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.

Topics

Woman in an office looking at the files in the top drawer of a filing cabinet

Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Worker

Find more information about the filing requirements for nonimmigrant visa classifications.
Man sitting a a desk working on a laptop in an office

Permanent (Immigrant) Worker

If you want to immigrate to the United States based on your job skills, read more information on the five employment-based immigrant visa preferences.
6 people sitting around a large table looking off at something, one man has a laptop open in front of him

Students and Exchange Visitors

If you want to pursue full-time academic or vocational studies in the United States, you may be eligible for one of two nonimmigrant student categories.
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Temporary Visitors for Business

If you want to visit the United States for business, you need to obtain a temporary visitor for business visa. Read more information on eligibility and the application process.