Who Qualifies for a Work Permit in the United States?
Foreign nationals staying in the United States are unable to work without explicit permission under the terms of a visa or have applied for – and received – a work permit separately.
Below we’ll look at what a work permit in the United States is, what it covers, and how to get one.
What is a Work Permit for the United States?
A work permit is a photo identity card issued by the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is also known formally as an Employment Authorization Document or EAD. The EAD looks like a driver’s license.
People holding one can show it to employers to prove they have the right to work in the country. Every US employer must, when hiring new employees, request proof of their immigration status and right to work, or face sanctions.
An EAD covers you to work legally in any American company while it’s valid. You might either enter the country for a specific job or apply for work once you’re a green cardholder. Either is fine, as they’re both legal routes for working.
How Long does an EAD Last?
A work permit in the United States lasts for a maximum of one year from the date of issue. However, it might expire before then, as it depends on the type of visa you hold.
Similarly, the number of times you can renew your EAD depends on your visa. Some visas only permit you to renew it once, while others can renew it multiple times.
You must renew your work permit within 180 days of its expiry date. This is to ensure you’re never without it, as this can lead to fines you for and your employer.
Who doesn’t Have to Apply Separately for a Work Permit?
Everyone with a green card has the right to work, as it includes the equivalent of a work permit. Immigrants that become US citizens are also able to work and will have the US passport or naturalization papers to prove it to employers.
If you hold a green card or have become a US citizen, show these papers to your employer when you get a job. As you probably already know, your green card must be renewed annually too, and the same rules mentioned above apply to its expiry.
Foreign nationals that obtain work-based visas, which have been sponsored by a US employer, can work in the United States. For example, these visas may include an H-1B visa (for specialty workers), an L-1 visa (for intracompany transferees), an E-3 visa (for Australians only), or an E treaty trader or treaty investor visa (for employees working with registered as treaty traders and treaty investors in the United States).
Work-based visas aren’t necessarily more difficult to claim but they’re not available to everyone. Generally, companies will seek out specialty workers if there is a shortage of that particular skill in the United States.
To do this, they must submit an Employment Petition and a Labor Conditions Application. In short, these forms confirm the company needs to hire a foreign worker and that they won’t treat them any different from a US citizen. It’s not something migrant workers need to worry about, though, as the company handles all this before employment.
Who is Eligible to Apply for Work Permits?
Several classes of migrants must apply for a work permit in the United States. These categories include:
- K-1 fiancé visa holders
- People applying for an adjustment of status (green card)
- Spouses of visa holders
- People with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)
- F-1 students undergoing economic problems or seeking optional practical training (OPT)
These are just some of the many categories that need a work permit in the United States. You can find a full list on the USCIS Form I-765 (the application form for a work permit).
There obviously isn’t a category for tourists (B-1 visa holders) and undocumented immigrants. USCIS doesn’t grant those people permission to work in the United States due to their nature of entry into the country.
How to Apply for a Work Permit for the United States
To apply for an EAD work permit, you have to fill out the USCIS Form I-765. It requires a wealth of documentation, including a copy of your passport, photos, and proof that you’ll return to your home country. Getting this together can be a bit long-winded, but the form explains the information in more detail.
You must also pay the application fee, which might also include obtaining your biometric information. The feel can feel quite expensive but is probably worth it to work in a country like the United States.
Some migrant categories are exempt from the application fee. These include NATO workers, nationals from certain countries, asylees and refugees, and more. As usual, you’ll find a full list on Form I-765.
You will have to submit your application through the mail, and it could take a few weeks to get a response. Read more on How to Apply for a US Work Permit.
It can take up to 90 days for you to receive a notification. If you’re not successful, you’ll get a letter saying why. Successful applicants receive their work permits in the mail, meaning they can get started on the job market!
Getting Legal Help
The process of obtaining a work permit in the United States isn’t particularly difficult. However, it can get confusing if you’re applying alone and don’t know what information you need for the form.
If you have any questions or doubts, it’s worth contacting a specialist immigration attorney, as they’ll be able to answer your questions. Also, only ever submit your application through official government channels, as anything else might be a scam.
There’s no reason why someone else should submit the form for you, as it can be done online or through the mail.
Of course, the easier way to get a work permit in the United States is to enter with a green card.
An easy way to get a Work Permit for the United States is to apply in the Green Card Lottery,
so you can Live and Work permanently in the land of opportunities.