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If you’re thinking about living in the United States, you’ll need authorization to live here and work here - which are two different things. Your green card gives you the permission to live in the United States and work here once you’re a lawful permanent resident, but your Employment Authorization Document gives you the right to work in the US.
Since the green card processing is much longer than a GC EAD, you can work in the US as a non-citizen for a US employer.
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What Is an EAD Card?
An EAD card permits you to work in the United States, but it’s not a standalone document. In other words, you can apply only for an EAD card. You must first apply for a green card or work visa. The EAD card then serves as your means to an end - you can work in the United States while waiting for your green card or work visa paperwork to finalize.
What Is a Green Card?
A green card gives you all-around approval - you can live in the United States lawfully and work here too. If you have a green card, you don’t need a work permit, too - they are one and the same.
A green card makes you a lawful resident of the United States. Therefore, you can travel in and out of the United States without restriction. You don’t have to file for approval to travel as you would with an EAD.
As a green card holder, you can also sponsor other relatives to become green cardholders.
Other Differences Between a GC and EAD
Aside from the resident status of the green card and its more flexible travel guidelines, there are other significant differences between the GC and EAD:
- Green cards last for ten years in most cases but have permanent status, which means you can usually renew them without issue before the expiration
- An EAD, on the other hand, is tied to the status of your underlying application, whether work visa, green card, or something else, and if that doesn’t pan out, your work authorization ends
- You don’t have natural citizenship benefits, such as voting or running for a political position if you have an EAD, but you can if you have a green card and achieve permanent residence
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Similarities Between GC and EAD
Just as there are many differences, there are some similarities between the GC and EAD:
- Both statuses may require renewal, including a green card, especially if you were provided probationary status, which usually lasts two years
- You can be deported with either status if you violate the law or the terms of your green card or EAD
Who Qualifies for a Green Card?
To qualify for a green card, you must apply for the correct type of sponsorship, either family or employment-based. To be eligible for a family green card, you must have family in the United States with which you have a close relationship, such as a spouse or other immediate family members.
The US citizen must qualify to sponsor you as a green card holder, following the USCIS guidelines.
To qualify for an employment-based green card, you’ll need an offer from a US-based employer. In addition, the employer must agree to sponsor your green card and meet specific USCIS guidelines.
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Who Qualifies for a GC EAD?
If you’ve applied for a green card and are awaiting approval, you may qualify for a GC EAD. Since the processing times take so long, many people apply for an EAD while the green card application is processed to start working in the United States while not letting the green card process delay them.
The GC EAD is a temporary authorization but can be renewed if the green card application process isn’t completed yet. Of course, as soon as the green card is approved, the EAD expires, but the green card gives even more options.
A green card application can take two years or longer to process, whereas a GC EAD can take between 60 to 90 days to approve.
If you’ve applied for a green card, don’t let the wait keep you from working in the United States. If you have a job lined up or want to work in the United States, apply for a GC EAD while you wait for your green card to process. You’ll be able to work in the United States while you wait. The GC EAD doesn’t give the same benefits as a green card, but it’s the first step to building your new life in the United States.