What are EAD cards?
EAD cards, also known as employment authorization documents, are temporary work permits issued by USCIS to allow a foreign national to work in the U.S. for a specific amount of time. Recruiters and HR professionals often have questions about the sponsorship requirements of EAD cards. The short answer is that EAD cardholders do not require employer sponsorship to work, as they are independently eligible for work authorization.
Who is eligible for an EAD card?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has over 40 categories designating eligibility for U.S. EAD cards. Examples of these categories include:
- Green card applicants who have a pending Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
- Spouses of certain employment-based nonimmigrant visa holders (e.g., E-1, E-2, select H-1B)
- F-1 students taking part in an Optional Practical Training program
- Individuals eligible for Deferred Action
- K-1 Fiance visa holders
- Citizens of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau
A complete list of categories for EAD cards eligibility can be found in the instructions for the Application for Employment Authorization, form I-765. Or, they can be found in title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
What are the time limits for EAD cards?
It’s important that both employers and employees understand the purpose and limitations of the card. EAD cards are temporary work permits. Therefore, the EAD cardholder should be aware of the card’s expiration date and initiate the process to renew the EAD card well before that date, since one must have the new card in-hand in order to continue working.
When should EAD cards be renewed?
USCIS allows EAD card renewal applications to be submitted no sooner than 120 days before the original expiration date. Once the applicant is hired, an I-9 must be completed in order to verify the applicant’s identity and work authorization. If the employee presents the card for the I-9, this serves as a List A document and no further documentation is needed. Section 3 (Reverification) of the I-9 should then be completed whenever a renewed card is obtained. This card is not a green card, and should not be confused with permanent work authorization.
Have more immigration questions? Get the basics with our The ABCs of Immigration guide.