How to Obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for Working in the United States

If you’re a foreign national hoping to legally work in the United States, it’s essential to obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). In this guide, we’ll explain who can apply for the EAD, how to complete the application process, and whether you can work while waiting for the permit.

What is an EAD, and How Does it Work?

The EAD is a work authorization document that shows potential employers in the United States that you’re authorized to work in the country. Essentially, it’s proof that you’re eligible to work in the United States and must be obtained before beginning any job.

Who’s Eligible to Apply for an EAD?

To apply for an EAD, you must meet one of the following eligibility criteria:

  • You’re authorized to work in the United States based on your immigration status (such as being an asylee, refugee, or U nonimmigrant) and need to provide proof of employment authorization.
  • You need to apply for a work permit and employment authorization. For example, you can apply for an EAD if you have a Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) or Form I-589 (application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal) pending. You can also apply if you have nonimmigrant status that allows you to be in the United States but doesn’t permit you to work without first obtaining employment authorization from USCIS (such as being a student on an F-1 or M-1 visa).

How Much Does it Cost to Apply for an EAD, and How Do I Submit the Application?

The cost to apply for an EAD is US$410, plus an additional $85 fee for biometric services. However, certain applicants may be eligible for fee exemptions. To apply, you must complete and submit an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) and provide all required supporting evidence and documentation. Be sure to read the instructions for Form I-765 carefully before submitting your application.

Can I Work in the United States Without an EAD?

No, you cannot work in the United States without an EAD or proof of employment eligibility. Note that an SSN (Social Security number) is also required by most employers to verify your employment eligibility, so it’s critical to obtain both documents before beginning any job. Failure to comply with these requirements may result in severe consequences, including deportation, a ban on re-entry to the United States, and difficulty processing future visas or immigration status changes.

Can I Seek Employment While Waiting for My EAD?

Yes, you can seek employment while waiting for your EAD. However, you cannot begin work until you receive your EAD and submit the required Form I-9 to your employer. The processing time for an EAD can vary, but USCIS typically processes applications within 90 days.


If you’re a foreign national looking to work in the United States, it’s critical to obtain an EAD before beginning any job. The process can be complicated, but carefully reading and following the instructions can simplify your application. Be aware of the documentation and fees required to submit your application correctly and avoid penalties or difficulties in the future.

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