July 7, 2021

Is it Possible to Work While the Green Card Application Is Pending?

If you are in the U.S, and you plan to file an application to adjust your status to receive a green card (Form I-485), you might need to wait for several months for your case to get processed. The good news is that you most likely are eligible to file an application for and receive a work permit during this time! 

Related: E-2 Visa Requirements: What You Requirements: What You Need to Know

What Do I Need to Know About Work Permits?

A work permit is officially known as an Employment Authorization Document, or EAD for short. The EAD looks like a Driver’s license, and it also serves as a photo ID. It is issued by the U.S citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and can be presented as evidence that you are authorized to be employed in the United States for a specific time period.

How Long Do I Have to Wait for a Work Permit?

Processing times for work permits vary and are inconsistent.  The underlying petition filed with the application to adjust status (the I-485 form), and the USCIS backlog at the time you file your application also greatly affect the processing times. Generally, if you filed form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) and form I-485 your processing times will be most likely be between 6-8 months.  

What Documents Do I Need for a Work Permit?

Below are the general requirements required:

  • A copy of your Form I-94, Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Record (front and back), a printout of your electronic Form I-94, or your passport or other travel document
  • Two identical passport-style photographs  
  • A copy of your last EAD (if applicable)
  • If you were not previously issued an EAD, you must submit a copy of a government-issued identity document 
  • Form G-28 (if you are represented by an attorney or accredited representative)

How Much Does It Cost to Apply for a Work Permit?

At the time that this article is written (September 2020), there is no additional fee for the work permit if you are have filed an adjustment of status application, or you are filing one at the same time you are filing for the work permit, and you have paid the fee for the adjustment of status application. This is subject to change and you should always check the USCIS website prior to filing your application!

Working in The State While Your Green Card Application is Pending?

To be legally able to work in the United States, you are required to have advance permission to work either under the terms and conditions of your visa and/or status, or by obtaining a work permit. You must apply for and receive your work permit before you start working in the U.S. This is true even if you have married a U.S citizen or Green card holder. 

What Kind of Job Can I get?

If you received work authorization while your green card application is pending, there are no restrictions on your employment, and you can work for any employer. Of course, your employment must comply with both state and federal laws and regulations.

How Many Hours Can I Work?

There are no restrictions on the number of hours work permit recipients can work while their green card applications are pending. 

What Happens to The Work Permit Once My Green Card is Approved?

USCIS will effectively terminate the validity of a work permit once they approve the green card application. Lawful permanent residents are authorized to live and work in the U.S. When your green card application is approved- you will no longer need a work permit to prove your authorization to work.

Related: How Long After you get a Green Card Can You Apply for Citizenship?

Working Abroad While Your Green Card Application is Pending?

a person holding a passport

Can I apply for a Green card and work permit while in my home country? 

You can definitely apply for your green card abroad at the U.S consulate in your home country. This process is called “Consular processing”. Unfortunately, there is no option to apply for a work permit while you are abroad. The option to apply for a work permit is available for green card applicants that are applying while they are in the U.S. 

Can I apply for a Green card and work permit in the U.S and go back to my home country to work?

It is not recommended to leave the U.S while in the process of applying for your green card unless you applied for and received an Advance Parole Travel Document.  Leaving the U.S before receiving Advance parole will result in a determination that you have abandoned your green card application, and the underlying work permit application as well.

Practically speaking- most applicants will apply for the Advance Parole and the work permit at the same time, and the employment authorization card issued by USCIS will actually also act as the advance parole card.  

checking watch

What to Do While Your Green Card Application Is Pending with USCIS

Here are some important things to know while your green card application is pending:

Update Your Address

Any change of address must be communicated to the USCIS within ten days of moving to that new address. If you don’t make the move known to the USCIS, you’ll miss notifications concerning the progress of your application. The Address Information Change page of the USSCIS has some information regarding the steps needed to do address updates.

Case Status Update

If you are curious about the progress of the application, there are some ways to get this done:

You can reach out to the USCIS Contact Center via telephone at 800-375-5283. People with speech and hearing disabilities can use TTY 800-767-1833.

You can also use the Case Status Online page to track your application through your Form I-485 receipt number

If the application processing takes longer than it should, then submit a case inquiry.


Leaving the U.S without receiving Advance parole will result in a determination that you have abandoned your green card application, and the underlying work permit application as well.

Related: What are the Requirements for Adjustment of Status?

Final Words

If you applied for or are considering applying for a green card in the U.S, you can also apply for a work permit. This will allow your authorization to work legally while your green card application is pending. 

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