Working in the United States

Many noncitizens aspire to work in the United States. This page offers a concise overview of employment opportunities for nonimmigrant and immigrant visa categories and other eligible noncitizens seeking employment authorization. Each category links to comprehensive details on its specific requirements.

One common approach for nonimmigrants to work temporarily in the United States is to have a prospective employer file a petition with USCIS on their behalf. The Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Workers page delineates the principal nonimmigrant worker classifications.

For those possessing the right blend of skills, education, and work experience, permanent residency and work in the United States can be achieved through an employment-based immigrant visa. The Permanent Workers page outlines the five employment-based immigrant visa preferences, also known as categories.

If you are residing outside the United States and wish to work within its borders, you usually need to apply for a visa through the U.S. Department of State (DOS), unless your country of nationality does not require one. For more information, you may refer to the DOS' Travel Without a Visa page.

In most instances, USCIS must grant approval for your petition before you can apply for a visa through DOS or seek entry at a U.S. port of entry. Before entering the United States, you must present yourself to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer, receive entry permission, and engage in your intended activities.

For individuals in the United States under a lawful nonimmigrant status lacking employment authorization, you can generally apply for:

  1. A change of status to a nonimmigrant category permitting employment authorization.
  2. An adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident, either concurrently with an immigrant visa petition or, depending on the circumstances, following the approval of an immigrant visa, before applying for permanent residency. The filing of an application may require a U.S. employer or another qualified requester to establish your eligibility on your behalf. However, self-petitioning, filing an application independently, may be an option for certain classifications, like individuals with extraordinary abilities or nonimmigrant E-1 or E-2 principal treaty traders or investors.

Moreover, if you are in the United States, including being an applicant for permanent residence or a certain family member of an alien with lawful nonimmigrant status, you can submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, to request employment authorization and obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). If your immigration status allows you to work in the United States without restrictions, you can also apply for an EAD reflecting this authorization.

The terms and duration of your employment in the United States hinge on the type of immigration status granted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). You are obliged to adhere to the conditions of your employment authorization and the stipulations of your entry to the country. Failure to comply with any of these conditions could result in removal from the United States or denial of re-entry.

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