If I Applied But Haven’t Yet Been Approved for a Green Card, Can I Still Get a Job in the U.S.?

The process for an immigrant to be approved for a green card in the U.S. often takes considerable time. It’s not unusual to take several weeks, if not months. Not surprisingly, the immigrant would like to work while waiting to earn a living and afford the basic necessities.

However, before an immigrant can start working while waiting for a green card, they must file for a special permit that, once approved, allows them to be employed during the wait. This permit is known as the Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization. This document (known as an Employment Authorization Document or EAD) proves that the immigrant is legally allowed to reside and work in the U.S. The permit must be renewed annually until the green card is approved.

Is an Employment Authorization Document the Same Thing as a Work Visa?

No. A work visa allows someone to live and work in the U.S. when they’re not a U.S. citizen, but most of the time, the visa is for a specific employer. Usually, the employer files for a work visa on behalf of the employee

The EAD, or work permit, allows the employee to work for any company that will hire them. The employee is the one who files for it and maintains it annually, not the employer.
People who are U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), or who hold work visas don’t need an EAD. Immigrants who are waiting for green card approval need an EAD to work legally in the U.S.

How Does Someone Apply for an Employment Authorization Document?

First, the applicant must be one of the following immigrant categories.

  • F-1 visa holders (students)
  • K-1 visa holders (fiance to a U.S. citizen)
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS) immigrants, for immigrants who can’t safely return to their country of origin
  • Immigrants with pending adjustment of status applications, which includes green card applications)

Undocumented immigrants or those holding B-1 or B-2 visas (which are temporary visas allowing people to enter the U.S. for business or tourism for short periods) aren’t eligible for EADs.

What Is Needed to Apply for an Employment Authorization Document?

There are several requirements to apply for an EAD. To ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible, it’s highly recommended that you work with an experienced immigration attorney who will understand the requirements and help you follow them.

Here’s what the potential employee needs to provide.

  • Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization.
  • Social Security Number (SSN). If the immigrant doesn’t have one, they can apply for one at the same time they’re applying for the EAD.
    Copies of their current immigrant visa, the photo page of their passport, another form of identification (such as a birth certificate or photo ID from the country of origin), a copy of the receipt received when they applied for a visa (if applicable), and a copy of their I-94 travel document.
  • Two recent passport-type photos (usually 2″-2″).
  • A filing fee, which at this writing is $410. But that amount could change. There are also some applicants who may be exempt from the fee. Your attorney can help determine if you’re one.

Once all the required pieces are gathered and submitted, it usually takes about 60-90 days to receive notice if the EAD has been approved. Note that even once the EAD is approved, the immigrant still needs to have the SSN to legally apply for a job. If they’ve applied for that along with the EAD, they need to wait until that’s approved, too. Then they’re free to find a job.

What Are the Potential Consequences of Working Without an Employment Authorization Document?

It can be tempting to find quick employment while waiting for the 2-3 months for the EAD to be approved. After all, there are current and ongoing expenses. However, EAD applicants are strongly urged not to do this. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) could learn of the employment and decide to investigate. This applies not just to full-time, salaried jobs but even part-time jobs, home-based self-employment businesses, or hobbies such as buying and selling items on eBay. If it brings income to the immigrant, it’s considered working.

If the USCIS determines that the immigrant is working illegally, the consequences can be severe. They could have their green card application denied (and that may be permanent) and face removal or deportation hearings. The immigrant’s entry visa could be revoked. Once deported, it may be difficult or even impossible to re-enter the U.S.

Unfortunately, there are too many people who believe they can keep the USCIS from finding out about their job. However, the USCIS can learn about these situations from things like co-workers posting your photo on social media or if someone reports the immigrant to them.

What Should I Do if I Need Help Applying for a Green Card or an Employment Authorization Document?

Call Toland Law, LLC, at 857-347-3701 to request a free consultation. The process of applying for a green card, as well as applying for a work permit, can be complicated. Any errors in filing the paperwork can cause the application to be rejected. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable immigration attorneys understands the process and requirements and can help you avoid making errors that could cost precious time.

Toland Law, LLC