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.

Comparison chart

EAD versus H-1B comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartEADH-1B
Eligibility Non-resident aliens currently living in the US, e.g. students. Individuals with bachelor’s or 12 years work experience in specialized knowledge, or combinations of education & experience, who hold job offers from US companies.
Work Restrictions Allows holder to take any job in the US. Can only work for sponsoring institution in a specialty field (e.g. architecture, business, medicine, law)
Length of Validity Issued for a specific period of time based on immigration status. Issued for 3 years, but can be extended upto 6 years.
Limits None 65,000 per year, with exemptions for up to 20,000 individuals with higher degrees from US universities.
When to Apply Any time. Takes 60-90 days to process. Applications open on first business day in April
How to Apply File Form 1-765 (application for employment authorization) with USCIS. Sponsoring company must submit form I-129 (petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) to USCIS.
Cost $380 Approx. $2,000
Logo of USCIS
Logo of USCIS


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.

Work Restrictions

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:


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