Jobs without work permit in USA


To be able to work in the United States, citizens of the United States and permanent residents do not require an Employment Authorization Document or another form of work permit, except their Green Card in the case of permanent residents.

However, under federal law, a minor is not required to have a work permit to have a job; however, this is not the case in several states. Some states do need children to have a work permit.

This indicates that whether you are a minor searching for a job or a company trying to hire one, you need to verify the laws of your state to ensure that you are complying with the law and that you are not breaking any laws in the process.

What Is the Difference Between a Work Permit and a Work Visa?

Many people confuse work permits and work visas, so if you’re not sure of the difference, you’re not alone.

  • A work visa allows you to live in the U.S. and work for a specific employer. That employer applies for the visa for you, and the visa remains valid for as long as you continue working for that employer. But you may only work for that employer while in the U.S. If you leave that employer, you will not be able to work for anyone else until you get another immigration status.
  • Work permits or employment authorization cards are not tied to a specific employer. Once you have a work permit, you can work for any employer in the U.S. So long as you have an immigration status that allows you to keep working, you can also renew your permit.

What Happens if I Work Without a Work Permit?

Working in the United States without a work permit/employment authorization card is very dangerous. If you work without authorization, the government may deport you. They may also bar you from entering the U.S. for 3–10 years, and you may have a much harder time trying to get temporary or permanent status in the future.  For example, if you don’t have a work permit and work while in the U.S. on a visitor visa and later apply for a student visa, the State Department will almost certainly reject your student visa application.

You also need a work permit for short-term or “under-the-table” employment. Even if you only get paid for working a few hours, working without authorization can cause serious immigration problems for you down the road.

The bottom line? Do not work in the United States without a work permit.

The good news is that applying for a work permit is easy. If you submit an application for a green card at the same time, it’s also free!

Who Is Eligible for a Work Permit?

Many immigrants can apply for a work permit from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS provides detailed information about who is eligible to work in the U.S.

Eligible immigrants include:

  • DACA recipients
  • K-1 Fiance Visa holders
  • Asylees
  • Immigrants with pending adjustment of status (green card) applications
  • Immigrants with extraordinary abilities
  • Spouses of some visa holders
  • Immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)
  • Certain exchange visitors
  • Approved temporary workers
  • F-1 students who are experiencing financial hardship who want to apply for optional practical training (OPT)

You can find a complete list of immigration statuses that allow you to work with an employment authorization card in the U.S. on the Form I-765 instructions from

Who Isn’t Eligible for a Work Permit?

Work permit eligibility is straightforward. If you are eligible for an immigration status that will allow you to work or have that status already, you can get a work permit.

If you aren’t eligible for this type of immigration status, then you can’t get a work permit.

Tourists (B-1 visa holders) and undocumented immigrants are not eligible for work permits unless they become eligible for a humanitarian status like asylum while they are in the U.S. USCIS will not issue work permits to these immigrants. Under federal law, it is illegal for U.S. employers to hire them.

‍If you are a B-1 Visa Holder or undocumented immigrant and need to work in the U.S., you should speak to a lawyer before you do any work. You may be eligible for a status that would allow you to get a work permit, and working without a permit can make it impossible for you to get that status.

Who Can Work Without Applying for a Work Permit?

Green card holders (lawful permanent residents) do not need to apply for a work permit. Your green card authorizes you to work in the U.S. for as long as it is valid! If your employer asks for proof that you can work in the U.S., you can show them your green card.

You also don’t need to apply for a work permit once you become a U.S. citizen. If your employer asks for proof that you can work in the U.S., show them your U.S. passport or naturalization certificate.

If you have an employment visa, you don’t need to apply for a separate work permit. This rule applies to immigrants with visas like the H-1B Visa,  L-1 Visa, E-3 Visa, and E Treaty Trader or Treaty Investor visa.

How to Apply for a Work Permit in 5 Easy Steps

Now that you understand what work permits are and who can get them let’s talk about the application process. There are five easy steps that everyone who applies for a work permit must follow.

Step 1: Apply for an Immigration Status That Allows You To Work

To get a work permit, you need to have an immigration status that allows you to work in the U.S. If you already have this type of status, or if you are in the process of applying for it, you can move on to Step 2. People with several different types of immigration statuses can apply for a work permit, from refugees and asylum seekers to students and K-1 fiancé(e) visa holders.

