Law Offices of Stuart J. Reich, PLLC

Practice Limited to Immigration & Nationality Law

11 Broadway, Suite 615
New York, NY 10004

(212) 430-6582 phone
(212) 430-6583 facsimile

What is a work permit?

Q: People always say they want a “Work Permit” so they can accept a job in the US – what exactly is a “Work Permit?” :

A: The fact is, from an immigration perspective there is actually no such thing as a “work permit.” At least, there is no US government document that’s actually called a work permit – certain states issue documents referred to this way, but they have nothing to do with immigration.

When people say they want a work permit, they are usually referring to one of several things:

  • An Employment Authorization Document or “EAD” – this is what most people are actually thinking of when they discuss a work permit; it’s a card that permits employment (it sometimes and in some circumstances carries a notation that it permits travel – in other words, reentry into the US - as well). The problem is, you can’t just say that you want one and apply – eligibility for an EAD is always based on some other status, situation or circumstance.

    There are almost 40 different ways a person can be eligible for an EAD. Some of the more common are: a period of “Optional Practical Training” after completion of a degree program in F-1 student status, having an Adjustment of Status case pending (the final stage of a permanent residence/green card application when applying in the US), and having an Asylum case pending. A common scam perpetrated on immigrants is to advertise/promise a “work permit,” and get an Employment Authorization by filing a fraudulent asylum claim for the person. The scammer often disappears when the foreign national is called for the asylum interview, leaving them to face charges of fraud and likely deportation/removal from the US.

  • A Non-immigrant Visa – These visas will be designated with a letter-dash-a number, and do grant a lawful immigration status as well as the right to work. There are several different non-immigrant visas which permit employment, all with their own sets of requirements, advantages and disadvantages. Some, like the H-1B, are numerically limited and only available at certain times. In most cases, they are specific to a petitioning employer, and an amendment or even a completely different visa is required to change employers (even if the job is similar).
  • Permanent Residence (a “green card”) – Some people, not many, see permanent residence merely as a means to work legally in the US and thing of the status solely in those terms. However, Permanent residence status is typically the result of a lengthy and difficult process no matter how obtained.

In summary, no matter how someone goes about becoming authorized to work in the US, there is going to be some effort and a process of some sort involved – becoming authorized to work isn’t a simple matter.



Contact us here to arrange a consultation, to inquire about retaining us to handle your immigration matter, or simply to suggest topics you would like to see covered on our site.

The above is presented for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship with our firm. The information provided should not be used as guidance in pursuing an immigration matter absent consultation with a qualified immigration attorney.