Work permits are available from state and federal labor departments and allow workers who meet eligibility criteria to work legally and receive protection under labor laws. If you are under the age of 18 or an immigrant, then you are most likely required by the state in which you seek employment to have a work permit.
Many states require people below a certain age to present work permits when they apply for jobs. In Illinois, for example, 14- and 15-year olds can't receive jobs until they have presented valid work permits that include permission from parents and school officials who verify the student's academic status. In Wisconsin, everyone under age 18 needs a work permit. Agricultural and in-home jobs, including babysitting, are exempt from age-based work permit laws.
Foreign workers and non-citizen immigrants also need work permits before they can take on employment. This applies to workers of all ages who are either recent immigrants who have not yet completed the citizenship process, as well as foreign citizens who wish to come to the United States for temporary employment. These work permits require information from applicants about resident status and may have a time limit after which the worker will need to apply for an extension or leave the country.
A key reason young people and immigrants need work permits is so that they can receive protection under state and federal labor laws. Work permit programs require employers to report hour and wage data, which ensures that workers don't receive unfair treatment or less than the minimum wage. Permits for young people often limit the number of hours a student can work in a given week or on a school night, which protects students from schedules that would be likely to interfere with school work and other activities.
Another reason that certain people need work permits is to hold employers accountable. Each employer is responsible for verifying the age and employment eligibility of each worker. Even if an applicant lies during an interview or on an application, it is still the employer that is subject to fines for violating employment laws. Work permit programs include monetary penalties that encourage employers to screen workers thoroughly and promote fair hiring practices.