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How Does A Non U.S. Citizen Get A Work Permit?

Getting a work permit as a non-U.S. citizen can be confusing, but it’s important to know that you’re not alone. We’ve created this guide to help you navigate the process and get your permit as quickly and efficiently as possible.

You can call us on 0330 311 6351 and we will provide you with immediate assistance with your situation. We’re here to help you in person, via the phone, or online.

What is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)?

A Work Permit or an Employment Authorization Document (EAD/Form I-765) is a document that allows non-U.S. citizens to work in the United States. The EAD is issued by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). It allows non-US citizens to legally work in the United States based on their visa status.

The document contains biographical information about the applicant, including their name and address. It also contains a unique identification number that can be used by employers to verify whether or not someone has permission to work in the country.

Non-citizens who are currently residing in the country must apply for an EAD if they want to work but are not on a visa that allows them to do so, need proof of their employment authorization, or are waiting for their permanent residence or asylum application process to be approved or denied by USCIS.

The EAD is issued in the form of a laminated plastic card that is valid for one or two years, after which it must be renewed.

Difference Between a Work Permit and a Work Visa

When you obtain a work visa (from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate), you can live in the U.S. and work for a specific employer. Your employer applies for the visa for you, and the visa will be valid as long as you continue working for that employer. However, if you stop working for that company, you will not be able to work for anyone else until you get another immigration status.

On the other hand, a Work Permit is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once you have a Work Permit, you can work for any employer in the U.S. You will need to renew your Work Permit every year, though, and you will only be able to renew if your immigration status allows you to keep working.

Work Permit Eligibility for Visa Holders

The Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) work permit is issued to certain categories of nonimmigrant visa holders, including visitors on nonimmigrant visas such as B1/B2 visas or J1 exchange visitor visas.

In some cases, however, nonimmigrants who do not fall within these categories may also be eligible for other types of employment authorization documents through different programs administered by USCIS.

Applicants must also have all required travel documents, such as a valid passport and visa. If an applicant is outside the United States, they must be able to provide evidence that they are eligible to receive an immigrant visa or permanent residence through a family member or employer (for example, if they have applied for an I-130 petition).

Who isn’t eligible for a Work Permit?

If you are on a visa that doesn’t allow you to work then you cannot get a Work Permit.

For example, you are ineligible for a work permit in the U.S. if you are on an F-1 student visa or B-2 visitor visa.

Who can work without applying for a Work Permit?

If you have a valid visa or green card, then you do not need to apply for any other type of visa or permit to work in the United States.

Once you become a U.S. citizen, you also no longer need to apply for a Work Permit. Show your employer your U.S. passport or naturalization certificate if they ask you for proof that you can work in the U.S.

We can assist you if you need help with your work permit

The Process to Get the Work Permit

To obtain a work permit, non-U.S. citizens must first have a valid visa. This is the only way to legally work in the United States.

Once you have your visa, you can apply for your work permit. You will need to fill out an application and attach various documents such as proof of citizenship, proof of identity, and an employment offer letter from your employer.

After you turn in your application, it will be reviewed by the USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) which will issue you a receipt notice that states when they will make their final decision on whether or not to give you a work permit.

Work Permit Application Cost

The filing fee for a work permit application is $410. The USCIS may adjust this fee, so use their Fee Calculator to confirm the exact amount. The filing and biometric service fees are non-refundable regardless of the action taken by the USCIS.

For those who cannot afford to pay the filing fee, there is a process for requesting a fee waiver. You will need to provide documentation showing that your household income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or if you are experiencing financial hardship that prevents you from paying the filing fee.

How to Apply for a Work Permit?

Now that you have learned about the Work Permit application process, let’s see how to apply.

There are five easy steps that all applicants must follow when applying for a Work Permit.

1. Apply for Immigration Status

To apply for a work permit, you need to first apply for immigration status.

If you are in the United States without permission from the government (for example, as an undocumented immigrant), then you must first obtain legal residence status before applying for a work permit.

2. Fill out the form I-765

Before you can submit your application for a work permit, you must fill out Form I-765 and file it with USCIS.

This form is used as part of the process of applying for an employment authorization document (EAD).

You will need to fill out this form completely and accurately before submitting it.

3. Submit the documents with the form I-765

In addition to submitting the completed application form, you will also need to submit identity documents:

  • Passport
  • Current US visa (if you’re currently living in the US)
  • Form 1-94 (travel record)
  • Copies of your previous work permits (if you have any)
  • Two passport-style photos (2 by 2”)
  • Receipt of notice from the US Government when you submitted your immigrant visa application

If you are applying for a work permit for the first time, attach your birth certificate, the visa you received from any country other than the US, or some other national identity that has your photo on it.

