Employment Authorization and Work Permits

Posted on Jan 25, 2016

As a South Florida Immigration Lawyer, one of the top questions that prospective clients ask me is: “How can I get a work permit?” This question is probably second only to: “How can I get a green card?”

Understandably, the answer to this question is very important to many foreign nationals, as work permits (officially known as “employment authorization documents” to USCIS) are the gateway to the American Dream. They have also become a necessary “must have” document that opens up the door to obtaining both a Social Security Number and a Driver’s License in many states.

Work Permits Are Always Tied to an Immigration Benefits Program, an indefinite Legal Status, or a Non-immigrant Visa.

The first and most important thing to understand is that work permits are always tied to either:

1. An immigration benefits program (such as TPS = Temporary Protected Status or DACA = Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals); OR

2. An application that grants indefinite legal status (such as Permanent Residence, Asylum, Withholding of Removal); OR

3. A non-immigrant “work” visa category (such as E, L, and H visas) … in which case the authorization to be employed is inherent in the nature of the visa itself.

This means that the U.S. Immigration laws do not allow a foreign national to simply file a “naked” Application for Employment Authorization simply requesting a work permit without first establishing eligibility and being connected to an independent benefits program (TPS) OR a legal status (asylum or permanent resident).

Work Permits (Employment Authorization) can be either for Open Market employment or limited to a specific employer

Another thing that should be understood is that work permits and employment authorization can be either for Open Market employment (very broad … can work for anyone) OR for a specific sponsoring Employer. Generally speaking, individuals who obtain Ope Market work permits can work for any employer that they will hire and pay them. This would be the case, for instance, with applicants for TPS, DACA, or in connection with the filing of an application for adjustment of status (green card). Employment Authorization that limits the holder to working only for a specific employer are found in the non-immigrant visa categories (the E, L, and H visas, for example), as mentioned above. This is because these visas require an employer sponsor and the idea behind them is that its only logical that the worker would work only for the sponsor, as this is the entire point and purpose of these non-immigrant visa categories.

An excellent source of information on work permits and eligibility can be found in the instructions for Form I-765, which has 7 pages with the 8 different eligibility categories. If you can find a category on the instructions that you qualify for, then you may be in a position to apply for a work permit.

To schedule a consultation with South Florida Immigration Lawyer Sean D. Hummel to discuss employment authorization, call (954) 385-3111 or e-mail:sean@hummelaw.com.

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