Working in the U.S. while Waiting for Green Card

While waiting for your marriage-based Green Card, a work permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD) will allow applicants to work legally while residing within the United States. Read this article to learn about how to get a work permit and any regulations related to the work permit.


I. How to get a work permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD)

In general, the marriage-based Green Card applicant spouse of a U.S. citizen or U.S. Green Card holder spouse may begin working under certain circumstances. However, if no other temporary work visas are possessed, the marriage-based Green Card applicant must apply for a work permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD) through Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization). Form I-765 must be filed by the marriage-based Green Card applicant directly, and may not be filed by the sponsor spouse on behalf of the applicant spouse.

  1. If the marriage-Green Card applicant possesses a valid work visa (e.g. H-1B or L visa), the applicant may continue working in the United States under the same conditions they received their temporary work visa.
  2. If the marriage-Green Card applicant does not possess a valid work visa, then they must apply for a work permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD) prior to being allowed to work in the United States.
    • When married to a U.S. citizen, Form I-765 may be filed as part of the marriage-based Green Card application.
    • When married to a U.S. Green Card holder, the applicant must wait until they are cleared to move forward with filing Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) to file Form I-765.

II. What is the wait time for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)?

In general, work permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD) applicants may expect a waiting period of five to seven (5-7) months after submitting Form I-765 to the USCIS.

However, this can be an even longer wait time when a marriage-based Green Card applicant is married to a U.S. Green Card holder. The reason for this is because a marriage-based Green Card application must wait for a visa number prior to filing Form I-485. Furthermore, Form I-765 cannot be filed until the visa number is available for filing of Form I-485. Therefore, this additional delay in time can impact the waiting period for an EAD. This estimated additional wait time may be another nineteen to twenty-five (19-25) months.

Lawfully USCIS Case Tracker provides personalized prediction for the processing time based on the big data by machine learning algorithm. Also, you can talk with other applicants in the community to learn about other cases' status.

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III. After receiving a work permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD), am I restricted to certain types of employment? Hours of employment?

When applying for a work permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD) through the marriage-based Green Card application, there are no specific restrictions on the types of employment. The EAD will grant you authorization to work in any legal employment.

Furthermore, since the EAD holder is eligible to legally work in the United States, the EAD holder may choose to work either part-time employment or full-time employment. There are no specific restrictions that will bar the EAD holder from employment.


IV. What happens to my work permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD) once my marriage-based Green Card is approved?

Upon the approval of the marriage-based Green Card, the work permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD) will end automatically. Once the marriage-based Green Card is approved, there will be no other need for the work permit, since the marriage-based Green Card applicant will be approved to work within the United States.


V. Can I apply for a work permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD) while outside of the United States?

Form I-765 can only be applied by applicants who live within the United States. Although the marriage-based Green Card applicant may still apply for a marriage-based Green Card while living outside of the United States, work permits (EADs) are reserved for only applicants living within the United States.


VI. Can I leave the United States after applying for a marriage-based Green Card and a work permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD)?

Once a marriage-based Green Card applicant begins the application process, leaving the United States afterwards will generally be viewed by the USCIS as having abandoned the application process. In order to avoid this, the marriage-based Green Card applicant may file Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document) and will be allowed to leave the United States after its approval. However, applicants may also expect a five to seven (5-7) months approval time for Form I-131. Around the same time, the marriage-based Green Card applicant may have approval for both Form I-131 and Form I-765, allowing the applicant to choose whether they would like to work within the United States or to return to their home country during the remainder of the marriage-based Green Card process.

Depending on whether the marriage-based Green Card applicant is married to a U.S. citizen or a U.S. Green Card holder, the decisions to return home may vary due to the waiting periods associated with each case. If the marriage-based Green Card applicant is married to a U.S. citizen, Form I-131 and Form I-765 can only be filed once the applicant is eligible to file the Form I-485. As a result, should the marriage-based Green Card applicant be married to a U.S. Green Card holder, the wait times may be longer before being able to choose whether the applicant can return home or must remain within the United States.