A work permit is formally known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This document is required for certain categories of immigrants to work in the United States. It is only an option for those with certain applications pending, giving them some temporary right to be in the United States. The application must be submitted and approved before you start working in the U.S. You must present the work permit to your employer to show that you have permission to work here. The first (and most crucial first step) is to identify whether you are eligible for a work permit.
Who Does Not Require a Work Permit?
Green card holders and U.S. citizens do not require a work permit as they have legal status in the United States and are therefore permitted to work. For the green card holder, the permission to work is shown simply through their actual lawful permanent resident card. U.S. citizens can show their lawful status with their U.S. passport, birth certificate or their U.S. naturalization certificate.
Finally, a work permit is not required for those who entered with work visas.
Eligibility for a Work Permit
Once an immigrant has an Employment Authorization Document approved, it allows that immigrant to legally work in the United States while his or her application for legal status is pending.
You are eligible for a work permit if you are one of the following applicants (this list is non-exhaustive):
– Pending adjustment of status;
– Changing status from a nonimmigrant classification to one that allows for employment authorization;
– Temporary Protected Status (TPS);
– Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals;
– Asylees; or
– F-1 students who are seeking optional practice training.
There are also ways for foreign nationals to be authorized for employment in the United States after an employer applies for them to enter as a permanent worker or a temporary nonimmigrant worker. There are numerous additional categories that may allow for a work permit. Those options are outside the scope of this particular article.
It is important to note that there is no category of work authorization for undocumented immigrants or tourists (those who enter on a B-1 or B-2 visa). These two categories of people cannot apply for a work permit.
The Work Permit Application Process
Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, is the relevant form to apply for a work permit. As of this writing, the fee is currently $410 but may be waived in certain categories or by filing simultaneously with particular applications. Filing Form I-765 with an I-485 Adjustment of Status application would be one example where the filing fee would be waived.
You must determine the category under which you are applying to completely fill out this form. Again, this is a reference to the category you are filing under (i.e fiancée, DACA, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), or Asylee).
As part of the work permit application, you should plan on including all required supporting documentation upon filing. Since the work permit application is commonly submitted with an accompanying application, evidence showing that the other pending application is relevant.
After receipt of your application, fees and supporting documentation, you will receive a receipt notice from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Soon after, you will receive a biometrics appointment scheduling you to be fingerprinted. This is required in order to do background and security checks on your behalf. It is possible that you will be asked to appear for an interview, but not likely.
Finally, the work permit will arrive by mail at the address you indicated on Form I-765. It will have your photograph and biographic information. Please check it for accuracy in a timely manner. If there are errors that are not your fault, the work permit must be promptly returned and the errors explained. You will not be required to pay a new fee if the error is the fault of USCIS. A corrected Employment Authorization Document, or work permit, will arrive by mail.
Although Form I-765 is a relatively simple form, the determination as to eligibility is complicated. As indicated, you cannot work in the United States without legal status or if you are in an immigration category that requires you to request employment authorization before commencing employment. It is important to note that not all categories allow for work authorization in the United States. For example, a tourist is not authorized to work here and cannot request a work permit.
This complex analysis is best assessed by an experienced immigration attorney. We would be happy to assist in this regard.
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