Everything You Need to Know About Form I-766

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • Form I-766, known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), is issued by USCIS.
  • It allows individuals, such as Green Card applicants, visa holders’ spouses, F1 students on OPT, DACA recipients, etc., to work in the U.S.
  • The I-766 card is a physical proof of employment eligibility.
  • It does not grant the right to live in the U.S. or serve as a travel document.

Are you looking for some more information regarding the Employment Authorization Document (EAD)? Do you know the difference between a Form I-765 and an I-766? Have you perhaps wondered about the application process required to get your EAD card? We can help by answering those questions.

What is Form I-766?

Someone has to be eligible for employment in the U.S. before they may take a job. U.S. citizens and permanent residents (Green Card holders) are automatically eligible for employment. Some people who are in the process of applying for their Green Cards are also eligible for the I-766 card. They can use it to apply for jobs when their Green Card application is still in processing.

But people from abroad (nonresident aliens) living in the U.S. aren’t necessarily eligible for employment. They need something called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). They need to apply at the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) for authorisation to work by submitting either a Form I-765 or I-766. Applicants who are successful with this application receive their EAD form or card and with that the right to hold a job in the U.S.

An EAD is valid for between 1-2 years (depending on your visa type). Your EAD will expire when your visa expires. It can be renewed automatically for a set number of days (usually up to 180 days) under special circumstances, like when you are in the process of renewing it and the USCIS is delaying the processing of your EAD renewal application. You need to renew your EAD at least 6 months before it expires.

Remember, an EAD is not a visa. It does not grant you the right to live in the U.S., but only to work here. In fact, you need a valid visa to apply for a Form I-766.

What’s the Difference Between Forms I-766 and I-765?

An EAD comes in two types but they are basically the same. Form I-765 is the actual Employment Authorization Document. The Form I-766 is an EAD card (about the same size as a credit card).

You need to decide whether you want the certificate or the actual I-766 card. The certificate is sufficient to prove that you are eligible for employment, but the Form I-766 card can fit into your wallet. It is much easier to carry the card than to keep the I-765 certificate on you.

Who is Eligible for Form I-766?

Not everyone can get a Form I-766. You need to be eligible for one. The category of your visa will determine your eligibility category for employment authorization. Here is a short list of the people eligible for an I-766.

  • Green Card applicants waiting for the decision regarding their case or those who applied for an Adjustment of Status
  • Spouses of certain employment-based nonimmigrant visa holders (E1, E2, and certain H1-B visa holders)
  • F1 students in an OPT (Optional Practical Training) program
  • People eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
  • K1 visa holders
  • Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau citizens
  • Refugees
  • Asylum seekers allowed to stay in the U.S.
  • L2 visa holders (dependents of an L1 visa holder)

Remember, eligibility does not mean automatic success when you apply for a Form I-766. You can always ask for help from a professional like an immigration attorney if you need advice or want to improve your chances of success.

How to Apply for an I-766

Applying of a Form I-766 is the same as applying for a Form I-765. Here are the basic steps you need to follow to apply for your Form I-766.

I-766 Required Documents

Submit the following documents with your I-766 application:

  • Copy of your I-94 travel record
  • Copy of your U.S. visa
  • Copy of the photo page of your passport (from your country of birth)
  • Two passport-style photos
  • Copy of your marriage-based Green Card application receipt notice (if applicable)

You are eligible to apply for an I-766 card when your marriage-based Green Card is in process. Prove it by supplying the receipt notice issued to you by the USCIS the day they received your application.

I-766 Filing Fee

The application requires a $410 filing fee. You may also be required to pay $85 for a biometrical test (if applicable). The biometrical test requires your fingerprints to check whether you have a criminal record. The USCIS will inform you about the venue and date of your appointments. Keep a copy of your application package and the notice informing you of your biometric test in a safe place. Also, keep the receipts proving you have paid your filing fee.

Processing Time

The processing time for a Form I-766 is generally much shorter than a Green Card application. It may take less than 6 months to complete, however, your case may take longer if you receive an RFE (Request for Evidence) from the USCIS. Produce the evidence requested by them to complete your application process. They will make a decision about your application within the following 60-90 days of submitting the evidence if all goes well.

Application Decision

The USCIS will send you a notice to inform you about the outcome of your application. Hopefully, you are successful and it contains your I-766 card. Otherwise, they’ll inform you why not. Take a look here to see how you can track your USCIS mail deliveries.

Form I-766 Frequently Asked Questions

You aren’t the only one wondering about these issues. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Here are a few frequently asked questions when it comes to the Form I-766.

What Type of Visa is I-766?

Your I-766 card is not a visa. It is not a document that authorizes your immigration status. It only grants you the right to work in the U.S.

You still need a valid visa to own the right to live here. Your I-766 card is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). It only gives you the right to work here. A visa and an EAD card are two separate things. In fact, you need a valid employment-based visa before you can be eligible for an I-766 card.

Can I-766 Holders Travel Outside the U.S.?

As mentioned before, your I-766 card only grants you the right to work in the U.S. It does not replace your visa, passport, and/or any other travel-related documents. You actually need a valid passport, U.S. visa, and all your I-94 travel records to be eligible for the Form I-766 card.

So you most probably can travel abroad if you have a Form I-766 approved. This means you have a valid U.S. visa, a valid passport from your country of birth, and keeping in mind that you don’t have any travel restrictions imposed on you. But your I-766 card will not grant you the right to cross the U.S. border. It is not a travel document, but only an Employment Authorization Document.


Non-resident aliens living in the U.S. first need to get the right to employment before they may work in the U.S. You can apply for an Employment Authorization Document by submitting a Form I-766 application. A successful application will get you an I-766 card which you can carry in your wallet. You can produce it as evidence whenever your right to employment in the U.S. needs proof.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is Form I-766?

Form I-766, also known as the “Employment Authorization Document” (EAD), is a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) document that grants temporary employment authorization to certain non-U.S. citizens. It is commonly referred to as a work permit.

Who is Eligible to Apply for Form I-766?

Several categories of non-U.S. citizens are eligible to apply for Form I-766, including:

  • Asylum seekers and refugees
  • Certain foreign students
  • Spouses of certain visa holders
  • Certain individuals with pending immigration applications
  • Temporary protected status (TPS) beneficiaries
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients
  • Certain family-based immigrants

Eligibility criteria can vary based on the specific category and immigration status of the applicant.

How Long is Form I-766 Valid?

The validity period of Form I-766 varies depending on the category and eligibility of the applicant. It can range from one year to several years. Applicants should check their EAD card for the expiration date.

Can I Work Anywhere in the U.S. with Form I-766?

Form I-766 grants temporary employment authorization, but the specific terms and conditions of employment may be limited based on the applicant’s category and eligibility. Some categories may allow for unrestricted employment, while others may have restrictions or limitations.

Can Form I-766 be Renewed?

In many cases, Form I-766 can be renewed or extended by filing the appropriate USCIS forms and meeting the eligibility criteria. It is important to apply for renewal well before the current EAD card expires to avoid gaps in employment authorization.

Can Form I-766 be Used as a Proof of Identity or Immigration Status?

Yes, Form I-766 serves as both a proof of identity and employment authorization. It is an acceptable document for employers to verify an employee’s eligibility to work in the United States.

How Do I Apply for Form I-766?

To apply for Form I-766, eligible individuals must submit the required USCIS forms, supporting documents, and fees (if applicable). The specific application process and requirements may vary based on the applicant’s category. It is recommended to consult the USCIS website or seek legal assistance for guidance on the application process.

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