How Do I Get a Work Permit?

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Note: The Law Offices of Larry L. Doan in Los Angeles, CA, provides the following blog article and other information on this site, including our responses to comments, for the purpose of legal information only; it is NOT legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

The work permit, or employment authorization document, is a document issued by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), usually with a validity of one year, and renewable.  It allows the holder to legally work at any job, and it is also the document needed to get a social security number and a driver’s license.  So, how and when can an immigrant get one?

At the outset, it must be stated that:  a work permit is not something that is applied for as an end in itself, but only as an incidental, or side, benefit accompanying a main immigration application that results in the benefit of permanent residence, and only when the immigrant initially appears to qualify to apply for that main application. Sometimes, a potential client will ask us, “I don’t have any immigration papers but I just want to apply for a work permit. Can you help me?” We’d have to politely explain to this person that there is no such thing as “just applying” for a work permit. You must first see if you qualify for some larger main immigration benefit and apply for that benefit before you could get a temporary work permit.

Most immigrants receive a work permit shortly after their main application for “adjustment of status” to permanent residence is filed with USCIS.  This is the application that will allow an immigrant already in the U.S. to receive the benefit of permanent residence (green card).  However, not every intending immigrant in the U.S. qualifies to file for adjustment of status.  There are requirements of who can and when. At the time of filing the adjustment application, the immigrant will either be in-status on some kind of temporary nonimmigrant visa, or out-of-status on that visa or illegal but qualifies under immigration rules to file for adjustment.  Since the adjustment application will take four months to a year or more for USCIS to schedule an interview and to decide the case, the person is given the side benefit of a work permit so that they can work and take care of themselves in this country while the adjustment application is pending.  The law recognizes in this kind of situation that the immigrant must be given a means to legally work and not just sit there doing nothing.  Therefore, a separate application for the work permit, the I-765, is filed with USCIS at the same time the main adjustment of status application is filed.

The work permit card is then usually mailed to the immigrant about a month and half to three months after the applications are filed.  This card can be taken to the Social Security Administration office to apply for a new social security number and to the local DMV to apply for a driver’s license. If the adjustment application is ultimately denied — there are numerous grounds on which the immigrant may be denied, or is “inadmissible” to the U.S. — the work permit will also be terminated.  If the adjustment application is ultimately approved, then the person’s status becomes a permanent resident or green-card holder, and there will be no need for employment authorization since a green-card holder is entitled to live and work permanently in the U.S.

We stated above regarding the main immigration-benefit application that the immigrant must “initially appear to qualify to apply for that main application.”  What this means is that, for example, with an adjustment application, the immigrant must upon initial review appear to qualify to file for adjustment of status.  Examples?  Well, someone who is still waiting in what we call Stage 2 (has an approved I-130 or I-140 petition, but who is still waiting for a visa number because their priority date is not current yet), is not qualified to file for adjustment yet.  Or, someone who is not classified as an immediate relative, but whose visa is out of status, generally will not qualify to file for adjustment. There are other examples.  A person like this who applies for adjustment of status will have the application quickly rejected after USCIS personnel has done an initial review of the application package, and so no work permit is given.

So, to obtain a work permit, you must be at the point where you are now qualified to file for some type of application resulting in permanent residence.  U.S. immigration law provides many methods for immigrants to receive a green card since there are so many types of immigrants and circumstances (although as a practical matter only a handful of methods are used for the vast majority of immigrants). Some intending immigrants simply do not qualify under any method for a green card due to their being either out of status on their visa, being illegal in this country, or simply do not have enough time or have the right relationship to qualify. We routinely consult with people who, unfortunately leave the consultation with no solution under current law. Such a person cannot get a work permit.

