If you are coming to the United States on a K-1 visa to marry your American fiancé(e), you may wonder if you can legally work during your time on the visa.
The short answer is yes; you can obtain work authorization and take a job while on a K-1 visa. However, there are essential steps and restrictions you need to understand first.
After providing a brief overview of the K-1 visa, this post will explain the process of obtaining a work permit, timeline issues to be aware of, and reasons to wait until after marriage to apply for authorization.
The K-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows the foreign fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States to get married.
To be eligible for a K-1 visa, you must:
The U.S. citizen sponsor is responsible for filing Form I-129F and paying the $535 filing fee to petition USCIS for the K-1 visa.
Once issued, the K-1 visa allows you to enter the U.S., where you must marry within 90 days. You can then apply to adjust your status to a lawful permanent resident. Lear more details on the complete K-1 visa process, eligibility, and requirements.
As mentioned above, the typical processing timeline for an EAD application is 2-3 months. However, the validity period of your K-1 visa is only 90 days.
This overlap between the EAD processing time and short K-1 validity can create potential timing issues:
Consequently, a very small window exists to obtain an EAD based on a valid K-1 visa.
The short validity period of the K-1 makes getting practical benefits from an EAD unlikely for many applicants. While USCIS allows K-1 EAD applications, in many cases, applicants are encouraged to apply after marrying when there is more time to adjust status.
Many K-1 visa holders want to know when to start working after getting married. You must wait until your EAD application is approved.
The processing time for an EAD based on a green card application is typically 2-3 months. It is recommended that you file Form I-765 along with your adjustment of status forms rather than waiting until later.
While waiting for your green card, your EAD allows you to work legally. However, your EAD will expire after 1-2 years, so consider the listed validity period.
While you may be eager to start working on your K-1 visa when you arrive in the U.S., waiting until you have a valid EAD is critical.
Working without proper authorization can jeopardize your K-1 status and ability to adjust to a green card.
Some significant risks include:
In short, working without a valid EAD goes against the terms of your K-1 visa and can ruin your chances of adjusting your status to remain in the U.S.
It’s essential to be patient, go through the proper EAD process, and wait to start working until you have your card in hand. The consequences simply aren’t worth the risk.
While the K-1 visa allows you to enter the U.S. to get married, it does not automatically authorize you to work. To legally work in the United States on a K-1 visa, you must obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), also known as a work permit.
An EAD card issued by USCIS serves as legal proof that you are allowed to work in the U.S. for a limited time.
Follow these steps to apply for a work permit on your K-1 visa.
Form I-765 is the official application for employment authorization. Complete and sign the form carefully—select category (a)(6) for K-1 eligibility.
Include copies of your:
The fee is $410 for the I-765 plus $85 for biometrics. You can pay your fees by money order or cashier’s check.
Submit the complete application package, including Form I-765, documents, and payment, to the USCIS lockbox facility.
It takes approximately 2-3 months for the EAD application to be processed and approved.
Your work permit will be mailed to you once it is approved. Don’t start working until it arrives!
The table below compares the key differences between getting an EAD based on a K-1 visa and waiting until after marriage to apply for an EAD.
|K-1 EAD||EAD After Marriage|
|When to Apply||After arriving in the U.S. on K-1||After marrying and adjusting status|
|Validity Period||90 Days - Expires with K-1||1-2 years based on pending green card|
|Processing Time||2-3 months||2-3 months|
|Risk of Expiring Before Approval||High risk||Low risk|
|Application Form||I-765 category (a)(6)||I-765 category (c)(9)|
|Status While Waiting||K-1 nonimmigrant||Pending green card applicant|
|Benefits||Can start working sooner||More time, lower risk, longer validity|
Once you have arrived in the U.S. on your K-1 visa and are married, you can apply to adjust your status to a permanent resident. This process also allows you to obtain an EAD authorizing you to work.
To adjust your status from a K-1 visa, you must file these forms within 90 days of arriving in the U.S.:
Read this comprehensive guide explaining what to expect when applying for an adjustment of status.
In addition to these primary forms, you can submit Form I-765 to apply for an initial EAD based on your pending green card application.
If you have questions about working on a K-1 visa, contact the experienced attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C.
If you are interested in obtaining a K-1 visa EAD or the alternative of getting your EAD after marriage, we are here for you. We can help you through your application process for your visa and your EAD. Contact us at 312-444-1940 or through our online contact form today.
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