There are a number of options for those who wish to work, live, or have legal status in the USA. The options range from applying for a work visa or employment authorization to filing for residency and citizenship, however, it is important to recognize the difference between temporary work permits and permanent legal statuses. 

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One of the common legal statuses amoung younger undocumented immigrants are work permits, or work authorizations, obtained through DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Although a work permit grants legal status within the United States for a specified time and under certain circumstances, they do not grant permanent legal status.

What Is a Work Permit?

Work permits, formally known as employment authorization documents (EADs), are issued to foreigners who do not have residency rights and who do NOT wish to permanently live in the USA, but only to work for a certain amount of time. Work permits can last any where from a few months to a whole year, and renewals are possible depending on many factors.

For example, somebody entering the country on a fiancé visa may apply for a short work permit to tide them over until they marry and change their legal status. Those on religious worker visas may only require short work permits if they wish to work for pay besides the religious work they came to do.

An EAD is not employer-specific, and it allows you to work legally for any USA employer anywhere in the country. Some categories of people who require a work permit to work lawfully include spouses of exchange scholars and investors, students who are doing optional training, and L-1 internal company transfers.

What is a Permanent Legal Status?

A permanent legal status is an immigration status for persons authorized to live and work in the United States of America permanently. A work permits does not grant permanent legal status, nor does it necessairly open the door for that opportunity down the line. There are two main forms of permanent legal status: permanent residency and citizenship. 

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Permanent Residency

A Legal Permanent Resident (LPR), is someone who has gone through the naturalization process and become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. LPRs are issued Alien Registration Cards which allows them to live and work legally in the USA. The Alien Registration Card is popularly known as a green card (even though it has gone through many colors through its history).

In addition to granting the right to live and work in the USA, a person with a green card is able to petition for their spouse and children to join them. However, it also comes with responsibilities, such as living in the county permanently and not spending more than 6 months at a time outside of the country - this might prompt the loss of the green card and its privileges.


Another form a permanent legal status in the United States is citizenship, an immigration status that entails specific rights, duties and benefits. Having a permanent legal status like a green card opens the opportunity for applying for citizenship down the line, however, a work permit does not

Unlike work permits or even permanent residency, a U.S. Citizenship does not need to be renewed after a period of time, however it can be revoked by USCIS under certain circumstances. 

How Can I Get A Permanent Legal Status?

I often get asked “how can an illegal immigrant get a green card?” or “how can an illegal immigrant become legal?”. However common, answering these questions are not simple.

There are many ways to acquire legal status - through marriage being just one of them. The eligibilty requirements and paperwork associated with the immigration filings are complex and can vary on a case by case basis. An immigration consultation with an experienced and trusted immigration lawyer is highly recommended to find out which category might be best suited to every immigrant’s particular needs.

Whether you're seeking permanent legal status for an individual or for an entire family, immigration petitions have very different processes and requirements. Filing for permanent residency or citizenship is often a more involved process than filing for work permits like DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). 

Whatever your current immigration status, be it undocumented, special immigrant juvenile status, an immigration detainer or anything else, our experienced immigration lawyers in Oklahoma City can advise you on the best steps to take. Whether you seek waivers, consular processing, a work permit or full residence, our law firm in OKC is ready to asses your options and give you a recommendation.

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Michael Brooks-Jimenez

Written by Michael Brooks-Jimenez

Michael is President and managing attorney of Michael Brooks-Jimenez, P.C., firm specializing in immigration law, criminal defense, workers’ compensation, and personal injury. He is well known within the community and his commitment to the interests of the Hispanics is without question. Today, Michael Brooks-Jimenez has founded a prestigious legal services team with the objective to continue fighting for the rights of Hispanics and to help them more efficiently.