Step 2: Prepare Form I-765

You will use USCIS Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization, to apply for a work permit. Form I-765 is pretty simple. You fill in your name, contact information, and information about your eligibility.

There are only a few tricky questions:

Question 22: You need to list your most recent entry into the U.S., even if you have been living here for years and only left for a short trip. “Manner of entry” refers to the visa you used to enter the U.S. after your most recent trip abroad.

Question 27: You need to choose the correct code for the reason you are eligible to work in the U.S. You can find these codes in the Form I-765 instructions. Some of the most common categories are

  • (c)(9) for immigrants who have applied (or are currently applying) for a green card
  • (c)(3)(C) for students doing OPT
  • (a)(5) for asylees
  • (a)(12) for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients
  • (c)(5) for spouses of J-1 visa holders.

Step 3: Prepare Your Supporting Documents

You will need to submit six supporting documents with your Form I-765 to get a work permit:

  1. A copy of your passport photo page.
  2. A copy of your current U.S. visa (if you are in the United States already). This visa will almost always be in your passport.
  3. A copy of your original Form I-94 travel record (front and back), or a printout of your electronic I-94 from your most recent entry into the U.S. You can get your electronic I-94 online.
  4. Copies of any of your previous work permits (front and back).
  5. Two 2-inch-by-2-inch passport-style photos of yourself taken recently (print your full name and Alien Registration Number on the back of each with a pencil or felt-tip pen).
  6. A copy of the receipt notice you received from the U.S. government when you submitted your immigrant visa application. You only need to provide this if you are applying for a work permit after you submit your immigrant visa application. For example, 150 days after USCIS confirms that they have received your asylum application. If you apply for permanent residence at the same time as your work permit, you do not need to send in a receipt notice.

If you have never had a work permit before, you will also need to send one of the following forms of identification documents with your Form I-765:

  • A copy of your birth certificate from your home country and a copy of your photo ID.
  • A copy of a visa you received from a consulate of a country other than the United States.
  • A copy of some other national identity document that has your photo or fingerprint on it.

Step 4: Pay the Filing Fee

USCIS charges a $410 fee to process most I-765 forms. If you are applying for “Deferred Action” (for example, if you are a DACA recipient), you must also pay an $85 biometrics fee. These fees change regularly, so be sure to double-check USCIS’s fee schedule for the most up-to-date amount before you file.

Some immigrants do not need to pay the fee when they file Form I-765. For example, immigrants applying to adjust status to a green card do not have to pay the I-765 filing fee. If you’re filing an initial asylum work permit application, you also do not have to pay the filing fee or the biometrics fee. However, if you are renewing with Form I-765, you do need to pay the filing fee or apply for a fee waiver. Check the instructions for Form I-765 for a full list of immigrants who do not need to pay the fee.

You can pay the work permit filing fee by money order, personal check, or cashier’s check made out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. If you are filing at a USCIS Lockbox facility, you can pay with a credit card or debit card by submitting Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions with your Form I-765. Service centers can’t process credit card payments.

Step 5: Submit Your Work Permit Application

Once you have completed your Form I-765, assembled your supporting documents, and paid the filing fee, it’s time to submit your application for a work permit to USCIS. It is a good idea to include a cover letter with your paperwork so that the government knows precisely what they are receiving from you. There are no specific requirements for cover letters, but you can use this cover letter template as a guide.

Though there are limited exceptions, immigrants in most categories cannot file Form I-765 online. That means that if you submit it with an application for immigration status (like a green card), you should probably file your entire application by mail. The address where you will send your application depends on where you live, where you want to have any necessary visa interview, your reason for filing Form I-765, and even which mail carrier you use to submit your application. Make sure that you carefully review the USCIS website’s addresses so that you get your application to the correct location.

Make a complete copy of everything in your packet, including the checks, before sending it to USCIS.

In a Nutshell

A work permit is an official document from the U.S. government that allows immigrants to work in the United States. It’s also known as an Employment Authorization Document or EAD. You do not need to be a permanent resident to get a work permit, but you need to have an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa that allows you to live and work in the United States. DACA recipients can also get work permits. It costs $410 –$495 to apply for a work permit and takes 2-7 months to get one. The cost and timing vary based on your reason for applying as well as where you live.Some applicants don’t have to pay the application fee. This article explains everything you need to know about U.S. work permits.


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