Unauthorized Employment in the U.S.

Unauthorized Employment in the U.S.

Unauthorized employment for foreign nationals can include a broad range of activities such as: working without proper authorization, working beyond the terms of your visa, or working in a job that the Department of Labor does not authorize. If you are from a foreign nation, it is essential to seek guidance from an immigration lawyer before accepting any employment to avoid violating your status and putting your U.S. residency in jeopardy.

What Constitutes Unauthorized Employment?

For foreign nationals, working illegally in the U.S. can be anything you do for a living, including running a part-time home business. Even a hobby you work on during your spare time could be in violation of the law. Something as simple as buying and selling through eBay or continuing an online business while living in the U.S. could be considered unauthorized work if you’ve been living in the U.S. for more than 31 days.

If you have any doubts about the work you are doing and whether it is illegal or not, it would be a good idea to speak with an immigration attorney.

Investment, Stocks, and Bonds

There are certain types of investments that are not considered working without work authorization including passive investments in a private company, the stock market, or bonds. This allows foreign nationals to invest without running the risk of being classified as an employee.

Understand Your Visa Limitations 

If you are actively running a business or are involved in its day-to-day operations, that is considered unauthorized employment. Passive investments may be permissible if you do not participate in the company’s operations. Before making any money as a foreign national in the United States, it is essential to check your visa status to ensure that you comply with all regulations.

Volunteer Work

Work authorization or a work card is not required for volunteer work. Still, state labor and worker’s compensation laws generally do not allow someone to “volunteer” in a position that is usually paid. There is a concern in many states that jobs would be taken from U.S. workers. This arrangement can also raise  concerns about the job paying the “volunteer” in cash or “under the table.” 

Penalty for Working Without a Work Permit in the USA

The USCIS may investigate allegations against foreign nationals who are working without an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in the U.S. and will take action to prevent illegal employment. Illegal employment can have severe consequences for foreign nationals, including a denial of their application, a Notice to Appear, and removal proceedings


If you are not authorized to work in the United States and do so anyway,  you could be subject to deportation proceedings if you are found to have violated your status. 

Ineligibility To Extend Or Change Status

Never throw out the possibility that you might want to extend your stay or even change your status to a permanent citizen someday. Unexpected doors can open and job opportunities can come your way. You may be severely jeopardizing your future citizenship if you’re engaged in unauthorized employment. Immigration law clearly states that foreign nationals must abide by the terms of their status and any violation renders you ineligible to adjust or change your immigration status.

Revoked Visa/Inadmissibility For Future Entry

Your visa may be revoked if you are a foreign national who engages in unauthorized employment. Gaining entry in the U.S. later on will prove to be difficult or even impossible. Unauthorized employment can lead to severe consequences for foreign nationals, so it is essential to understand the risks involved before accepting any work.

Ineligibility for a Green Card

If you are a foreign national and you work without authorization, your status adjustment application will be denied. Regardless of when the unauthorized employment took place, you will not be able to become a green card holder.

How Does USCIS Find Out About Unauthorized Employment? 

You can try to work as a foreign national without authorization but you will likely be caught. How will the USCIS know? They will often find out through your tax returns, resume, or visa support letter. The government is increasingly using tools to search the internet for evidence of foreign nationals engaged in unauthorized employment.

One of the most common ways people are caught engaging in unauthorized work is by being seen on social media. You may not even own a social media account, but coworkers may take pictures with you and post them online. Disgruntled co-workers may learn about your illegal employment and report you. Even family and friends may report you to the USCIS for various reasons. 

Can Unauthorized Employment Ever Be Forgiven?

Foreign nationals who engage in unauthorized employment can face serious consequences, including deportation. While officials may in select cases forgive unauthorized work, it is best not to take the risk even if you don’t plan on pursuing permanent residency or citizenship in the U.S. 

Unauthorized employment for foreign nationals can lead to removal proceedings. However, some options are available for those working without authorization. If you are a relative of a U.S. citizen or an immediate family member, you may be eligible for adjustment. Talk to an immigration attorney to find out more about your case and the best option for you.

