Filling Out Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization

Noncitizens seeking U.S. employment must often obtain a work permit card. Learn about this process here.

By , J.D.

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, asylum (in rare cases), 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.

Most applicants must pay a fee for the work permit, as described on the I-765 page of the USCIS website.

Even if you are not planning to work in the U.S., having a work permit can be useful as a piece of photo identification. You can use it to get a Social Security number and card and a driver's license.

Form I-765 is available on the I-765 page of the USCIS website. This article describes the 08/25/20 version of the form.

There are a few general rules for filling out Form I-765. You should type the information into the form if you can. Otherwise, print it out and write with black ink. USCIS expects 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 use Part 6 of the form to add additional information.

Part 1. Reason for Applying

If this is your first work permit, check 1.a, "Initial 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 box 1.c for renewal.

Part 2. Information About You.

Most of this part is self-explanatory, except for the below.

Question 8: You might or might not have an Alien Registration Number (A-number). You would have been given one 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 eight or nine digits) on any correspondence you got from a U.S. immigration agency.

Question 9: You might or might not have a USCIS Online Account Number. You would have one only if you registered for this system in order to submit a previous application.

Question 13a and 13.b: If you have a valid Social Security Number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA), check "yes" and then enter the number itself . Otherwise check "no" in 13.a.

Questions 14-17: Here, if you need an SSN, you have an opportunity to avoid making a personal visit to an SSA office. By checking "yes" to question 14 and the request for disclosure in question 15, and providing some personal information about your parents, the SSA will give you a number and send you your card soon after you receive your work permit. (The question about parents is to avoid confusion, for example in case your first and last names are the same.)

Question 21: If you entered the U.S. lawfully, you should have an I-94, either in paper form or recorded in the CBP website if you entered the United States by plane or ship after April 2013. (You'll need your passport number.) If you came before 2013, 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.

Questions 22 and 23: Your date and place of last arrival into the United States, if you came by plane, must indicate the date and airport at which 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 eventually settled or first spent time in the United States.

Questions 24 and 25: These ask for your U.S. immigration status upon arrival and currently. If you know the visa category letters and numbers, you can use those (such as B-2 for visitor or F-1 for academic student). Otherwise, describe your category (such as "visitor" or "student"). If you are not in the U.S. legally, write "no legal status."

Question 26: If you are in the U.S. on a student visa, you will have a SEVIS number.

Question 27: 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)." People with pending asylum applications who've been waiting long enough to qualify for a work permit should enter (c)(8). 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.

Certain categories of applicants will also need to provide additional information in the questions below. The list is particularly extensive for people with pending asylum applications. These are relatively new questions, reflecting a 2020 change to USCIS regulations that seeks to limit asylum applicants' eligibility for work permits. Immigration advocates have sued over these changes, and they might eventually be altered again. In the mean time, your best bet is truly to consult with an attorney to maximize your chances of being granted a work permit.

Near the bottom of the form, in Part 3, you will need to insert your signature, the date, and information on how to contact you.

The rest of the form needs to be filled out and signed by any interpreter, lawyer, or other person you hired to help prepare the form.

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