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

How to Apply for Authorization to Work in the United States

US Work permit requirements

© 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 permanent resident of the United States, then they will need a permit to work, as well as the appropriate work visa. This permit is officially known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which enables a non-citizen to work in the U.S.

It is the responsibility of both employers and employees to confirm proof of legal employment status.

Employees are required to prove that they are authorized to work in the U.S., and employers are required to verify the identity and eligibility of 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, such as permanent immigrant workers, temporary (non-immigrant) workers, and student/exchange workers.

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

  • United States citizens
  • Non-citizen nationals of the United States
  • Lawful permanent residents
  • Non-citizen, non-residents duly authorized to work

Non-citizen, non-resident workers that may be authorized to work in the U.S. include (per the language from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services):

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 an authorization granted 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 Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

U.S. 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 U.S.

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
  • Fiancés 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. Typically, the government grants this eligibility to a certain employer as a result of the beneficiaries or dependents 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 expired 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 6 months prior to the expiration date. 

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 the USCIS processing center made a mistake when creating the card, the Form and filing fees are not required. In some cases, a fee waiver can be requested for all fees. 

Employer Verification of Authorization to Work in the U.S.

When hired for a new job, employees must prove that they are legally entitled to work in the United States. Employers are required to verify the individual’s eligibility to work, along with their identity. Additionally, the employer must keep an Employment Eligibility Verification form (I-9 form) on file.

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 foreigners may need to apply individually for employment authorization, including for eligibility to work at a temporary position within the U.S.

Proof of Eligibility to Work

Employees must present original documents (not photocopies) to their employer as part of the hiring process. The only exception occurs when an employee presents a certified copy of a birth certificate. Employers must verify the employment eligibility and identity documents presented by employees and record the document information on an I-9 form for every employee.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.