Many immigrants whom we have helped are familiar with receiving their work permits not through the adjustment of status application but through a political asylum application. Political asylum is another type of immigration application eventually leading to permanent residence which gives a work permit as a side benefit. A grant of the asylum application will allow the person to remain (and work) permanently in the U.S. and then apply for permanent residence a year afterward. Under the law, a work permit must be given to the asylum applicant within 90 days. Thus, it was and still is a fast way to obtain a work permit in this country: to just apply for political asylum even if the person came to the U.S. illegally. However, asylum requires that the person must have experienced and does fear genuine persecution in their homeland due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or being a member of a distinctive social group, and the persecution is a genuine verifiable reality in that country. People from countries that are stable or peaceful do not normally qualify for asylum. Yet, many people, such as from Mexico (a country in which the government is not persecuting its citizens for the most part), have been deceived in the past by unscrupulous immigration services, “notarios,” and sometimes lawyers, who promised they could obtain work permits quickly for them, but who did not tell these people that they were applying for political asylum on their behalf. Since the asylum application can take years to be decided by USCIS – sometimes 10 years – the applicant gets a renewed work permit every year and thinks that their immigration status in this country must be legal. Eventually, at the asylum interview, however, these people inevitably cannot prove their asylum case as described in their own asylum applications (many did not even read before signing what was in their applications), and so their asylum case is denied. USCIS then puts these people into removal (deportation) proceedings without exception.

There are other less well-known types of immigration applications for certain groups of immigrants, such as NACARA, TPS, cancellation of removal, application for deferred action, etc., that also allow the applicant to receive a work permit as a side benefit. Some of these, such as TPS (temporary protected status) and deferred action, in fact, do not necessarily lead to permanent residence for the applicant but do involve giving him or her a longer term of stay in the U.S. that does not end on a definite date in the immediate future. These applications are more specialized and are beyond the scope of this article.

It must also be pointed out that there are certain people here on nonimmigrant visas who do work for U.S. companies.  For example, H-1, or L-1 visa holders.  However, the difference between these people and someone with a work permit is that the person with the work permit can work for any employer and can change to a new job anytime, whereas the person with the H-1 or L-1 visa can only work for that particular employer who petitioned for them on their nonimmigrant visa.  If the visa-holder wishes to work for another employer, they have to go through the process of finding a new employer to file a new petition for them in that visa category.

Copyright © 2009-2012 Law Offices of Larry L. Doan

Any action you take or rely upon after reading the information on this blog is your own responsibility and the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan bears no responsibility or connection to such action. For an analysis of your detailed and specific questions related to your individual immigration situation or problem, there is no substitute for a “live” meeting with an attorney. This can only be done during a paid consultation between the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan and you.  To get started with a consultation, please contact us: paidconsult@guruimmigration.com.

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34 Responses to “How Do I Get a Work Permit?”

  1. Comments or questions related to the blog post you’ve just read can be left in the “Leave a Reply” box below. HOWEVER: All comments or questions regarding your or family member’s immigration situation and seeking info or advice on what to do next will be ignored unless you contact us for a paid consultation here: paidconsult@guruimmigration.com. By doing so, please expect a quote for the price of the consultation with the Guru, Attorney Doan.

    We must implement this policy due to the volume of inquiries and emails received from this blog. We can only respond in the comments section below to general questions that seek clarification of a point made in the blog post above in a general way.

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  6. I am in removal proceedings and my case is in the BIA now. I just got laid off so I need to get a work permit to find a new job. How do I go about doing that ?

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  8. how can i apply for drivers license,I.D, and SS after your case is ordered removal..where can i go and what can i do cause a green card is required…pleasa help

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    • To be honest, this is one of the strangest and most absurd comments we’ve gotten on here because if we understand you correctly, you’ve been ordered removed (deported) from the United States. How can you then even think you’re entitled to a work permit or driver’s license??? You’re here illegally and will get arrested at any moment if they find you to put you on the plane. We simply don’t understand why you would have this idea that the US will give you the right to work when you’ve already been deported! Even lay people who don’t know anything about immigration law know this because it’s common sense. You need to leave!!

      But if what you’re really saying is that you have a pending removal case in Court and you’re still going through proceedings in front of the judge (without a final order of removal yet), then that’s a different story. In that case, you should contact us for a paid consultation to see what your options are.

