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Unlocking Work Opportunities: Can You Work While Waiting for a Green Card?
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Unlocking Work Opportunities: Can You Work While Waiting for a Green Card?

For individuals going through the immigration process, one common question arises: Can I work while waiting for my green card? The answer is of great importance to those who seek employment opportunities and stability in the United States.

In this guide, we will explore the options and steps involved in obtaining work authorization while your green card application is pending. We will then highlight how an immigration employment lawyer can provide valuable assistance and guidance throughout this process.

Understanding whether you can work — and what kind of work you can do — while waiting for a green card can help you navigate your immigration journey more effectively and allow you to reach your financial and professional goals. With the help of SimVisa, you could live and work in the United States with confidence and in compliance with the law.

Understanding the Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is a crucial document that allows someone to legally work in the United States while they are waiting for a green card. It is commonly referred to as a work permit.

An EAD is issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and grants temporary employment authorization to eligible individuals. It serves as proof that the holder is authorized to work in the U.S. for a specified period of time.

EADs are typically valid for one to two years and can be renewed if necessary. Having an EAD enables you to pursue employment opportunities, earn a living, and support yourself and your family while your green card application is pending.

You can consult with an immigration lawyer to determine your eligibility for an EAD and ensure that you follow the correct procedures to obtain this essential document. A knowledgeable attorney from SimVisa can provide guidance, review your case, assist with the application process, and help you understand the rights and limitations associated with your work permit.

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When Should I Apply for a Permit to Work While Waiting for a Green Card?

After you complete the green card application process, you have no choice but to wait — potentially for years. In the meantime, you don't want to put your career on hold or endanger your financial health.

Many immigration lawyers recommend applying for a work permit at the same time or shortly after you apply for a green card. The work permit will allow you to earn a living while you wait for immigration services to review your green card application.

Eligibility Criteria Description
Pending Adjustment of Status You must have a pending application for adjustment of status (Form I-485) to become a permanent resident.
Employment Authorization Eligibility Certain categories of applicants are automatically eligible for employment authorization, such as applicants for certain employment-based green cards, refugees, and asylees.
H-1B Visa Holders If you are currently working in the U.S. under an H-1B visa, you may be eligible to continue working while your green card application is pending.
L-1 Visa Holders Similarly, if you are working in the U.S. under an L-1 visa, you may be eligible to work while waiting for your green card.
Other Eligibility Criteria Additional eligibility criteria may apply depending on your specific circumstances. It is advisable to consult an immigration lawyer to determine your eligibility for employment.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Apply for a Work Permit

These seven steps will take you through the entire application process.

Step 1: Complete Form I-765

The first step in applying for a work permit while waiting for a green card is to complete Form I-765, also known as the Application for Employment Authorization. This form is available on the official website of the USCIS. It is important to fill out the form carefully, providing accurate and up-to-date information. The form will ask for details such as your personal information, immigration status, and the basis for your eligibility to work.

When completing Form I-765, pay attention to the specific eligibility category that applies to your situation. For example, employment-based green card applicants typically fall under category (c)(9), which indicates that you are an applicant for adjustment of status.

We recommend you carefully review the instructions provided with the form to ensure that you select the correct eligibility category and consult a lawyer if you still have questions.

Step 2: Gather Supporting Documents

Once you have completed Form I-765, the next step is to gather the necessary documents to submit along with your application. These documents serve as evidence to support your eligibility for a work permit. The exact documents required may vary based on your circumstances, but generally, you will need to include the following:

  • Identity and Immigration Documents: These include a copy of your passport, birth certificate, and any other official identification documents that establish your identity and immigration status.
  • Photographs: You will need to include passport-style photographs that meet the specific requirements of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Supporting Evidence: Depending on your eligibility category, you may be required to submit additional documents.

For example, an employment-based applicant might include a copy of their approved Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) or other relevant employment-based documents.

It is crucial to ensure that all the documents are properly prepared and organized before you submit your application. Any missing or incorrect documents can cause delays or even result in a rejection of your work permit application.

Step 3: Gather the Filing Fee

As part of the process, you will need to pay the filing fee for Form I-765. The current fee amount, which can be found on the USCIS website, is $410. The USCIS accepts three payment methods: personal checks, money orders, or credit card payments. Follow the instructions provided by the USCIS and make the payment for the correct amount.

It is crucial to include the payment or a copy of the payment confirmation along with your application package. Without the proper payment, your application may be considered incomplete and could be rejected or delayed.

Instructions to Apply for a Work Permit

Step 4: Prepare the Application Package

Once you have completed Form I-765 and gathered the necessary supporting documents, it is time to prepare the application package for your work permit. This step involves carefully organizing and assembling all the required materials to ensure a complete and well-presented application.

