Renew a Work Permit

In the United States, a work permit is either a work visa or an employment authorization document (EAD) that allows non citizens and non Green Card Holders (permanent residents) to work temporarily in the United States. EADs may be issued for a variety of immigrant statuses, and there are over 60 different types of work visa, most of which are renewable one or two times. To ensure you can continue to work in the United States, you should be sure to start the renewal process early, to discuss with your employer the steps that need to be taken, and to carefully fill out the appropriate forms and supply the correct documentation.

Please note: the rules affecting non-citizens wishing to travel or traveling into the U.S. are uncertain at this time due to enhanced security precautions. As a consequence, some of the procedures and information necessary to renew a work permit may be different than presented in this article.


Preparing to Apply for a Permit Renewal

  1. Check what type of permit you are applying for. There are two basic types of work permit: work visas and employment authorization documents (EADs).
    • Work Visas – Work visas are acquired with the assistance of a U.S. employer who wants to temporarily bring an immigrant to the United States for work. If you hold a work visa, your I-94 Arrival-Departure Record is proof of your right to work
    • EADs – Employment authorization documents are filed for a specific length of time depending on immigration status and prove the right to work for certain immigrants who are not here with work visas, including:[1]
      • Students with F-1 or M-1 visas
      • Family of a visa holder
      • Fiancé(e), spouse, or children of a U.S. citizen
      • Spouse of an H-1, L-1, or E1/2/3 visa holder.
      • Asylees
      • Refugees
      • Domestic servants
  2. Know when to apply. You are not allowed to apply for a new EAD more than 120 days before the current one expires, but you should be sure to apply at least 45 days in advance of expiration. You should also apply for a renewed work visa at least 45 days in advance, and preferably sooner. Check your visa to see when it expires. You can find information on all the visas at the site of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Here are some of the more common work visas and their expiration dates:
    • H-1B – Specialty Occupations and Fashion Models – Up to 3 years, with a 3 year extension possible. Workers with these visas may also apply for a Green Card for permanent residence.[2]
    • H-2B – Non-Agricultural Workers – Up to 1 year, with two 1 year extensions possible.[3]
    • L-1A – Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager – Up to 3 years, with two 2 year extensions possible.[4]
    • L-1B – Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge – Up to 3 years, with a 2 year extension possible.[5]
    • TN – NAFTA Professionals – 3 years, with unlimited renewals of 3 years. Workers can apply to renew without leaving the states, or they can leave and return with their same initial documentation.[6][7][8]
    • E-1/2/3 – Treaty Traders / Investors; Specialty Occupations from Australia – Up to 2 years, with unlimited 2 year extensions possible.[9]
  3. Consider changing your visa status if your current visa cannot be extended. Most work visa types will allow you to reapply for a different type of work visa when you reach the extension limit of your current visa. See the Form I-129 Instructions to see if you are eligible to change visa status.
  4. Talk about an extension with your employer. An application for extension of a work visa will usually need to be made by your employer. You should talk to them at least four months before your current visa expires about an extension.
  5. Make sure you have your Form I-94. The employer will take care of most of the paperwork, but the employee will need to provide his or her Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, with the admission number (aka Departure Number) and the date of expiration of his or her stay.[10]
  6. Hire a translator if necessary. All foreign language documents submitted to USCIS must be accompanied by an English translation certified to be complete and accurate by the translator.[11]

