Along with their legal status, certain persons in the U.S. have an automatic right to work: for example, U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents (who possess a green card), and non-immigrants who are on visas allowing them to work for a particular U.S. employer (such as H-1B, L-1, and O-1). However, anyone else who wishes to work in the United States must be in a group that qualifies for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card, or work permit) and then actually apply for and obtains it from USCIS.
U.S. employers are obligated to recognize the status of all prospective employees before they are first hired, regardless of their national background, in order to ensure that they are allowed to work in the United States. That’s why it is extremely important to have some sort of documentation of one’s immigration status and right to work.
Who’s eligible to apply for an EAD?
Not everybody is competent to apply for an EAD. Undocumented immigrants, for example, do not obtain any form of immigration status, such as applying for asylum or being given Temporary Protected Status (TPS), at least not until they have received or are in some cases on their way to obtaining it.
You will find the categories of individuals who can apply in the instructions for Form I-765, available on the I-765 page of USCIS. They contain, e.g.: Refugees and asylum seekers and in some cases, asylum seekers whose cases are also pending. Individuals are given withholding from removal Recipients of TPS
(until TPS expires for their particular country) international students, in limited cases such as significant economic need Status change applicants (a green card while residing in the U.S.) whose request is pending.
How do I apply to obtain an EAD?
You must complete Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and provide any necessary supporting documentation and the current fee if you are eligible to apply for a work permit. You can file it electronically or by post with USCIS. Depending on where you live and your immigration status, where to send it depends. Again see the I-765 page of USCIS for information.
How Long Will It Last for My EAD? Can it be renewed?
The validity period of the EAD is based on the grounds on which you have applied for it. It can theoretically be extended after it expires, but again only if you are in an immigration category that allows for that. The normal process for renewal is just like the original method for application. You can apply for USCIS Form I-765, along with supporting documentation and the fee required. One of the most important supporting documentation would demonstrate that your underlying work permit eligibility remains valid; that you are still an asylum seeker, for example. Hire an experienced immigration attorney if you need any assistance.