Dear Sophie: When can I apply for my US work permit?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

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Dear Sophie,

My husband just accepted a job in Silicon Valley. His new employer will be sponsoring him for an E-3 visa.

I would like to continue working after we move to the United States. I understand I can get a work permit with the E-3 visa for spouses.

How soon can I apply for my U.S. work permit?

— Adaptive Aussie

Dear Adaptive,

Thanks for your question and congrats on the new employment opportunities for both you and your husband! Listen to my podcast episode on work permits, or Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) as they are officially known, to find out who qualifies for one, when you can apply for one, what you can do with one and how long it takes to get one.

You can apply for a work permit once you arrive in the United States in E-3 status (a professional work visa for Australians in the U.S.). It’s not possible to apply for a work permit at the consulate in Sydney when you apply for your E-3 visas. To do that, you will need to submit Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) and supporting documents to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If USCIS approves your application, you will not be able to start working until you receive the physical, plastic EAD card, which proves to prospective employers that you are authorized to work in the United States.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

How long will it take?

USCIS is currently backlogged and is taking about 11 months to process EAD applications. Since any mistakes or omissions in an EAD application can create further delays, I recommend hiring an immigration attorney to submit the application on your behalf. An immigration attorney can also discuss other options that could enable you to start working sooner.