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Work Permit USA FAQs

Work Permit USA FAQs

We answer some frequently asked questions about the US work permit, including who needs to have an EAD and how to apply.


What is a work permit USA?

A work permit for the USA is officially known as an Employment Authorization Document.

The EAD is a photo card issued by USCIS needed to prove a non-US national has valid permission to work in the US.

Employees are required to prove that they are authorized to work in the U.S., and employers are required to verify the identity and eligibility of all new employees. The work permit, or EAD, acts as evidence of this permission to work.


Can I work in the US?

You can only work in the US if you are authorized. You may only be authorized to work in the USA if you:

  • Are a green card holder
  • Are a US citizen or non-citizen national of the United States
  • Are a non-citizen, non-resident with express authorization under the terms a visa
  • Have applied for and been granted an EAD

There are several categories of foreign nationals permitted to work in the United States:

Temporary (non-immigrant) Workers: A temporary worker is an individual seeking to enter the United States temporarily for a specific purpose. Non-immigrants enter the United States for a temporary period of time, and once in the United States, are restricted to the activity or reason for which their non-immigrant visa was issued.

Permanent (Immigrant) Workers: A permanent worker is an individual who is authorized to live and work permanently in the United States.

Students and Exchange Visitors: Students may, under certain circumstances, be allowed to work in the United States. However, they must obtain permission from an authorized official at their school. The authorized official is known as a Designed School Official (DSO) for students and the Responsible Officer (RO) for exchange visitors. Exchange visitors may be eligible to work temporarily in the U.S. via the exchange visitor visa program.


Do I need a US work visa or permit?

A work permit is not the same as a work visa.

They are different permissions, serving different purpose with different application processes and eligibility requirements.

A work permit relates specifically to authorization to work while in the US. Not all foreign nationals will need an EAD, for example if their immigraiton stats allows employment while lawfully in the US.

A work visa enables a non-US national to travel to the US for specific purpose and period of time. The process is considerably more complex than that of the EAD.


Am I Eligible to Apply for a Work Permit?

A US work permit is available only where certain eligibility criteria are met. The full list of categories is available under the I-765 form instructions, which include:

  • K-1 fiance visa holders
  • Foreign students, eg F-1 students experiencing economic hardship or seeking optional practical training (OPT)
  • Asylees, their spouses and children
  • People with a pending application for adjustment of status (a green card)
  • People with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)

B-1 visa holders and undocumented immigrants are not allowed to apply for a work permit. Working in the US while on a B-1 visa or with unlawful immigration status is an offense.


How to Apply to USCIS for a Work Permit

You have to file your application before starting employment.

In order to apply for an EAD, you’ll need to fill out USCIS Form I-765, attach documentation showing that you’re in a category of people allowed to apply for work permits, and attach photos and the appropriate fee, where applicable.

You’ll need to submit the application to USCIS by mail. Expect to wait several weeks for a reply.


I have a work based visa, do I need work permit?

Foreign nationals who have obtained work-based visas that have been sponsored by U.S. employers are also eligible to work in the United States. For example, such visas include an H-1B (for specialty workers), an L-1 visa (for intracompany transferees), an E-3 visa (only for Australians), and an E treaty trader or treaty investor visa (for employees of companies registered as treaty traders or treaty investors in the United States).


Do green card holders need a work permit?

Green card holders automatically have permission to work in the United States. The green card should be presented to a US employer to act as proof of authorization to work.


Do employers have to check work permits?

It is the responsibility of both employers and employees to confirm

All United States employers are required to confirm that employees are legally able to work in the U.S by requesting proof of legal employment status.

Employers who violate this rule can face serious sanctions.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.


Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law (AILA) and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with both US and UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

Nita successfully acts for corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, and athletes from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications, and talent mobility to the USA.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

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Need legal advice?

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