Different categories of foreign-born persons who have the right to live in the U.S. do NOT have the right to work unless they have first applied for and received an employment authorization document (EAD), often referred to as a “work permit”.
What is Form I-765
Form I-765 is a request for an Employment Authorization Document or “EAD”, which is more commonly known as a work permit.
For example, an EAD may be obtained while your green card application is processing.
This allows green card applicants to legally work before becoming lawful permanent residents.
Once approved for EAD, you will obtain the identification card, which you can then use to apply for Social Security Number and obtain employment.
If you have previously filed this form but have lost your EAD or need to renew it, you should also file form I-765.
Who can file Form I-765?
Generally, the following categories can apply for work permits:
- Applicants for adjustment status with a pending I-485
- Refugees and people granted asylum
- People granted deferred enforced departure (DED) or temporary protected status (TPS)
- VAWA self-petitioners
- F-1 students (with various limitations)
- J-2 spouses or minor children
- M-1 students seeking practical training after completing their studies.
- K-1 nonimmigrant fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen or K-4 children.
- Holders of L-2, T-1, T-2, T-3, T-4, or U-1, U-2, U-3, U-4, U-5, V-1, V-2, or V-3 visas.
However, certain family members of U.S. citizens, as well as permanent residents, can still apply for work authorization even if they haven’t applied for their green card. They include:
- A fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen can apply for work authorization as long as they do so within 90 days of arriving in the United States on a fiancé(e) (K-1) visa.
- A spouse of a U.S. citizen can apply for work authorization even if they are on a K-3 nonimmigration spousal visa.
- Individuals who qualify for the Family Unit and the LIFE Family Unity programs
However, if you’re applying through marriage to a green card holder, you’ll have to wait for a visa number to become available before filing your work permit application..
Who should not file form I-765?
If you fall into any of these three categories, you should NOT use this form:
- Lawful permanent resident
- Conditional permanent resident
- Nonimmigrant with specific employment authorization through form 8 CFR 274a.12(b). These are aliens who are authorized to work in the United States but only for a specific employer.
Form I-765 Fees
As of March 2020, if you’re filing the Form I-765 separately, the filing fee is $410.
You must also pay an additional $85 biometric services fee, for a total of $495.
Some categories of applicants can be exempt from paying these fees.
For example, asylees or refugees applying for work permit for the first time do not pay filing fees.
Noncitizens who were granted withholding of removal are completely exempt from paying Form I-765 fees.
Also realize that some categories of applicants do not need to pay the fee, such as those simultaneously filing to adjust status to get a green card (they are covered by their I-485 Form fee).
You can pay fees by:
- Money order
- Personal check
- Cashier’s check, or
- Credit card, using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.
Form I-765 Processing Time
It generally takes about 150-210 days (5-7 months) for USCIS to process work permit applications. It can also take longer.
Form I-765 processing time:
|Form type||Application center||Processing time|
|Based on a pending I-485 adjustment application [(c)(9)]||California Service Center||3 Months to 5 Months|
|National Benefits Center||6 Months to 8 Months|
|Nebraska Service Center||4.5 Months to 6.5 Months|
|Texas Service Center||4 Weeks to 5 Months|
|Vermont Service Center||5 Months to 7 Months|
|Haiti extension||California Service Center||3 Months to 5 Months|
|Based on TPS for El Salvador [(c)(19), (a)(12)]||Vermont Service Center||5.5 Months to 7.5 Months|
|Based on an approved, concurrently filed, I-821D [(c)(33)]||Vermont Service Center||5.5 Months to 7.5 Months|
|Based on an approved asylum application [(a)(5)]||Nebraska Service Center||3 Months to 5 Months|
|Based on a pending asylum application [(c)(8)]||Nebraska Service Center||2.5 Months to 4.5 Months|
|Potomac Service Center||5 Weeks to 3 Months|
|Texas Service Center||4 Weeks to 3 Months|
|Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student [(c)(3)]||Potomac Service Center||5 Weeks to 5 Months|
|Texas Service Center||4 Weeks to 5 Months|
|All other applications for employment authorization||California Service Center||7 Months to 9 Months|
|National Benefits Center||8 Months to 10.5 Months|
|Nebraska Service Center||4.5 Months to 6.5 Months|
|Potomac Service Center||5 Weeks to 5 Months|
|Texas Service Center||4 Weeks to 5 Months|
|Vermont Service Center||5.5 Months to 7.5 Months|
Form I-765 Checklist
You will need the following documents to apply for a work permit:
- You will need a copy of your I-94 travel record (front and back), if available, or a printout of your electronic I-94 obtained from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website: Get most recent I-94
- A copy of your U.S. visa (if applicable)
- A copy of your passport photo page
- Copies of previous work permits (front and back), if you have any available
- Two 2-inch-by-2-inch passport-style photos of yourself that you took recently. Make sure you print your full name and your alien registration number on the back of each with a pencil or felt-tip pen.
