How Long to Get a Work Permit after Marriage?

Updated on August 9, 2020

According to data from the U.S. Board of Labor Statistics the average American household has annual expenses totaling more than $60,000. Therefore, it is not surprising that foreigners who have married a U.S. citizen or green card holder want to get to work in the United States as soon as possible. If you or your spouse is still waiting for a marriage-based green card, you might be wondering how and how long it will take to get a work permit in the USA.

1. Marriage-based Green Card

Foreigners who marry either a United States citizen (USC) or a lawful permanent resident (LPR) can apply to adjust their status to a green card sometime after the wedding. This is achieved by submitting a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The process of adjusting status to a marriage-based green card can take many months. During that waiting period, some of applicants probably already have certain form of authorization to work in the United States legally while others don’t.

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2. Nonimmigrant Work Visas

An applicant for a marriage-based green card who is adjusting their status from a temporary employment visa or a student visa may be able to continuing working while they await approval of their Form I-485.

Nonimmigrant Employment-based Visas

If the bride or groom was already in the United States on a nonimmigrant employment-based visa, such as an H-1B or an L-1 intracompany transferee, they can continue to work using that visa, as long as it is not expired. However, if the newly married person came to the United States on a K1 visa or a student visa that does not allow them to work, they will need to get a work permit.

Student’s Employment Authorization in the USA

If a foreigner came to the United States on an F-1 student visa and then got married to a USC or LPR, they may be able to continue working while their Form I-485 application is pending. However, if that student’s employment authorization expires before their marriage-based green card is approved, they will need to stop working and apply for a work permit based on their I-485 application.

Some examples of valid student employment while a marriage green card is pending include on-campus jobs or curricular practical training (CPT) as part of an academic major. Additional moneymaking avenues include optional practical training (OPT) and STEM-OPT, which can be extended past graduation.

3. Work Permit Based on Form I-485

Those who are not already working in the United States when they marry a U.S. citizen or green card holder will need to apply for a work permit, also called employment authorization document (EAD, see sample below). Although a marriage-based green card will eventually allow a foreigner spouse to live and work in the USA, many will need an EAD to show employers that they can work legally in the U.S. while the Form I-485 is awaiting approval.

Work Permit (EAD)
Work Permit (EAD)

Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization

To apply for a work permit in the USA, the majority of marriage-based green card applicants submit a Form I-765 to the USCIS. The Form I-765 is the Application for Employment Authorization. This application is available to people in a variety of immigration categories, including those who are filing a Form I-485 on the basis of marriage to a USC or lawful permanent resident. The filing category of Form I-765 based on marriage-based I-485 application is (c)(9).

Married to a U.S. Citizen

Many marriage-based green card applicants who are married to a U.S. citizen choose to submit their Form I-765, at the same time as they file their Form I-485. This can save time, so it will not take as long to get a work permit after marriage. However, it will usually be about 5-7 months to get the EAD card.

Married to a Lawful Permanent Resident

Foreigners who have married a green card holder probably need to wait much longer to get their permit to work in the USA. Persons in this category (F2A) will need to wait 19-25 months to get an immigrant visa number before they can submit their Form I-485. However, in some months of the year, the immigrant visa number is immediately available and they could submit their Form I-485 in an early time and thus file their Form I-765 concurrently with the Form I-485.

Once the Form I-765 is filed with USCIS, it will take 5-7 months for USCIS to process the application and grant an EAD work permit to the foreigner spouse.

Can I file Form I-765 separately with Form I-485?

Yes. You can always file Form I-765 to apply for a work permit after you file Form I-485. A copy of I-485 receipt notice should be enclosed when filing I-765 application. Actually, a work permit/EAD based on a pending I-485 application is valid for one year only. As a result, you should file a new I-765 to renew your EAD when it is expiring and has been expired.

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Do I need an EAD after obtaining a green card?

No. An EAD is just a temporary document that allows you work legally in the United States whiling you are waiting for your green card. Once you obtain a green card, no matter it is a two-year conditional green card or ten-year permanent green card, you are entitled to live, work and travel abroad without restriction in the United States.

Can I travel with an EAD?

An EAD only allows you to work legally in the United States when waiting for a green card. If you’d like to travel abroad, you should have a valid Advance Parole (AP) or a valid H-1B or L-1 work visa. To obtain an Advance Parole, you can submit Form I-131 to apply for it.  If you submit Form I-131 and I-765 together, mostly likely you will get an EAD/AP combo card (see sample below).

EAD AP Combo Card
EAD/AP Combo Card


4. How to Get a Social Security Number (SSN) after Marriage?

After marriage to a USC or green card holder, when you apply to get an employment authorization document (EAD), you can also ask for a social security number (SSN). All you need to do is to check the appropriate box on your I-765 form.

Additionally, the USCIS will supply the information for your SSN to the Social Security Administration, and you will soon receive a social security card upon USCIS’s approval to your Form I-765. If you are unsure about whether or not you have filled out your Form I-765 correctly, it may be prudent to check with an immigration lawyer.

On the SSN you received prior to the grant of a green card, there is a sentence of “VALIF FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION”. After you obtain a green card, you’d better apply to remove this sentence by visiting a Social Security Administration office.

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