Understanding Work Permits
Until you have a Green Card, you’ll need permission from USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) to get paid for work you do while in America. Work permits show that you have this permission and that employers can hire you legally without fear of fines, penalties, and other consequences.
A work permit looks similar to a driver’s license. Since it’s a government-issued document with a photo, it can also be used as an official identification card.
A work permit is not a work visa. Visas give the holder permission to live and work in the US, provided they are employed by the sponsor who is tied to the visa. Employers apply for the work visa, pay the fees, and follow up with USCIS to ensure all the regulations and requirements are met. Changing jobs is a challenge, as the new employer and visa beneficiary must complete the forms and transfer paperwork.
A work permit, on the other hand, allows the holder to work for anyone; switching jobs is easy. Unlike the visa, which is time-specific (usually for three years), work permits must be renewed every year.
Work permits are necessary if you want a job while you’re in the US and you aren’t a lawful permanent resident, US citizen, or a Green Card holder, or you’re not working for the employer who was affiliated with your H-1B visa. So, if you’ve applied for a National Interest Waiver, you’ll need a work permit to hold a job until you receive approval.
The problem is that you can’t legally work in the US while you’re waiting for a Green Card without an employer, and a National Interest Waiver is typically self-petitioned. How can you get around this conundrum?
Filing for a Work Authorization
In most circumstances, your old work permit is no longer valid once you leave the job sponsor. Unless you’re filing an I-129, which moves you from one H-1B visa employer to another, you can’t work. But an H-1B visa requires a job sponsor and can’t be self-petitioned. An EAD card authorizes you to work for any employer at any time doing any type of work but also permits you to work for yourself, an important part of the NIW.
If you want to continue working while you’re waiting for your NIW Green Card approval, you must apply for a work permit (EAD) by completing the following steps:
● Complete and file Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization. If you don’t have a Social Security number (SSN) yet, you can apply for one when you complete this form simply by checking the box that pertains to this.
● Prepare and submit the documents requested for the work permit.
● Pay the $410 filing fee for the work permit (or whatever amount is accurate at the time of your filing).
● Submit Form I-765 with your supporting documents.
Work permits have a 5-7 month processing time. You can’t work until you have a SSN. Once you receive the permit and SSN, you can begin working. Remember, applying for an EAD doesn’t guarantee you will receive it. It’s best to talk to your attorney before you begin working if you don’t have a specific work visa.
A National Interest Waiver is one of the most flexible, freeing types of documentation a foreign national can have when living in the US. But until that petition is approved, you can’t work in the US without permission. The good news is that you can now file premium processing paperwork to expedite your NIW adjudication faster than waiting for work authorization.
Contact our experts at Visa2US to find out how you can ensure your time working in the US is legal with minimum disruptions as you change your status from a nonimmigrant to a Permanent Lawful Resident.