How to Get a Permit to Work in the U.S.

How to Apply for Authorization to Work in the United States

© The Balance, 2018

All United States employers are required to confirm that employees are legally able to work in the U.S. If an individual is not a citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States they will need a permit to work, officially known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), to prove eligibility to work in the U.S.

It is the responsibility of both parties to show and require proof of legal employment status. Employees are required to prove that they are authorized to work in the US, and employers are required to verify the identity and eligibility to work for all new employees.

Foreign Nationals Permitted to Work in the U.S.

There are several categories of foreign workers permitted to work in the United States including permanent immigrant workers, temporary (non-immigrant) workers, and student and exchange workers.

The categories of workers permitted to work in the U.S. include:

  • Citizen of the the United States
  • Non citizen national of the United States
  • Lawful permanent resident
  • An alien authorized to work

Foreign workers who may be authorized to work in the U.S. include:

  • Temporary (non-immigrant) Workers: A temporary worker is an individual seeking to enter the United States temporarily for a specific purpose. Non-immigrants enter the United States for a temporary period of time, and once in the United States, are restricted to the activity or reason for which their non-immigrant visa was issued.
  • Permanent (Immigrant) Workers: A permanent worker is an individual who is authorized to live and work permanently in the United States.
  • Students and Exchange Visitors: Students may, under certain circumstances, be allowed to work in the United States. However, they must obtain permission from an authorized official at their school. The authorized official is known as a Designed School Official (DSO) for students and the Responsible Officer (RO) for exchange visitors. Exchange visitors may be eligible to work temporarily in the U.S. via the exchange visitor visa program.

    How to Get a Permit to Work in the U.S.

    An Employment Authorization Document (EAD), also known as an EAD card, work permit, or working permit, is a document issued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that proves that the holder is authorized to work in the United States. An EAD is a plastic card that is usually valid for one year and is renewable and replaceable.

    Applicants for an EAD can request:

    • Permission to accept employment
    • Replacement (of a lost EAD)
    • Renewal of permission to accept employment

    Eligibility for an EAD

    US citizens and permanent residents do not need an Employment Authorization Document or any other working permit to work in the United States, other than their Green Card if they are a permanent resident.

    All employees, including U.S. citizens and permanent residents, do need to prove eligibility to work in the US.

    The Employment Authorization Document is proof to your employer that you are legally allowed to work in the United States.

    The following categories of foreign workers are eligible to apply for an Employment Authorization Document:

    • Asylees and asylum seekers
    • Refugees
    • Students seeking particular types of employment
    • Foreign nationals in the United States pursuing the final stage of permanent residence
    • Nationals of certain countries given Temporary Protected Status (TPS) due to conditions in their home countries
    • Fiances and spouses of U.S. citizens
    • Dependents of foreign government officials
    • J-2 spouses or minor children of exchange visitors
    • Other workers depending on circumstances.

    Additionally, many beneficiaries and their dependents are eligible to work in the United States or more specifically for a certain employer as a result of their non-immigrant status.

    How to Apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

    Information on eligibility and forms to apply for an EAD are available on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

    Renewing Employment Authorization Documents (EADs)

    If you have legally worked in the United States and your EAD has or is going to expire, you may file for a renewed EAD with the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. An employee can file for a renewal EAD before the original expires, so long as the application is not processed more than 120 days before expiry. 

    Replacing an EAD

    EAD card are replaced for many different reasons. If a card is lost, stolen, or contains incorrect information, it may be necessary to file a new Form I-765 and pay a filing fee. If a mistake has been made due to an error by a USCIS processing center, the Form and filing fees are not required. In some cases, a fee waiver can be requested for any fees incurred. 

    Employer Verification of Authorization to Work in the US

    When hired for a new job, employees are required to prove that they are legally entitled to work in the United States. Employers are required to verify the eligibility to work and the identity and of all new hires. An Employment Eligibility Verification form (I-9 form) must be completed and kept on file by the employer.

    Employers must verify that an individual whom they plan to employ or continue to employ in the United States is authorized to accept employment in the United States. Individuals, such as those who have been admitted as permanent residents, granted asylum or refugee status, or admitted in work-related nonimmigrant classifications, may have employment authorization as a direct result of their immigration status. Other aliens may need to apply individually for employment authorization, including for eligibility to work at a temporary position in the US.

    Proof of Eligibility to Work

    Employees must present original documents, not photocopies, to their employer when they are hired. The only exception is an employee may present a certified copy of a birth certificate. On the form, the employer must verify the employment eligibility and identity documents presented by the employee and record the document information on an I-9 form.

    The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. Laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect the most recent changes to the law.