Do You Want to Work in the United States?

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Many foreign nationals wish to work in the United States. This page summarizes nonimmigrant and immigrant visa classifications based on employment and additional categories of immigrants eligible for work permits. Each classification has a link to a page with more information about the requirements.

A prospective employer filing a petition with USCIS on your behalf is a frequent approach to work temporarily in the United States as a nonimmigrant. The primary nonimmigrant temporary worker classifications are described on the Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Workers webpage.

While applying for an employment-based immigrant visa, you may be eligible to permanently live and work in the United States if you have the necessary mix of skills, education, and/or job experience. The Permanent Workers section explains the five types of immigrant visas available to those who work in the United States (also called categories).

If you are living outside the United States and want to work here, you need to apply for a visa with the Department of State (DOS) unless your nationality does not require a visa. More information can be obtained on Department of State’s Travel Without a Visa page.

Before you can apply to DOS for a visa or request admission at a port of entry, USCIS must usually accept your petition. You must present yourself to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official and obtain clearance to enter the U.S. and engage in your proposed activity before entering the country.

If you are in the United States in a lawful nonimmigrant status that does not allow you to work, you may apply for the following:

  • Changing your status to a nonimmigrant classification that allows you to work; or
  • A change of status to become a lawful permanent resident. This may be filed simultaneously with an immigrant visa petition, or it may be necessary for an applicant to secure an accepted immigrant visa first before applying for status adjustment to become a legal permanent resident, based on the circumstances.

Depending on the classification you want, a U.S. employer or other qualified requestor may be required to file an application or petition on your behalf to show your eligibility before we approve your application. If you apply based on a specific classification (for example, as an alien with extraordinary ability or as a nonimmigrant E-1 or E-2 primary treaty trader or investor), you may be able to self-petition, which entails making an application on your behalf.

Additionally, suppose you are in the United States. In that case, you may file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, to request employment authorization along with an Employment Authorization Document if you are an applicant for permanent residence or a particular family member of an alien with lawful nonimmigrant status (EAD). If your immigration status allows you to work in the United States without restrictions, you can also apply for an EAD that indicates such authorization.

The type of immigration status granted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) determines the conditions you need to follow and the length of time you can work in the United States. All requirements of your employment permission and the terms of your entry to this nation must be followed. You may be deported or denied re-entry into the United States if you break any of the requirements.