EAD – Employment Authorization Document

Your guide to the U.S. EAD, the employment authorization document needed to legally work in the United States.

What does EAD mean?

EAD stands for Employment Authorization Document. This document, commonly referred to as a “work permit”, is an identification document (like a driver’s license) that proves your right to work in the U.S. This document is granted to immigrants whose visa includes work authorization.

How is a green card different from EAD?

A green card is the document issued to U.S. permanent residents. Both a green card and an EAD prove your right to work in the U.S.; however, they have other key differences. Mainly, green card holders’ immigration status is permanent, meaning their work authorization does not expire. EAD holders only have the right to work for a limited period of time, as specified on the EAD or on their visa.

Below are images of the most current green cards and the most current EAD’s. While green cards do have an expiration date, it is only the card that expires and not the permanent residency status. Green card holders can continue to legally work in the U.S. with an expired green card. The expiration date on an EAD generally signifies the end of the period you are allowed to work in the U.S. If you extend your visa, you will likely need to apply to renew your EAD.

Green Cards

Green card issued after May 1, 2017:

Green Card

Previously issued green card:

Old Green Card

EAD issued after May 1, 2017:


Previously issued EAD:


How long can you have an EAD?

EAD’s are issued for a specific period of time, as determined by your visa. Generally, your EAD will be valid for the same period of time as your work visa. If you extend your visa, you should apply to renew your EAD before it expires.

Do you need a sponsor for EAD?

You don’t need a sponsor for an EAD as EAD’s are issued to people who already have permission to work in the United States. While you don’t need a sponsor to apply for an EAD, you may need a sponsor to receive a U.S. work visa.

Below is a chart of temporary worker visa categories, as provided by the U.S. Department of State. All of these visas require you to have a U.S. employer sponsor, who must file the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129). Other visas may provide limited work authorization, such as some student visas. Refugees and asylees also often qualify for work authorization.

Visa categoryGeneral description – About an individual in this category:
H-1B: Person in Specialty OccupationTo work in a specialty occupation. Requires a higher education degree or its equivalent. Includes fashion models of distinguished merit and ability and government-to-government research and development, or co-production projects administered by the Department of Defense.
H-1B1: Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Professional – Chile, SingaporeTo work in a specialty occupation. Requires a post-secondary degree involving at least four years of study in the field of specialization. (Note: This is not a petition-based visa. For application procedures, please refer to the website for the U.S. Embassy in Chile or the U.S. Embassy in Singapore.)
H-2A: Temporary Agricultural WorkerFor temporary or seasonal agricultural work. Limited to citizens or nationals of designated countries, with limited exceptions, if determined to be in the United States interest.
H-2B: Temporary Non-agricultural WorkerFor temporary or seasonal non- agricultural work. Limited to citizens or nationals of designated countries, with limited exceptions, if determined to be in the United States interest.
H-3: Trainee or Special Education visitorTo receive training, other than graduate medical or academic, that is not available in the trainee’s home country or practical training programs in the education of children with mental, physical, or emotional disabilities.
L: Intracompany TransfereeTo work at a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of the current employer in a managerial or executive capacity, or in a position requiring specialized knowledge. Individual must have been employed by the same employer abroad continuously for 1 year within the three preceding years.
O: Individual with Extraordinary Ability or AchievementFor persons with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or extraordinary recognized achievements in the motion picture and television fields, demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim, to work in their field of expertise. Includes persons providing essential services in support of the above individual.
P-1: Individual or Team Athlete, or Member of an Entertainment GroupTo perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete or as a member of an entertainment group. Requires an internationally recognized level of sustained performance. Includes persons providing essential services in support of the above individual.
P-2: Artist or Entertainer (Individual or Group)For performance under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the United States and an organization in another country. Includes persons providing essential services in support of the above individual.
P-3: Artist or Entertainer (Individual or Group)To perform, teach or coach under a program that is culturally unique or a traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performance or presentation. Includes persons providing essential services in support of the above individual.
Q-1: Participant in an International Cultural Exchange ProgramFor practical training and employment and for sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of your home country through participation in an international cultural exchange program.
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How to get an EAD?

