Obtaining a visa to enter the United States does not necessarily guarantee that you have the right to work. Many nonimmigrant visas, including the L-2 and H-4 visas, require you to first get a work permit before you can be employed in the U.S. The journey to obtaining permission to gain employment in the country begins by applying for Employment Authorization Documents (EAD). But these EADs are only valid for a certain amount of time, so you will need to renew them every now and then.
That being said, you probably already know by now that the law system governing the working rights of immigrants in the U.S. is continually changing, and it can get quite confusing and overwhelming to stay abreast. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide focusing on EAD renewal since it is one of those important things that might turn out helpful during your stay in the U.S.
Employment Authorization Documents allow certain foreign nationals in the U.S. to obtain a work permit. Every employer in the United States is mandated to confirm that all foreign workers have the right to work regardless of their national origin or citizenship. Essentially, when hiring a new employee, the employer must fill out Form I-9 which aims at verifying the applicant’s eligibility to work in the U.S. An EAD is one of the most popular ways to prove this eligibility.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) oversees the issuance of EADs and involves qualified applicants filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Applicants will also need to pay certain fees and provide all the necessary supporting documents before submitting their application. Submissions are sent through postal mail though you’ll need to confirm the correct USCIS service center to send to as the address will depend on your eligibility category.
The EAD is a card about the same size as a credit card or driver’s license that can fit in a wallet. An EAD card contains vital information including the bearer’s name, photograph, and the expiration date of work eligibility in the U.S. You can learn more about EADs in our ultimate guide.
EADs are usually valid for one to two years, though there are certain variations depending on the category under which you filed your application. Once expired, you will no longer be eligible to continue your current employment, which is why it's important to understand how to go about the renewal process.
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Renewing Your Employment Authorization Document
You can pursue EAD renewal either before or after your existing EAD has expired. The expiration date is easily visible on the front of the EAD card.
However, due to the usually lengthy processing time, not filing it early enough might lead to delays which can put you in a difficult situation, especially if your current EAD expires before the new one is issued. As such, you should aim to renew your EAD long before its expiration. That being said, note that you cannot begin the EAD renewal application process earlier than 180 days before your existing EAD expires. Ideally, you’ll want to submit your application at least 90 days before the EAD expiry date.
The EAD renewal process is similar to the process you followed when you first applied for your EAD card. This means filing Form I-765 with the USCIS and paying the required filing fees.
Before Filing Your EAD Renewal Application
There’s no telling the current workload of the USCIS service center that will handle your EAD renewal application. That’s as much as possible, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve gathered all the necessary documentation prior to filing your application and that you have addressed any potential issues that might cause a delay in the process. These documents include:
Front and back copies of your existing EAD card
Copies of your Form I-94, non-immigrant arrival/departure notice
Two recent passport-sized photos taken within the last 30 days of your application
Receipt for EAD renewal filing fee
Proof of valid immigration status - a copy of your most recent I-797 Approval
Government-issued photo ID document
Form G1145 e-Notification; while filling this form is optional, it is a good idea to do so since it lets the USCIS send you an SMS or an email to confirm receipt of your application. You can attach it at the top of the EAD application package.
When filing for the renewal of your employment authorization document, be sure to follow the instructions carefully because it will contribute to the overall length of the process.
Applying for EAD Renewal
Here’s the main steps to follow for the EAD renewal process:
Fill Out Form I-765
As previously mentioned, your EAD renewal process starts with filing Form I-765 with the USCIS. This seven-page document consists of key information aimed at verifying your identity and ideally, you’ll want to provide an answer to all the questions, even if it means writing down “none” or “NA”.
You can file and complete your I-765 renewal application online, but make sure to file the latest I-756 version as there are outdated versions on the USCIS website kept for record purposes. You can also download Form I-765 and complete it by hand, but remember to use black ink only for filling it out.
The first few questions cover basic information, such as your full name and your address, while the next sets are more comprehensive, requiring you to be more detailed with your responses. For instance, Questions 21 to 26 deal with information regarding your last arrival in the United States and you will need to provide your I-94 data and other details. Questions 27 to 35 require to include all the info about your eligibility to receive an EAD card.
In any case, make sure to thoroughly read all the info included in the form and avoid unnecessary ambiguous responses when completing it.
Pay the Filing Fee
Per the USCIS, Form I-765 comes with a filing fee of $410. Payments may be made by money order, personal check, or cashier’s check. You can also pay by credit card by using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions when filing your application at a designated USCIS Lockbox facility. Check payments should be made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and make sure they are properly dated and signed else it won’t be processed.
Keep in mind that some applicants may be required to pay other fees based on the category under which they’re filing their EAD renewal application. You can use the USCIS fee calculator to determine the applicable fees under your EAD category. Note also that filing fees are deemed final and non-refundable, irrespective of the USCIS final decision on your application, or if you withdraw your petition.
