How to Obtain a Work Permit

By Carrie Ferland

A work permit, also known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), is a document that authorizes a resident alien to work and reside within the United States without first obtaining citizenship. Unlike a worker petition, an EAD allows the holder to seek employment freely instead of first securing employment and then coming into the country. Work permits have no impact on an alien's residential status, and only allow the holder to stay within the country for as long as the EAD remains valid.

Verify that you are eligible to obtain an EAD permit. Title 8 of the Federal Code of Regulations governs alien eligibility for EAD permits. Qualifying aliens include those who are "lawful permanent residents" as defined by Title 8, those admitted into the country as a legal temporary resident with previous employment authorization, those admitted as a parent or dependent child of a legal permanent resident, and the fiancé(e)s of non-immigrant U.S. citizens. Review Title 8 of the F.C.R. to determine if you meet the criteria to qualify for an EAD permit.

Obtain and complete Form I-765. The form is available in person at your local USCIS field office, and is downloadable from the USCIS website. Enter your personal information and check the box for "[p]ermission to accept employment." Sign the bottom of the form when you are finished.

Photocopy both the front and back of your Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) and a copy of your most recent previous EAD permit. If you do not have a prior EAD permit, make a copy of your federally-issued identification, such as a passport that contains your full legal name, date of birth and photograph, a birth certificate with some form of official photographic identification or a visa issued by a your consulate.

Obtain two identical 2-inch-by-2-inch photographs. These must be passport-style, in full color and no more than 30 days old at the time you submit your application. Photographs must have a white or off-white background, be printed on thin paper and have a glossy finish. They cannot be manipulated or retouched, digitally or otherwise.

Organize your completed Form I-176, a copy of your Form I-94, photographic identification, two identical color photographs and a check or money order payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Make a copy of your entire packet and save the copies for your personal records.

File the original form, photographs and supporting documents with your local USCIS Regional Service Center in person or by mail.

Wait up to 90 days for a response from your local USCIS office. You will receive a response via mail at the address you provided on your application, which will accompany your EAD work permit if the USCIS approves your application. If you do not receive a response by that time, you can seek interim work authorization by appearing at your local USCIS in person with a copy of your documents.

About the Author

Carrie Ferland is a practicing civil litigation defense attorney in the Philadelphia Area. As an author, her work has been featured in various legal publications for over 10 years. Ferland is a 2000 graduate of Pennsylvania State University and completed her Juris Doctorate and Master of Business Administration with the Dickinson School of Law. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in English.

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