Work Permit Basics:
If you currently live in the United States and want to work for a U.S. employer while your marriage-based green card application (Form I-485) is pending, you will need a work permit first. You may not apply for a work permit if you live abroad.
There are other factors to consider before and after obtaining a work permit. Read on for answers to some common questions.
I’m married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder and living in the United States. Can I start working while I’m waiting for my green card?
If you already have a valid work visa, such as an H-1B or L-1 visa, you can continue working in the United States even while your green card application is being processed. Otherwise, you must obtain a work permit (officially called an “Employment Authorization Document,” or EAD) before you can start working in the United States.
For spouses of U.S. citizens, the work permit application is typically filed as part of the initial green card application package. (To learn more, check out our guide to Green Cards for Spouses of U.S. Citizens Living in the United States.)
Spouses of green card holders, however, must wait until they are eligible to file their green card application before they apply for a work permit. (For more details, see our guide to Green Cards for Spouses of Green Card Holders Living in the United States.)
How long will I wait for the work permit?
Your work permit will arrive within five months — up to seven months, in some cases — after U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives your work permit application. (Until recently, the typical processing time for a work permit application was 90 days, but a growing backlog has caused additional delays. You can check the most current processing times, updated monthly, on the USCIS website.)
Keep in mind that you cannot submit a work permit application until you’ve filed the green card application (Form I-485). Spouses of green card holders must wait for a visa number before filing the I-485, which means they must wait an additional 19 to 25 months. Spouses of U.S. citizens don’t have to wait for a visa number and can file their work permit applications with the initial application package containing the I-485.
Depending on your situation, the green card itself usually arrives 10–13 months (if you’re married to a U.S. citizen) or over 3 years (if you’re married to a green card holder) from the time you submit your green card application. Once you have your own green card, you will be free to work for any U.S. employer, and you will no longer need a separate work permit.
Can my U.S. citizen spouse file a work permit application on my behalf?
No. Your spouse may not file a work permit application on your behalf. You, the spouse seeking the green card, must sign the work permit application (Form I-765) yourself.
What documents do I need to submit with my work permit application?
Several travel documents are needed to apply for a work permit. The most important of these include your I-94 travel record (if available) and previous work permits (if any). Additional identification documents are required if you haven’t previously been issued a work permit. Our detailed guide on the work permit includes a full list of the required documents.
How much does it cost to apply for a work permit?
Boundless takes all the required government forms — including the work permit application — and turns them into simple questions you can answer online — typically in under two hours. Learn more, or get started now!