Working in the United States


Many aliens want to come to the United States to work. This page provides a summary of employment-based nonimmigrant and immigrant visa classifications and other categories of aliens who are eligible for employment authorization. Each classification provides a link to more detailed information on its requirements.

A common way to work temporarily in the United States as a nonimmigrant is for a prospective employer to file a petition with USCIS on your behalf. The Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Workers webpage describes the main nonimmigrant temporary worker classifications.

If you have the right combination of skills, education, and/or work experience, you may be able to live and work permanently in the United States by seeking an employment-based immigrant visa. The Permanent Workers webpage describes the five employment-based immigrant visa preferences (also called categories).

If you live outside the United States and want to work here, you generally must apply for a visa from the U.S. Department of State (DOS), unless a visa is not required for people from your country of nationality. You may visit DOS’ Travel Without a Visa page for more information.

In many cases, USCIS must approve your petition before you are eligible to apply to DOS for a visa or seek admission at a port of entry. Before entering the United States, you must present yourself to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer and receive permission to enter the United States and engage in your proposed activity.

If you are in the United States in a lawful nonimmigrant status that does not provide employment authorization, you generally may apply for:

  • A change of status to a nonimmigrant classification that provides employment authorization; or
  • An adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident. This may be a concurrent filing with an immigrant visa petition or, depending on the circumstances, may require an applicant to obtain an approved immigrant visa before applying for an adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident.

Depending on the classification you seek, your change or adjustment of status application might require a U.S. employer or other qualified requestor to file an application or petition on your behalf to establish your eligibility before we approve your application. However, if you apply based on certain classifications (for example, an alien with extraordinary ability or as a nonimmigrant E-1 or E-2 principal treaty trader or investor), you may be eligible to self-petition, which means filing an application on your own behalf.

Additionally, if you are in the United States, including if you are an applicant for permanent residence or a certain family member of an alien who has lawful nonimmigrant status, you may file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, to request employment authorization and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You may also apply for an EAD that shows such authorization if your immigration status authorizes you to work in the United States without restrictions.

The conditions you must meet and how long you can work in the United States depend on the type of immigration status the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants. You must comply with all conditions of your employment authorization and the terms of your admission to this country. If you violate any of the conditions, you could be removed from or denied re-entry into the United States.

A temporary nonimmigrant worker is an alien who is in the United States to work for a limited time. This type of worker is restricted to the employment or activity, and the period of time for which they are specifically authorized.

A permanent immigrant worker is an alien whom DHS has granted permission to live permanently in the United States. Some of these aliens immigrate to the United States based on employment with an employer, while others immigrate based on other reasons (for example, extraordinary ability in certain fields, rather than a specific offer of employment). These types of workers can work in the United States permanently. Visit the Permanent Workers page for additional information about the employment-based immigrant visa preferences (categories) for permanent residence.

Students and exchange visitors may, under certain circumstances, be authorized to work in the United States.

A nonimmigrant visitor will need to obtain a B-1 business visitor visa (unless the person is exempt from this visa requirement) to conduct temporary business in the United States in connection with their foreign employment. Visit DOS’ Travel Without a Visa page for additional information.

Whether a visa is required or not, you must present yourself to a CBP officer and receive permission to engage in the proposed business activity. You cannot engage in U.S. employment or otherwise enter into or compete for jobs in the United States.

Other Aliens Who May Be Authorized to Work in the United States

Aliens authorized to work in the United States because of their immigration status (for example, an asylee, refugee, or U nonimmigrant) may need evidence of that employment authorization. Other aliens may be eligible to apply for and receive employment authorization and an EAD because of their immigration status.

Employers must verify that their employees are authorized to work in the United States. Permanent residents, asylees, refugees and certain nonimmigrants have employment authorization as a direct result of their immigration status. Aliens who do not fall into these categories, such as certain family members of employment-based nonimmigrants, may need to apply for an EAD from USCIS. The documentation the employee chooses to submit to show employment authorization varies depending on the employee’s immigration status or other basis for employment authorization.

Federal law requires all employers to complete Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, for each employee they recruit, refer for a fee, or hire for employment in the United States. For more information on completing Form I-9 and document requirements for identity and employment authorization, see:

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