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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 affects you.
Overview

Guide Overview

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

This guide provides information to help you understand your rights to education as an immigrant and how the law affects you.

 

Common questions about Immigration Laws & Rights

Your ability to work lawfully in the United States depends on your immigration status. Naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents, and refugees can work freely without restriction. All other types of immigrants, however, must apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which is often called a work permit, before they are allowed to work. 

All immigrants with authorization to work in the United States may apply for a social security number and card from their local Social Security Administration office. Undocumented immigrants without employment authorization are not eligible for social security numbers, but may still apply for a Taxpayer ID Number from the Internal Revenue Service, which they can use to file and track their federal income taxes.

Yes, labor laws in the United States—including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA), and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—apply to all employees, regardless of their immigration status. If you believe that your employer is violating labor laws, you have the right to file a complaint with the Department of Labor or other relevant agency. You may also hire your own attorney to sue your employer.

No. Employers are legally barred from asking questions related to certain topics during an interview. Restricted topics include your citizenship status, disabilities, sexual orientation, religion, family plans, national origin, etc. If an employer asks you about your immigration status or history, that question is in violation of the law, and you are not required to answer it. Instead, say that you are not required to answer the question, and move on to a different topic.

However, employers are required to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all employees hired after November 6, 1986. They do this by completing the Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) Form. They must review documents showing the employee's identity and employment authorization. The law prohibits employers from rejecting valid documents. Employers can’t ask for more documents—beyond what is already legally required for employment eligibility verification—just because of an employee's citizenship status or national origin. For example, an employer cannot require only individuals the employer perceives as "foreign" to verify their employment eligibility, or produce specific documents (like the employee's "green card" or Employment Authorization Documents). Employees choose which of the permitted documents they show for employment eligibility verification. As long as the document looks reasonably genuine, and relates to the employee, it should be accepted.

Unless otherwise provided in an employment contract, employment in Texas is “at will.” This means that an employer can fire you for any reason and at any time. Employers “at will” are not permitted to terminate an employee for illegal reasons, such as your nationality. However, they are allowed to terminate your employment if you cannot produce evidence of your authorization to work legally in the United States.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) is legislation Congress passed, intending to curb unlawful immigration to the United States. Among other things, the law provides for sanctions against employers who demonstrate a pattern or practice of hiring undocumented workers. IRCA also led to the creation of Form I-9, and requires employers and the job applicant to complete the form at the time of hiring.

An I-9 Form is a form that all employers must complete at the time of hiring to confirm the identity and employment eligibility of the applicant. The job applicant must provide basic information about themselves, including a social security number, and attest to their employment eligibility. It is extremely important that non-U.S. citizens do not claim U.S. citizenship on this form, because it can have serious consequences for their immigration status in the future.

Instructions & Forms

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

Checklist Steps

You can take the following steps to properly consider the guide's resources and your overall legal issue. 

  • Step A: Write Down Your Facts
    • If you haven't already done it, it is a good idea to write out exactly what you say happened in your situation.
      • Make sure to include dates and notes of any proof you may have.
  • Step B: Define Your Problem
    • Think about the problem you are facing, and try to answer the questions below:
      • What person and/or organization do you think is either at fault or is on the opposite side of your case?
      • What directly caused the situation you are dealing with?
      • If you were able to solve your issue, in the future, what would be your ideal outcome? What would you be willing to accept?
    • Try to exactly write out the exact problem you are trying to solve. This should be no more than a paragraph in length.
  • Step C: Keep In Mind
    • As you review the contents of the guide, make sure to keep your facts and your problem in mind. 

A good place to start is to review the Frequently Asked Questions, Articles, and any forms that may be available. Please note, not every guide will have a form. 

  • Frequently Asked Questions are "bite-sized" answers to specific questions visitors to TexasLawHelp may have.
  • Articles are more comprehensive guides on a specific legal subject.
  • Forms are documents you may be able to use to go to court.
    • WARNING: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.  It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation

If you need other help, use the Legal Help Directory Directory to look for a lawyer, free legal aid program or self-help center in your area.

WARNING: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.  It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation

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