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Applying for a U.S. Work Permit

July 20, 2018 – David Hahn

Are you a foreign national who has been residing in the United States? If so, maybe you are thinking about starting a career in the U.S. But, before you start looking for a job, you must make sure you can do so legally. Not everyone living in the U.S. can legally work in the U.S.

One document that will enable you to legally work in the United States is a work permit. Let’s take a look at what a work permit is and how you can apply for one.

What is a work permit?

A work permit, also called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), is a document issued to foreign nationals so that they can legally work in the United States. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for issuing work permits. USCIS will issue them only to a limited group of qualifying immigrants. Most of these work permits are valid for 1 to 2 years. It’s important to note that a work permit is not the same as a work visa.

Do you really need a work permit to have a job in the U.S.?

Yes, you do! If a company hires you and you do not have the legal right to work in the U.S., that employer could get fined or imprisoned. And, if you are working in the U.S. without proper documentation, you can also be fined or imprisoned. In addition to that, if you work in the U.S. illegally, it can disqualify you from getting a visa or from entering the United States in the future.  In fact, getting paid for working just a couple of hours can cause serious immigration issues.

Who needs to apply for a work permit?

Certain immigrant statuses, such as asylee and refugee, authorize the individual to work in the United States. However, they will still need a work permit to serve as evidence of their authorization to employers. Therefore, if you fall into this category, you will need to apply for a work permit.

You also may need to apply for an EAD even if you’re allowed to be in the United States. Residing in the U.S. does not always mean you have the authorization to work in the U.S. It’s important to see if the provision that’s permitting you to live in the United States also grants you authorization to work. If not, you can get work authorization by applying for a work permit.

You’re not required to apply for a work permit if you are a lawful U.S. citizen, if you have a green card, or if you have a work-based visa. Keep in mind that tourists visiting the United States and undocumented immigrants are not eligible for a work permit.

You can find a complete list of those who need to apply for a work permit on the Instruction Sheet for Form I-765.

How can I apply for a work permit?

Once you’ve determined that you need to apply for a permit, fill out the Form I-765. You will also need to attach the following with your application:

  • Documents proving you are eligible for a work permit
  • Two color photos of yourself (passport style)
  • A copy of Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
  • Payment for the filing fee

You can file your application online or by mail. The mailing address for your application can be found on the USCIS website. Don’t forget to make copies of all the documents you are sending by mail.

As of 2017, the filing fee for a work permit is $410. If you’re paying online, you can pay with a credit card, debit card or electronic transfer of funds from your checkings or savings account. If you’re attaching your filing fee to your application and mailing it, you can pay by check or money order.

After you’ve sent your application and all other required documents, it may take 4.5 to 7 months before you hear back about your work permit.

Don’t go it alone!

Are you still unsure if you should apply for a work permit? Do you have questions about how to fill out the Form I-765? Don’t worry! Immigration documents can be very complex. Thankfully, our attorneys at Robichaud, Schroepfer & Correia, P.A. are experts when it comes to Immigration Law. Let us help you with your work permit questions so you can start working as soon as possible. Contact us today by giving us a call or filling out the form below.

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