Guidelines for Working in the US If You’re From Another Country

The type of work visa or permit you need will vary based on your career goals

Foreign nationals have a variety of employment opportunities in the United States, but rules and regulations apply to working here. You can work in the U.S. with an employment-related green card (permanent residency), an exchange visitor work and study visa, or a seasonal and temporary worker visa. The type of visa and work permit you'll need will vary depending on your career goals. You have to know how to apply and how to avoid scams.

Key Takeaways

  • Several categories of foreign workers can take employment in the U.S., including green card holders and temporary work visa holders.
  • You'll need a visa from your home country before you come to the U.S. to work.
  • Plan to apply for a visa well in advance of your desired date of immigration because the acquisition process can be quite lengthy.

Who Is Authorized To Work in the United States?

Several categories of foreign workers are permitted to work in the United States, including permanent immigrant workers, temporary (non-immigrant) workers, and student and exchange workers. These include:

  • U.S. green card holder
  • Exchange visitor visa 
  • Temporary work visas (non-agricultural)
  • Temporary worker visas (skilled workers)
  • Seasonal agricultural worker visas

How To Get a U.S. Work Visa

You must obtain a visa from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country or the country that's closest to your residence abroad prior to coming to the U.S. to work. There are several types of work visas available for foreign nationals, including temporary work visas, seasonal work visas, and exchange worker visas. 

Foreign nationals who are not American citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S. need a work visa as well as a permit to work before they can work in the U.S. This is officially known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

How To Get a Green Card in the U.S.

A green card, formally known as a Permanent Resident Card, authorizes an individual to live and work in the United States permanently.

Some categories require a certification from the U.S. Department of Labor to show that there aren't enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available in the geographic area where the immigrant is to be employed, and that no American workers are being displaced by foreign workers. 

The annual green card lottery program, formally known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, is an opportunity for potential immigrants to obtain the status of a permanent legal resident of the U.S. This program runs each year and can provide up to 55,000 green cards to applicants who are randomly selected in a lottery process known as the "Green Card Lottery."


Interested applicants can apply for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program online.

How To Get a U.S. Work Permit

You'll need a permit to work, officially known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), to prove eligibility to work in the U.S if you're not a citizen or a lawful permanent resident. An EAD will be needed in addition to the work visa required for entry into the United States.

Who Needs a Social Security Card To Work in the U.S.?

You'll need a Social Security number in order to be employed in the United States if you're a non-American citizen. Look into how to become eligible for a Social Security number and how to get a Social Security card.

Verifying Eligibility To Work

You must prove your eligibility to work in the country when you're hired for a job by an employer in the U.S. The I-9 form is the document that employees must complete to verify their eligibility to work here.


It's important to be aware of scams that offer assistance in obtaining a visa. The U.S. government will never request a fee payment in advance to apply for a U.S. work visa or any fee to obtain U.S. government application forms or instructions, so anyone attempting to charge you is doing so for fraudulent purposes.

Check for Updates on the Visa Process

Immigration laws and policies are constantly evolving based on prerogatives of the executive and legislative branches of government. Consult the Visa Bulletins for updates on the visa process. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you apply for a work permit in the U.S.?

Your immigration status must allow you to work in the U.S. You can then complete USCIS Form I-765 and submit it to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to get a work permit. You can file the form online, and there's a fee.

How do you apply for a work visa in the U.S.?

The type of work visa you'll need will depend on the type of work you want to do and other factors. You can visit the Social Security Administration's website to get an idea of which would apply to you, and the website for guidance as to how to apply.

What is the legal age to work in the U.S.?

You must generally be at least 14 years old to work in the U.S., although there are exceptions for agricultural work.

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  1. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. "Working in the United States."

  2. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. "Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Workers."

  3. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. "Employment Authorization Document."

  4. U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. "Green Card."

  5. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. "Employer Information."

  6. U.S. Department of State. "Instructions for the 2023 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV2023)," Page 1.

  7. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. "Employment Authorization Document."

  8. Social Security. "Social Security Numbers for Noncitizens."

  9. U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. "I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification."

  10. U.S. Department of State. "Fraud Warning: Diversity Visa."

  11. U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. "I-765, Application for Employment Authorization."

  12. U.S. Department of Labor. "Age Requirements."

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