Here are the key components to include in your application package:

  • Cover Letter: Include a cover letter that summarizes the purpose of your application and provides an overview of the documents enclosed. This letter can help provide clarity and context to the USCIS officer who reviews your application.
  • Form I-765: Include the completed and signed Form I-765 as the primary document in your application package. Make sure to review it carefully for accuracy and completeness.
  • Supporting Documents: Attach all the necessary supporting documents that demonstrate your eligibility to work. These may include identity and immigration documents, photographs, and any additional evidence required based on your specific eligibility category. Ensure that you make clear copies of all the documents and organize them in a logical and easy-to-follow manner.
  • Payment of Fees: Check the website of the USCIS for the current fee amount and include the required payment along with your application package. Payment options may include a personal check, money order, or credit card.
  • Form G-1145 (Optional): Consider including Form G-1145, also known as the "e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance," if you wish to receive electronic notifications regarding the status of your application.

Remember to make copies of the entire application package for your records before submitting it.

Before you mail your application, carefully review the instructions provided by the USCIS; double-check that you have included all the necessary documents and forms. Missing or incomplete documents can lead to delays or even denial of your work permit application.

Seeking the assistance of an immigration lawyer can be highly beneficial during this step, as your lawyer can guide you through the document-gathering process, ensure that you have all the necessary paperwork, and help you present a strong case for your work permit application.

Step 5: Mail the Application

Once you have completed the application package and paid the filing fee, the next step is to mail your application to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox facility. Carefully follow the instructions provided by the USCIS to ensure that your application reaches the correct destination and is processed promptly.

It's a good idea to send the application package via certified mail with a return receipt. We recommend using a trackable and reliable shipping method such as USPS Priority Mail or a private courier service. These services allow you to track the progress of your application and ensure its safe delivery. Make sure to retain the tracking number for reference.

Step 6: Wait for USCIS Processing

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After mailing your application, you will need to wait for the USCIS to process your work permit application. The processing time can vary, so it is important to check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date information.

You might feel anxious during the long wait, but it's best to refrain from making inquiries about your application status unless there is a genuine need or an urgent situation.

During this waiting period, maintain open lines of communication with your immigration lawyer. They can keep you informed about any updates or changes in the process and provide guidance and support. If the USCIS requires any additional information or documents, your immigration lawyer can assist you in responding to such requests promptly.

Step 7: Receive Work Permit Approval

Once the USCIS has completed the processing of your application, you will receive a decision about your work permit. If your application is approved, you will be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The EAD will specify how long you are authorized to work in the United States.

Upon receiving your work permit approval, review the document carefully to ensure that all the information is correct. If you spot any errors, contact the USCIS immediately to request necessary corrections.

Navigating the complexities of immigration and understanding the rules regarding work authorization while waiting for a green card can be challenging. However, by following these step-by-step instructions and seeking legal advice, you can find solutions that help you maintain lawful employment and earn money in the process.

Limitations and Restrictions

You must understand the limitations and restrictions you face when you are in the U.S. on a work visa or applying to become a green card holder. Navigating the complexities of work permits and immigration law can be daunting, especially when it comes to the question of whether you can work while waiting for your green card.

Obtaining an Employment Authorization Document and being able to work while you wait can be a significant relief. Once you have an EAD, you have few barriers to finding work.

With a valid EAD work permit, you can work in any field you like, for any U.S. employer. You can also choose to work full-time or part-time. And since the EAD is not a work visa that depends on the support of your employer, you can easily switch jobs if a new opportunity comes along.

However, an EAD is not permanent. If your EAD expires before your green card application is approved, you must apply for a renewal. It's best to send in your application well before the work permit expires to be on the safe side.

If you have questions about working in the U.S. before you receive your green card, consult with an experienced immigration lawyer who can provide personalized guidance tailored to your specific situation.

Limitations and Restrictions Description
Validity Period The EAD is valid for a specific period mentioned on the document. Ensure you do not work beyond the expiration date. Renewal may be necessary.
Authorized Employment The EAD allows you to work for any employer in the United States, except for specific restrictions mentioned on the document or by USCIS.
Occupation Restrictions Certain occupations or job categories may have additional requirements or limitations. Check if your intended occupation has any such restrictions.
Change of Employer You can change your employer while your EAD is valid. However, be mindful of any specific employment restrictions or limitations mentioned in the document.
Travel Restrictions While the EAD allows you to work in the United States, it does not grant travel privileges on its own. Separate travel documents may be required for international travel.
Dependents' Work Authorization The EAD may or may not authorize employment for your dependents. Check the specific provisions mentioned on your dependents' EADs, if applicable.
Compliance with Visa Status Ensures you maintain your underlying visa status while working on the EAD. Failure to do so may result in immigration consequences.

