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


U.S. employers are only legally permitted to hire individuals who are eligible to be employed in the country. Those who qualify to legally work in the United States 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.

Green card

Moreover, if you are in the U.S, and you plan to file an application to adjust your status to receive a green card (Form I-485). You might need to wait for several months for your case to get processed. As you are waiting on a decision from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in relation to your Green Card application, the chances are that you will want to start work to support yourself and your family.


To sum up, Green Cards can take a long time to process. It makes sense that some people would want to work while their application is pending. This leaves most foreigners with the question; Is it possible to legally work in the U.S. while you are waiting on your Green Card? For those waiting on a decision for their Green Cards, they 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. Whether migrants in the United States can work legally while waiting for a decision on their Green Card application.

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

However, as with all aspects of US immigration, it is always important 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 being 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 you’re waiting on your Green Card approval, there are two possibilities that would allow you to work in the United States. First, you would be able to 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 certain employer. These are more commonly referred to as work visas and are renewable.

Meanwhile, if you came to the U.S. through a work visa and it is still valid. You can continue to work legally in the United States while your Green Card application is being processed. The guidelines and parameters of your visa will, however, continue to apply and you must adhere in accordance with them.

Moreover, if you do not currently have a valid work visa. Then you may still be able to legally work in the United States while your Green Card is pending. You do this by applying 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 for short. A work permit is a personal identity card issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services USCIS bearing the photo of the owner, that allows them to seek employment in the United States.

The Employment Authorization Document (EAD), looks like a Driver’s license, and it also serves as a photo ID. It is issued by the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and can serve as proof that you are authorized to be employed in the United States for a specific time 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. are likely to 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 referred to as “adjustment of status.” Unfortunately, however, those 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 Documents

However, just 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.

Meanwhile, if you apply later. Then it is recommended that you include your I-485 filing receipt (the Form I-797C Notice) in your EAD application which will mean there is no filing fee payable.

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 you are represented by an attorney or accredited representative)

How Much Does A Work Permit Application Cost?

However, as of February 2021, a work permit application is free regardless of when you decide to apply for it. This is subject to change and you should always check the USCIS website prior to filing your application. Moreover, if you decide 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 application 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. The recent surge in applications has caused backlogs which have increased the processing time. Besides, the USCIS keeps on updating the processing time on their 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 can seek any type of employment with their work permit as long as the job is legal. Also, if you received employment authorization while your 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?

Your work permit will be terminated by the USCIS once you receive a green card. Lawful permanent residents are authorized to live and work in the United States. Once your green card application is approved. You will no longer need a work permit to prove your authorization to work.

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Bottom Line

In conclusion, if you are applying for a Green Card and need to start work to support yourself and your family. You will definitely need a work permit or Employment Authorization Document. But the good news is that by filing an I-765 form, you should be able to secure a work visa. Although, it can take around six months to get a decision, and you will have to wait until you have authorization before you start work.

However, you may want to start the application as soon as possible and provide all the necessary information and detail requested in the I-765 application, in order to minimize the wait time to receive your work permit.


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