U.S. Work Permits

The United States has one of the most successful and largest economies in the world and provides different job opportunities for both immigrants and citizens. To work in the US as a foreigner on a non-immigrant visa, you will require a work permit.

A work permit is a document you produce to employers to show your right to apply for various jobs. The process of a work permit application is complex and requires many documents to process. That is why at the Orange County Immigration Attorney, we make the process easier for you. Our attorneys who are conversant with immigration law will guide you through all the requirements needed to obtain a U.S. work permit.

Work Permit for the USA

A US work permit, also known as an Employment Authorization Card, is a photo identity card that resembles a US driver’s license. It is issued by the Department of Immigration to foreigners who wish to work in the United States for an employer without restrictions. Obtaining the work permit denotes that you are in the U.S. on a status that allows you to hold a job of your choice.

If you are a foreigner, the United States employers will often ask you to produce the work permit before considering you for a job post. Employers do this to avoid the sanction that comes as a result of employing foreigners working illegally.

There are three types of Employment Authorization documents available from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. They are:

  1. Initial EAD. This is the first filing of form I-765 if you are living in the country and are eligible to work here.
  2. Renewal EAD. Most immigrants obtain a work permit about their visa status. The Employment Authorization Document will expire upon the expiration of your visa. If you are still eligible to work after your permit expires, you should file a new form I-765.
  3. Replacement EAD. The EAD is a card document that is prone to loss or destruction like any other identification document. If your EAD is stolen, lost, or destroyed, you are allowed to apply for a replacement.

Qualification for a Work Permit

Foreign nationals living in the United States will not be allowed to accept work unless they receive permission under the terms of their visas. However, you can work if you separately apply and qualify to get a work permit. You can produce your Employment Authorization Document to prove to employers that you have a right to work in the United States.

All green card holders who are lawful permanent residents of the US have automatic permission to work. They need to produce a green card for their employers. However, foreigners who have traveled to the United States with work-based visas sponsored by the government are also allowed to work. An example of a work visa include:

  • H-1B Visa for specialty occupation workers
  • H-2A visa issued to temporary agricultural workers
  • H-1B1 Visa issued to specialty occupation workers from Singapore and Chile
  • E-1 visa for treaty traders
  • E-2 Visa for treaty investors
  • P visa for athletes artists and entertainers

The dependents of these visa holders are not allowed to work in the United States unless they qualify for a work permit or get a US sponsor. These rules will vary depending on the type of visa held. There are various classes of foreigners who are eligible to apply for a work permit. However, your application must be accepted before you start working. These categories include:

  1. K-1 Visa Holders

A K-1 visa, also known as a fiancée visa, allows the foreign fiancée of a US citizen to travel and stay in the United States to marry within 90 days of arrival. After marriage, the foreigner will then apply for a readjustment of status. If you travel to the United States on a K-1 fiancée visa, you have the right to work if, on entry to the country, you apply for a work permit. However, if you get the work permit, it can only be used for the first 90 days that you stay awaiting marriage.

  1. Individuals with Pending Green Card Status

Even if you file a form I-485, which is an application for permanent residency, you are not automatically allowed to work in the United States. If your application for a green card has not been processed yet, you can obtain an Employment Authorization Document to help you to hold a job legally. The Employment Authorization Document for individuals awaiting green card approval is issued within 90 days and is valid for 240 days. After expiration, the document cannot be renewed, and you have to apply for a new one.

  1. Spouses of H1-B Visa Holders

Dependents of an H1-B visa are allowed to enter the United States under an H-4 visa. If you are on an H-4 visa, you can apply for paid employment by obtaining an Employment Authorization Document. With the EAD, you can take part-time, full-time, or short-term basis for a United States employer. The validity of your work permit will last as long as your H-4 status holds, which in return greatly relies on your spouse’s H1-B status.

An H1-B visa lasts for an initial period of three years with an option to renew it for up to six years. If your spouse has to renew their visa, you will also be expected to renew your H-4 visa and your Employment Authorization Document. However, although you are permitted to take any position or even start up a business, you cannot do so until the USCIS approves your work permit.

  1. Asylum Seekers

Under U.S. immigration law, not all immigrants are allowed to work or obtain a work permit. However, individuals seeking asylum in the United States have been allowed to apply for an Employment Authorization Document. To get a work permit, you have to either win your asylum case or be left for 180 days without an initial decision on your application from the immigration office. After 150 days of case waiting, you can apply for a work permit so you can get it after the 180 days.

