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Work Permit in USA: How to Apply and Qualify For Work Permit in USA


A citizen of a foreign country who wants to come to the United States of America must primarily, first obtain a visa. There are nonimmigrant visas for temporary stay or immigrant visas for permanent residence.

Work Permit in USA

However, there are other classifications and categories of visas a foreigner can choose from which may offer employment authorization. But immigrants living in the United States and foreigners who want to come to the US cannot work unless they have a work permit in the USA.

Therefore, these immigrants and citizens of a foreign nation will not be able to work unless they receive authorization or meet the requirements of their visa or another required status. Also, or must have separately met the qualification criteria for, applied for, and received a work permit in the USA. Moreover, there are specific visa classifications that allow a foreigner to work in the United States. Also, green card holders who are lawful permanent or conditional residents in the USA are authorized to work in the country.

However, most people confuse work permits and work or employment-based visas, but they have a difference. Therefore, in this article, we provide information in detail on work permits in the USA, those who need it to work in the US, how to qualify and apply for a work permit in the USA, and other information in regards to working in the USA, including visa classifications that allow you to work in the United States and information on their requirements.

Understanding Work Permit in the USA

A work permit, or an Employment Authorization Document shortened as EAD, is a photo identity card issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is an official document that authorizes immigrants and citizens from foreign countries to work in the United States.

The Employment Authorization Document is in the form of a driver’s license. You do not need to be a permanent resident of the United States to get a work permit. But you will need an employment-based immigrant or non-immigrant visa, which allows you to live and work in the country.

However, all employers in the United States must request proof of immigration status or authorization to work when hiring a new employee. Employers who act against or violate this rule may face sanctions. Moreover, working in the US without a work permit can be risky for an immigrant. The government may deport you if you work in the country without authorization.

Work Permit in Canada: Types of Work Permits in Canada

Difference Between a Work Visa and a Work Permit in the USA

However, a work visa gives a citizen of a foreign nation permission to live and work for a specific employer in the United States. The employer will be the one to apply for the visa for the foreigner. Moreover, the immigrant may only work for that employer in the United States, as the visa will only be valid if you work for that specific employer.

While on the other hand, you do not need to work for a specific employer with a work permit in the USA. However, once you have been issued your work permit, you can work for any employer in the United States. You will only need to renew the work permit every year, which you can only do if you have an immigration status that authorizes you to work in the United States.

Therefore, you will need a work or employment visa, whether a professional in a specialized field or a skilled worker. An additional work permit usually authorizes you to pursue a career in the country.

US Work Visa Classifications

However, below are the visa classifications that give you the authorization to work in the United States

Visa Classification Definition
E1, E2 Treaty trader or treaty investor
F-1 Foreign academic students, when certain conditions are met
H-1B, H-1C,
H-2A, H-2B, H-3
Temporary worker
I Foreign information media representative
J-1 Exchange visitor, when certain conditions are met
K-1 Fiancé of a U.S. citizen
L-1 Intra-company transferee
M-1 Foreign vocational student
O-1, O-2 Temporary worker in the sciences
P-1, P-2, P-3 Temporary worker in the arts, athletics in an exchange or cultural program
Q-1, Q-2 Cultural exchange visitor
R-1 Temporary religious worker with a nonprofit organization
TC The professional business worker admitted under U.S. Canada Free Trade Act (NAFTA)
TN The professional business worker admitted under NAFTA

Eligibility Requirements for Work Permits in the USA

However, to be considered eligible to apply for a work permit in the USA, you must meet either of the following immigration statutes. They include:

  • You must be a DACA recipient
  • Be a K-1 (fiancé of a US citizen) holder
  • Immigrant with pending adjustment of status (green card) applications
  • Approved temporary workers
  • Certain exchange visitors
  • Spouse or family member of a visa holder
  • F-1 students who wish to apply for optional practical training due to financial difficulties
  • Immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)
  • Other requirements are your supporting documents for the application process, which we will outline in the next heading.

These requirements are the criteria for qualifying for a work permit in the USA. Click here for further details on the eligibility requirements for a work permit in the United States.

How to Apply for a Work Permit in the USA

However, obtaining a work permit in the United States is relatively straightforward. The steps outlined below will guide you in applying for a work permit to work legally in the United States. These guidelines are as follows:

First step

You must ensure that you are in the category of people allowed to apply for a work permit. Therefore, you must apply for an immigration status that will authorize you to work in the United States. However, if you already have this status, you can skip it and move on to the next step.

Second step

You will have to prepare form I-765, which you will use to apply for a work permit. You will have to fill out the USCIS Form I-765. The form is quite simple. Most of it is self-explanatory. You must fill in your name, contact information, and other required information to prove your eligibility. Also, there are questions you will need to provide answers for in the form:

  • Question 22: They need you to mention your most recent entry into the United States, even if you have been staying country for years and just left for a short trip. Manner of entry refers to the category of visa you used to enter the country.
  • Question 27: You will need to determine the eligible category you are in. There are codes, and you can find them in the Form I-765 instructions on the USCIS website. For instance, some of the common categories are as follows: (C)(9) for immigrants with pending adjustment of status (green card) application, (c)(5) for spouses of J-1 visa (exchange visitor) holders, (a)(5) for asylees, (A)(12) for Immigrant with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), (c)(3)(c) for students wishing to apply for OPT.

Third step

To prove your eligibility, you must submit certain supporting documents with your Form I-765 when applying for the work permit. They are as follows:

    • You will have to submit a copy of the documents that shows the immigration status that you described in Question 29 0f Form I-765
    • A copy of your passport
    • A copy of your birth certificate from your home country, including a copy of a photo ID and any other national identity document you have
    • However, you will find more detailed information regarding documents you must submit on the Form I-765 instructions.

More You Need Know

Moreover, you will also need to pay a fee for the Employment Authorization Document or work permit. The USCIS charges $410 for the EAD; ensure to visit the website for confirmation because the fee amount frequently goes up. Furthermore, note that some immigrants do not need to pay the fee filing for Form I-765. For instance, applicants filing to adjust their status to get a green card do not need to pay the fee. Therefore, check the instructions to see if you are among the category that does not need to pay. You will pay by either money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or credit card, using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.

Finally, you submit your work permit application to USCIS. Most applicants submit their applications by mail, but it depends on your eligibility category or immigration status. A few categories submit their application online by creating an account with USCIS. 

Additional Notes

However, the processing time for the work permit is usually within 5-7 months. You will receive a receipt notice from the USCIS when they receive your application. This notice usually comes within 2-3 weeks after submitting your application. You will use the receipt number provided by the notice to check your application status on USCIS s official website.

Moreover, after you must have obtained your work permit, you will need to get a Social Security Number (SSN). However, your Form I-765 allows you to apply for the SSN simultaneously with your work permit by providing the option on the form. In conclusion, your work permit and Social Security Number are the evidence you need to prove your authorization to work legally in the USA.

Official Website

However, for more information on work permits in the USA, Canada, Australia, the UK, and Other Developed countries, please refer to the body’s official website in charge of immigration and related affairs. Review the instructions before applying for a work permit, as information may change at any moment without notice.

Official Website



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