4. Pay the filing fee

This is a non-refundable fee of $410. If you’re paying by credit card, check, or money order, include it with your application. If you’re paying with cash, bring it in person to the USCIS office when you go for your biometrics appointment.

5. Submit the application

When you have assembled the supporting documents, paid the filing fee, and completed Form I-765, you are ready to submit your application for a Work Permit to USCIS.

If you have any questions about your work permit eligibility, our team is happy to assist you.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Work Permit?

The time it takes to get a work permit varies depending on where you are in the process. It can take several weeks from the date that you submit your application until USCIS receives it and assigns a case number.
In most cases, USCIS will give you a receipt that shows the date of submission and a tracking number. This receipt is proof that your application has been submitted and will be processed by USCIS. It also confirms that any fees have been paid.

Once processed, USCIS will send another email with the results of your application (approval or denial). If you are approved, your work permit card should arrive in the mail in a few weeks after approval.

What Happens After You Get the US Work Permit?

Once you have received your work permit, you will need to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN).

This is a nine-digit number that you will use to file taxes, communicate with the government, and more. The SSN is also used as identification when opening bank accounts, renting an apartment, or applying for a loan.

To apply for an SSN, head to your local Social Security Administration office or visit their website.

How to Use the Work Permit

When you start a job, your employer will require that you complete an I-9 form and provide proof of your legal right to work in the United States.

It is illegal for employers in the U.S. to discriminate against employees based on their immigration status; as long as you have a social security number and a work permit, it shouldn’t be an issue. You will pay taxes like any other worker in the United States, such as payroll taxes or income taxes.

If you are unable to prove that you have a legal right to work in the U.S., your employer will be required to report this to the federal government. You may also be subject to deportation proceedings if found guilty of working without authorization.

Renew or Switch your Work Permit

If you already have a valid work permit, renewing it is simple: You just need to fill out an application form and submit it with your supporting documents before your current work permit expires. If it has already expired, then you will have to go through the entire application process again from scratch.

It’s a good idea to apply for renewal as soon as possible so that your employer doesn’t find out you’re no longer authorized to work while they are still paying taxes on your behalf under their Social Security Number (SSN).

The rules for renewing or switching your work permit vary depending on the type of visa you have and the company that employs you. If you are a non-U.S. citizen, then it is important to understand these rules so that you do not lose your job due to an oversight in paperwork.

If you are unsure about which steps need to be taken, then you can call us on 0330 311 6351 for immediate help & assistance with your situation.

Our expert employment support and advice sessions are available in person at our offices, or via the phone.

Types of US Work Visas

If you don’t have a work permit, then you can use different work visas to be able to work in the United States.

There are three types of visas: temporary, permanent, and conditional. Temporary work visas are issued for a period of time, usually less than one year. Some temporary visas are issued for a specific event or purpose (such as travel or business), while others allow you to remain in the United States indefinitely and change jobs without having to obtain another visa.

Permanent visas are issued to immigrants who intend to permanently live in the United States. If you don’t have a visa that allows you to work, you may be able to obtain a work permit or other authorization from USCIS if you can show that your employment will benefit U.S. workers or serve the national interest of the United States.

The visa process by immigration services is a long and complex one, and it can take several months to years before you are granted permission to enter the United States. If you want to come to America permanently, it’s important that you understand your eligibility for a visa and the steps involved in obtaining one.

Temporary Non-Immigrant Work Visas

If you are planning to stay in the U.S. for less than one year, you may be eligible for a temporary nonimmigrant visa such as an H-1B or L-1A visa. These visas allow people with specialized skills or training to come into the country temporarily to fill positions that cannot be filled by anyone else, including American citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders).

Below are the most common type of non-immigrant visas for working:

  • E-1: Treaty trader
  • E-2: Treaty investor
  • E-3: Australian specialty worker
  • H-1B: Professional worker
  • H-1C: Nonimmigrant registered nurse (if you have an offer of employment in healthcare)
  • H-2A: Seasonal agricultural worker
  • H-2B: Temporary non-agricultural worker
  • H-3: Trainee – not-for-profit organization
  • I: Individual with a background in media or journalism
  • L-1A: Intracompany transferee manager/executive (managerial and executive positions)
  • L-1B: Intracompany transferee specialized knowledge (specialized knowledge professionals)
  • O-1: For individuals of “extraordinary ability” in fields such as science, education, business, and athletics
  • O-2: For individuals who are accompanying an O-1 visa holder and who also possess extraordinary ability in their respective fields of expertise and have critical support functions to assist the primary visa holder in his or her area(s) of endeavor
  • P-1A: Professional athlete
  • P-1B: Performing artist/entertainment group
  • P-2: Artist or entertainer
  • Q-1: Individuals participating in the international cultural exchange program
  • R-1: Religious worker
  • TN: Trade NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) professionals from Mexico and Canada

Do you need help applying for a work visa? Our lawyers can assist you.