  1. F-1 Student Visa Holders

The f-1 visa is the most common route you can use to study in the United States. This type of visa will cover all kinds of education, from primary to university. However, you must have a confirmed position at a recognized school to travel. Most international students are expected to study and cover all their expenses without accepting paid employment. The only works that do not require a permit are the on-campus jobs, which are often a part of your study program.

However, F-1 visa holders can work at almost any job by seeking authorization from the Department of Immigration. The USCIS will authorize limited types of off-campus work, such as:

  • Off-campus employment as a result of severe economic hardships. Sometimes despite all plans of supporting could go wrong. Your source of financial support could get cut short. If you can show proof of economic hardship, you may obtain a work permit to seek paid employment.
  • Optional practical training. This is off-campus work, which is part of your curriculum. With an Employment Authorization Document, you can try to get jobs in your major field of expertise. Therefore, any job that is not related to your field of study will not satisfy the USCIS to grant you a work permit.
  • International Organization Internships. If you get an offer to work for an international organization that is qualified under the International Organization Immunity Act, you will be allowed to work with the Employment Authorization Document.
  1. L2 Visa Holders

The L1 visa is a document issued to persons who travel to the United States for work. This visa lasts for three months to five years. Spouses and dependents of L1 visas stay in the US with L2 visas. L2 visa holders can apply for work by applying for an Employment Authorization Document. Once your work permit is approved, you can apply for any job role. Unfortunately, work permits and L2 visas for L1 Visa spouses will only be issued to legally married individuals as well as unmarried children below 21 years of age. However, authorization of this document takes some time to be processed. It is essential to apply for a work permit as soon as you get your L2 visa.

  1. Persons under Temporary Protective Status

Temporary Protective Status is a program that offers a legal status for foreigners to stay in the United States. It aims at protecting immigrants who cannot return to their home countries as a result of natural disasters, conflict, or any other situation that threatens their safety. However, applicants must prove that they have resided in the United States for a given period.

If you are in the US on a Temporary Protective Status, you cannot be deported and are allowed to apply for a work permit; this will allow you to find employment during the period that you are under protection.

  1. Work Permit for A-1 or A-2 Foreign Government Officials Dependents

The A-1 visa, also known as the diplomatic visa, is granted to diplomats and officials of foreign nations. Since these officials travel to the United States for government business, they are not allowed to work. However, the dependents of these visa holders can seek employment by applying for a work permit. The work permit will last as long as the A-1 visa status lasts.

Process of Application for a Work Permit

A work permit is issued to immigrants already living in the United States. The application for an Employment Authorization document is quite straightforward since you will be dealing directly with the USCIS. The following is the process you follow to apply:

Filling out Form I-765

Form I-765 is often a two-page document, which is available at the USCIS. The form is usually self-explanatory and is supposed to be filled out in black ink if printed. You can also make your application online. You will fill in your name contacts and other personal information indicated on the form.

The form will have a section where you show your most recent entry to the United States. Even if you resided here and went for a short trip to another country, you should indicate the type of visa you used during your most recent entry.

You should not leave any question unanswered, and for the non-applicable points, you will indicate N/A. You will need to look at the instructions on your form to understand which category your eligibility lies. If you require more space to answer a question, you need to attach a continuation page. After filing the I-765 form, it is crucial to sign and make a copy that you can use for personal reference. Forms that are not signed will not get accepted.

Attaching Proof of Eligibility

Along with the application letter, you are required to submit proof to show that you are eligible to get a work permit. Like the visa application, the evidence required will depend on what category of eligibility you fall. For example, if you are granted asylum in the United States and want to obtain a work permit, you will be expected to produce the form I-730. Else, you can submit the USCIS letter granting asylum.

International students seeking OPT can attach a copy of their degree to show eligibility. If you are applying for a work permit in conjunction with a type of visa status you or your spouse has, you can submit a photocopy of your visa. Other documents you can submit for eligibility test include:

  1. A copy of the front and backside of your 1-94, Arrival/Departure Record. This is a record of all your arrivals and departures to and from the United State The Customs Border Protection is responsible for issuing the form I-94 and is issued in electronic format. All non-immigrants foreigners who enter the US will receive these documents or get their passports stamped with the I-94. If you wish to apply for a work permit while temporarily residing here, you will be expected to show the I-94 or stamp.
  1. A copy of your last Employment Authorization Document. If you did not have an EAD before, you must provide a copy of a government-issued identity card, and the document must indicate your date of birth, name as well as a photograph.
  1. Two identical passports of yourself. The photos must have been taken within the last 30 days of application, and your receipt number and your name should be lightly printed on the back of each passport photo.