There’s also an $85 biometric fee, though it is not applicable to all EAD categories.
Filing Fee Waiver
Some applicants may be eligible for a payment waiver exempting them from paying the I-765 filing fee. This waiver usually goes to applicants who are unable to pay the fee due to economic or medical reasons. You’ll need to make an official request to the USCIS detailing your reasons why you cannot make the payment, in order to be considered for the filing fee waiver. Write the letter in English and submit with various documents proving your claims of inability to afford the fee.
The USCIS will review your request and send you its response confirming the fee waiver approval or denial. In some cases, they may ask you to provide additional supporting evidence before reaching a decision on your request.
Submit the completed form
Once you’ve completed your Form I-765, gather all the supporting documents listed above and package everything together. Consider making a copy of your application documents just in case it’s needed. Go over all the fields and make sure there are no blank areas as this is one of the leading reasons for the USCIS to reject an application. Remember to also sign the form.
You’ll then need to send the package by mail to the appropriate filing address based on your EAD eligibility category and current state where you live. For example, applicants under the Asylees/Refugees category can submit their EAD renewals to the USCIS lockbox facilities in Dallas and Phoenix; the right address is determined by where the applicant currently resides. This is also the case for L-2 spouses and B-1 immigrants under the employment-based nonimmigrants. You can check out the full EAD eligibility categories and their corresponding filing address for your I-765 application form.
EAD Renewal Processing Time
Generally, the USCIS can take up to 90 days to process your EAD renewal application from the day of submission. Successful applicants will receive an approval notice from the USCIS before they send over the new EAD card. Keep in mind that this 90-day processing time is not a guaranteed adjudication period. It could be longer or shorter depending on a number of factors including the workload of the USCIS service center handling the application.
The USCIS will notify you of receipt of your EAD renewal application, which should be kept for later reference. During the process, they may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) to support your application. Depending on the complexity of the required proof, the EAD renewal process will ultimately be affected as the USCIS will not begin to process the application until the RFE has been fulfilled.
What if my application is delayed?
If the USCIS hasn’t made a final decision on your EAD renewal application after 90 days, you can contact them to learn why and ask for the process to be expedited. You are also able to request an interim EAD card at the USCIS office. This document is usually valid for 240 days, which should be enough time for the USCIS to reach a decision and you won’t have to take a vacation from any income-producing activities as an EAD holder.
Make sure to first confirm your appointment with the USCIS and come along with a valid ID. the receipt notice of your EAD renewal application indicating that it has been pending for over 90 days.
Can I track the EAD renewal process?
You might get some updates regarding your application by visiting the USCIS website and input the number on your notice of receipt. You can check back once in a while to see the current processing stage and whether the application has been approved. The USCIS will then print the EAD card and mail it to you at the address listed in your I-765 application form. Every card usually comes with a tracking number which you can use to track the arrival of your new employment authorization documents.
Process for Replacement EAD
You can request a replacement EAD for lost, stolen, or destroyed documents, following the process described above. If upon receipt, your EAD card contains incorrect information that is not a result of an error on the part of the USCIS, you’ll have to submit a new I-765 form complete with a new filing fee and the required supporting documents, as well as the card containing the error.
If your EAD card contains incorrect information that is due to a USCIS error, they will process your replacement request free of charge and you don't have to submit a new I-765 form. In this instance, you just need to send the EAD card containing the error along with a detailed breakdown of the error and all supporting documents demonstrating the correct information, to the USCIS.
Automatic EAD Extensions
The USCIS may award automatic EAD extensions to foreign nationals in certain employment eligibility categories who file an EAD renewal application. The extension period will start on the listed expiry of the existing EAD and continue for up to 180 days unless the USCIS denies the application. Automatic EAD extensions depend on certain conditions. For one, the employee must have filed their EAD renewal in a timely manner and the application is still pending.
Once you’ve received your new EAD card, be sure to carefully read the enclosed documentation and to make a mental note of the expiry date so you know when to review this process again. Now that you’re cleared to continue working in the U.S., it might be a great time to reconsider your living conditions — especially how you manage your finances and build local credit. You’re probably already aware that credit history is important in securing things necessary for everyday life from credit cards and loans to phone plans and even renting an apartment in the U.S.
Nova Credit can help you establish U.S. credit
The global Credit Passport® by Nova Credit helps U.S. immigrants translate their international credit information in a U.S.-equivalent score which they can use to support their applications for credit cards, student loans, apartment rentals, car leases and other credit services. Nova Credit has partnered with credit providers, including American Express®, MPower Financing and Intellirent to make it easier to access these essential credit-building services. You can check out our newcomer products or visit our resource library for more helpful guides on navigating your life in the U.S.
Nova Credit currently connects to international credit bureaus in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico, Nigeria, South Korea and the UK.
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