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How Long Does it Take to Get a Work Permit to Work in the United States

By Jarbath Pena Law Group

People sitting and waiting in immigration while holding usa flag

You need a work permit if you want to work in the U.S. but are not a citizen. If you are a non-citizen working here without a permit, you could jeopardize your ability to get future immigration benefits. You would also be violating U.S. immigration law. So, even though it might take several months or longer, it is crucial to go through the process and preserve your future immigration benefits.

The team at The Jarbath Peña Law Group understands that you must support your family and that you need to get your work permit as quickly as possible. However, the process of acquiring a work permit can be complex, and one burning question on the minds of many applicants is: How long does it take?

Let’s delve into the intricacies of this timeline and explore the factors influencing the amount of time it might take.

What Is a Work Permit?

Employment Authorization Card, work permit and Permanent resident card in envelope

A work permit, also known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), is a legal document issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It grants non-citizens the authorization to work in the U.S. for a specific period of time, usually two years at a time. When your work permit expires, you can request a renewal. This document is essential for individuals who are not U.S. citizens but wish to pursue employment opportunities within the country’s borders.

Who Is Eligible for a Work Permit?

Crowd of adults holding their hands up and smiling

Eligibility for a work permit depends on various factors, including immigration status, visa type, and individual circumstances. Generally, individuals eligible to apply for a work permit include:

  • Asylum seekers,

  • Refugees,

  • Students on certain visas,

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are not yet naturalized, and

  • Individuals with pending adjustment of status applications.

Those with current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status may also apply.

How Can I Apply for a Permit to Work in the United States?

Employment authroization application, social security card, glasses, credit card adn wallet on a faux marble desk

The process of applying for a work permit involves submitting Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, to the USCIS. Along with the form, applicants must provide supporting documentation, such as proof of eligibility and identity. Once the application is submitted, USCIS will review the materials and adjudicate the request.

How Long Does Getting My Permit to Work in the U.S. Take?

The timeline for processing a work permit can vary significantly based on several factors:

  • Type of Application: The type of work permit being applied for can influence processing times. For example, applications based on adjustment of status may have different processing times compared to those based on asylum or refugee status.

  • USCIS Workload: USCIS processing times can be affected by the volume of applications received and the agency's resources. Higher application volumes or staffing shortages may lead to longer processing times.

  • Completeness of Application: A well-prepared and complete application is more likely to be processed efficiently. Any missing documentation or errors in the application can result in delays, as USCIS may request additional information.

  • Background Checks: USCIS conducts background checks on applicants, which can contribute to processing delays, particularly if there are issues that require further investigation.

  • Current USCIS Processing Times: USCIS provides estimated processing times for different types of applications and offices through its USCIS Processing Time Tool. However, these estimates are subject to change based on various factors.

Because USCIS backlogs can delay your application processing time, you need to do everything you can to submit an accurately and fully completed application in a timely fashion. You cannot control the government backlog, but you can hire an attorney who will work to ensure your application is submitted accurately and within the proper time frame. If you submit it too soon, the USCIS could send it back to you and further delay the process. If you submit it too late, you might lose your authorization to work here.

The bottom line is that the length of time it takes to process your application depends on all the above factors. However, there is a way to get an idea of current processing times for Florida applications—the USCIS processing tool.

Can I Get My Work Permit Faster?

You have a couple of options to get your authorization faster. 

Expedite the request

You can submit an expedited request to USCIS if you are experiencing severe financial hardship, have an emergency, or have an urgent humanitarian reason for your request. You can also submit this request if USCIS made an error somehow.

Outside normal processing times inquiry

Suppose you do not qualify for an expedited request. In that case, you usually must wait until your submission is beyond the normal processing times, according to the USCIS processing times tool, to submit an inquiry. Your attorney can help with all of this and even help you contact your elected representatives if these avenues do not bring relief.

USCIS Processing Tool

USCIS logo with usa flag curled on top

Using the USCIS Processing Time Tool, you can check estimated processing times for your specific application type and location. The tool asks which form you are submitting, what eligibility category you fall into, and which office you submitted your application to. Once you enter the information, the tool will tell you the expected processing times. 

What Happens If You Allow Your Work Permit to Expire?

It’s crucial to monitor the expiration date of your work permit and take timely action to avoid interruptions in employment. When a work permit expires, you lose your authorization to work legally in America. However, certain categories of people can get an automatic extension of their EAD as long as their application is pending when their current permit expires. The extension is typically for 180 days and applies to most statuses that are based on humanitarian considerations—such as asylum status, refugee status, and those with temporary protected status (TPS). 

Unfortunately, this automatic extension is not available to everyone. If it does not apply to you, you may simply lose your work authorization either temporarily or permanently.

How an Attorney Can Help You with This Process

Two women sitting on table reviewing and signing papers

Navigating the complexities of the U.S. immigration system can be daunting, especially when it comes to securing a work permit. An experienced immigration attorney can provide invaluable assistance throughout the application process. From ensuring that all necessary documentation is complete and accurate to advocating on your behalf, an attorney can help streamline the process and increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.

We Are Here for You

In conclusion, the timeline for obtaining a work permit in the United States can vary based on numerous factors. By understanding the process, staying informed about current USCIS processing times, and seeking assistance, individuals can navigate this journey with confidence and pave the way for new opportunities on the horizon.

Fritznie Jarbath and Melisa Pena, Jarbath Pena Law Group

We at The Jarbath Peña Law Group are your partners in your quest to work and live legally in the United States. So contact us today! You can contact us at 305-615-1005 or through our online contact form to set up your free initial consultation. We look forward to learning how we can best serve your needs.

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