The USCIS has released annual data on both immigrants and non-immigrants who applied for a work permit in the United States for fiscal year 2019. The data is compelling because it shows us which categories of non-citizens are mostly applying for work permits, and which categories where there is generally less applicants per FY. For example, the USCIS data tells us if certain non-citizens applied for a work permit in the following categories, but not only limited to:

  • A student who recently completed OPT
  • A refugee
  • An immigrant fiancé on a K-1 visa
  • A spouse of a certain class of temporary visa holder
  • Those applying for an adjustment of status from within the U.S.

For anyone interested in USCIS data to see records of certain classifications of different applications, the USCIS releases most of their data to the public for access. In order to access datasets, users can simply visit the USCIS website, scroll to the “Topics” link at the top of the page. From here, users need to select the “Archives” link on the right hand side of the page. USCIS Archives are organized by different subject matters—such as work permit information, adjustment of status information, humanitarian data, and much more.

If we take a closer look at some of the data, we can see that some of the biggest categories where applicants filed for an I-765 were exchange students who had just completed an OPT—Optional Practical Training. In FY 2019, the USCIS approved about 150,000 work permit applications for exchange students in this situation, and also denied about 5,000 more. The USCIS also approved 348 work permits for students in FY 2019 who had applied for an EAD due to economic hardship. The low number of applicants in this category (494) is most likely due to the fact that the application materials are lengthy and often difficult to prove.[1]

There are two other categories of work permit applications from FY 2019 that had upwards of 200,000 applications filed: those who pending asylum applicants in the U.S. as well as those who filed for an EAD while waiting for their I-485 to be adjudicated. 

For example, in FY 2019 approximately 216,000 pending asylum applicants in the U.S. filed for a work permit. Of those, 177,520 were approved for an EAD in the same year. For those who filed an I-485 adjustment application in FY 2019, there were approximately 275,000 applicants who filed for an EAD. The USCIS approved about 142,000 work permits for these I-485 applicants, meaning that asylum applicants in the U.S. were granted more work permits than those applying for an AOS in the same year.[2]

One other category of non-immigrants that saw a fairly large number of work permit applications in FY 2019 was H4 dependents (spouses) of H1-B visa holders. The USCIS received about 25,000 applications for work permits from spouses in FY 2019, and of those approximately 20,000 EADs were approved in that category.[3]

USCISWork Permit