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      • long beach finest Says:

        first of all yes im order removal BUT since my country isnt accepting people right away… i can be here waiting for as long as 10 yrs…i was told that in the mean time that im here waiting to get deported i can work …or get a temporary document to work …im not trying to get a drivers licence just a regular i.d and in order to get an i.d i need a a green card right?…okay well what i wanna know is …there must be some kind of document that I.N.S can provide me with just so i can get and i.d from DMV can i apply for a work permit and use that as to get an i.d…i just need to apply for an i.d while im still here…thats basically it…

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  9. I am a LPR. I have a I-130 petition to my 15 yr olf son under F2A priority date Sept 2009. He has a tourist visa and would like to visit USA. Will he be allowed to enter US? Can he travel with his LPR parents? Or would it be better to travel would his older sister. Or would you advised not to? Are we taking a risk?

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    • Your comment has absolutely nothing to do with a work permit!!

      We don’t give advice here except to say the obvious: all your son can do is to try to apply for entry at the airport if he has a valid tourist visa and see what happens. Anyone holding a valid visa to the US is entitled to try.

      If you want advice, as we say at the beginning of every article on this blog, this is not a free service. Only my boss, the Guru, can give you advice during a paid consultation when he is back in the office during the work week. I’m sure he’s enjoying an incredible weekend right now.

      John A., Legal Assistant
      GuruImmigration.com

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  10. I have been paroled by DHS after establishing credible fear but have not filed asylum papers yet (waiting to see the Imm. judge). Is it possible to apply for work permit now?

    Like

    • Absolutely not yet! You’ve only just arrived and established credible fear. If you could get a work permit, then millions would fly in tomorrow to US airports and just claim credible fear and get a work permit right away. No, the law is not that easy or dumb.

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  11. I have been unable to access the Visa Bulletin pages at the US Department of State website for the last 2 weeks. Is anybody else experiencing this problem?

    Thanks!

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    • The problem is with your computer or server. The Bulletin has never been down.

      John A., Legal Assistant
      GuruImmigration.com

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      • I can access any other page on the website without any problems except the Visa Bulletin. How can that be a problem with my computer/server?

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        • Then ask your computer expert to solve the problem or ask the State Department. We’re not computer experts. Nobody else has a problem accessing the Visa Bulletin, you’re the only one apparently. All computers in our office have the Visa Bulletin webpage on 24 hours a day since forever with no problem.

          Your other comment will not be allowed to be on here. The Guru is correct though, that US immigration law, while it may sometimes seem strange or weird, is not that “dumb.”

          John A., Legal Assistant
          GuruImmigration.com

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  13. Bert Hermanus Says:

    I was reading something else about this on another blog. Interesting. Your linear perspective on it is diametrically contradicted to what I read originally. I am still mulling over the various points of view, but I’m inclined to a great extent toward yours. And no matter, that’s what is so superb about contemporary democracy and the marketplace of thoughts on-line.

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    • Your linear perspective on it is diametrically contradicted to what I read originally. I am still mulling over the various points of view, but I’m inclined to a great extent toward yours.

      This article is simply about the law and regulations on getting a work permit. We are just presenting the facts of what the law is. There is not much opinion in the article where someone else could have a “diametrically” opposite point of view. The requirements for obtaining employment authorization in the U.S. is pretty much what we presented above. So, unless you’re referring to something specific for us to examine, be assure that what we present in this article is correct.

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  16. James Ryan Says:

    Individuals in removal proceedings will in some cases be eligible for a work permit and ironically begin working legally while their case is pending.

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    • Yes, you are absolutely correct. However, even these people in removal proceedings must have an application for relief with the immigration judge in order to be eligible for the work permit, and as an attorney yourself (as it appears from your site), you obviously know that there are many people in proceedings who don’t qualify for any relief and can only get voluntary departure.

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  20. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Larry 'Liem' Doan, Larry 'Liem' Doan. Larry 'Liem' Doan said: Need a work permit? Check out how in the new blog post, https://guruimmigration.wordpress.com/2009/12/26/how-do-i-get-a-work-permit/ […]

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