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United States – Work Permits and Working Legally

Working Legally in the United States

For expats considering employment in the United States, understanding the requirements for obtaining a work permit is crucial. Working legally in a foreign country not only ensures compliance with local laws but also provides security and stability during your stay. In this article, we will delve into the necessity of obtaining a work permit in the United States, who is responsible for the application process, potential exemptions, the various types of work permits available, eligibility criteria, the application procedure, required documents, associated costs, and sources of reliable information for expats.

Necessity of a Work Permit in The United States

Expats are generally required to obtain a work permit, also known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), to work legally in the United States. The U.S. government has specific immigration rules and regulations that govern the employment of foreign nationals. In most cases, holding a valid work permit or EAD is a legal requirement for foreign workers in the United States.

Working without the appropriate work authorization in the United States is illegal and can lead to serious consequences, including deportation, fines, and restrictions on future entry into the country. Therefore, it is crucial for expats to ensure they have the necessary work authorization before engaging in any form of employment in the United States.

Who Applys for a Work Permit in The United States

The responsibility for applying for a work permit in the United States typically falls on the expat, also known as the “alien worker.” Here are the key details of who must make the application:

  • Individual Application: In most cases, expats must submit an individual application for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) directly to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This application is typically made by the expat seeking employment in the U.S.
  • Employer-Sponsored EAD: In some situations, employers may apply for an EAD on behalf of their foreign national employees, typically as part of an immigration process such as the H-1B visa program. However, the expat is often involved in the application process and may need to provide necessary documentation.

The specific application process can vary depending on the expat’s immigration status, employment category, and eligibility for an EAD. It is crucial to consult with the USCIS or an immigration attorney to determine the correct application process for your situation.

Exemptions from Work Permit Requirements

While work permits or EADs are generally required for foreign nationals working in the United States, there are some exemptions and specific categories of individuals who may not require an EAD. Some common exemptions include:


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  • H-1B Visa Holders: H-1B visa holders are typically sponsored by U.S. employers and are granted work authorization as part of their visa status. They do not need a separate EAD.
  • L-1 Visa Holders: L-1 visa holders, particularly L-1A intracompany transferees, are allowed to work in the U.S. without an EAD, as they are transferred by their employers within the same multinational company.
  • O-1 Visa Holders: Individuals with O-1 visas for extraordinary ability or achievement do not require an EAD to work in their respective fields.

Exemptions may change over time, and eligibility criteria can vary by visa category. It is advisable to consult with the USCIS or immigration authorities for the most up-to-date information on exemptions.

Types of Work Permits for Expats in The United States

The United States offers several types of work permits and EADs to cater to the diverse needs of expats. The specific type of EAD required will depend on factors such as the individual’s immigration status, employment category, and eligibility. Some common types of work permits and EADs include:

Each type of work permit or EAD has its own eligibility criteria and requirements. expats should carefully assess their situation and consult with the USCIS or an immigration attorney to determine the most suitable option.

Eligibility for Work Permits in The United States

The eligibility criteria for obtaining a work permit or EAD in the United States can vary depending on the type of permit applied for and the individual’s immigration status. However, some common requirements and conditions include:

  • Having a valid and qualifying immigration status in the United States.
  • Having a specific job offer from a U.S. employer that aligns with the individual’s immigration status.
  • Submitting the required application form (typically Form I-765) and supporting documentation.
  • Payment of the appropriate application fee.
  • Meeting any additional eligibility criteria specified for the particular EAD category.

The specific eligibility criteria may change over time, so expats should check with the USCIS or immigration authorities for the most current information relevant to their situation.

Procedure to Apply for a Work Permit in The United States

The process of applying for a work permit or EAD in the United States typically involves several steps, and it is essential to follow the correct procedure. Here is an overview of the general application process:

  1. Determine Eligibility: Ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for the specific EAD category you intend to apply for.
  2. Complete Form I-765: Prepare and submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, along with the required supporting documentation and fees.
  3. Submit Application: Mail your completed Form I-765 and supporting documents to the USCIS lockbox facility specified in the instructions.
  4. Biometrics Appointment: Attend a biometrics appointment at a USCIS Application Support Center (ASC) if required.
  5. Wait for Processing: USCIS will process your application and, if approved, issue the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

The processing time for EAD applications can vary based on the workload of USCIS and the type of EAD category. It is advisable to apply well in advance of your intended employment start date to allow for processing and potential delays.

Documents Required for a Work Permit in The United States

When applying for a work permit or EAD in the United States, expats must provide a set of essential documents to support their application. While the specific documents may vary depending on the EAD category, here are some common documents typically required:

  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
  • Photocopies of supporting immigration documents, such as a visa approval notice or an I-94 arrival/departure record.
  • Passport-sized photographs.
  • Payment of the required application fee.
  • Any additional documents specified in the EAD application instructions.

It is essential to check the specific document requirements for your chosen EAD category and ensure that all documents are prepared correctly and submitted as part of your application.

Costs Involved in Applying for a Work Permit in The United States

Obtaining a work permit or EAD in the United States involves certain costs that applicants need to consider. These costs may include:

  • Application fees, which can vary depending on the EAD category and whether it includes biometric services.
  • Costs associated with obtaining supporting documents, such as passport-sized photographs and photocopies of immigration documents.

The specific costs can change over time, so it is advisable to check with the USCIS or relevant authorities for the most up-to-date fee information. Applicants should budget for these expenses when planning to apply for a work permit or EAD.

Finding Reliable Information on Working Legally in The United States

Expats seeking reliable information on working legally in the United States can access valuable resources and guidance from various official sources. Here are some recommended sources for reliable information:

  1. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): The official website of USCIS provides comprehensive information on immigration policies, application procedures, and requirements, including work permits (EADs).
  2. U.S. Department of State – Employment-Based Visas: The U.S. Department of State offers insights into employment-based visa categories and the associated EAD requirements.
  3. USA.gov: The U.S. government’s official website offers a wealth of information on various aspects of living and working in the United States, including immigration and employment.
  4. Immigration attorneys and legal experts: Consulting with experienced immigration professionals can provide personalized guidance and assistance throughout the work permit application process.

It is crucial for expats to rely on reputable and official sources of information when navigating the complexities of working legally in the United States. Staying informed and following the correct procedures is essential for a successful and legally compliant work experience in the country.


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