Attaching the US Work Permit Fee

The filing fee for a work permit is $410 together with a biometrics fee of $85, which is paid during submission of the Form I-765. This fee can be paid by either a check or money order, with funds getting withdrawn from a bank located in the United States of America in US dollars. However, if you make an online application, you will be allowed to pay using a debit or credit card. Some categories are exempted from paying the filing fee, and they include:

  • N-8 or N-9 non-immigrants
  • Refugees, individuals on asylum in the United States, or those paroled as refugees
  • Persons granted withholding of deportation
  • Citizens of Micronesia, Marshal, or Palau Islands
  • Victims who have suffered severe human trafficking
  • U-1 non-immigrants. These are victims of crime, who have suffered physical or mental abuse. They are given refuge to help the government in the investigation and prosecution of criminal activities.
  • Applicants of asylum
  • VAWA self-petitioners. These are victims of violence against women who are allowed to petition for legal status in the United States
  • Individuals dependent on a foreign government or an international organization as well as NATO personnel

However, if you are not in the categories exempted from the work permit fee, you can file for a waiver of the fees in the following situations:

  • You have supporting documents to prove that you or the person you are living with is receiving a means-tested benefit currently. You can show that you are in a means-tested benefit if you are under Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
  • Your annual household income is below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines.
  • You are expecting financial hardships, which make it difficult for you to pay. Financial difficulties can result from unexpected medical bills or emergencies.

There are only three categories of individuals not exempted from paying the $85 biometric fees:

  • Individuals requesting consideration for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
  • Spouses or unmarried dependent children who have approval for employment-based immigration petition with compelling circumstances
  • Non-immigrants who have got approval for an employment-based petition and are hindered by compelling circumstances.

Submitting the Application

After completing your whole file, you are expected to submit your application to the USCIS, either by mail or through an online filing. If you want to submit your request by mail, you must carefully check the address to ensure you mail it to the right location. If you decide to complete your application through e-filing, you will fill in your Form I-765 and send it to USCIS. However, even if you submit the form online, you still have to mail the supporting documents for your work permit.

The Employment Authorization Document often takes around 60 to 90 days. After the processing is done, the USCIS will send you a notice indicating whether your application was accepted. If the application were approved, you would receive your Employment Authorization Document through the mail. Upon receiving your EAD card and starting to work, it will be valid for one year. When the expiry of your card is within 180 days of its expiry, you should apply for a renewal. Renewal of a work permit can be done as many times as permitted by the type of visa you hold.

If you are issued with a card with incorrect formation, you can file to have it corrected. If the mistake was made by the USCIS, you do not need to resubmit a Form I-76 or pay new fees. You will only submit the card with correct information, an explanation of where the mistake lies as well as documents showing the correct information.

However, if the mistakes on your EAD card were not made by the USCIS, you must submit a new Form I-765, filing fees, the card which has the error, and supporting documents. If they deny your work permit, they will give you a notice indicating why you are not an eligible candidate.

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EAD Application Denial

There are several reasons that can lead to denial of your work permit application, most of which depend on the type of non-immigrant visa you hold. If your application gets denied, you are allowed to file a motion to reopen your case or motion of reconsideration. However, you must provide new facts and give evidence to support those facts. The USCIS must see proof that the denial was based on an incorrect immigration law application before it can reconsider your case. If your application is denied, an experienced immigration attorney will assist you to figure out how to proceed with filing for reconsideration.

Find an Immigration Attorney Near Me

Securing a work permit will allow you to find employment during a temporary stay in the United States or as you await a change of status. However, the process may be complicated since some situations can lead to denial of your work permit application depending on your immigration visa.

If you are seeking to apply for an Employment Authorization document, it is wise to seek help from an experienced immigration attorney from the Orange County Immigration Attorney law firm. We will advise you regarding your immigration rights and assist you in preparing documents you will be required to file in order to obtain an Employment Authorization Document. Call us today at 714-909-0426 and allow us to guide you through the process of applying for a U.S. work permit.