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I am an immigrant and want to know more about employment law.

Related Legal Issues

Related Legal Issues | 


I am an immigrant and want to know more about employment law.

This toolkit provides information to help you understand your rights to education as an immigrant and how the law affects you.

For general information about immigration and education, read the Articles section and see the Frequently Asked Questions section.

If you would like to see if you qualify for free help, please see our Find Legal Help directory. 

WARNING: The information and forms in this toolkit are not a substitute for a lawyer's help and advice.  It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your situation.

Frequently Asked Questions
When am I authorized to work as an immigrant?

Your ability to work lawfully in the United States depends on your immigration status. Naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents, and refugees can work freely without restriction. All other types of immigrants, however, must apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which is often called a work permit, before they are allowed to work. 

How can I apply for a social security card as an immigrant?

All immigrants with authorization to work in the United States may apply for a social security number and card from their local Social Security Administration office. Undocumented immigrants without employment authorization are not eligible for social security numbers, but may still apply for a Taxpayer ID Number from the Internal Revenue Service, which they can use to file and track their federal income taxes.

As an immigrant, am I protected by U.S. labor laws?

Yes, labor laws in the United States—including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA), and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—apply to all employees, regardless of their immigration status. If you believe that your employer is violating labor laws, you have the right to file a complaint with the Department of Labor or other relevant agency. You may also hire your own attorney to sue your employer.

Can a prospective employer ask me about my immigration status or history during an interview?

No. Employers are legally barred from asking questions related to certain topics during an interview. Restricted topics include your citizenship status, disabilities, sexual orientation, religion, family plans, national origin, etc. If an employer asks you about your immigration status or history, that question is in violation of the law, and you are not required to answer it. Instead, say that you are not required to answer the question, and move on to a different topic.

However, employers are required to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all employees hired after November 6, 1986. They do this by completing the Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) Form. They must review documents showing the employee's identity and employment authorization. The law prohibits employers from rejecting valid documents. Employers can’t ask for more documents—beyond what is already legally required for employment eligibility verification—just because of an employee's citizenship status or national origin. For example, an employer cannot require only individuals the employer perceives as "foreign" to verify their employment eligibility, or produce specific documents (like the employee's "green card" or Employment Authorization Documents). Employees choose which of the permitted documents they show for employment eligibility verification. As long as the document looks reasonably genuine, and relates to the employee, it should be accepted.

Can I be fired because I am an immigrant?

Unless otherwise provided in an employment contract, employment in Texas is “at will.” This means that an employer can fire you for any reason and at any time. Employers “at will” are not permitted to terminate an employee for illegal reasons, such as your nationality. However, they are allowed to terminate your employment if you cannot produce evidence of your authorization to work legally in the United States.

What is the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) and what does it require?

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) is legislation Congress passed, intending to curb unlawful immigration to the United States. Among other things, the law provides for sanctions against employers who demonstrate a pattern or practice of hiring undocumented workers. IRCA also led to the creation of Form I-9, and requires employers and the job applicant to complete the form at the time of hiring.

What is an I-9 Form?

An I-9 Form is a form that all employers must complete at the time of hiring to confirm the identity and employment eligibility of the applicant. The job applicant must provide basic information about themselves, including a social security number, and attest to their employment eligibility. It is extremely important that non-U.S. citizens do not claim U.S. citizenship on this form, because it can have serious consequences for their immigration status in the future.

Immigration and Employment - Video by the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice

Click the "Play" button to watch the video.