When someone works without authorization in the United States, the first step is determining how long the violation has been taking place. The USCIS recognizes that some violations can be corrected after entry. This is why Section 245(k) is available to certain foreign nationals who have worked in the country illegally for less than 180 days. To calculate the exact duration of the violation, you need to accurately calculate the number of days you were working unauthorized. 

How Do I Apply For an EAD Work Permit?

Foreign nationals in the United States can apply for a work permit known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The form to apply is available on the USCIS website for free and has sections containing several basic questions. You will need to fill out the sections of the form that are applicable to your case.

The type of EAD work permit you are eligible for will depend on your category status. Before submitting, you will be asked to provide relevant documents as supporting evidence. Your category status will determine the types of materials you’ll be required to provide. To avoid errors, try to go through the instructions on filling out the form and be sure you understand the requirements. 

An immigration attorney at Scott Pollock and Associates can help you obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), renew your EAD card, or even help in cases where you are seeking to be forgiven for unauthorized employment. We can help you understand the process and what documents you need to submit with your application and even help you if your application is denied. 

What Supporting Evidence Will I Need To Apply?

To be granted an EAD working permit, you must submit Form I-765. The form is meant to help prove you are an eligible applicant by having you submit these general documents. 

  • Two identical passport photographs.
  • A copy of your arrival and departure record both front and back. 
  • A copy of any previously issued EAD or a government-issued ID
  • Form G-28 must be submitted if an attorney or accredited representative helped you through this process

Be prepared for the USCIS to ask for additional documents depending on your case. The USCIS website provides a checklist to inform you about what may be required for each applicant.

Process Time for Employment Authorization Documents

If you are a foreign national and would like to apply for an EAD work permit, it will usually take up to 90 days for a decision to be made by the USCIS upon receiving your application. When submitting your application, you will need to fill out and attach a G-114 E, Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, and attach it to the first page of your I-765.

The USCIS will send you a message to let you know that your application for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) work permit has been received. You will also get a notice of the date and time for your biometric screening, which will be at your local USCIS Application Support Center (ASC). You can check the current status of your application through the USCIS processing times page.

The USCIS will send you a notice telling you whether your work permit application has been approved or denied. To avoid denials or delays it is recommended that you use an attorney.

How to Appeal a Denied EAD Application

If your application is denied, you will receive a letter outlining the reasons for the denial. You can make a motion to reconsider with the office that made a decision. However, you have to submit new evidence in the motion to reopen the proceeding. The motion to reconsider should be based on an incorrect application of policy or law in the original application. 

Filing Fee

USCIS charges a $410 fee for filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. In addition, USCIS requires an $85 biometrics fee. The total cost for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is $495. 

The filing fee must be attached to your form, or the USCIS will not process it. The fee can be paid via money order, personal check, credit card, or cashier’s check. Cash payments will not be received. 

Not everyone is required to pay the filing fee. First of all, if you are experiencing financial hardship, you may be eligible to request a fee waiver. Additionally, the following individuals will not be required to pay a filing fee:

  • Refugees
  • Citizens of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, or Palau
  • Those granted withholding of deportation 
  • T-1, U-1, N-8, or N-9 Nonimmigrants 
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners
  • Dependents of certain foreign governments, international organizations, or NATO personnel.

Submitting Your EAD Application

Once you have your form ready with all supporting documents and fees attached, you can submit the application online or through the mail. Ensure the correct address is on the envelope (the address listed on the USCIS website). 

To better ensure your application is submitted while meeting all the criteria, it is highly recommended that you have an immigration attorney review your documents.

Scott D. Pollock & Associates P.C. Tax and Immigration Services 

As a visa holder in the United States, you must have an EAD work permit to work lawfully. Failure to obtain authorization can lead to severe consequences that are long-lasting. Filing your forms correctly and on time before you start working is vital. Having an experienced immigration attorney represent you can streamline the process and eliminate potential delays.

If you have any questions about your work in the U.S. as a visa holder, contact the attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates P.C. With over 70 years of combined experience, we have been helping individuals obtain EAD permits so they can begin their work on time and lawfully. 

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