Can I Work While My Green Card Application Is Pending?

Having an employment authorization document (EAD) allows you to seek legal employment as you wait for a response on your pending Green Card application.

While finding ways to financially support yourself and your family is essential, it can be extremely challenging without legal status. In fact, the United States government does not permit employers to hire asylum seekers or foreign nationals who are not lawful permanent residents.

Fortunately, by opting for temporary employment authorization, you can legally work even if you have a pending application.

What Does the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Say About Hiring Foreign Employees?

Always keep in mind that even though you are in the United States legally and have submitted your asylum application, you still do not have the automatic right to work. Furthermore, even if you are fully eligible for legal status, you still are not eligible to get a work permit.

According to the United States immigration law and hiring decisions, employers can only hire individuals legally able to work in the country. These employment eligibility categories include:

  • United States citizens
  • Green Card holders
  • Aliens with employment authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an official government organization operating under the Department of Homeland Security

If you already received your adjustment of status or temporary protected status, you won’t need to apply for permission to work because the law classifies you as a permanent resident with rights to employment.

However, if you are still waiting for your adjustment of status and wish to work, you will have to qualify under the category of aliens with continued employment authorization. This category has two scenarios. You could either have an employment authorization document or a valid nonimmigrant work visa.

What Would Happen if You Work Without an Employment Authorization Document?

For starters, it will be extremely challenging to find a job without a valid work permit, with all employers requiring you to have one before offering employment. Even if you were to find employment, unauthorized employment places you and your specific employer at risk.

You not only face heavy penalties. Working without a permit could also severely impact your pending adjustment and immigration status.

What if You Are Already Working Without Permission?

If you have been working without a permit, the USCIS might exercise leniency. However, this depends on the length of your employment.

In most cases, the immigration service can approve your I-485 application if you have been a temporary worker for no longer than 180 days from when you last received permission to enter the country. If you have worked for longer, you run the risk of the USCIS denying your residency application.

Applying for an Employment Authorization Document Card

Are you yet to receive your Green Card but would like to begin working? You can gain employment eligibility by applying for an employment authorization document, also known as a work permit. You can apply for this permit by completing and filing form I-765.

You can complete form I-765 and apply for the permit at the same time you are applying for your status adjustment. In fact, doing so will save you money because you will enjoy the benefit of a fee waiver.

If you did not apply for an employment authorization document when filing your I-485 form, you must submit a new form. However, we recommend including your I-485 receipt in your application to avoid incurring a filing fee.

Work Permit Requirements and Application Process

You must meet specific requirements before applying for your employment authorization document. According to the immigration rules, you can only apply for the permit if you have:

  • A pending I-485 application to adjust your status or register for permanent residence
  • A pending I-589 application for temporary protected status
  •  A nonimmigrant status that permits you to be in the country but does not permit you to work without authorization, like an F-1 or M-1 student

The Application Process

Once you meet one of the above requirements and are an eligible applicant, you can proceed with the application. You will need to provide several details as part of this process, including:

  • Your personal information, such as your name, addresses, place of birth, national origin, alien registration number, social security number, and marital status
  • Your reason for applying
  • Information regarding your last arrival in the country
  • The category under which you are applying
  • Interpreter details
  • Preparer’s details
  • Personal declaration
  • Any necessary additional information

Your application’s address will depend on the category under which you are applying. For example, as a migrant with a pending residency application, you will file form I-765 under Eligibility Category 8 CFR 274a.12.

This category has four different addresses. The specific one you will use will depend on your citizenship status.

Ensure that you provide the immigration services with the correct information. Submitting incorrect information can lead to the USCIS delaying or denying the EAD application. You should also ensure that your application has the proper signatures in all the necessary places since USCIS automatically rejects any unsigned forms.

Considering all these requirements, some status applicants seek the help of an immigration lawyer who can review their EAD card application, ensuring everything is correct before submission.

After completing and submitting your form I-765, you will get an I-797C filing notice from the USCIS confirming receipt. The I-797C notice will include details such as:

  • Case Type: The name of the form and the type of application you filed
  • Received Date: Reflects the date the immigration services received your employment authorization document application
  • Receipt Number: A unique number that you can use to inquire about the status of your employment eligibility verification

This notification will also include information about whether you will need to submit your biometric information or attend a physical interview.

Applying for an EAD When Waiting for a Marriage-Based Green Card

If you are waiting for a marriage-based green card, you can still file a form I-765 either separately or concurrently with your petition. If you file it separately, ensure you do so with the same service center processing your petition.