Seek Legal Advice for Specific Situations

Can you complete the employment authorization process on your own? Some people do, but you should recognize when it's time to talk to an immigration lawyer.

At SimVisa, we believe that anyone who wants to become a lawful permanent resident and work legally in the U.S. would benefit from a consultation. In particular, consider seeking professional legal advice in the following situations:

  • You are not sure whether you are eligible to begin working in the U.S.
  • You don't know which category of green card you are eligible for
  • You need help gathering documents for a work permit application
  • You have a criminal charge or previous immigration violation on your record
  • Your initial application for an Employment Authorization Document was denied

An immigration lawyer can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation. By taking advantage of a lawyer's skill, you can expect to reduce the time and stress associated with applying for a work permit.

Specific Situation Benefits of Seeking Legal Advice
Complex Immigration Case An immigration lawyer can navigate the complexities of your case, identify potential issues, and provide tailored advice to help you work while waiting for your green card.
Visa Status Limitations If your current visa has limitations on employment, an immigration lawyer can assess your options and guide you on how to obtain work authorization during the green card process.
Prior Immigration Violations If you have had past immigration violations or issues, seeking legal advice is crucial to address any potential consequences and ensure that your employment during the green card process is lawful.
Employment-Based Immigration Immigration lawyers specializing in employment-based immigration can provide expertise on work visa options and help you navigate the complexities of maintaining legal employment while waiting for your green card.
Changes in Circumstances If there have been changes in your circumstances, such as a job loss or change of employer, an immigration lawyer can assess the impact on your work authorization and advise you on the necessary steps to maintain lawful employment.
Family-Based Immigration For individuals pursuing family-based immigration, an immigration lawyer can guide you on specific requirements, such as obtaining a work permit through a qualifying family member, and ensuring you remain eligible to work while waiting for your green card.
Compliance with Employment Laws An immigration lawyer can help you understand and comply with federal and state employment laws to ensure that your work while waiting for a green card is lawful and in line with regulations.
Employment-Based Travel If your employment-based immigration involves international travel, an immigration lawyer can advise you on travel restrictions, work permits for overseas assignments and re-entry requirements to maintain your work authorization.
Expediting Work Authorization In certain situations, such as urgent employment needs or significant financial loss, an immigration lawyer can explore options for expediting your work authorization while waiting for your green card, potentially saving you time and money.
Challenging USCIS Decisions If you encounter challenges or denials from USCIS regarding work authorization, an immigration lawyer can assist in challenging those decisions, providing legal arguments and representation to protect your rights and interests.
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How long does it take to get a work permit?

The processing time for a work permit application (Form I-765) can vary. It is advisable to check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date processing times. Typically, it can take several months to receive a work permit, so it's important to apply as early as possible.

Do I need to have a job offer or sponsorship to be eligible for a work permit?

No, you don't need a job offer or employment sponsorship to be eligible for a work permit while waiting for a green card. A marriage-based green card applicant, for example, can file Form I-765 and seek a U.S. work permit.

What should I do if my work permit expires before I receive my green card?

If your work permit expires before you receive your green card, it's important to take timely action. You may be eligible to file for a renewal or extension of your work permit by submitting the appropriate application to USCIS. It's best to file for an extension about 100 days before your current work permit expires; you will not be eligible to work with an expired EAD. Seeking the guidance of an immigration lawyer can help ensure that you take the necessary steps and comply with the application requirements.

Streamline Your Work Permit Application Process with SimVisa's Professional Support

Whether you are already a green card holder, hold a valid work visa, or are in the process of adjusting your status, an employment immigration lawyer can help you understand the nuances of things like an advance parole travel document, an employment authorization card, and a valid nonimmigrant work visa.

At SimVisa, we'll help you make informed decisions, address any legal issues proactively, and secure the necessary work authorization to continue your professional journey.

An immigration lawyer can offer advice tailored to your specific situation. Whether you need to explore work visa options, address prior immigration violations, or ensure compliance with employment laws, we will help you understand your rights and obligations, minimizing the risk of costly mistakes.

To receive personalized advice and support throughout your immigration journey, we encourage you to contact SimVisa. Our experienced immigration lawyers are ready to assist you, provide solutions, and help you navigate the complexities of working while waiting for your green card. Don't hesitate to contact us and take control of your immigration process today!

Unlocking Work Opportunities: Can You Work While Waiting for a Green Card?
SohYoon Atac
co-founder of SimVisa

Sohyoon is the co-founder of SimVisa. She has over 15 years of immigration specific experience and as an immigrant herself, fully understands the daunting nature of navigating the immigration process.

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