Get a Work Permit While Waiting for Your Green Card

Apply for Green Card Working in the U.S.

Professional with an adjustment of status work permit on phone with client

Green card applicants who apply from inside the United States are generally eligible for employment authorization (work permit). While consular applicants must wait until they arrive in the U.S. with permanent resident status, adjustment of status applicants may obtain an employment authorization document (EAD) and accept work while waiting for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to approve the green card. Since the green card time line can be lengthy, obtaining permission to accept employment with an adjustment of status work permit is a significant benefit.

At the time of filing the adjustment of status application (Form I-485), you may concurrently file an application for employment authorization (Form I-765). Even if you did not file at the same time, you can do it later. In fact, adjustment of status applicants may file Form I-765 at any time the I-485 continues to be pending.

Of course, the EAD is no longer necessary once USCIS grants you permanent resident status with a green card. The green card is proof of your status to live and work permanently in the United States.

Work Restrictions for Adjustment Applicants

Certain work visas have restrictions on the type of employment and even the specific employer. However, an employment authorization document is different. There is no restriction on the type of employment allowed. Provided the work is lawful, you can accept the job. You may also work as many hours as you like on a part-time or full-time basis.

If you already have a work visa (such as H-1B), you may continue to work for the same employer or even find a new job. Many immigration attorneys prefer that their clients continue to stay within the terms of their current work visa so that they have a fall back option. In the worst-case scenario, you could continue working for the H-1B employer if the green card was denied. If you abandoned the H-1B job and the green card application was denied, you would no longer be in status and forced to leave the country.

Required Documents for I-765 Application

In most cases, you’ll need to submit the following documents as part of the request for a work permit as an adjustment of status applicant:

This is a typical list above. Individuals with special circumstances may require additional evidence. For complete directions that cover your situation, please refer to the USCIS filing instructions or use CitizenPath to prepare your I-765. In addition to your prepared form, CitizenPath provides you with a set of personalized filing instructions so you know what to do for your specific situation. The filing instructions provide detailed directions on supporting documents, how to organize your application, and where to mail it. (If you’ve used CitizenPath to prepare your adjustment of status application, you’ll also get a discount.) Learn more >>

Wait Time for an Adjustment of Status Work Permit

USCIS has a stated goal of delivering EADs within 90 days but has rarely been able to meet this self-imposed deadline. Realistically, applicants should expect USCIS to mail the card no sooner than four months. Depending on case loads and other factors (e.g. pandemic delays), wait times have extended to about eight months for some. Unfortunately, you do need to wait until receiving the EAD before working for a U.S. employer.

Combo Card Includes Advance Parole Travel Authorization

For green card applicants who apply for employment authorization together with an advance parole document, USCIS may issue a “combo card.” It’s a version of the EAD card which contains the words “SERVES AS I-512 ADVANCE PAROLE.” An example of the card is pictured below with a red box around the special notation.

Advance Parole EAD Combo Card for tn applicant

Note: In 2022, USCIS began decoupling Forms I-765 and I-131 in an effort to improve processing times. To improve efficiency and reduce Form I-765 processing times for adjustment applicants, USCIS may decouple Form I-765 from Forms I-131 filed at the same time. When possible, USCIS will adjudicate an applicant's Form I-765 first. If approved, they will issue an Employment Authorization Document without any notation about advanced parole. USCIS will then adjudicate the Form I-131 separately. If approved, they will issue an advance parole document.

USCIS Fee for EAD Based on Pending I-485

For many years, adjustment of status applicants have had to pay no additional fee to file Form I-765. In other words, the employment authorization benefit cost nothing extra for those filing in the (c)(9) or (c)(16) categories. Specifically, USCIS requires no I-765 fee if the adjustment of status applicant satisfies the following two requirements:

  • Filed Form I-485 after July 30, 2007; and
  • Paid the appropriate Form I-485 filing fee.

However, the Biden administration recently proposed a USCIS fee increase that threatens to remove this fee exemption for the adjustment of status work permit. The new fee structure could go into effect as early as March 2023. Once finalized, the rule will require I-485 applicants to pay for EAD benefits in the future.

Exception for Asylees and Refugees

Asylees and refugees who file Form I-485 should not request a work permit based on the adjustment of status categories. Instead, individuals granted asylum or refugee status must who have applied to adjust to lawful permanent resident status, must file Form I-765 under category (a)(5) as an asylee or (a)(3) as a refugee. They should not use the (c)(9) or (c)(16) category. These instructions come directly from USCIS. However, there is also a benefit. Applicants in the asylee and refugee categories do not pay any filing fee for the EAD benefit.

About CitizenPath

CitizenPath provides simple, affordable, step-by-step guidance through USCIS immigration applications. Individuals, attorneys and non-profits use the service on desktop or mobile device to prepare immigration forms accurately, avoiding costly delays. CitizenPath allows users to try the service for free and provides a 100% money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve the application or petition. We provide support for the Adjustment of Status Application (Form I-485), Employment Authorization Application (Form I-765), and several other immigration services.

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