What is the Difference between Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) and a Green Card?

19 June 2017 |

As a foreign worker in the United States you are entitled to be employed in various categories. As most people are aware, you are only allowed to work if you are granted permission in one of these categories. But after this it gets confusing. What’s the difference between an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and a visa for work? How does a Green Card differ from an EAD? Take a look at the following article for the answers to common EAD and Green Card questions.

EAD and Green Card

What is an Employment Authorization Document?

Every foreign national must acquire a work visa or authorization in order to enter employment in the United States, whether this is on a temporary or permanent basis. The Employment Authorization Document is acquired by filing Form I-765, which is entitled “Application for Employment Authorization.” Once an EAD has been acquired, the applicant can work in the United States legally, for the length of time the EAD is granted.

In short, an Employment Authorization Document can also be called a work permit for the United States. It is specifically for foreign nationals who do not have permanent residency (Green Card) or citizenship.
After you apply for Employment Authorization and it is granted, the EAD allows you to work for any employer in the United States. However, it is purely for work and it does not mean that the holder has any immigrant status.

Employment Authorization Documents are normally valid for two years and sometimes for one year. At the end of the valid period you must apply for a renewal of the EAD if you wish to continue working in the US. At this point, and at all points, in the application procedure, you do not need to involve a specific employer as this permit is not employer-specific.

When Can You Apply for an Employment Authorization Document?

There are many circumstances in which you need to apply for an EAD. You may need proof of your legal ability to work in the United States because you are a foreign national and an asylum seeker, refugee, or other non-immigrant. You may need the EAD because you are in the process of filing for permanent residence. Or you may need the EAD because you are allowed to reside in the US but you are not allowed to work until you request the right, for example you are on an F-1 or M-1 visa as a student.

It is important to remember that an Employment Authorization Document is different from a work visa or a Green Card. You do not need to apply for an EAD if you have a Green Card or if you have a work visa that allows you to work for a particular company or employer.

What is a Green Card?

Normally, when a person wishes to work and live in the United States, the Green Card or permanent residency is the main goal. An EAD can help that person on the way to achieving a Green Card. A Green Card holder has lawful permanent residence in the United States. This means that they are allowed to live and work in the US for any employer, considering they stick to the terms of the permanent residency.

If you have a Green Card you do not need an additional Employment Authorization Document as the legal ability to work is part of the Green Card benefits.

A Green Card also brings with it other benefits, including being able to travel in and out of the country on a temporary basis and to file for a Green Card for a spouse or an unmarried child. An Employment Authorization Document does not allow you to travel and return to the US, nor does it allow you to file for other people.
The EAD is more limited in its scope but it is available to a wider variety of people. The Employment Authorization Document also varies in how long you can have the document. It is also slightly quicker and easier to apply for an EAD as the process for Green Card applications is lengthy. Because many people cannot afford to wait many years without working before the Green Card is granted, there are benefits to applying for the EAD in the meantime.