How to Get a Work Permit (EAD) - Live Work Travel USA|Live Work Travel USA

How to Get a Work Permit (EAD)

This is for all the spouses that took “one for the team” by joining their partners to move to the United States. Some of you quit your day job to make it all happen and to support your better half’s career. While migrating to the US is very exciting and it takes a while to take it all in and get adjusted, it all ends up becoming familiar and a daily routine starts to form while you might be stuck at home, not being able to work. Your profession and degrees may not allow you to find the same job in the US without retaking classes and getting an American degree, but at first you’re not even able to work at all due to lack of a work permit as the spouse of the visa holder – your partner.
Here’s the first step to get you out there to find a job. You’ll have to apply for a work permit, also called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Who is eligible for a work permit?

There are many different types of visas and not all of them allow spouses to even apply for a work permit. Here’s a list of visas, that allow spouses to apply for an EAD:

  • E-1 Treaty traders and qualified employees
  • E-2 Treaty investors and qualified employees
  • E-3 Certain “specialty occupation” professionals from Australia
  • L-1A (L-2 for spouse) Intracompany transferees in managerial or executive positions.
  • L-1B (L-2 for spouse) Intracompany transferees in positions utilizing specialized knowledge.
  • K-1 (Non-US Citizen Fiancé(e) to a US Citizen)
  • K-3 (Non-US Citizen (spouse) married to a US Citizen)
  • J-1 (J-2 for spouse) Exchange visitors


Who is not eligible?

Spouses with popular visa categories like H-1B, CW-2, H-4, O-3, R-2 are unfortunately not able to apply for a work permit as long as they are holding this visa status according to


How to contribute without work authorization?

It’s not a good feeling if you’re willing to work but your visa type doesn’t allow it. If you are looking for ways to contribute to the household income, there are other ways to financially contribute by improving your financial intelligence. The smarter you manage your households income, the more money you have in your pocket – without a work permit. Research for opportunities like House or Land Flipping, Affiliate Marketing, Investment Opportunities. You could even look into Extreme Couponing, where you can save your family a lot of money by just being a smarter shopper. Saving money by shopping smart is not the same as earning additional income, but it’s something. And there are incredible savings that people get by playing the coupon system.
You can also invest in your education and take some classes or go to college to prepare yourself for your return to your country, if that is an option. You’ll make yourself more marketable by earning additional degrees abroad and in the end landing a better job back home than you had before – earning more money at last.


How to apply for a work permit

You can apply for your work permit by mail. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Form I-765 (download here)
  • Filing Fee ($380 at the time of this article, check here for current rate)
    Make the check payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Spell it exactly like that.
  • Copy of your I-94 form (front and back)
  • 2 identical photos (passport format 2×2 inch). Write your name and I-94 number on the back with a pencil or felt pen. Don’t use a ball-pen because the USDHS doesn’t want it to leave pressure marks.
  • additional documents depending on your visa status. It may be a copy of your marriage license, birth certificate or other documents. See I-765 Instructions for further details.

Check out the I-765 Instructions to find out what Service Center you need to send your application to. After everything has been mailed you will get a confirmation in the mail with further instructions. You may have to go to the Application Support Center (ASC) to provide biometrics like fingerprints, photo and signature. The confirmation letter will tell you date and time of your appointment and what additional documentation you’ll have to bring.

That’s it. It’ll take up to 90 days to get your work permit in the mail.


How to renew your EAD

You’ll have to go through the same procedure than above including the same filing fee. Pay attention to your I-94 expiration date, because your work permit will expire on this date as well. You might get an EAD that’s only valid for a few days or months depending on the date on your I-94, so time your application smart.
If you already have a job, it’s always good to get a cover letter from your HR department to help speed up the process. That shows the USDHS the importance of an approved work permit for you and your company and may speed up the process a little.


Nothing happens and you’re near the 90 day mark or beyond

The first application for a work permit can take almost up to 90 days, sometimes even a little longer. I’ve been in your shoes and I got really nervous the first time, always wondering if I’ve made a mistake with my documents or the form. To get clarification I made an appointment at the nearest InfoPass field office through
Here I was being helped and learned that, for whatever reason, my application got stuck somewhere in the system and the USCIS officer was able to get it back on track. A few days later I received my work permit in the mail.

This information is not legal advice and is for guidance only. While I have made every effort to link accurate and complete information, I cannot guarantee it is correct.

Photo: © DOC RABE Media –

9 Responses to “How to Get a Work Permit (EAD)”

  1. the rookie says:

    Had no idea on this. Are the restrictions similar if it is the other way around. Like if you are from the U.S. and want to work in other countries. I suppose it would partially depend on where you were going.

  2. says:

    Great website. A lot of useful info here. I am sending it to several
    pals ans additionally sharing in delicious. And naturally,
    thanks for your sweat!

  3. C Perret says:

    Hi Dan,

    Would you recommend getting an Infopass appointment prior to the 90 day deadline? Sounds like they were really helpful and after 60 days I’ve seen no change in the status of my case. Aware that you are not an immigration specialist so looking more for your opinion based on your experience.


    • Dan says:

      If you’ve already received the official confirmation in the mail and followed all instructions, I would maybe give it another 1-2 weeks and then schedule an InfoPass appointment. Maybe something got stuck or they’re still waiting on some information from you.
      Waiting on the work permit is not an enjoyable time. It just takes so long to finally get it. Especially the first time around.
      Good luck!

  4. ean says:

    Hi Dan, I stumbled across your blog and I am really grateful for all the information that you have posted on here. Life would be so much easier if I saw this 3 years ago.

    I am a J1 holder and I am currently in my 3rd year in the US, doing well. My spouse has decided to come accompany me here. I am very lucky to have him. We will be facing a lot of challenges as we know. He is a J2 holder and is planning to get started on EAD application as soon as he arrives in May 2014. However we are about time when we are going to renew our J1/J2 in June/July. Is this going to affect is EAD application if he were to submit in May.

    I appreciate any input to this!

    Thanks Dan

    • Dan says:

      Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you find my blog helpful 🙂
      Regarding your question, the EAD is usually tied to the expiration date of your visa or the date on your I-94 form, so it would probably be better, if your spouse is sending in the application with copies of his renewed J2 visa status. That’s just to avoid any confusion and back and forth mailing, which would just delay the whole EAD process. Fortunately this would only be 2-3 months until he will submit his application. Enough time to get settled in the US and getting familiar with his new environment and home.

      By the way, where are you from and what city are you living in the U.S.?

      • ean says:

        I am from Malaysia and currently in Philadelphia!

        Thank you again, and we would likely be referring back a lot to your blog to guide ourselves here! Excited and nervous about this new chapter of life. 🙂

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