- A copy of receipt notice (official acknowledgment letter) from USCIS that you have submitted a qualifying application
- If it’s the first time you are applying for a work permit, you must submit a copy of one of the following forms of government-issued identification:
- birth certificate and a photo ID,
- copy of a visa that was issued by the consulate of a country other than the United States, or
- any other national identity document with your photo and/or fingerprint
Form I-765 – Step-By-Step Guide to Fill Out the Form
There are a few general rules for filling out Form I-765.
You should type the information into the form if you can.
Otherwise, print it out and write with black ink.
USCIS expects you to enter “None” or “N/A” (for “not applicable”) if that’s your answer, rather than leaving a space blank.
If you can’t fit your answer in the space provided, then use Part 6 of the form to add additional information.
Part 1. Reason for Applying
If this is your first work permit, check 1.a, “Initial permission to accept employment.”
If you’ve applied for a previous work permit (for example, if you’re applying now as part of your green card application but previously applied for and received a work permit as a fiancé(e)), checkbox 1.c for renewal.
If you are applying to replace a damaged, stolen or lost employment authorization document, tick 1.b.
The only condition is that the cause of the damage or missing employment authorization document should not be due to USCIS.
Replacement of an employment authorization document due to USCIS error does not require a new form I-765 and filing fee.
Part 2. Information About You
Most of this part is self-explanatory, except for the below.
You were given an A-number if you applied for any immigration benefit once you arrived in the United States or if you were put into removal (deportation) proceedings.
Look for your A-number (the letter A followed by 8 or 9 digits) on any correspondence you got from a U.S. immigration agency.
Question 9: You might or might not have a USCIS Online Account Number. You would have one only if you registered for this system in order to submit an online application.
Question 13a and 13.b: If you have a valid Social Security Number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA), check “yes” and then enter the number itself. Otherwise, check “no” in 13.a.
How to apply for a Social Security Number using Form I-765
Questions 14-17: Here, if you need a Social Security Number (SSN), you have an opportunity to avoid making a personal visit to the Social Security Administration (SSA) office.
By checking “yes” to question 14 and the request for disclosure in question 15, and providing some personal information about your parents, the SSA will give you a number and send you your card soon after you receive your work permit.
Question 21: If you entered the U.S. lawfully, you should have an I-94, either in paper form or recorded in the CBP website if you entered the United States by plane or ship after April 2013. (You’ll need your passport number.)
If you came before 2013, or if you came across a land border, you might find a white I-94 card stapled in your passport.
If you changed status within the United States, your I-94 was included with your approval notice.
Always use the latest I-94 number you were given, if you have had more than one. You will not have an I-94 number if you came without documentation or if you came by car as a Canadian tourist.
You can find your electronic I-94 record on U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website: I-94 record
Questions 22 and 23: Your date and place of the last arrival into the United States, if you came by plane, must indicate the date and airport at which where your plane landed – where you were inspected by a U.S. border officer.
If you entered the United States after April 2013 you can find your travel history on U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website: Travel history
If you came without inspection across a land border and you know you crossed into a specific border city (such as El Paso, Texas, or San Ysidro, California) give that information too.
Do not list the city where you first spent time in the United States.
Questions 24 and 25: These ask for your U.S. immigration status upon arrival and currently. If you know the visa category letters and numbers, you can use those (such as B-2 for visitor or F-1 for academic student).
You can find your visa category in your I-94 record.
Otherwise, describe your category (such as “visitor” or “student”). If you are not in the U.S. legally, write “no legal status.”
Question 27: You will need to scan through the opening pages of the USCIS instructions to Form I-765 until you find your eligibility category.
If, for example, you are applying for adjustment of status, you would be in the category “(c)(9).”
Or, your category might be “F-1 Student Seeking Off-Campus Employment Due to Severe Economic Hardship,” in which case you would enter “(c)(3)(iii).”
