Last updated on October 3rd, 2017
Getting Work Authorization on a Fiancé Visa
As the land of opportunity, many immigrants come to American to work. As a K-1 visa holder, you are eligible to apply for work authorization as soon as you enter the United States. However, due to limitations in the bureaucratic process, it is impractical to gain work authorization on your K-1 visa prior to applying for adjustment of status.
As a K-1 visa holder, your visa status expires 90 days after entry. To remain lawfully in the United States, within those 90 days you will marry your petitioner fiancé and file for adjustment of status to become a permanent resident. If you are authorized to work before applying for permanent residency, the work authorization will expire with your visa and you will be required to reapply for work authorization as a permanent resident.
I-765 Work Authorization
K-1 visa holders are eligible to submit the I-765 Application for Work Authorization upon entry to the United States.
The I-765 Application for Work Authorization is available to nonimmigrant visa holders. K-1 visas are technically “nonimmigrant” visas because they are for a temporary time period (90 days). This means that K-1 visa holders are eligible to apply for work authorization through submitting an I-765 upon arrival.
Immigrants may fill out the I-765 as soon as their local consulate approves their K-1 visa, but it cannot be submitted to USCIS until they have lawfully entered the United States on their K-1 visa.
However, as a K-1 visa holder you are only a visa holder for a maximum of 90 days because you are required to apply for permanent residency via the I-485 form within 90 days of entry. The processing times for an I-765 Application for Work Authorization range from 45-90 days. In most cases, K-1 visa holders do not get authorization to work until after their 90 days have expired and then the approval is then null.
Social Security Numbers
The social security administration will allow K-1 visa holders to apply for a social security number upon entry to the United States. Since a valid social security number is needed to work in the United States, many are misled by this process. Even if you get a social security number while on K-1 visa, you are still not eligible to work. You must receive authorization to work from USCIS.
You may apply for a social security number for identification or other reasons. The Social Security Administration will send you a regular, official social security card but it will be stamped with “Valid for work only with DHS authorization.”
For more information on K-1 visa holders and social security numbers, visit our page, “Can I Get a Social Security Number with a Fiance Visa?”
The Most Efficient Way to Become Authorized to Work
If you file your I-765 immediately upon entry, and processing times are speedy (about 45 days), you will still only have roughly 45 days to find and gain employment before your authorization expires along with your visa. The filing fee for the I-765 is currently $380. In the best case scenario, you will be paying $380 to work a little over a month, assuming you find employment immediately.
For the above reasons, most K-1 Visa holders choose to wait until they file for adjustment of status (Form I-485) to apply for work authorization.
Filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization together with Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status
If you file Form I-765 with your adjustment of status (or green card) application, you will not have to pay the $380 filing fee. However, you will still be required to pay the filing fee for Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. The filing fee is currently $1,070 for applicants over the age of 14. Always check with www.uscis.gov/i-485 though, because filing fees do change.
Form I-765 can be mailed to either the Phoenix or Dallas Lockbox facility depending on your location. Alternatively, you may e-file the form and upload any supporting documents.
You are not required to file Form I-765 concurrently with your adjustment of status. You may choose to wait until after you are approved for permanent residency, though you may have to pay the $380 filing fee if you submit the application separately from your adjustment of status packet.
Filing Form I-765 together with Form I-485 may seem counterintuitive. Form I-485 is the green card application, and green card holders are allowed to work. The reason to submit both forms together is that your work authorization application will likely be decided before your green card application.
Because you can request work authorization based on a pending green card application, it makes sense to file both applications at the same time and receive work authorization while you wait to receive your green card.
After Applying to Adjust Status
Once your adjustment of status application and work authorization have been submitted, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This is usually referred to as your work permit. The EAD is a wallet-sized plastic card. Most applicants are approved for an EAD before their adjustment of status is approved.
You may begin applying for employment as soon as your I-765, Application for Employment Authorization has been approved. However, you may not start a job until the work permit is physically in your hand.
Most EADs received on this basis are valid for one calendar year, or until your lawful status expires. To renew your EAD, you must reapply for work authorization with Form I-765. You must pay the $380 filing fee each time you renew your EAD.
In general, those who have received a work permit based on an I-485 Adjustment of Status application will not need to renew their work permit when it is set to expire in one year, but will instead receive their green card before their work authorization expires.