A Comprehensive Guide to Work Permit Immigration
Unlock global opportunities with our comprehensive guide to work permit immigration. Navigate the process and secure your international career growth.
What Is a Work Permit?
Work permits, sometimes called Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), play a crucial role in the United States immigration system. These documents provide explicit permission for foreign nationals and immigrants residing in the U.S. to engage in employment.
Administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an Employment Authorization Document should not be mistaken for a green card. Unlike green card holders with permanent residency status, individuals with an EAD have temporary authorization to work. However, EADs and green cards prove one’s eligibility to work in the U.S.
An EAD resembles a driver’s license in appearance and contains critical information about the cardholder. This includes the holder’s Alien number and fingerprint, thereby making each card unique to the individual.
Foreign nationals typically acquire an EAD in the U.S. under certain nonimmigrant visas, allowing them to take up employment during their stay. However, not all nonimmigrant statuses require an EAD for employment. Some nonimmigrant visa categories come with work authorization as part of the visa conditions, and holders of these visas do not need a separate EAD.
For those who do require an EAD, once granted, they can freely accept employment from U.S. employers without facing any imposed restrictions, thus offering greater flexibility during their time in the country.
Who Is Eligible to Apply For a Work Permit?
Most individuals who fall within the following eligible categories can apply for a work permit with the USCIS:
- Certain exchange visitors
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients
- F-1 students in search of Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- Immigrants with pending green card applications
- Individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
- Individuals covered by Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)
- K-1 Fiance visa holders
- NACARA relief applicants
- Nonimmigrant domestic servants
- Nonimmigrants employed by a foreign airline
Work Permit Application Process
You can apply for a work permit by following these steps:
- Complete Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization)
- Prepare all supporting documentation
- Pay the filing fee
- Submit the work permit application form
Eligible foreign nationals must be present in the U.S. when filing Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization). Most applicants need to submit their EAD application by mail. If you send your form by mail, you should ensure it is complete, and all the supporting documents are attached.
You should also carefully read the instructions on the form when sending your application because the address will vary depending on your location and eligibility category.
Once the USCIS has reviewed your application, it can approve or deny your work permit. If approved, you will be issued an Employment Authorization Document valid for a specified period, usually one year. The USCIS can also ask you to submit additional information or documents before deciding.
List of Required Documentation for Filing Form I-765
Individuals need to submit the following documents with Form I-765:
- A copy of their passport photo page
- A copy of their current U.S visa
- A copy of their original Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record)
- Copies of previous work permits (if any)
- Two passport photographs (according to USCIS requirements)
- A copy of their Receipt Notice (if necessary)
- A copy of their birth certificate from their home country (if applicable)
- A copy of their photo Identification
- A copy of a visa from an embassy or consulate of another country (if necessary)
- A copy of a government-issued ID with your photo or fingerprint (if required)
What Is the Cost of Filing Form I-765?
The fee for processing most I-765 forms is $410; some applicants may be required to pay an additional biometric service fee of $85.
Refugees, asylees, victims of severe trafficking, and certain green card applicants (who filed Form I-485 after July 30, 2007) may be eligible for a fee exemption. There are no fee waivers for DACA recipients.
Payments for Form I-765 can be made through the following means:
- Money order
- Personal check
- Cashier’s check
- Credit card (using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions)
All payments made by check should be payable to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Biometric and filing fees are non-refundable, regardless of the USCIS’s decision on the application. Therefore, you should consider consulting an immigration lawyer in Los Angeles to assist you with the application process.
Is a Work Visa Different From a Work Permit?
Employers apply for work visas for the foreign applicant they have hired. The individual can live and work in the U.S. under this visa but may only work for the employer who applied.
Work visas are only valid for the duration of the employment. Individuals who leave their employment are not authorized to work for any other employer unless they change their immigration status.
In contrast, individuals with valid work permits are not tied to a single employer. They can work anywhere in the U.S. and do not need to apply for a work visa because their work permit already authorizes them to work for any employer. This rule also applies to individuals who filed a green card application together with a work permit.
How Long Is a Work Permit Valid?
The validity of a work permit usually depends on the individual’s immigration status. For instance, individuals with a K-1 fiance visa will receive a work permit that lasts ninety days.
The expiration date of a work permit is printed on the front of the work authorization card. Individuals should plan for renewal before their work permit expires to avoid losing their job.
EAD Processing Times
Generally, EADs are processed between 7 to 15 months. However, processing times depend on the applicant’s eligibility and the processing center that receives the application.
Once the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives your Form I-765 application, they will issue you a receipt notice with a receipt number confirming that they have received your application.
The receipt notice is sent to you two to three weeks after you make the application, and the receipt number can be used to track your application status on the USCIS website.
After you receive your EAD, you can begin employment. Note working with a work permit requires paying payroll and income taxes like other U.S. citizens.
What Happens If You Work Without a Work Permit?
You should not engage in paid work without government authorization unless you have another immigration status that allows you to work (e.g., an E -1 treaty trader or E-2 treaty investor visa).
Illegal employment can have severe consequences for foreign nationals, including the USCIS denying their green card application, issuing a Notice to Appear before an immigration judge, and deportation proceedings.
Foreign nationals engaged in unauthorized employment may be deported and become inadmissible for future entry into the U.S.
Getting Immigration Services From an Immigration Attorney
Applying for a work permit or renewing your current work permit can be complicated. Further, failing to obtain government authorization before working can have severe and long-lasting consequences.
Attorneys from the Law Offices of Christopher Chaney can walk you through the work permit immigration process and help you file your application with the USCIS.
If the USCIS denies your application, we can help you open a motion with USCIS to reconsider the denial. In addition, an experienced immigration attorney can help improve your chances of obtaining your work permit without delay.