Work in the United States While Waiting for Your Green Card Approval

U.S. employers may employ only those lawfully able to work in the United States. Those who qualify to work in the United States legally include U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (those who hold Green Cards), and immigrants who have been expressly authorized to work in the U.S. by USCIS.

Work in the United States While Waiting for Your Green Card Approval
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It may take many months for your case to be processed if you are currently a resident of the United States and wish to seek to change your status to obtain a green card (Form I-485). You may choose to start working to support yourself and your family. At the same time, you wait for the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to decide on your Green Card application.

Processing Green Cards can take a while. That some people wish to work while their application is being processed makes it reasonable. The question for most foreigners is: Is it possible to work lawfully in the United States while you are awaiting your Green Card? Those waiting on a decision for their Green Cards may fall into the category of immigrants expressly authorized to work in the U.S. by USCIS.

You might want to read more, as we will go into more detail about the answer to this question in this article about whether migrants in the United States can work legally while waiting for their Green Card application decision.

Work in the United States While Waiting to Receive Your Green Card

As with all aspects of US immigration, it is always essential to ensure that before you change your circumstances or engage in any activity, you confirm whether it is authorized under your current residence status, as there are several cases involving migrants who started studying or working without being entitled to do so. Which risks them having their immigration status removed and forced to leave the country, even when they are not aware they were in breach of the law.

While waiting for your Green Card approval, two possibilities would allow you to work in the United States. First, you could continue working if you had a valid nonimmigrant work visa. That is for people who come to the U.S. through employment-based, which are temporary visas that allow them to work for a particular employer. These are more commonly referred to as work visas and are renewable.

However, it is still valid if you come to the U.S. through a work visa. Therefore, you can continue working legally in the United States while processing your Green Card application. However, the guidelines and parameters of your visa will continue to apply, and you must adhere to them. Moreover, if you do not currently have a valid work visa, you may still be able to work legally in the United States while your Green Card is pending. You apply for an Employment Authorization Document, otherwise known as a “work permit.

What is a Work Permit?

A work permit is officially known as an Employment Authorization Document or EAD. A work permit is a personal identity card issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services USCIS bearing the owner's photo that allows them to seek employment in the United States.

The Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which looks like a Driver’s license, also serves as a photo ID. It is issued by the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It can prove that you are authorized to be employed in the United States for a specific period. To apply for a work permit, you can file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, at the same time that you apply for a Green Card by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust status. If you already filed your Form I-485, you are still permitted to file for employment authorization separately. Usually, it will take around 90 days to receive your work permit.

Generally speaking, those applying for a Green Card from within the U.S. will likely qualify for a work permit while the Green Card application is pending. The process of awaiting permanent residency application processing from within the U.S. is called “adjustment of status.” Unfortunately, applicants who must leave the U.S. to attend a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad do not qualify for work permits.

Applying for a Work Permit/ Employment Authorization Document

As we mentioned above, you can choose to apply for your work permit (Form I-765) at the same time as applying for a Green Card. That is to say; you only pay a single fee to file both applications. Even if you did not apply for an EAD when submitting your I-485. You can do so afterward while waiting for a decision on your application. However, if you apply later, it is recommended that you include your I-485 filing receipt (the Form I-797C Notice) in your EAD application, meaning there is no filing fee.

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What Documents Do I Need for a Work Permit?

As part of your Employment Authorization Document (Form I-765) application. You will need to complete the following general requirements or details:

  • A copy of your Form I-94 travel record (if available), Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Record (front and back), a printout of your electronic Form I-94, or your passport or other travel documents
  • Two identical US-style passport-sized photographs
  • A copy of your last EAD(if applicable)
  • If you were not previously issued an EAD, you must submit a copy of a government-issued identity document.
  • Form G-28 (if an attorney or accredited representative represents you)

How Much Does A Work Permit Application Cost?

As of February 2021, a work permit application is accessible regardless of when you decide to apply. This is subject to change, and you should always check the USCIS website before filing your application if you choose to use an immigration attorney to help you with your application. They may charge you an attorney’s fee.

How Long Does a Work Permit Application Process Take?

Processing time for work permits varies and can also be inconsistent. The work permit process takes about five to seven months from the time the USCIS receives your application. Initially, the work permit’s processing time was about 90 days. However, the recent surge in applications has caused backlogs which have increased the processing time. Besides, the USCIS keeps updating the processing time on its website to keep you informed on the timeframe of the application process.

What Type of Employment Can I Get?

A family-based green card applicant could seek any employment with their work permit as long as the job is legal and also if they received employment authorization while their green card application is pending. There are no restrictions on the type of employment and employer you can work for.

What Happens To My Work Permit When I Finally Receive My Green Card?

The USCIS will terminate your work permit once you receive a green card. Lawful permanent residents are authorized to live and work in the United States. Therefore, once your green card application is approved, you will no longer need a work permit to prove your authorization to work.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, if you're applying a Green Card and need to start work to support yourself and your family, you should do so. A work permit or Employment Authorization Document is required. The good news is that you should be able to obtain a work visa by submitting an I-765 form. However, it may take six months to receive a decision, and you will need to wait until you obtain permission before you can begin working. To reduce the amount of time it takes to get your work permit, you might wish to begin the application as soon as you can and submit all the data and specifics needed in the I-765 form.

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