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Tips for Requesting Employment Authorization as an International Student

June 16, 2015
If you are an international student who is interested in working while in the United States, you need to follow the rules and prepare ahead of time. The Working in the United States resource page on Study in the States helps school officials and international students understand employment opportunities and the requirements. 
Some employment opportunities, such as optional practical training or off-campus employment, require students to submit the Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization,” to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to gain work authorization. 
Once USCIS approves your Form I-765, you will receive a Form I-766, "Employment Authorization Document," (EAD) in the mail. This is proof that you have authorization to work in the United States. You must carry this EAD card with you if you travel internationally. You may not begin to work until the date listed on your EAD; it also lists the date when your employment authorization ends. In most cases, USCIS grants EADs for a one-year period.
USCIS offers instructions on its website for how to apply for the Form I-765. Be sure to read USCIS’ full instructions, but here are a few helpful tips:
  • Talk to your DSO if you are interested in work authorization; they can help you understand what employment opportunities may be available to you. 
  • Start the process early and be sure to apply ahead of time. For post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), for example, you can apply for your EAD up to 90 days before your program end date. You can still request a later OPT start date even if you apply early.
  • Keep copies of all your documents so that you will be ready to send in a complete application and answer any requests for evidence from USCIS.
Visit USCIS’ website for a full list of tips and advice before applying and filing the Form I-765. If you have questions or need information on replacing an incorrect, lost or stolen EAD card, the USCIS website can provide more information. 
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