Employment Authorization

Every employer must have proof that every employee is authorized to be employed in the United States at the time the employee is hired. This means that you must be able to provide documents to the employer proving your eligibility for employment even if you are a U.S. citizen by birth.

Since November of 1989, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has a formal procedure for applying for employment authorization by foreign nationals who qualify under the law. Some aliens have employment authorization based on their immigration status. This includes permanent residents, and aliens in certain non-immigration visa categories such as E, H, J, L, and Trade NAFTA visas, even though such authorization may only be valid for a specific employer.

Other categories of aliens eligible to apply for employment authorization documents include: asylum applicants; certain F-1 and M-1 students on practical training or F-1 students with changed economic conditions; and applicants eligible for adjustment of status to permanent residents.

Under several pending court cases, aliens who would have qualified for "amnesty" by having come here before 1982, and certain El Salvadoran and Guatemalan citizens are also eligible. After approval, the foreign national eventually will be given an employment authorization document or EAD with his or her photograph on it.

This is a very complex and changing area of the law. Employment authorization for each category is based on very specific criteria.

Remember, this information is very general and should not be used to plan your case. Please seek the advice of an attorney who specializes in this area of law.