You can get an EAD by applying for one with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The application is Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. You may qualify for an EAD if you fit into one of the following categories:

  • Asylee/ Refugee and their spouses and children
  • Nationality categories
  • Foreign students
  • Eligible dependents of employees of diplomatic missions, international organizations, or NATO
  • Employment-based nonimmigrants
  • Family-based nonimmigrants
  • Adjustment of status categories

Check to see if you qualify to file the I-765 application with our FREE quiz.

What is the processing time for an EAD?

The processing time of an EAD application can vary depending on where and when you file. You can check the status of your I-765 application online or by phone with the USCIS. To check your status online, go to https://egov.uscis.gov. To check your status by phone, call 1-800-375-5283.

Can an EAD be renewed?

Yes. You can renew an EAD using Form I-765 as long as you continue to have valid work authorization through your immigration status.

The Differences and Similarities Between a Green Card and EAD

Green Card

People who plan to visit the United States either to live or work are required by law to possess a green card or Employment Authorization Documents (EAD). The EAD is also the work permit. However, most people are always inclined to seek out a green card first as opposed to an EAD.

It is understandable because becoming a permanent resident may be the ultimate goal but having an EAD is also an available option as you get to legally work and live in the US during the period that you are applying for your green card.

An individual (immigrants) will be granted with an EAD card when they have pending immigration petition to become a permanent resident by filing form I-765.

How Does Ead Contrast to a Green Card?

• Permanent Over the Temporary Status

With a green card, you will always be allowed to work in the US because you are considered a permanent resident. However, the EAD is temporary, and you cannot obtain work by itself. A work permit must be a benefit of an underlying status. For instance, it is impossible to go to the US and apply for a work permit because you want to work in the US. You must have a right to obtain the work permit, usually an employment visa. When your reason to have a work permit is over, then your work permit expires.

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This means having a pending employment visa can allow you to apply for a work permit, but if the employment visa gets denied, then your work permit becomes invalid.

A permanent status green card stays valid for ten years, and even after it has expired, you are still considered a lawful US resident. However, similar to a work permit, you can lose your green card. Some of the reasons include; denouncing your US citizenship, committing a crime, and tax-related frauds.

• Qualification for Naturalization

Naturalization is a process that grants an individual US citizenship status, thereby granting access to certain privileges like voting or vying for a public seat. Naturalization is only possible for holders of green cards. Non-citizens who live and work in the US are not allowed certain privileges. The major advantage between the gc ead card is that a green card is used to identify foreign individuals as persons with lawful permanent residence. All US citizens and green card holders are not required to produce EADs to prove they are eligible for employment as it is an inherent benefit.

Green Card

• Traveling Internationally

To reenter the United States after having traveled abroad, you are required to produce documents that validate your visit or stay in the US. Green cards are legal documents that can grant you re-entry while an EAD will not.

Besides allowing you to travel in and out of the country freely, a green card also allows you to file for petitions for your spouse and unmarried children to live with you in the US.

A work permit is not a visa and cannot be used to justify your reasons to be in the United States. You will need more supporting documents like the employment visa.

• Validity

You can have a conditional green card valid for only two years. In such instances, if you do no take the necessary steps to renew your green card status to permanent status, then your stay in the Us becomes finite.

Similarly, EAD cards also range in their validity period. Ordinarily, EAD’s are only valid for a period not more than two years before you have to renew them. But there are instances where it can be granted for less. For example, if an individual is in the US on a fiancé visa, they are eligible for EAD of 90 days before expiry.

What This Means Legally

If your green card expires, you will not lose your status as a permanent resident in the US but if your EAD expires you will not be allowed to obtain work legally, and your stay in the US should come to an end.

However, in similarity, you can still be deported if you have both the green card and the EAD. Only US citizens by naturalization can never be deported.

Travel and Re-entry to the U.S. While on OPT

COVID-19 UPDATES: BIO encourages individuals to use caution when considering international travel due to COVID-19. For current travel updates (including vaccination, quarantine, and testing) see our COVID-19 FAQ page and Immigration Policy Updates for current immigration news. For current UC Berkeley policies and requirements see the UC Berkeley COVID-19 Resources page.

Global travel conditions remain impacted by the pandemic. The Department of State has announced a phased resumption of routine visa services. Visit your local U.S. embassy or consulate website to confirm operating status and find information about appointment rescheduling and/or emergency services.

