Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Definition

The Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card), commonly known as Work Permit, is a legal document issued by the USCIS in the form of a credit card, that allows foreign nationals to work in the United States. The card contains a photograph of the individual and sometimes his or her fingerprint. Applicants are required to complete Form I-765 to obtain a EAD Card.

Do I need an EAD Card to work in the U.S. legally?

Regardless of Citizenship or national origin, U.S. employers are legally obligated to check if their employees are allowed to work in the United States. All individuals who are not a citizen or a permanent resident may need to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to prove they may work in the United States.

USCIS issues Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) for the following reasons:

  • EAD: As proof that you are allowed to work in the United States for a specific period of time or while you have a specific immigration status
  • Renewal EAD: To renew an EAD that has expired (you cannot file for a renewal EAD more than 120 days before your original EAD expires)
  • Replacement EAD: To replace a lost, stolen, or mutilated EAD. A replacement EAD also replaces an EAD issued with incorrect information, such as a misspelled name

I am eligible to apply for an EAD Card?

There are three eligibility categories for noncitizens to apply for an EAD Card and work in the United States:

  • Category 1: Authorization to work in the United States based on the nonimmigrant status.
  • Category 2: Authorized to work for a specific employer as a result of the nonimmigrant status.
  • Category 3: The applicant may fall into a category that requires requesting work authorization.

To be legally employed in the United States, individuals are required to present documentation to an employer to show that you are authorized to work in the United States.

Eligibility Categories Form I-765

Because there are many different ways in which a person may apply for and be granted permission to work, in question 17 of Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, applicants are required to write the correct eligibility category. The following is an employment authorization codes chart for the eligibility categories:

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