The Ultimate Guide to Form I-765

Posted by in Immigrants | Updated on November 15, 2022
At a Glance: When applying for visas or green cards, you can’t start working until your application is approved. An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is the main piece of documentation needed for employment authorization.

The ability to work in the US is hugely important for most immigrants, who usually need some income to get by and often have people to support. However, when applying for visas or a green card you cannot start working until the application has been approved, which can take up to a year or even longer.

The applicant is meanwhile stuck in limbo unable to work unless you can get an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), or Form I-765.

With an EAD, immigrants can work legally while their visa is processing. We wrote this article to show you how to apply for a Form I-765, so you can get to work right away.

What is the I-765 Form?

The I-765 Form is a request for an EAD, commonly known as a work permit. The EAD provides legal proof of employment authorization. If you receive an EAD, then you will have to present it to employers when you are looking for a job.

I-765 Eligibility

To be eligible for an EAD, you must be:

  • A refugee or hold asylum (or the spouse/children or a refugee or asylum holder)
  • A foreign student
  • An individual on a diplomatic mission on behalf of international organizations like NATO
  • An individual with an employment-based nonimmigrant visa
  • An individual with a family-based visa
  • An individual applying for an adjustment of status

What Happens if You Work Without EAD?

You MUST get a legal work permit to work in the US, unless you are in the US on an employment-based visa. If you are seeking an EAD while waiting for your visa or green card to process, then working without a permit can result in the rejection of your application.

How to File Form I-765

Most work permit applicants submit their Form I-765 at the same time as their green card or visa application, so they can work while the application is being processed. You can fill out Form I-765 and include it in your green card application packet along with two passport-sized photos. In addition, when you file the I-765 at the same time as your green card you do not have to pay the application fee.

If you are submitting your Form I-765 after your green card application, then you must include a copy of the green card application receipt notice you got from the USCIS.

I-765 Required Documents

You need to submit the following documents along with your I-765:

  • Copy or printout of your I-94 travel record
  • Copy of your US visa
  • Copy of the photo page of your passport
  • Two passport-style photos
  • Copy of marriage-based green card receipt notice

I-765 Filing Fee

The processing fee for submitting a Form I-765 is $410, and you must include a check or money order with this amount in the I-765 submission. In addition, you may have to pay a biometric services fee if:

  • Your employment-based immigration application has already been approved and you face “compelling circumstances”
  • You are the child or spouse of an individual whose employment-based immigration application has already been approved and you face “compelling circumstances”
  • You are seeking consideration for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) eligibility

I-485 Form Exemption

As mentioned above, you are exempted from the I-765 filing fee if you submit your form along with your green card application. There’s another way you may be exempt from the filing fee: if you have previously filed a Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). Filing the I-485 requires a similar fee, so if you submit a copy of your Form I-797c (which shows you paid the fee for the I-485) with your I-765 petition, then the fee is waived.

I-765 Processing Time

Obtaining an EAD is simpler and quicker than applying for a visa or green card. The I-765 processing time is about 6 months, though it may vary based on the service center.

You may also receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) which will entail providing additional supporting documentation for your application. Once you submit the evidence requested, expect the EAD to be processed within 60 to 90 days.

Reasons for Denial of Work Authorization

There are two main reasons that the USCIS may reject your work authorization request. The first and most common cause of denial is missing, incomplete, or inaccurate information in your Form I-765 submission. For instance, submitting your I-765 after your green card without including the USCIS green card receipt notice will likely result in denial.

The second and more uncommon reason for EAD denials is if you submitted a green card application and it was processed very quickly, before the EAD request was processed. Since you don’t need a separate work permit from your green card (which allows legal employment in the US), your Form I-765 will be denied.

I-765 Renewal

Work permits only last a single year, and you should avoid working without a permit at any time to ensure you don’t get flagged by USCIS. The good news is you can apply for a I-765 renewal as early as 4 months before the expiration of your current permit. Even if you assume that your green card will be processed by the time your permit expires it’s still a good idea to apply for I-765 renewal ahead of time. Otherwise, you risk being unable to legally work for a chunk of time, which can be devastating.

Applying for I-765 renewal is the same as applying for an original I-765: you submit the form along with your green card receipt notice and supporting documents. Also, include a copy of your current work permit and two passport-sized photos. I-765 renewal typically takes about 150 days.

I-765 Frequently Asked Questions

What if You Already Have Work Authorization?

If you have work authorization through your visa (H1B, for instance) and are applying for a green card, then it’s still a good idea to submit a Form I-765. There is nothing preventing you from having multiple work authorizations, and visas like the H1B have restrictions on the type of work that you can do. Having a work permit tied to your green card protects you if your visa if not renewed, or if you want to work outside of the restrictions of your visa.

Who is not Eligible for EAD?

If you are eligible for a green card or non-employment based visa, then you are eligible for an EAD. See above for a complete list of the categories of eligibility for an EAD. If your circumstances do not match the categories of eligibility, then you are not eligible for an EAD.

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For most immigrants in the US on a non-employment based visa, having an EAD is a must. Most employers won’t hire you without a work permit, and even if you find one that will, it could damage your visa or permanent resident status. Now that you know what getting an EAD entails, you can make sure that you are never without legal work authorization.

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