Are You Eligible to Work in the United States?
When it comes to working in the United States, it can be tricky to know whether you’re legally authorized to work in the U.S. and determine your work eligibility.
To help clarify the matter, StartWorkNow has compiled some top-line advice from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) so that you can better determine whether you’re authorized to work in the United States. There are four main classifications that, if you match their eligibility criteria, may suggest that you can legally work in the U.S.
U.S. Work Eligibility Classifications for Non-U.S. Citizens-
- Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Worker
If you don’t plan to permanently immigrate to the United States and apply for U.S. citizenship, but instead want to maintain your current citizenship while working for a specific employer, then you may be able to work on a temporary basis in the country as what USCIS defines as a “temporary (nonimmigrant) worker.” Achieving this status first requires having a prospective U.S. employer file a petition with USCIS on your behalf.
There are 22 different nonimmigrant classifications for temporary workers listed on the USCIS website, which you can review here. The site also provides details on spouses and children who are seeking dependent nonimmigrant classification.
- Permanent (Immigrant) Worker
If your long-term goal involves living and working permanently in the United States and immigrating to the country based on your job skills, then you’ll want to learn about how to seek “permanent (immigrant) worker” status, which involves obtaining an immigrant visa based on your employment.
According to USCIS, around 140,000 immigrant visas are made available annually for non-U.S. citizens, their spouses, and their children. Qualifying for this classification requires you to be equipped with the right blend of work experience, education, and skills.
There are five distinct categories of employment-based immigrant visa preferences, which you can see here. Two of these categories—Second Preference EB-2 and Third Preference EB-3—require labor certification, which means you will already need to have a job offer from a U.S. employer, who will be considered your sponsor for the visa.
- Students/Exchange Visitors
Another possibility to gain eligibility to work in the United States is if you are a student or exchange visitor who wants to pursue full-time academic or vocational studies in the country. There are two nonimmigrant student categories—the “F” category for academic students and the “M” category for vocational students—listed on the USCIS website, which you can learn more about here.
Exchange visitors may be eligible for a different category, designated as the “J” category. This visa program is specifically for people who are participating in an educational or cultural exchange program.
- Temporary Visitors for Business
Finally, if your plan is simply to visit the United States for business purposes, you can explore the option of obtaining a “temporary visitor for business” visa. The eligibility and application process for this classification is less involved than seeking permanent immigrant worker status, and you may be able to qualify with no visa under the Visa Waiver Program.
If you do need a visa, then you can apply as a B-1 Temporary Business Visitor. This would help you be able to, for example, attend a business conference, negotiate a contract, or consult with business associates in the U.S.
- Know Your Status
Any of the four main classifications above can, if you meet their criteria, allow you the ability to work legally in the United States.
That said, it’s important to remember that according to the USCIS, how long you are authorized to work in the country depends on what type of immigration status you’re granted and your ability to comply with the conditions of the employment authorization you’ve received. Any violation of the terms or conditions of your authorization to work in the U.S. could jeopardize your ability to work or stay in the country.
Whether or not you’re eligible for work in the United States, StartWorkNow can help you land a job that meets your needs! Take the tour to learn more about all of the benefits of a StartWorkNow membership.