Applying to Renew Your Work Visa

  1. File a Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. Your employer should file this form at least 45 days before the expiration date on your Form I-94 to ensure your application is processed before your current visa expires. There is a $460 filing fee, with possible additional fees depending on your visa classification.[12]
  2. Be sure to file the appropriate supporting documents. The documents generally include things such as a copy of the contract between the employer and employee, description of the employee’s job duties, and proof of the employee’s academic credentials. The various other documents required will depend on the visa classification being extended. You can find the requirements for your visa on the Form I-129 Instructions.
  3. Use Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status to extend the stay of a spouse or unmarried children under 21 years of age. You can use one Form I-539 for your entire family. It should be filed at the same time as your Form I-129, so that the two forms can be examined together. Your family will need their Form I-94 and valid passports. The fee is $370. For more information, see the Form I-539 Instructions.
  4. Submit a duplicate copy of the petition and all supporting forms. If you fail to send in a duplicate, the processing of the application may be delayed.[11]
  5. Include a Form I-907 for quicker processing. This Request for Premium Processing Services costs $1225 and ensures that your application will be processed with 15 days of the date that USCIS receives it.[13]
  6. Go to any required appointments for biometric services. For some renewals, you will need to have fingerprints taken. The USCIS will inform you in writing when to go to you local Application Support Center for a biometrics services appointment. Failure to go to this appointment may result in a denial of your application.[14]
  7. Send requested supplemental information and attend any required interviews. The USCIS may request to interview an applicant as part of the review process. They may also request originals of copied documents or additional information. Failure to provide the necessary information or to appear for an interview will likely result in a denial of your application.[11]
  8. Track your application. When your application is received by the USCIS, they will mail you a receipt with a number that you can use to check the status of your case or to register for automatic case status updates.[15] If USCIS approves your employer’s petition, they will be sent a Notice of Action, Form I-797 indicating the approval. You will need the receipt number form this form to apply for your visa.
  9. Apply for your visa with form DS-160 once your petition has been approved. There is no way to renew a US visa. You will have to apply for a new one. You will need to upload a photo with the correct format as part of the application process. You can check to see if you must submit an application fee here. Your family can apply at the same time under the same visa category.
  10. Determine if you are eligible to skip the interview and fingerprinting process. If you are renewing your work permit, you will probably be able to skip the interview and fingerprinting process. You qualify if:[16]
    • You are applying for an H1, L, E1, or E2 classification visa.
    • You are renewing an unexpired visa in the same classification as before.
    • Your name has not changed.
    • H2, E3, and T visa classifications require interviews for renewals, as do L blanket applications (when an employer applies for general permission to transfer employees). These applicants will need to schedule an interview appointment.
  11. Include the necessary documentation in your drop-box application, if eligible to skip the interview. You will submit the following to the appropriate consulate or embassy:[17]
    • A completed “drop-box” letter, generated with your DS-160 application.
    • Your current passport, valid at least 6 months beyond your period of stay in the United States.
    • Form DS-160 confirmation page.
    • Application fee payment receipt, if applicable.
    • Your previous visa.
    • Two correctly formatted photographs taken in the last 6 months.
    • A copy of your I-797.
  12. Bring the necessary documentation if you must attend an interview. You will need:[18]
    • Your current passport, valid at least 6 months beyond your period of stay in the United States.
    • Form DS-160 confirmation page.
    • Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before the interview.
    • Your previous visa.
    • One correctly formatted photograph taken in the last 6 months.
    • The receipt number from you approved I-129 petition or I-797 notice of action.
    • If you are included in an L blanket petition, you must bring Form I-129S to your interview.
    • Additional information as required, including proof of intent to return to your home country at the end of your stay.
  13. Wait until your application for work visa renewal has been adjudicated. Once the decision has been made, you will be notified as soon as possible.

Applying to Renew Your Employment Authorization Document

  1. File an online or paper Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. The filing fee is $410. Because you will have to supply additional paper documents by mail, there is little or no difference in processing time whether you apply online or by mail.[19]
  2. Include the required documents. The documents required will vary depending on your application status. You can find a complete list of statuses and the necessary documentation they require in the Form I-765 Instructions. All applications require:[1]
    • The filing fee of $410 paid by check or money order.
    • A copy of form I-94.
    • A copy of your previous EAD, front and back.
    • Two identical photographs taken within the last 30 days, that fulfill the requirements in the Form I-765 Instructions.
  3. Comply with any USCIS requests. You may be required to go to an application support center for an interview or to be fingerprinted. The USCIS may also ask you for additional information. Comply with all requests or your application will be denied.[1]
  4. Wait for your case to be adjudicated. You will be informed by mail whether or not your application is successful. Your EAD card will either be sent to you in the mail or you may be required to go to an application support center to pick it up.[1]
  5. Get a social security number. If you do not already have one, you will need a social security number along with your EAD in order to work in the United States. Fill out the application and mail it or take it to a social security office. In addition to the application, you will need:[20]
    • Your I-94
    • Your EAD
    • Your I-20 if an F-1 or M-1 student
    • Your DS-2019 if a J-1 or J-2 exchange visitor

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Sources and Citations

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  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2