EAD, or employment authorization document, is a document issued by USCIS that allows people who already hold a US visa to work legally in the US. The H-1B visa allows a highly qualified individual who holds a job offer from a US company to live and work in the US.
The EAD is designed for non-resident aliens who are already living temporarily in the US on a non-immigrant visa.
The H-1B visa is designed for foreign individuals who hold an offer of employment from a US employer. They must have specialized knowledge and hold at least a bachelor's degree to be eligible. The H-1B visa is also available to accomplished fashion models.
The EAD allows a worker to hold any job in the US in the approved time period.
The H-1B visa allows a worker to be employed by a specific company, which sponsored the visa. If the worker no longer works at that company, they must either find a new company to sponsor a new visa or leave the US.
Length of Work
The EAD is valid for a specific length of time, as decided in the initial application. The limits on this are dependent on the kind of visa held by the individual. For example, those on student visas can work for up to 1 year on an EAD.
The H-1B visa initially allows the worker to stay in the US for 3 years. This can be extended to 6 years, and another 3 year extension is available if the employee successfully files an I-140 Immigrant Petition to become a permanent resident within that time.
There are no limits on the numbers of EADs available to foreign nationals each year.
Only 65,000 H-1B visas can be issued each year, although an extra 20,000 individuals can receive visas if they hold a master’s degree or above, or if they work at a university or a non-profit research institution.
The EAD can be obtained by filing Form I-765 (application for employment authorization) with USCIS. [www.uscis.gov]
In order to acquire a H-1B visa, the applicant’s sponsoring company must receive certification from the Department of Labor and then submit Form I-129 (petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) to USCIS. Once this has been approved, the worker must apply for a visa with their local US embassy. Applications run from the first business day in April until the cap is filled.
Individuals waiting for their green cards often have a choice of staying on their H-1B visa or using their EAD card to switch their status. Here are the pros and cons of each:
- The benefit of being on H-1B status is that if the green card application gets rejected, the individual can still remain in the country legally and continue to work on her H-1B status.
- The advantage of EAD is that it can be renewed indefinitely as long as the green card application is pending. Renewal applications can be made online and must be completed 3 months before the expiration of your old EAD. EAD renewal applications are almost always approved. With an H-1B, renewals require you to leave the country and get the new H-1B visa stamped in your host country. This is typically quite a hassle.
- Entering the U.S. using a valid H-1B visa is straightforward. However, if you're on EAD you need an Advance Parole (AP) document to re-enter the U.S. The AP is valid for one year but can be easily renewed online. The renewal fee is about $400.