Skip to main content

Work Permits for Immigrants

Immigration Laws & Rights

This article explains when and how a person may apply for authorization to work in the United States.

Some immigrants may apply for authorization to legally work in the United States. But only people with certain immigration statuses are eligible to apply for work permits. This article discusses which immigrant statuses make someone eligible to apply for a work permit, how an immigrant may apply for a work permit, and how to get a social security number, Texas driver’s license, or Texas identification card.

What is a work permit?

A work permit is a document issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that lets immigrants work legally in the United States for a certain period. It is also called an “employment authorization document” or “EAD.” It is a card that looks like a driver’s license or another form of photo identification (ID).

How can I apply for a work permit?

Unfortunately, most immigrants cannot just apply for a work permit. Only individuals with specific types of immigration status are eligible to apply for a work permit.

What types of immigration status allow someone to apply for a work permit?

Note: This list is not exhaustive; it only includes the most common types of immigration status that allow someone to apply for a work permit.

  • A pending application for lawful permanent residency (also called an application for adjustment of status or application for a green card)
  • A pending application for cancellation of removal
  • A pending asylum application (for individuals with a well-founded fear of returning to their home country)
  • Granted asylum or withholding of removal (for individuals granted asylum or withholding of removal in the United States)
  • Refugee status (for individuals granted refugee status outside the United States)
  • A final order of removal or deportation (in certain cases, for example, if the individual has an order of supervision from ICE)
  • An approved VAWA Self-petition (for survivors of domestic violence by a U.S. citizen or LPR spouse, parent, or child)
  • An approved T visa application (for survivors of trafficking)
  • An approved U visa petition (for survivors of crimes)
  • Deferred action for individuals on the U visa waitlist
  • Deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA)
  • Deferred action for individuals with Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)
  • Deferred action for individuals who are the victim of labor violations
  • Temporary protected status (TPS)
  • Certain types of parole (temporary permission to enter the United States for a specific purpose)
  • Certain types of student visas
  • Certain types of work visas, for dependents of the primary visa holder

How can I find out if I can apply for a work eligible immigration status?

If you would like to find out if you can apply for an immigration status that would allow you to apply for a work permit, you should consult with a licensed attorney or a Department of Justice (DOJ) accredited representative. The wrong help can hurt. Immigration law is complex, and it is important to get the right help. Do not hire someone who:

  • Guarantees you a visa or immigration status.
  • Refuses to show you their license or accreditation.
  • Refuses to give you a contract for their services.
  • Asks you to sign blank or incomplete forms.
  • Offers other services, such as tax preparation.
  • Claims to have a special relationship with immigration authorities.
  • Threatens to report your immigration status.
  • Does not have a physical office and can only be contacted by email or phone.

For more information on non-profit organizations visit TexasLawHelp's Legal Directory.

What are the benefits of obtaining a work permit?

There are several benefits to obtaining a work permit.

  • Having the ability to work legally in the U.S.
  • Earning an income or better income, which can improve the quality of your life.
  • More job opportunities.
  • It is easier for you to obtain a driver’s license, rent an apartment, and open a bank account.
  • It can help you obtain permanent residency.
  • You will be afforded certain rights and protections, such as:
    • Protections against discrimination in the workplace.
    • Minimum wage laws and protections.

Are there any consequences to working without a work permit?

Yes. It is illegal to work without a work permit unless you have an immigration status that allows you to work in the U.S. Working without a work permit can result in serious consequences:

  • It could result in fines, imprisonment, or both.
  • It could result in deportation.
  • It could hurt your permanent residency application.
  • It could prevent you from obtaining another visa in the future.
  • You may be barred from entering the U.S. in the future. This can range from 3 to 10 years depending on how long you worked without a work permit.
  • It could hurt your chances of getting a job in the future.
  • It could result in being taken advantage of:
    • Being paid below minimum wage.
    • Subjected to poor or unsafe working conditions.

What types of jobs can I have with a work permit?

There are no restrictions on the types of jobs you can have with a work permit. You can work for any U.S. employer in any type of job so long as the work you are doing is legal, and your work permit is valid.

Once I have a work permit, how do I get a social security number?

When you apply for your work permit, you can check a box on the application to allow USCIS to share your information with the Social Security Administration to issue you a social security number. If you do this, your social security card will come in the mail around the same time as your work permit.

If you don’t check the box on your work permit application to allow USCIS to share your information with the Social Security Administration, or if you filed your work permit application before that option was available, you will need to go to the Social Security Administration in person to apply for a social security number. You will need to bring your work permit and your original birth certificate or your valid passport. It is free; there is no cost.

You can find the Social Security Administration office nearest to you using the Social Security office locator. For more information on the requirements visit the Social Security Administration Immigration page.

What happens to my social security number if my work permit expires or becomes invalid?

Once a social security number is assigned, it is yours for life. Your work permit may expire but the expiration does not invalidate your social security number. It just means you cannot work until your work permit is renewed.

A social security number alone does not give you permission to live or work in the U.S. You also need to have valid immigration status and/or a work permit.

Using another person's social security number is a form of ID theft and can lead to serious criminal or immigration penalties. Do not use another person’s social security number and do not allow another person to use your or your children’s social security numbers.

Once I have a work permit and a social security number, how do I get a Texas driver’s license or a Texas ID?

Once you have your work permit and social security number, you may apply for a Texas driver’s license or a Texas ID. You will need to show proof of Texas residency, and you may need to take a driving test. You can find the requirements on the Texas Department of Public Safety’s website at How to Apply for a Texas Driver License and How to Apply for a Texas Identification Card.

You can find the nearest Texas Department of Public Safety office on its office locator page. 

Related Guides

  • I am an immigrant and want to know more about employment law.

    Individual Rights

    This guide is designed to provide you with information to help you understand your employment rights if you are an immigrant and how employment law...
  • Related Articles