When submitting the form, remember to include a copy of an I-485 receipt of notice and other documentation proving that your status adjustment petition is pending. You will also need to include the following additional documents:

  • Front and back copies of your I-94, nonimmigrant arrival-departure record
  • Two identical passport photos
  • A copy of any government-issued identity documents like a driver’s license
  • An I-797C notice of action
  • Proof of your national origin and current citizenship status
  • Proof of your relationship with a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen spouse
  • A G-28 form if a law firm represents you

How Long Will the USCIS Take To Process Your Work Permit Application?

The time the USCIS will take to process your application greatly varies. In the past, the processing time for an employment authorization document application took about 90 days after submitting the form. However, the processing time has increased in the past few years, taking up to five or even seven months.

Yes, this might seem like a long time to wait. Still, it is worth it, considering the permit remains the best way to get continuous employment authorization with a pending immigration status.

Factors Influencing EAD Processing Times

The following include some of the factors that determine how long it will take the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to process your employment authorization document.

Current USCIS Caseload

The USCIS processes applications in the order applicants submit them. As such, if the USCIS has multiple other cases in the federal register ahead of your application, getting a response will take longer.

Filing Multiple Paperwork Simultaneously

Though filing your form I-765 simultaneously with other applications might save you filing fees, you might be unwittingly delaying processing.

For instance, if you apply for DACA protection, you will need to file your work permit application simultaneously with your request for deferred action. However, the government agency cannot begin processing your employment authorization document application before making a decision on your DACA request.

Office Location

Certain USCIS field offices have longer processing times than others. On top of that, while the agency has several locations in the country, you do not have the discretion to file at any field office.

This means that you will have to wait longer if the site you applied to lags behind in processing past applications.

Your Application’s Accuracy and Completeness

Neglecting to include any piece of information or submitting an application with errors could result in significant delays. Sometimes, the agency will ask for the missing supporting document. However, sometimes, the USCIS will simply deny your request, forcing you to start the process all over again.

If You Have Had a Permit Before

In most cases, the USCIS processes work permit renewals faster than it does first-time applications. Therefore, while they automatically extend some EADs, your EAD renewal application will still not require USCIS field office appointments or a lot of supporting documents. Additionally, when your current EAD expires, you won’t have to submit other citizenship status applications.


Moving is another factor that will determine how long the processing of your employment authorization document application will take. If the USCIS mailed your paperwork to the wrong address, you will experience delays in receiving your employment authorization card. As such, remember to update your address with the agency after relocating.

Inquiring About Your Application Status

While waiting for a response, you can follow up on your petition’s progress. To do so, you will first need to file and attach a G-114 application acceptance form to the first page of your form I-765 before submitting it.

This form will enable you to receive updates regarding your application. You can also look for application updates via your USCIS online account.

Besides this, the USCIS will post a receipt date for a case inquiry on the official USCIS website, updating it regularly. When this assigned date matches the validity period written on your I-797C, you can submit an official inquiry to learn about the status of your work authorization.

Can You Work While Waiting for Your Employment Authorization Document?

Waiting for your work permit for seven months can seem like forever, especially if you have lined up a job that would allow you to contribute to your family’s finances. Furthermore, considering the heavy competition for employment, such opportunities aren’t often accommodating.

However, it is essential that you avoid securing paid employment until receiving official work authorization. In fact, always keep in mind the things that different immigration statuses permit.

If the USCIS discovers that you are working during the processing of your application, not only will your employment authorization application be in jeopardy, but it will also place your permanent residency petition at risk.

Do You Need Help Navigating the Employment Authorization Application Process?

While you may find several employment opportunities in the United States, it is imperative that you gain the proper authorization before capitalizing on these opportunities. Unfortunately, the agency sees numerous cases of asylum applicants starting work when they are ineligible to do so. This often results in the revoking of their granted asylum.

A valid EAD card is an employment authorization document issued to foreign nationals by the USCIS, granting them rights to work legally. However, considering how daunting the application can be, getting this authorization isn’t as straightforward as many wish.

Do you need professional help navigating the process? Reach out to Costas Network Law Center today.

Our law firm has a team of professionals with practical training, ready to provide you with the guidance you need to understand form instructions and avoid costly errors. By doing so, we can help you keep your EAD processing time as short as possible, offering you reliable representation throughout.

Call the Costas Network Law Center today at (216) 862-8380 and let our professional attorneys help you with the application for your employment authorization document.


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