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The Employment Authorization Document is also known as EAD or a work permit. An EAD can be obtained by applying with form I-765 with USCIS by an applicant who qualifies based on one of more than 40 different categories. Those many different categories include applicants for adjustment of status, people seeking temporary protected status, spouses of persons in E-1, E-2, L-1A, L-1B status, Etc. Federal regulations determine eligibility for employment authorization, under 8 C.F.R. §274a.12.

Employment authorization cards are the same size as a credit card, it contains the person's Alien number and an expiration date. In some cases, the employment authorization card will contain an "Advance Parole" which allows the person to travel internationally and return to the United States. 

The following information is reprinted from a government publication entitled “Work With Us!” which was mailed to employers across the US when the EAD was first introduced:

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is phasing in a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD), the I-766. This document will be a card issued to aliens who are authorized to work temporarily in the United States. While the document is being phased in, some work- authorized aliens will continue to receive their work authorization on the existing EAD, the I-688B, and both cards will remain in circulation. The I-688B will continue to be issued and remain valid until the expiration date on the individual card. In addition, most aliens who are authorized to work only for a specific employer will continue to receive their authorization on Form I-94 (Arrival – Departure Record).

If you are an employer, aliens with temporary work authorization may, but are not required to, present this card to you during the employment verification process. The card will be a “List A” document for this purpose, which means that it establishes both identity and employment eligibility. The new card in no way alters your responsibilities to hire persons who are eligible to work in the United States, complete the I-9, and avoid discrimination in the hiring and verification process.

When you verify a new employee’s eligibility to work, you do not need to be a document expert. You have met your obligations if you examine the card and determine that it reasonably appears to be genuine and to relate to the person who presents it. The I-766 has several features, visible to the naked eye, to help you determine whether a card presented to you is genuine. The card also has certain security and quality control features intended for government use. Scroll down to read more about these features.


Holograms are pictures or words that may be seen when the card is turned or tilted in various directions. Most of the holograms are visible in ordinary light; however, your ability to see them will vary depending on the lighting conditions and angle at which you look at the card. In most normal lighting conditions, you should be able to see holograms of the Statue of Liberty, the letters “U.S.A.,” and the words “U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service” repeated across the face of the card.


There are two additional holograms which you are not expected or required to look for, but which you may notice. You may see a map of the United States. You may also notice the letters “INS” which appear within the periods after each of the letters “U.S.A.” The visibility of those two features varies, and you should not be concerned or reject a card presented to you by an employee if you do not see them.


On the back of the card, the number and bar code at the top are etched into the surface and will feel rough to the touch.


The light blue printing around the INS Seal and the dark printing around the words “Employment Authorization Card” are microprinting . In other words, though they may appear as solid lines from a distance, they are actually words in extremely small print. You do not need to attempt to actually read the words.


The front of the card contains information about the authorized alien, such as name, birth date, and INS “A number.” The work authorization expiration date appears in a box at the bottom of the card. Restrictions on employment, if any, are noted under “Terms and Conditions.” If there are no restrictions, the word “none” will appear in this space. In certain circumstances, the card may not bear a fingerprint. When it does not, the words “fingerprint not available” will appear on the right side of the face of the card.


The three dimensional depiction of the card highlights each of the layers and is intended only to assist you in “seeing” its features.


The edge of the card appears to have a thin red stripe between two white lines, as if the card were a sandwich with red filler in the middle.

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