How to Use EAD as and Alternative to H1B
Posted by Frank Gogol
You are currently working in the United States on an H1B visa. You’ve had the opportunity to apply for permanent residency and can now apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as well. Now is a good opportunity to consider an EAD as alternative to H1B. It might be a good chance to make a career change. It’s also possible you’re not really in the mood to go through the hassle of having your H1B visa extended. Can you just leave your H1B status and apply for an EAD?
This is an excellent question, but there are a few factors you have to think about before you just make a move. Fortunately, we’re here to help! Below we unpack the EAD as alternative to H1B and show you what to think about before making your next career move.
Table of Contents
Difference Between H1B Visa and EAD
Before you look at an EAD as alternative to H1B, it’s first essential to understand the difference between them.
What is an H1B Visa?
The H1B visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa that grants highly skilled foreign workers the right to live and work in the United States for a certain period. If you receive the H1B visa, you don’t need any additional employment authorization as your right to work for a specific employer in a particular position is built into your H1B visa. The H1B visa is not a blanket authorization to work in the United States, however. You may only work for the employer who sponsored your H1B visa in the specific position connected to your H1B.
What is EAD?
If you have been in the U.S. on the H1B visa and meet specific requirements, you can apply for an adjustment of status from H1B to green card. Applying for adjustment of status is the last step in the H1B green card process.
If you have filed an adjustment of status or immigration application (Form I-485), you can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). An EAD authorizes you to work for any employer in any position anywhere in the United States. No employer may reject you purely because you apply with an EAD.
Pros and Cons of EAD
One of the most significant advantages of having an Employment Authorization Document is the fact that your employment authorization is unrestricted. As we mentioned before, you can work for any employer in any position anywhere in the U.S. This is an extremely valuable aspect of the EAD.
Unfortunately, it isn’t so straightforward to decide whether you should continue working in the U.S. on your H1B visa or instead opt to use an EAD. If your H1B visa is about to expire, now is an excellent time to decide whether it would be better to use an EAD as alternative to H1B or whether to extend your H1B visa.
One of the most important factors to consider is what happens if your Form I-485 isn’t approved. If you don’t extend your H1B visa and you are working on just your EAD, once your H1B visa lapses, you will only be relying on your I-485. Your I-485 will be your only legal basis for being in the United States.
Even if your H1B lapses before your I-485 is approved, you are still authorized to stay in the U.S. You can extend your EAD as long as the I-485 is pending. You can even travel on your EAD (just remember to apply for advance parole). However, if the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denies your I-485 for any reason, you will no longer have a valid non-immigrant status to rely on. You will then be “out of status“.
If you are out of status, you still have options to ensure the government doesn’t deport you immediately. But your options will be much more limited than if you still have your H1B status (or any other non-immigrant status) to rely on. If you still have your H1B visa status in place, you could just continue your life in the United States uninterrupted while you figure out how to successfully apply for a green card.
Considerations for EAD Over H1B
Clearly, it is less risky to keep your H1B status than just relying on the I-485 and EAD as your basis to work and live in the United States. But there are still some reasons you might want to take the risk.
Firstly, if your employer is aware you have the option of using an EAD, they might not want to extend your H1B visa. Extending your H1B is an additional cost your employer might not be willing to incur if there are alternatives. Or perhaps you had an H1B layoff, and you now have to look for a new employer. Using your EAD allows you to apply for any type of work with any employer, which increases your chances of finding a new job. You don’t only have to look for an H1B employer who is willing to sponsor your H1B visa. Or you may even just be looking for a career-advancing opportunity or a career change that you can take hold of with an EAD.
Ultimately your decision will be based on a balance of risk and weighing up your options. Here you would want to consider any specific risk factors to your I-485 application, which may increase the possibility of the USCIS rejecting your application. If this is the case, you may be safer sticking with your H1B status for a while. On the other hand, if you believe the chances of your I-485 being approved are high, then you might feel comfortable taking the risk. If you are unsure, you can also consult an immigration attorney. They will help you weigh up your options and make sure you don’t miss any risk factors.
How to Transition from H1B to EAD
If you decided to instead work on your EAD than your H1B visa, the transition is easy. You just don’t renew or extend your H1B status. You simply use your EAD as your employment authorization when you apply for a new job.
But you have to remember you first need to have an EAD to use the EAD as an alternative to H1B. Just because you’ve filed your Form I-485 doesn’t mean you automatically have an EAD. You have to apply for an EAD.
You can read in detail here the steps on how to apply for an EAD. You can also see specific detailed examples of the different scenarios here.
Now you know all the things you have to think about when considering EAD as alternative to H1B. Look at your specific circumstances and think about the possible risk of moving over to EAD. You might just gain a brighter future if you make the move!