How Long Does It Take to Get a Work Permit? I-765 Processing Times + Tips

man waiting for his work permit

When you want to work in the U.S., it’s important to understand that every employer in the United States is required to confirm that you’re legally allowed to work in the country. If you’re not a citizen a permanent resident or have a specific work visa-  you’ll have to apply for a work permit. Here’s how you can become authorized to work in the U.S.

Categories of Workers Permitted in the U.S.

There are various categories of people who can work in the United States. These categories include:

  • U.S. citizens
  • Non-citizen U.S. nationals
  • Lawful permanent residents
  • Non-residents and non-citizens who have work authorization

There are three types of non-resident, non-citizen workers who can obtain authorization to work in the U.S.; these are:

  • Temporary (non-immigrant) workers. Temporary workers are people who enter the U.S. for a specific purpose. They come to the United States for a set time period and can only perform activities pertaining to why their visa was issued.
  • Permanent (immigrant) workers. Permanent workers are immigrants who can legally live and work in the U.S.
  • Students and exchange visitors. Under some circumstances, students and exchange visitors can obtain eligibility to work in the U.S. while they are there.

When to Apply for an EAD Card

You can apply for your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card at the same time as applying for a green card for no additional fees. If you’ve already submitted an application for your green card, you can also still apply for your EAD card by sending in the required form along with a copy of the USCIS notice showing they received your green card application.

Getting a Work Permit in the U.S.

Getting your EAD card/work permit in the U.S. means that you are legally allowed to work in the United States due to obtaining authorization from the USCIS. EAD cards are usually valid for one year, and they are renewable and replaceable. When applying for a work permit, you can request either:

  • Permission to accept an employment offer
  • Renewal of your EAD card
  • Replacement of a lost work permit

How Long Does an I-765 Take to Process?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions!  Processing your I-765 Form used to be much faster, taking only about 90 days, but the USCIS has recently seen a growing backlog of applications, causing delays. You should expect to wait anywhere from five to seven months to receive your work permit after applying.

Related: Can You Work While Your Green Card Application is Pending?

Why Would You Be Denied a Work Permit in the United States?

There are two reasons that the USCIS might deny your work permit application. The first, and most common one, is that your application form got filled out incorrectly. Usually, this happens when you did not complete the application correctly, forget to include a required document or didn’t sign the application.

The more uncommon reason for a work permit to get denied is when your green card application got approved quickly before your EAD card had a chance to get processed. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s not a bad problem to have — once you obtain a green card, you’ll have no use for a work permit.

Don’t want to risk your work permit application getting denied because you filed incorrectly? Brudner Law can help!

Documents to Submit With Your Work Permit Application

Applying for a work permit requires you to file Form I-765 with the USCIS and include the following documents:

  • A copy of your I-94 travel record
  • A copy of your passport (with photo)
  • A copy of your United States visa
  • Two 2’ by 2’ recent photos of yourself with your Alien Registration Number and full name printed on the back)
  • Copies of any previous work permits

If this is the first time you’ve applied for an EAD card in the U.S., you’ll also need to provide one of the following:

  • A copy of your birth certification and photo ID
  • A copy of your visa issued by a country other than the U.S.
  • Any other national document showing your identity and photo or fingerprint

 Preparing to Work in the U.S.

The most important thing to do after getting approved to work in the U.S. is to get a Social Security number before you begin working. Previously, you would have to file an entirely separate application with the Social Security office and wait for approval. As of late 2017, the USCIS updated the I-765 Form, allowing you to apply for your Social Security number and card through the EAD card application itself. 

When beginning your new job, your employer will have you fill out an I-9 form, and you’ll have to provide proof that you can legally work in the U.S. All you’ll need for this is your work permit and Social Security card. If you have those two things, you’re ready to start working!

How to Renew Your Work Permit

Once you’re working, it’s important to remember not to let your permit expire. If you forget to renew your EAD card on time, you’ll have to take a break from working until you get it renewed. You can renew your work permit up to six months in advance, and it’s important to start the process as soon as possible since it can take a long time for the USCIS to process the renewal application. To renew your EAD card, you’ll have to file another I-765 Form along with two passport-sized photos and a copy of your current EAD card.

Related: Green Card Renewals

What Happens if You Work Without an EAD Card?

Even if you work for only a few hours without an EAD card, it can cause immigration problems in the future. That is, if you want to apply for a green card but have previously worked without authorization, the USCIS is much less likely to approve your green card application. Working without authorization can lead to you getting barred from entering the U.S. for anywhere from three to ten years, depending on the length of time you worked illegally.

It’s not worth the risk to work without authorization; an immigration attorney can help you successfully file for your EAD card to avoid any immigration issues in the future.

Do you want to obtain your EAD card to start working in the U.S.? Get in touch with Brudner Law today to make sure the process goes smoothly and without unnecessary delays!

Related: U.S. Work Authorization: What You Need to Know