Various categories of foreign-born persons who have the right to spend time in the U.S. do NOT have the right to work here as well, unless they have first applied for and received an employment authorization document (EAD), often referred to as a work permit. For example, people with a pending application for adjustment of status, temporary protected status, or asylum, spouses and children of J-1, and visa holders, persons granted withholding of removal, and, under some circumstances, students are among the noncitizens who may apply for a U.S. work permit.
In most cases, applicants must pay a fee for the work permit; though in some, such as adjustment of status cases, the fee is included in the overall green card application fee.
Even if you are not planning to work, having a work permit can be useful as a piece of photo identification. You can use it to get a Social Security card and a driver’s license.
Form I-765 is available on the I-765 page of the USCIS website. This article describes the 1/1/17 version that expires on 2/28/2018.
There are a few general rules for filling out Form I-765. You should type the information into the form if you can. Otherwise, write with black ink.
For this form, USCIS wants you to enter “None” or “N/A” (for “not applicable”) if that’s your answer, rather than leaving a space blank. If you can’t fit your answer in the space provided, then attach a separate sheet. Identify this sheet of paper in case it gets detached from your application—at the top, write I-765 Continuation Sheet, your name, and your alien registration number (if you have one). Then make sure USCIS knows which question(s) you’re adding more information for—start with the question number to which your answer refers. You must date and sign each continuation sheet.
If this is your first work permit, under “I am applying for,” check “Permission to accept employment.” If you’ve applied for a previous work permit (for example, if you’re applying now as part of your green card application but previously applied for and received a work permit as a fiancé), check the box for renewal.
Questions 1-8: Self-explanatory.
Question 9: If you have a valid Social Security Number from the Social Security Administration, enter it here. Otherwise enter "none."
Question 10: You may or may not have an Alien Registration Number (A-number) and/or an I-94 number. You were given an A-number if you applied for any immigration benefit once you arrived in the United States or if you were put into removal (deportation) proceedings. Look for your A-number (the letter A followed by 8 or 9 digits) on any correspondence you got from a U.S. immigration agency. If you don’t have an A-number, list your I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) number if you have one. If you entered the United States by plane or ship after April 2013, you can find your I-94 number online. (You’ll need your passport number.) If you came before that, or if you came across a land border, you might find a white I-94 card stapled in your passport. If you changed status within the United States, your I-94 was included with your approval notice. Always use the last I-94 number you were given, if you have had more than one. You won’t have an I-94 number if you came without documentation or if you came by car as a Canadian tourist.
Question 11: If you previously applied for a U.S. work permit, you are asked “Which USCIS office?” Find the name of the USCIS office that approved or denied your application—it should be on the Form I-797 notice you received. For “Date,” use the date USCIS received your application (also on the I-797). Submit all I-797 forms with the I-765.
Question 13: Your place of last entry, if you came by plane, will be the airport where your plane first landed—where you were inspected by a U.S. border officer. If you came without inspection across a land border, give the border state at least, and if you know you crossed into a specific border city (such as El Paso, Texas, or San Ysidro, California) give that too. Do not list the city where you first spent time in the United States.
Questions 14 and 15: These questions ask for your U.S. immigration status upon arrival and currently. If you know the visa category letters and numbers, you can use those. Otherwise, describe your category (such as “visitor” or “student”). If you are not in the U.S. legally, write “no legal status.”
Question 16: This will be the most difficult question: You will need to scan through the opening pages of the USCIS instructions to Form I-765 until you find your eligibility category. If, for example, you are applying for adjustment of status, you would be in category "(c)(9)." Or, your category might be "F-1 Student Seeking Off-Campus Employment Due to Severe Economic Hardship," in which case you would enter “(c)(3)(iii).” You’ll notice three sets of open parentheses for you to fill in—if your category has only two letter/numbers (like (c)(9)), start by filling in the parentheses on the far left, and leave the parentheses on the far right blank. If you need help determining your category, consult with an immigration lawyer.
Questions 17 and 18: Self-explanatory.