How to Get an Immigration Work Permit or Authorization to Work in the United States

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Getting an immigrant work permit is invaluable for many U.S. immigrants. If you are an immigrant and want to obtain permission to legally work in the United States, you will want to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD), otherwise known as the work permit. Several factors will determine the best route you should take for obtaining a permit. Two main factors include your residency status and your employment objectives. 

Check Your Immigration Status

The first step is to determine if you even need to obtain an immigration work permit or EAD. If your immigration status is that of a lawful permanent resident, i.e. you have your green card, then you already have authorization to work in the U.S. by virtue of your status. If you are uncertain about your status, you should resolve any questions before you apply, because a lapsed status could negatively affect your ability to work. 

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What Are Your Employment Objectives?

Your second step is to outline your employment objectives. If you do not want to be tied to a particular employer, then you need to complete Form I175. The advantage of filing for this type of immigration work permit is that you can leave one employer for another if a better opportunity arises, without your work permit being negatively affected. You can obtain a copy of the I175 form by going to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website. The same site also includes a set of instructions. Generally, you must complete the entire form as directed. As you review the instructions you’ll probably feel like you are reviewing the alphabet because of the numerous cross references to other forms and procedures. If you get confused about how to fill out any part of the form, consult with an attorney who specializes in immigration law. 

If you are submitting your request for an immigration work permit along with another immigration request, for example an I-485 application to register as a permanent resident, make sure that you submit consistent answers. Supplying information that is inconsistent on the two forms could create flags during the processing of your application. For example, don’t list different residences or dates of birth on the two applications. Despite this caution, it may be to your advantage to file both applications at the same time as a way to consolidate your efforts and filing fees.

Additional Documentation and Filing Fee

Once you have completed the application for an immigration work permit, you will need to attach any required documents for your particular status. As a general rule, all applicants are required to attach a copy of your arrival-departure record, a copy of some form of a federally issued identification, two pass-port style color photos, and your filing fee. If you have other types of applications pending, you may be required to submit additional documentation. As mentioned in the paragraph above, if you are combining your immigration work application with an I-485 application for permanent residency, you will not be required to submit an additional filing fee. If you are filing your request for a work permit separate from any other request, the current filing fee is $340. Your fee must be in the form of a check or money order. They will not accept a cash filing fee.

Once you have everything together, you can submit your application electronically or by mail. If you send your application by mail, make sure that you send the request certified so that you can track the status of your application.

Once your application is received, it will be processed and you will be notified by mail if your application was rejected because of any errors or omissions, denied outright, or accepted. If your immigration work permit application is rejected because you failed to include something, you will have the opportunity to amend and resubmit your application. It can take around three months for your application to be processed before you have a final determination.

H-1B Visas and Working for One Company

If you are not seeking to have a general work permit, but rather to work for one particular company, other options may be available. For example, if you work in a “specialty occupation”, a company that would like to hire you in the U.S. may petition for an H-1B visa on your behalf. One of the advantages of this application is that the employer is required to pay for the expenses associated with processing the request. The disadvantage, however, is that if the employment terminates, so does your visa. Before you jump into the application process, you may want to consult with an attorney to see which form of filing will best help you fulfill your long-term employment objectives.

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