If you are currently waiting on a decision from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in relation to your Green Card application, the chances are that you will want to start work to support yourself and your family. However, it is always important to ensure that before you change your circumstances, you check whether this is allowed under your current residence status.
The article below explains whether migrants in the United States can legally work while waiting for a decision on their Green Card application.
No Automatic Right To Work
It is important to understand that even though you are legally in the US and have submitted a Green Card application to which you are fully eligible, this does not mean you have the automatic right to work or be entitled to a work visa.
The immigration rules state that migrants must apply for a work visa if they have a:
- pending Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
- pending Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal.
- nonimmigrant status that allows them to be in the United States but does provide permission to work without first seeking permission from USCIS (such as F-1 /M-1)
If you have already received your Green Card, then you will not need to apply for permission to work as you are classed as a lawful permanent resident with the full right to work.
Some migrants will have automatic permission to work (referred to as ‘incident to status’); for example, asylees and refugees will gain permission to work as soon as they gain legal status in the United States.
While most migrants waiting for a Green Card decision will be eligible for a work permit, those with criminal convictions or who have been arrested or charged may not be able to secure permission to work.
To gain permission to work, you need to apply for a work permit (referred to as an Employment Authorisation Document (EAD), by completing and filing Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorisation).
Applying For An EAD
You can choose to apply for your work permit (Form I-765) at the same time as applying for a Green Card. Doing so means that you only pay a single fee to file both applications. If you did not apply for an EAD when submitting your I-485, then you can do so afterwards while waiting for a decision on your application. If you apply later, then it is recommended that you include your I-485 filing receipt (the Form I-797C Notice) in your EAD application which will mean there is no filing fee payable.
You should be able to secure a work visa by filing I-765, however, it can take around  months to receive a decision. (Minimise the time by applying early)