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Form I-766 - Everything You Must Know Thumbnail

Form I-766 - Everything You Must Know


If your green card is still processing, you may want authorization to work in the United States in the meantime, and Form I-766 makes it possible. Successfully completing Form I-766 and receiving approval provides you with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which permits you to work in the US while you wait for your green card.

So how do you complete Form I-766? Check out our guide below.

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What Is Form I-766?

Form I-766 is your path to an Employment Authorization Document. It’s your ticket to a work permit, allowing you to work in the United States before you have green card status. Your EAD card includes your photograph, fingerprint, country of birth, name, date of birth, gender, and issued/expiration dates.

Who Should Complete Form I-766?

If you’ve applied for your green card and are just waiting, you can apply for your EAD using Form I-766. You can also complete it for the following reasons:

  • You’re a spouse of a non-immigrant visa holder here for employment
  • If you hold a K1 visa
  • F1 students in an Optional Practice Training program
  • Refugees

How to Complete Form I-766

Like all immigration forms, it’s important to complete Form I-766 correctly, or you risk it being denied or at least delayed.

There’s no guarantee you’ll get approved for an EAD card, but if you’re waiting for your green card and have employment opportunities in the US, it’s worth a try.

Here’s what you need to complete it:

  • I-94 travel records
  • US visa
  • Photocopy of your passport page containing your photograph and city of birth
  • Two photos (passport style) to use on your EAD card if approved
  • Copy of your marriage-based green card application (proof of receipt)

You can only apply once the USCIS has received your marriage-based green card application, so if you haven’t done that step yet, do that first.

Related Article | How Can I Work And Earn Income While On An F1 Visa?

What Is the Filing Fee?

Most immigration forms have a filing fee, and Form I-766 is no exception. It costs $410 to file your Form I-766. You must pay with a personal check or cashier’s check - not cash. You may also be required to pay an $85 biometrical fee if a fingerprint background check is necessary. 

Keep all receipts of fees paid and appointments made for you to handle your request, including if you need a biometric fingerprint check.

How Long Does It Take?

Fortunately, the Form I-766 has one of the shortest processing times, but it can still take as long as six months. If the USCIS needs more information or submits a Request for Evidence, it may take longer. If you must submit evidence, they usually clear it within 60 - 90 days of receipt.

Receiving the Decision

You’ll receive a decision from the USCIS either way. You’ll receive a notice in the mail. If they deny your application, they’ll provide a reason why. If they approve it, you’ll receive your EAD card and can work in the United States.

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The EAD Card Isn’t a Visa

It’s important to understand the difference between a visa (the right to live in the United States) and the EAD card, the right to work in the United States. You can’t work and live in the United States without both (or a green card).

To get an EAD card, you’ll need an approved employment-based visa first. If you haven’t applied for that yet, make that your first step and then come back to your Form I-766.

The EAD card also isn’t a passport. It literally permits you to work in the United States. To travel, you need a valid passport, and to live in the United States, you need a valid visa. To get your EAD card, you’ll need all of these documents, plus your travel records.

Is It Hard to Complete Form I-766?

Form I-766 is pretty self-explanatory. It asks for basic information, but if you are unsure about how to complete it, consult with an immigration attorney to make sure you complete it correctly and maximize your chances of approval.

How Are Form I-765 and I-766 Different?

It may seem confusing since there’s Form I-765 and Form I-766, but they are virtually identical. Form I-765 is also for an EAD, but a certificate rather than a card. Form I-766 gives you a card (like a license) that you can carry with you to prove your eligibility to work in the United States. 

Can You Renew Your EAD Card?

Yes, you can renew your EAD card as long as your work visa has not expired. If the work visa expires, you'll need that renewed before you can apply for your renewed EAD card.

When you’re ready, you’ll complete Form I-766 again, just like you did the first time, this time applying for renewal. 

The Bottom Line

If you’re trying to build a career in the United States, Form I-766 (or I-765) is the next step in the process. Once you have your visa, you need permission to work in the United States. It’s a process, but one worth going through while you wait for green card status and the ability to live and work in the United States.

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