Current USCIS Processing Times for OPT Applications:
Click here to view USCIS’s estimated case processing times. Select Form: “I-765”Form Category: “Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student [(c)(3)]” Service Center: “Potomac Service Center”. If you are planning on travel while OPT is pending, please review the risks of travel with pending OPT or STEM OPT.

Traveling while on OPT or OPT STEM Extension

In general, an F-1 student on post-completion OPT may travel outside the United States temporarily and be readmitted to resume F-1 status and employment for the remainder of the period authorized on his or her EAD card. The student must not have exceeded the maximum OPT unemployment or OPT STEM Extension unemployment time.

Please also review all general travel and re-entry information on the main Travel and Re-Entry page.

WARNING: Re-entering the United States in a status other than F-1 (such as a tourist) will invalidate F-1 status and OPT authorization.

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Valid F-1 visa stamp (if applicable)

See below: “Getting an F-1 Visa Stamp During OPT/STEM” if your visa will be expiring.”

OPT I-20 with a valid travel endorsement signed within 6 months by a BIO Advisor (page 2)

See below “OPT/STEM I-20 Updates & Travel Endorsements”

I-20 should show OPT/STEM is Approved and list current employment

strongly recommended

salary can be included in your employment verificaiton letter

Job offer letter from employer (for future employers) OR current employment verification letter

OPT- strongly recommended

OPT STEM Extension- required

*Travel While OPT or OPT STEM Extension is Pending

Travel during the OPT application process is allowed, but not recommended as it poses certain risks. Keep in mind the following:

  • You will need to have someone monitor your mail and let you know if you receive any communications from USCIS.
  • If you receive a Request for Evidence, you will need to respond by a specific deadline, which could be difficult from outside the U.S.
  • For post-completion OPT: If you are denied for OPT while outside the United States after your Program Completion Date, you will not be able to re-enter or reapply. Your F-1 status will end.
  • For OPT STEM Extension: If you are denied for OPT STEM Extension while outside the United States after your OPT EAD end date, you will not be able to re-enter or reapply. Your F-1 status will end.
  • If you are approved for OPT/STEM while outside the United States, you will need to arrange for your EAD card to be sent to you in order to re-enter the United States.
  • If your F-1 visa is expired, you will need to reapply for an F-1 visa with your EAD card and proof of employment.
  • If you choose to travel while your application is pending, be sure that you are monitoring your mail. Sign up for an account with USCIS Case Status online. C ommunicate with BIO about your travel plans.

OPT/STEM I-20 Updates & Travel Endorsements

During OPT/STEM the I-20 should be up-to-date with your current informaiton and the travel endorsement is only valid for 6 months of travel.

  • Employer Updates: If your OPT or STEM OPT is Approved, your I-20 should reflect the approval and your current employer on page 2. Follow instructions on the OPT Reporting page to log into the SSU Hub to upload your approved EAD card and to add any new employment. You’ll receive a new I-20 via email in 5 business days with the new employer.
  • Travel Endorsement: To receive an updated travel signature, follow the instructions on our Travel & Re-entry page.
  • Replacement I-20: If you need a new OPT or STEM I-20, you can submit a Replacement Document request (#13) to receive a new I-20 with a new travel endorsement. (Note: BIO has a 5 business day processing time! F-1’s may receive I-20s via email.

Getting an F-1 Visa Stamp During OPT/STEM

If a student’s F-1 visa has expired and the student wishes to travel outside the United States, a new F-1 visa must be obtained before re-entering the United States. Students who need to apply for a new visa should consult BIO prior to travel to discuss the visa application process and possible risks. General Visa information can be found on the Applying for a Visa webpage. If your F-1 visa has expired, and OPT or OPT STEM Extension application is pending, you will NOT be able to apply for a new F-1 visa until the application is approved and you have the EAD.

If You Are on OPT & Have a Pending or Approved H-1B or OPT Cap-Gap I-20

Please first check with your employer and the legal counsel processing your H-1B about your travel plans. Berkeley International Office can only advise you on travel as an F-1, but we cannot advise on how your travel might impact a pending or future H-1B request. Students travelling using an OPT Cap-Gap I-20 should see the H-1B Cap Gap page for more information.

Source https://www.us-immigration.com/blog/ead-employment-authorization-document/

Source https://attentiontrust.org/green-card-and-ead/

Source https://internationaloffice.berkeley.edu/students/employment/opt/travel

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