Who Qualifies for Work Permit in 2021?

Any foreign national who wants to make money in the US has to get an Employment Authorization Card (EAD or work permit). Not everyone is allowed to receive this authorization, which means that such individuals cannot work in the US. 

Initial EAD can be issued only under a specific category and remain valid for 1 or 2 years (depending on the category). After that time, the applicant may renew it, if needed. Foreign nationals who have Permanent Resident Card (green card) or Conditional Resident Card, do not need an EAD. 

1. Asylee or Refugee categories, and their spouses and children.  Asylee means Granted Asylum when the foreign national is in the US. If the applicant was granted asylum after the Immigration Interview, the USCIS will mail the EAD via USPS. If the applicant was granted asylum after the Immigration Court, the applicant can apply for EAD. Refugee means the foreign national received the status before his/her arrival to the US. If the application for EAD was not prepared yet, then the foreign national should submit it after his/her arrival to the US.

2. Asylum applicants can apply for EAD 365 days after their I-589 form was registered at the USCIS and they received their alien numbers. The applicant should not have any criminal record, arrests, and convictions, and have legally entered the US and applied for Asylum within 1 year. Members of CASA or ASAP do not have to wait 365 days to apply for an initial EAD.  The applicant and his/her spouses, children (who are in the US only and included in the main applicant’s case) can apply and renew EAD, if necessary. 

3. Foreign students (F1 students). On April 12, 2021, the USCIS released news that OPT (Optional Practical Training) F-1 students can apply for EAD (an employment authorization document or work permit). The following categories are eligible:

  • (c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT;
  • (c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion OPT; 
  • (c)(3)(C) – 24-Month Extension of OPT for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students (https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/f-1-students-seeking-optional-practical-training-can-now-file-form-i-765-online).

This is a temporary work permit and available only for F-1 students. The work permit is valid for one year for pre-and post-completion studies, and two years – for STEM degrees. 

4. Dependents of employees of Diplomatic Missions, International Organizations, or NATO. Dependents of A-1 or A-2 Foreign Government Officials (c)(1) should submit Form I-765 with Form I-566, Interagency Record of Request-A, G, or NATO Dependent Employment Authorization or Change/Adjustment to/from A, G, or NATO Status, Dependent Employment Authorization, through your diplomatic mission to the Department of State (DOS). Dependents of G-1, G-3, or G-4 Nonimmigrant (c)(4) should submit Form I-765 together with Form I-566 through the international organization to DOS. The United Nations and UN missions will submit the applications to the U.S. Mission to the UN. DOS or USUN will forward applications to USCIS for adjudication. 

5. Employment-based nonimmigrant. There are a few categories here: B-1 nonimmigrant who is the Personal or Domestic Servant of a Nonimmigrant Employer (c)(17)(i); B-1 nonimmigrant Domestic Servant of a U.S. Citizen (c)(17)(ii); B-1 nonimmigrant Employed by a Foreign Airline (c)(17)(iii); Spouse of an E-1 Treaty Trader, E-2 Treaty Investor, or E-3 Specialty Occupation Professional from Australia (a)(17). Spouse of an L-1 Intracompany Transferee (a)(18). This category requires additional documents, which may vary case by case.

6. Family-based nonimmigrant. Here are K-1, K-2, K-3, K-4 visa, V-1, V-2, V-3 status, Adjustment Application under Section 245, and so on. Each visa and every case are so different. This is why there is no one general list of documents. Even if the application is through a family-based category, every single applicant has his/her own case and documents.

7. Also, there are other categories that are not related to the above ones, such as Parole, Deferred Action, T-1 – T-6 nonimmigrants, U-1 – U-5 applicants, VAWA, etc. 

Despite the fact that the USCIS has so many categories for foreign nationals, there is only one I-765 form to apply for EAD, but to complete this form is not enough. The applicant should submit all the required documents based on his/her case, correct fee, and maybe additional explanation notice (if needed). If the applicant has a criminal record, applied for Asylum after 1 year since his/her arrival, illegally crossed the border, the USCIS can deny the application. That is why it is very important to carefully read the instructions or hire an attorney to make sure that the USCIS will receive all the necessary documents based on the applicant’s case. 

*For informational use only. 

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