Can a foreign spouse work legally before obtaining permanent residence?

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Yes. An Application for Employment Authorization (form I-765) is filed in the United States by the foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with the permanent residence application to request issuance of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to allow the foreign spouse to work legally in the United States until such time as the permanent residence application is decided. Upon approval of the Application for Employment Authorization (approximately 90 days), the foreign spouse can apply for and receive a social security number and can begin to work legally.