The immigration raids involving Chipotle for two years beginning 2010 is all too familiar to those in the hospitality business.  As a result of the investigation, Chipotle fired 450 workers in Minnesota after being unable to confirm the validity of their work documents.  Many other hospitality businesses have been the target of immigration-related investigations since then.

Although hospitality managers are not expected to be experts in various work authorization documents that may be presented to them while completing the Form I-9, basic knowledge of these documents is nevertheless, essential.  Below is a cheat sheet of the most common types of work authorization documents that a hospitality employee may present.  The purpose of this work authorization primer is to serve as a quick reference guide for owners and managers in the hospitality space.  Need more information?  Visit www.uscis.gov.

Temporary Workers

Type of Work Authorization: H1B

Who is this for?   Foreign workers in specialty occupations

Relevant Document(s):  I-20 if also holds student status

Time Limits (if applicable):  H1-B status is typically granted for 3 years at a time and can be extended to up to 6 years

Dependent Work Status (if applicable):  Cannot work

Other Relevant Information:

  • Typically, at least a Bachelor’s degree is essential for filing and H-1B petition
  • There is a cap on the total number of individuals who can receive H-1B classification during the year

Type of Work Authorization: H-2B

Who is this for?  Temporary non-agricultural workers. Used to fill seasonal or temporary employment needs.

Relevant Document(s): Form I-129 Petition for a nonimmigrant worker

Time Limits (if applicable):  H-2B visa holders may be authorized to work for a pre-determined amount of time as stated in the temporary labor certification.  The maximum period of stay under H-2B classification is 3 years. 

Dependent Work Status (if applicable):  Cannot work

Other Relevant Information:

  • Employer must apply for and receive a temporary labor certification
  • Then, the employer should file Form I-129 with USCIS
  • There is a cap on the total number of individuals who can receive H-2B classification during the year.
  • Only nationals from specific countries are eligible to participate in the H-2B program

Type of Work Authorization:  0-1A

Who is this for?  Persons with extraordinary abilities

Relevant Document(s):  Form I-129 Petition for a nonimmigrant worker

Time Limits (if applicable):  Initial period of stay is up to 3 years.  An extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to 1 year

Dependent Work Status (if applicable):  Cannot work

Other Relevant Information:

  • The individual requiring an O-1 visa must demonstrate extra-ordinary ability through sustained national or international claim.
  • The employment should fine Form I-129 with USCIS no more than 1 year before the actual need for the individual’s services.  Other relevant information that needs to be presented with the petition includes a consultation from an expert, contract between the employment and individual with extra-ordinary abilities, and itineraries.

Type of Work Authorization:  L-1A

Who is this for?  Intracompany transferees in managerial or executive positions

Relevant Document(s):  Form I-129 Petition for a nonimmigrant worker

Time Limits (if applicable):  Initial stay is granted for 1 or up to 3 years depending on purpose. An extension can be filed in increments of up to an additional 2 years.  Maximum limit is 7 years.

Dependent Work Status (if applicable):  Spouse may seek employment using an I-766 (EAD)

Other Relevant Information:  

  • To qualify for L-1 classification, the employer must have a qualifying relationship with a foreign country and be doing business in the US and at least one other country.
  • To qualify for L-1 classification, the employee must have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year in the previous three years before entering the US and must be seeking to enter the US in an executive or managerial capacity for a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.
  • The L-1 classification also allows a foreign company to send an executive or manager to open an affiliated US office.

Type of Work Authorization: L-1B

Who is this for?  Intracompany transferees in positions utilizing specialized knowledge

Relevant Document(s):  Form I-129 petition for a nonimmigrant worker

Time Limits (if applicable):  

Initial stay is granted for 1 or up to 3 years depending on purpose..  An extension can be filed in increments of up to an additional 2 years.  Maximum limit is 5 years.

Dependent Work Status (if applicable):  Spouse may seek employment using an I-766 (EAD)

Other Relevant Information:

  • To qualify for L-1 classification, the employer must have a qualifying relationship with a foreign country and be doing business in the US and at least one other country.
  • To qualify for L-1 classification, the employee must have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year in the previous three years before entering the US and must be seeking to enter the US as an individual with specialized knowledge for a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.
  • The L-1 classification also allows a foreign company to send an employee with specialized knowledge to open an affiliated US office.

Permanent Residents, Refugees, Asylees

Type of Work Authorization:  Permanent Resident Card

Who is this for?  Individuals granted authorization to live and work in the US permanently

Relevant Document(s):  I-551 Permanent Resident Card

Time Limits (if applicable):  Permanent resident card is valid for 10 years and needs to be renewed

Type of Work Authorization: Refugees 

Who is this for?  Individuals outside the US, are of special humanitarian concern to the US, considered admissible, and experienced demonstrable persecution.

Other Relevant Information:  

  • Refugees may work immediately upon arrival to the United States, initially with a Form I-94 containing a refugee admission stamp, and later with a Form I-766.
  • Refugees must apply for a permanent resident card one year after coming to the US.

Type of Work Authorization: Asylum 

Who is this for?  Individuals seeking protection due to persecution or fearing persecution

Relevant Document(s):  I-766 (EAD)

Other Relevant Information:  One year after an individual is granted asylum, he/she may apply for permanent residency.

Students & Exchange Visitors

Type of Work Authorization:  F-1

Who is this for?  Academic Students

Relevant Document(s):  I-20 – Document verifying student status.  I-766 – Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

Time Limits (if applicable):  Students on F-1 can pursue optional practical training (OPT) for up to 12 months.  Curricular Practical Training (CPT) must be limited to less than 12 months of full-time employment to be eligible for OPT.

Dependent Work Status (if applicable):  Cannot work

Other Relevant Information: 

  • Any off-campus employment (curricular OR optional practical training) must be approved by the Designated School Official (DSO) in the Form I-20.
  • Students on F-1 can pursue CPT prior to completion of program.  CPT is granted by the DSO.  A CPT I-20 is issued.
  • An OPT is granted by the USCIS through issuance of EAD.
  • Employment must be related to area of study.

Type of Work Authorization: M-1

Who is this for?:  Vocational Students

Relevant Document(s):  I-20 – Document verifying student status.  I-766 EAD

Time Limits (if applicable):  1 month for every 4 months of study.

Dependent Work Status (if applicable):  Cannot work

Other Relevant Information: 

  • Any off-campus employment must be approved by the Designated School Official in the Form I-20.
  • Students on M-1 can only engage in optional practical training after they have completed their studies.
  • Employment must be related to area of study.

Type of Work Authorization: J-1

Who is this for?:  Exchange visitors and students

Relevant Document(s):  DS-2019 – Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status

Time Limits (if applicable):  The duration is determined based on regulations specific to a program category or to a program sponsor’s designation.  Extensions to initial period of stay may be granted by the Responsible Officer.

Dependent Work Status (if applicable):  Spouse may seek employment using an I-766 (EAD)

Other Relevant Information: 

  • The Department of State designates public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors.
  • Visitors on J-1 participate in exchange programs to promote interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills and may be students, trainees, or interns.
  • Interns must be enrolled in a foreign degree- or certification-granting post-secondary academic institution (or) have graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to the start date of the exchange program
  • Trainees must have a degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution and at least one year of prior related work experience outside the US (or) have at least 5 years of related work experience outside the US
  • Students may be authorized to work off-campus for unforeseen economic circumstances or for academic training.  If working off-campus for unforeseen economic circumstances, students are limited to 20 hours during the academic year and full-time during summer and official University breaks.