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Confused About Work Authorizations? We Got Answers

Ever wondered if you’re legally allowed to work in North Carolina?  Whether you’re a recent immigrant, a foreign student, or just unsure about the requirements, understanding what is work authorization is crucial. In North Carolina, both federal and state regulations determine your eligibility to hold a job. 

In this discussion, we will look at the different types of work authorization available, how to apply for them, and the local resources that can help. We’ll also talk about the responsibilities of employers in Durham to follow the rules and make sure their employees are working legally. This includes checking documents and using systems like E-Verify. For employees, it’s important to know their rights and the protections they have under their work authorization.

Short Summary

  • Work authorization gives permission to legally hold a job in the US (typically for non-citizens).  
  • Work authorization comes in two types: temporary for a set time and permanent for unrestricted work.
  • Many non-citizen visa holders need a special form (I-765) to work legally, including dependents, students, asylum seekers, and some temporary visa holders.
  • To file Form I-765, complete the form, attach required documents, and submit it by mail or online. Check the USCIS website for current fees and submission locations. Students seeking an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) should contact their school’s international office. For expedited processing, include a letter explaining urgent economic necessity, but note that approval is not guaranteed.
  • Filing Form I-765 involves several challenges, including long processing times, timing the application to avoid gaps, staying updated with changing rules, limited job options for certain visas, employer responsibilities like E-Verify, costs including fees and potential lost wages, family concerns, adjusting to a new environment, and finding necessary resources.

Why Does Work Authorization Matters?

Work authorization, sometimes called a work permit, refers to the official permission to hold a job in a particular country. It typically applies to individuals who are not citizens of that country. Work authorization matters for two main reasons: it ensures legal employment and protects both employers and employees.

In the United States, for example, a work authorization document (EAD) is issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to foreign nationals. This document verifies their legal ability to work in the country for a specific period.

Work authorization is crucial for anyone seeking employment opportunities. It ensures you’re following the law and can work legally. Without it, you risk facing fines, penalties, or even deportation if you’re a foreign national. 

But beyond legality, work authorization grants you the same rights and protections as other workers. This includes fair pay, overtime compensation, and a safe work environment. By having authorized work status, you can confidently contribute to the workforce and enjoy the benefits you deserve.

What are the Types of Work Authorization?

There are two main categories of work authorization: temporary and permanent.

Temporary Work Authorization

  • Issued to foreign nationals for a specific period of time, typically tied to a particular job offer or employer.
  • Common types include:
    • H-1B visas for specialty occupations
    • L visas for intracompany transfers
    • E visas for treaty traders and treaty investors
    • TN visas for NAFTA professionals

Permanent Work Authorization

  • Allows foreign nationals to work indefinitely in a country.
  • May be obtained through various paths, such as:
    • Employment-based green cards (US)
    • Permanent residence visas

These are some of the key types of work authorization available in Durham, North Carolina, and the United States. Each type serves different purposes and caters to various categories of non-citizens seeking to work legally in the country.

What are the Visa Status Categories That Have to File Form I-765 to Get Work Authorization?

Typical categories of visa holders who must apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) before they start working include:

  • H-4 dependents (spouses) of H-1B holders, but only if an H-1B holder has an approved I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, on file with the USCIS.
  • F-1 students facing severe economic hardship or those seeking practical training.
  • M-1 students after completing their studies.
  • Individuals who have filed an I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and are awaiting USCIS’s decision.
  • Asylees and, in some cases, asylum applicants in the U.S.
  • K-1 fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens.
  • K-2 unmarried children under 21 of K-1 visa holders.
  • K-3 foreign spouses of U.S. citizens.
  • K-4 unmarried children under 21 of K-3 visa holders.
  • Nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, or Venezuela recently paroled into the U.S.
  • Individuals who attended a CBP One App appointment and were allowed U.E. entry.
  • J-2 spouses or unmarried children under 21 of J-1 visa holders.

