graduate PhDs at one school to accept OPT employment at another school.
  • G-1 / G-3 / G-4: dependents of representatives to international organizations may be employed with prior DOS and CIS approval
  • J-2 aliens: A J-2 has unrestricted work authorization, including self-employment, as long as he has obtained the EAD to which he is entitled. With the EAD, and if the J-1 principal remains in his J-1 program, the J-2 can work anywhere in the US and be paid anything related to those services. (The income must not be necessary for the support of the J-1).
  • K-1: fiancées of U.S. citizens may work for 90 days following admission to the US (work authorization extended by filing an immigrant visa petition to adjust status)
  • K-3: spouses of U.S. citizens may receive an EAD
  • L-2: spouses are authorized to accept unrestricted employment and must apply for an EAD
  • Adjustee: A person adjusting status (ex: and H1-B adjusting to permanent resident) is eligible for an EAD, which gives him unrestricted work authorization until the EAD expires. If he is only eligible for the EAD but has not yet received it, the adjustee may not work or be paid. If the adjustee has applied for a renewal of an EAD, he must have the renewal in hand in order to work. This requires applying 90 days in advance. Adjustees are not authorized incident to status. Adjustees are entitled to advance parole in most cases. The advance parole document reinforces that the EAD holder is an adjustee, but the advance parole document is irrelevant for employment authorization purposes.
  • Asylee: Entitled to an EAD that would permit unrestricted employment. Asylees are authorized to work incident to status and technically aren't required to have an EAD if they have other proof of identity and employment eligibility. As an asylee he is entitled to an unrestricted Social Security card. Be sure to distinguish an alien who has been granted asylum from an alien whose claim for asylum is pending. The former does not need an EAD to work (asylees are work authorized incident to status -- proven by the grant of asylum) and are eligible for unrestricted SSA cards. Pending asylees need EADs in order to work.
  • Permanent Resident: An alien who is in the process of permanent residence needs adjustment of status from nonimmigrant to immigrant (temporary to permanent). During this period, he can apply for an EAD based on adjustment. Prior to obtaining that EAD, the only authorization that alien may have to work is the unexpired nonimmigrant status. If the nonimmigrant status expires or does not permit employment, the alien cannot work.

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