You’ll notice three sets of open parentheses for you to fill in – if your category has only two letters/numbers (like (c)(9)), start by filling in the parentheses on the far left, and leave the parentheses on the far right blank
If you need help determining your category, consult with an immigration lawyer.
Certain categories of applicants will also need to provide additional information in the questions below.
Near the bottom of the form, in Part 3, you will need to insert your signature, the date, and information on how to contact you.
The rest of the form needs to be filled out and signed by an interpreter, lawyer, or other people if you hired them to help prepare your form.
Question 29: You’ll need to look at the I-765 instructions (also on the USCIS website) to figure out which eligibility category you’re in.
For example, some of the most common categories include:
- Category (a)(5) for someone granted asylum
- Category (a)(12) for people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
- Category (c)(3)(C) for students doing post-completion optional practical training
- Category (c)(5) for J-2 spouses of a J-1 exchange visitor, and
- Category (c)(9) for anyone with a pending adjustment of status (green card) application.
If your category has only two letters or numbers (such as (c)(9)), just put the “c” in the second set of parentheses and the “9” in the third.
Attaching Proof of Your Eligibility for a Work Permit
To prove that you qualify for a work permit, you’ll need to make a photocopy of whatever shows the status that you described in Question 29.
For example, if you applied as an asylee, attach a copy of the asylum office letter or judge’s order granting you asylum.
The instructions to Form I-765 detail which documents you need to submit.
Note, however, that if you are applying for the work permit at the very same time as you apply for a status, such as for adjustment of status or TPS, you don’t need to include proof of eligibility.
USCIS will see your eligibility for the application you submitted.
What Happens After I-765 is Approved?
If USCIS approves your application, you will receive two documents – your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), also known as the “USCIS I-766 card” or “work permit”, and in another envelope your Social Security Number card (if you applied for one).
Your EAD and Social Security Number card will be mailed to the mailing address you listed on your I-765 application.
How long will EAD be valid?
How long the work permit lasts depends on your current immigration status, or type of your visa. Most EADs are valid for 1-2 years.
What Happens if You Did Not Request or Receive a Social Security Number?
If you did not request an SSN card on your I-765 application or didn’t receive your SSN by mail, you must visit a Social Security Administration (SSA) office to apply for your Social Security number and card after you receive your Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766) from USCIS.
When you visit an SSA office to apply for a Social Security card, you should carry the following original documents with you (they do not accept photocopies or notarized documents):
- Your Form I-766 to prove your immigration status and that you can work in the U.S.
- Your birth certificate to prove your age. If you do not have a birth certificate or you cannot obtain it in 10 business days, the agency may accept your foreign passport, U.S. military record, or religious record showing your age or date of birth.
You should receive your SSN card within 2 weeks after you submit your application.
Can my work permit be denied?
The following are the reasons why your work permit may be denied:
- If you filled out the work permit application form (I-765) incorrectly, forgot to sign it, or left out a required element. Such may occur if you applied for the work permit after your green card application and failed to include a copy of the original USCIS receipt notice.
- If your green card application is processed so quickly that you already have an approved green card before your work permit application is finished being processed.
- If you applied for work permit earlier than allowed (for example, asylum applicants need to wait 150 days before they can apply for work permit).
How can I renew my work permit?
It is possible to apply for a renewal work permit as early as 6 months before your current work permit expires.
To renew your work permit, you must file another Form I-765 with supporting documents.
You are also required to include a copy of your current work permit and two passport-sized photos.
Renewal of the work permit can take 150 days or longer to process.
How do I request a replacement EAD?
You may follow the renewal process listed above to request a replacement EAD for lost, stolen, or destroyed documents.
If your EAD contains incorrect information that is not due to a USCIS error, you must submit a new I-765 form, a filing fee, the required documentation, and the card containing the error.
If your EAD contains incorrect information that is due to a USCIS error, you do NOT need to submit a new I-765 form or a filing fee. USCIS will process your replacement request at no cost.
In this case, you must send the original card containing the error, a detailed written explanation of the card error, and supporting documentation on the correct information.
Submit this information to the service center that approved your latest Form I-765.
What happens to my work permit after my green card application is approved?
Your work permit terminates the moment you receive your green card. As a permanent resident, you will not need a separate work permit.
File Your Immigration Forms with SelfLawyer
With SelfLawyer you will get immigration attorney review, online forms preparation and same day filing.
Start your Form I-765 application now.
Marriage Green Card – Complete Step-by-Step Guide 
USCIS Case Processing Times