Permanent (Immigrant) Worker’s Visas

For some people, a Temporary Work Permit is enough; however, if you plan to live and work in the U.S. for an extended period of time, or if you are planning on applying for a Green Card the best option is to get an EAD (Employment Authorization Document).

Remember though, if you want to apply for a Green Card from within the United States then you will need to either be eligible for permanent residency under employment-based categories of preference or meet certain criteria that make you eligible for a national interest waiver.

Below are the most common type of permanent workers visa:

First Preference EB-1

This is the most common type of work permit and it is usually granted to people who have an extraordinary ability or achievement in their field of expertise.

In order to qualify, a person must prove that they have been recognized internationally and that they are renowned within their industry. They must also prove that they will contribute significantly toward US economic growth by creating jobs and adding value to the economy.

Second Preference EB-2

The EB-2 visa is for professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities. This category includes jobs requiring at least a master’s degree or equivalent.

EB-2 is the most common route to permanent residency, and it’s also the best way to ensure that you can work in your desired field as soon as possible.

The process for getting an EB-2 visa is long and complicated. But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, it could lead to a green card and eventually citizenship.

Third Preference EB-3

The EB-3 category is for professionals with at least two years of experience and a bachelor’s degree or higher. This visa is often referred to as the “skilled worker” visa. The applicant must be able to demonstrate that their skills are in demand and that there are not enough American workers available for that position.

The applicant must also have at least two years of experience in the field, an undergraduate degree, or a combination of at least one year of experience and at least one year of education.

Fourth Preference EB-4

The fourth preference of the employment-based immigrant visa category is reserved for special immigrants, which include religious workers and others.

Fifth Preference EB-5

The Fifth Preference EB-5 Worker Visa is a visa that allows non-U.S. citizens to enter the country and work here for an extended period of time.

This program allows foreigners to invest in a commercial enterprise located in the United States and will receive their green card if the total investment leads to the creation of at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.

The minimum investment amount required is $1.8 million and this can be done through either a direct investment (e.g., buying a business) or through an indirect investment (e.g., purchasing stock of an existing corporation).

Temporary Visit for Business Visa

A non-U.S. citizen who wants to work in the U.S. temporarily can apply for a B-1/B-2 visitor visa if he/she is traveling to the U.S. for business purposes. The visa allows the applicant to stay in the U.S. for up to six months, or even longer if extended by a consular officer after entering the country.

The applicant must prove that he/she has been invited by an organization in the US and that he/she intends to return home at the end of his/her visit. He/she must also show that he/she will not be receiving any salary from an employer in the U.S., but only reimbursement for expenses related to his/her stay there (such as hotel bills).

If approved, the visa will be valid for multiple entries within one year from its issuance date (if you are approved). However, if you want it to remain valid after one year from its issuance date, you must apply before it expires and pay another fee per entry into the country (this can be done up until ten days before your trip).

The Most Popular US Work Visas

In the United States, there are two main types of visas that allow you to live and work in the country. These include:

The F-1 Student Visa

If you want to study at an accredited school in the U.S., this visa is what will allow you to do so legally. It allows students to get a Social Security number so they can start working after graduation if they choose to do so and also permits them to drive while they’re here.

The H-1B Work Visa

For those who wish to come work in America permanently, this visa is the most common type used by non-U.S. citizens looking for employment opportunities here.

It’s very difficult to get this visa because there are only 65,000 available annually across all industries (and even more difficult if you’re applying from abroad), but if successful it allows applicants to stay in America indefinitely with their families while earning wages and gaining experience as professionals within their fields of expertise.

Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to learn how to apply for a work permit.

How can IAS help?

If you’re a non-U.S. citizen and want to get a U.S. work permit, IAS can help.

We have a team of experts who can help you navigate the complicated process of getting your visa and work permit.

We understand how important it is for you to be able to stay in America and make a life here, so we’ll work with you every step of the way.

Our team is made up of immigration attorneys and legal assistants who have experience in a wide range of areas including visas, green cards, citizenship, and deportation defense. We’ll work with you to find the best path for your situation.

For more information about our immigration services, get in touch with our team today at 0330 311 6351.

We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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