GC EAD: Work Authorization for Green Card Holders

Updated on January 4, 2024

At a Glance

  • GC EAD (Green Card Employment Authorization Document) allows legal work in the US during the green card application process.
  • It provides the same legal status and protections as a regular Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  • Eligible individuals apply by submitting Form I-765 with supporting documents and paying the required fees.
  • GC EAD is typically valid for one year and should be renewed if the green card application is still pending.

The processing time for green card applications is lengthy, and oftentimes applicants want to work in the US during that time. An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) permits you to do this. With an EAD foreign nationals can legally work in the US. Not everyone is eligible for an EAD, though, and it’s crucial that you understand EAD eligibility before applying or your application may be rejected.

This article explores the GC EAD, or green card based EAD. Learn who is eligible, how to apply, how long the GC EAD lasts, and more.

What is GC EAD?

The EAD is also known as a nonimmigrant US work permit, and it permits individuals on a nonimmigrant visa to work legally in the US. This includes asylee and refugees, international students with F-1 or M-1 visas, and individuals with employment-based non-immigrant visas like the L-1 or E-1. Individuals in the process of applying for a green card are also eligible; this is called the green card based EAD, or GC EAD.

The GC EAD is a government-issued plastic ID card that you must show to employers when you are applying for jobs. This card will contain personal information about you, your immigration status, and how long the EAD is valid.

What is the Difference Between EAD and GC EAD?

The GC EAD classification refers to the fact that the EAD applicant is currently waiting for their green card application to be processed. The United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) understands that individuals legally in the US waiting for their green cards may need to work to get by. The GC EAD provides the temporary ability to do so as they are waiting.

The regular EAD, on the other hand, is not tied to a green card application. For instance, a family member of an H1 visa holder in the US on an H4 visa requires an H4 EAD to work in the US, because their EAD is tied to their H4 status.

So an EAD and a GC EAD provide the exact same legal status and protections, the only difference is that one specifically refers to green card status.

Who is Eligible for GC EAD?

Only individuals who are currently applying for a green card are eligible for a green card-based EAD. If you are eligible for a green card, then you are eligible for a GC EAD. This includes:

  • Individuals eligible through a US-citizen family member or spouse
  • Individuals eligible because they have a US job offer or are seeking an employment-based GC

How to Apply for GC EAD

The best practice when applying for a GC EAD is to submit your EAD petition at the same time as your green card. That way, your EAD petition will start getting processed immediately and you’ll have more time to exercise your work permit.

First, you fill out and submit a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. This is the form that determines your eligibility for an EAD. You will have to answer a series of questions relevant to your application category.

Required Documents for GC EAD

Along with your Form I-765, you must attach supporting documents that prove your eligibility for an EAD. This will include:

  • A copy of your Form I-94 travel document
  • A copy of your last EAD, or your most recent government-issued ID if you have never had an EAD
  • Two passport-style photos of yourself

Finally, you must pay the relevant application fees online, print out the receipt issued upon making the payment, and include it with your application.

Once you have all of these documents together, you can submit your petition either through mail or by e-filing online at the USCIS website.

How Much Does a GC EAD Cost?

The main fee that you must pay to submit an EAD petition is the I-765 filing fee, which is $410. In addition, you will have to pay an $85 biometric fee so the USCIS can take your fingerprints. However, the green card application has the same biometric fee, so if you’ve already had your biometrics taken for your green card you won’t need to do it again.

How Long Does GC EAD Last for?

Once you receive your GC EAD and begin working it is typically valid for one year. You must renew your EAD within 180 days of expiring, otherwise after the expiration date you will no longer be legally permitted to work in the US.

Green card application processing can be as quick as 8-10 months or as long as 2+ years, and for most applicants the ability to work legally during this time is crucial. That’s why even if you think your green card will be processed before your GC EAD expires, it’s best to apply for a renewal just in case.

Permanent resident status that comes with a green card gives you the right to work legally in the US, so once you receive your green card you’ll no longer need an EAD.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do Green Card Holders Need Separate Work Authorization?

No, Green Card holders do not need separate work authorization. The Green Card itself serves as proof of their right to work in the United States.

Can Green Card Holders Work Anywhere in the U.S.?

Yes, Green Card holders have the freedom to work anywhere in the U.S., in any legal occupation of their choice, without the need for an employer or government sponsorship.

Are There Any Restrictions on Employment for Green Card Holders?

Green Card holders can work in most jobs without restrictions. However, certain federal jobs and positions requiring a security clearance are restricted to U.S. citizens.

How Do Green Card Holders Prove Their Work Authorization?

Green Card holders can prove their work authorization by presenting their Green Card (Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551) to employers as part of the I-9 employment eligibility verification process.

Can Green Card Holders Start Their Own Business?

Yes, Green Card holders can start their own business or become entrepreneurs in the U.S.

Is a Social Security Number (SSN) Required for Green Card Holders to Work?

Yes, Green Card holders need a Social Security Number to work, pay taxes, and access other services in the U.S.

How Soon Can Green Card Holders Begin Working After Arrival in the U.S.?

Green Card holders can begin working immediately upon arrival in the U.S. or as soon as they receive their Social Security Number.

Can Green Card Holders Be Self-Employed?

Yes, Green Card holders have the right to be self-employed or engage in freelance work in the U.S.

What Happens if a Green Card Holder Loses Their Job?

If a Green Card holder loses their job, they maintain their permanent resident status and can look for new employment. Unemployment does not affect their Green Card status.

Do Green Card Holders Need to Renew Their Work Authorization?

Green Card holders do not need to renew their work authorization. However, they must renew their Green Card every ten years.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.