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How to apply for work authorization in the US as an international student

You may want to work while studying for various reasons ranging from severe economic hardship to an intense desire for additional training to help launch your career.


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How to apply for work authorization in the US as an international student
Written by Jennifer Aranda.
Updated March 6, 2017 | United States of America

Remember, before you begin working, you must have your Employment Authorization Document (or EAD) which is also known as a work permit.  This is true regardless if your EAD is needed for the regular Optional Practical Training, OPT STEM Extension or off-campus work.   It is against the law for any company to employ and/or pay you before you have your EAD card!

Issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the EAD authorizes you to work for a period of time, usually one year.  Be sure that your EAD is up-to-date if you are applying for the OPT STEM Extension as you may be allowed to remain in the United States for up to 36 months post-course completion. 

Another piece of information on the EAD is the date when you can begin work.  Therefore, work only on the specified date even if you have already received your EAD. 

There's been a major update on the processing of H-1B visa petitions though.  As of March 3, 2017, premium processing of H-1B visas has been suspended, at the most, for 6 months. So, be sure to take this in consideration when applying for work authorization.

To get work authorization: 

  • Complete an Application for work authorization Form I-765 "Application for Employment Authorization;"
  • Tender payment for the filing fee. 
    • Effective December 23, 2016, the filing fee for the EAD USD410. 
    • You must also pay USD85 biometrics services fee if you are applying for OPT and off-campus work.
  • Submit your application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Depending on where you live, you will be filing your EAD application with either the USCIS Phoenix or Dallas Lockbox.
  • Then wait.  Once your I-765 application is approved, USCIS will send you a Form I-766 also known as "Employment Authorization Document," or EAD.

Take note of the following important dates or deadlines:

  • Your application must be received by USCIS within 30 days after the OPT I-20 is issued by your school.  Your OPT application will be denied and no appeal will be entertained if this is not received by the USCIS within 30 days;
  • An application for work authorization may take up to 90 days to adjudicate so be sure to plan your schedule well in advance and take this time lapse into consideration so you will still be in status even after you graduate;
  • You may still apply not later than 60 days after you graduate if you do not file for work authorization 90 days before program completion.

Where to file your application for EAD*:

If you live in...

Mail your application to:

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana,

Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska,

Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, 

Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Guam, or the Northern Mariana Islands.

USCIS Phoenix Lockbox

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) First-Class and Priority Mail Express deliveries:

USCIS  P.O. Box 21281  Phoenix, AZ 85036

For overnight/courier deliveries (non-USPS):

USCIS

Attn: AOS

1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S Suite 100  Phoenix, AZ 85034

Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia,

Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, 

Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, 

New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico,

Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas,

Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, or West Virginia

USCIS Dallas Lockbox

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) First-Class and Priority Mail Express deliveries:

USCIS

P.O. Box 660867

Dallas, TX 75266

For overnight/courier deliveries (non-USPS):

USCIS

Attn: AOS

2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business   Suite 400   Lewisville, TX 75067

*Source:  "Application For Employment Authorization". USCIS. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Feb. 2017. 

About the Author

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer S. Aranda is the COO of IVC Immigrant Visa Center, Inc.

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