Do You Need a Work Permit at 16 in the US?

Consideration was given for the editing and publication of this post.

If you are under 18 and intend to look for work in the US, it’s important for both you and your employer to understand the child labor laws.

You probably have many questions:

Who needs a work permit?

Can you work without a work permit if you’re 16 years of age?

If you do need a permit, how do you get one?

How’s it different from a green card?

While there is no federal law dictating the need for work permits, most states impose their own regulations regarding the need for work permits for people of certain ages. 

This is where it gets complicated. Regulations vary greatly from state to state, so it is important to check the local rules before making any decisions.

The Child Labor Laws are strict and prevent employers from hiring cheap, underage labor. You must follow the laws to the letter to avoid getting into problems with the authorities.

Are work permits different from employment certificates?

Work permits are also known as employment certificates, proof-of-age certificates, or employment authorization documents (EADs), depending on the state in which you apply.

These documents are temporary and allow an eligible person under the age of 18 (a minor) to work in the US. They essentially protect employers from being prosecuted for hiring under-age labor as they are considered proof-of-age documents.

If you have the underlying right to work in the US (through citizenship, holding green card status, a U Visa if you are the victim of a crime or a VAWA petition) then you can apply for a work permit. You cannot be issued a work permit without this underlying right.

If, for instance, your employment green card application is denied, a work permit obtained on the basis of your pending application is invalidated. This means that you will not then be able to work legally in the US.

Where do you need a work permit at 16 in the US?

Whether you need a work permit as a 16-year-old depends on your location in the US. As mentioned, all states dictate their own rules regarding this.

It gets complicated because some states require no certificates to work at 16, others require an employment certificate and others require both an employment certificate and an age certificate.

So, for instance, you need a work permit (employment certificate) in Nevada only if you are under 14 years of age (not if you are16). 

In Connecticut, the age at which you require a work permit is 16, in Alaska, it’s 17and in New York, it’s 18 years or under.

In Oklahoma, it is mandated that you must have an employment certificate AND an age certification to start a job if you are under 16.

In New Mexico, you need an employment certificate if you are under 16 and an age certificate will be issued on request (though it is not required).

In some states like Tennessee and South Dakota, neither certificate is needed to work as a minor.

Most states have minimum employment age requirements. For instance, minors under the age of 12 in California cannot receive a work permit except in the entertainment industry or in a few other exceptional circumstances. 

Do you see how this is entirely location-dependent and therefore rather difficult to generalize about?

This is the best place to check work permit requirements if you are wondering whether you need a work permit at 16 in your state. This page lists the age requirements for each state along with the type of certification you require to work and whether it is mandated by the state or issued upon request.

How do you get a work permit?

Again, there is no simple one answer to this question. It depends on the state in which you reside and want to work.

In most states, work permits are issued by either the labor department or local public schools.

Fortunately, the process is fairly straightforward in most cases, providing that you are eligible for a work permit. Note, however, that you may need to have already made contact with a potential employer and received an offer to start work if you can secure a work permit.

The application process and required forms are often accessible online to make things easier.

Typically, you will need to follow a simple process like this:

  1. Obtain a work permit application either from your local high school, the labor department or online.
  2. A pre-application form may be required in some states, to be completed by your prospective employer.
  3. You may also be required to pass a physical examination or obtain a physician’s certificate in some states.
  4. Complete your personal information on the application form and, if applicable, get your prospective employer to fill out the part of the form that applies to them.
  5. Your parent or guardian may also need to sign the application form.
  6. Return the completed work permit application to the address indicated on the form, where the work permit will be processed and typed. 
  7. Applications are usually processed relatively quickly – within a week or so.
  8. Tale a copy of your work permit to your prospective employer.

If you’re not sure about the requirements and would like legal assistance with attaining a work permit, most immigration attorneys, such as the ones from Noble Vrapi, will walk you through the process and be able to help you secure a permit if you are eligible.

June 30, 2020 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: Uncategorized