Previously, USCIS required dependent spouses of L-1 and E-1/E-2 visa holders to submit an I-765 and obtain work permits to be employed in the U.S. However, in November 2021, USCIS acknowledged that L-2 and E-1/E-2 visa holder spouses are work authorized “incident to status.” Their Form I-94, received upon entry to the U.S., should indicate this and can be used as a List C document on the Form I-9 that employers use to verify employment authorization.

For a comprehensive list of employment authorization categories, refer to the Employment Authorization page on the USCIS website.

How to File Form I-765?

Form I-765 is relatively short. Here are the general steps for filing Form I-765:

  • Fill out Form I-765.
  • Attach any required supporting documents.
  • Submit the application:
    • Mail it to USCIS (standard option).
    • File online (available for certain categories with a USCIS account).
  • Check the USCIS Form I-765 information page for:
    • Filing fee.
    • Filing location.
  • For student EAD applications, contact your school’s international office for help.
  • Expedited processing is not available for a standard fee, but you can request it with a letter explaining urgent economic necessity (USCIS approval not guaranteed).

What are the Challenges and Considerations for Work Authorization?

Getting and keeping permission to work in the U.S. can be tricky. Here are some things to think about:

Waiting for Approval

  • Long Wait Times: It can take a long time for the government to process your application (up to eleven months in some cases).
  • Timing: You can’t apply for a renewal too early, or you might end up without permission to work while you wait for approval.

Understanding the Rules

  • Rules Change: The government changes the rules about who can work and how often. It’s important to know the latest rules so you don’t get in trouble.
  • Confusion: Changes in rules can make people worry about losing their jobs or having to leave the country.

Finding the Right Job

  • Limited Choices: Some visas only let you work for specific employers or in certain jobs. This can make it hard to find a job that fits your skills.
  • Requirements: Some jobs need special skills or education, which not everyone has.

Following the Law

  • Checking Documents: Employers have to make sure their workers have the right paperwork to work legally. If they don’t, they can get in trouble.
  • Treating Everyone Fairly: Employers have to follow rules that say they can’t treat people differently because of where they’re from or if they’re not citizens.

Money Matters

  • Fees: It costs money to apply for permission to work or renew it. This can be hard for people who don’t have a lot of money.
  • Lost Wages: If your permission to work runs out before you get a new one, you might not get paid until you can work again.

Family Concerns

  • Spouses and Kids: Sometimes, only certain family members can work, which can affect how much money a family has.
  • Education: Kids of visa holders might face challenges in school or when they’re ready to work.

Getting Used to Things

  • Adjusting: Moving to a new place and starting a new job can be tough. It might take time to feel comfortable.
  • Finding Help: It can be hard to find people who can help you understand the rules and get what you need to work legally.

Dealing with these challenges means knowing what to expect and planning ahead. It’s important for both workers and employers to understand the rules and support each other through the process of getting and keeping permission to work.

Call Our North Carolina Immigration Attorney Now!

Understanding the ins and outs of work authorization is crucial for those seeking job opportunities in Durham, North Carolina. Knowing the rules and procedures can greatly affect your ability to work legally and contribute to the local community. If you’re feeling unsure about where to begin or how to proceed with your work authorization journey, rest assured, help is available.

At Diener Law, we have offices in Durham, Raleigh, Mount Olive, Greenville, Santa Ana, Lynwood, Greensboro, and Wilmington. We understand the importance of having the right guidance and assistance with immigration matters. That’s why we’re proud to offer a FREE Immigration Solution Finder Tool. This tool is specially designed to assist you in identifying the best path forward for your individual circumstances. 

Whether you’re a student, an employee sponsored for an H-1B visa, wants to know more about family-based immigration or exploring other work authorization options, our tool can offer valuable insights tailored to your needs.

Don’t let uncertainty hold you back from pursuing your career aspirations. Reach out to our immigration law firm now and take that crucial first step towards securing your work authorization with confidence.

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