Integrity Legal

24th July 2009

The K-1 visa is a very popular visa for Thai nationals who have a US Citizen loved one. The US Embassy in Bangkok processes a large number of fiance visa cases each year. Many of those who apply for a United States K-1 visa have questions about their status once they reach the USA. In most cases, the answers are cut and dried, but there are some questions that have more nuanced answers.

Many people who travel to the United States on a K1 visa seem to immediately ask the question: Can I work now that I’m here? The answer to that question would be a qualified “yes.” Under the relevant provisions of 8 CFR 274a.12(a)(6), a K-1 visa holder may be entitled to apply for what is known as work authorization. Work authorization is sometimes referred to as a “work permit.” Similar to a work permit in Thailand, the work authorization document in the United States must be obtained by petitioning the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

The work permit’s technical name is: Employment Authorization Document (EAD). There are those who are under the mistaken impression that work authorization is a right. In fact, under current United States Immigration laws the K-1 visa holder is not entitled to work authorization as a matter of right, but is simply entitled to submit an application for said status.

A downside of obtaining an Employment Authorization Document while in K-1 status is the fact that the Employment Authorization only lasts as long as the applicant is in K1 status. So it is subject to expiration as soon as the K-1 visa holder’s status changes. This results in employment authorization that lasts for a negligible duration. In most cases, obtaining Work Authorization is often not a net benefit to the prospective applicant except in certain rare circumstances.

That being said, there are other methods of gaining work authorization. A possibly more beneficial option for the prospective work authorization applicant would be to submit an EAD petition in conjunction with an I-485 petition for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence (green card). This method is advantageous because the fee for the Employment Authorization Document is included in the adjustment fee and the result is a net reduction in expenses. Also, the Employment Authorization Document will be valid for one year.

Further, A Thai spouse of a US Citizen present in the United States on a non-immigrant K-3 visa is eligible for work authorization. In the case of the J-1 visa and F-1 visa, the visa holder may be able to obtain a work permit depending upon the situation. Although, particularly in the case of the US Student Visa, work authorization will be severely restricted.

All of this being said, it should be noted that once the K-1 visa holder successfully adjusts status to permanent residence they will have a green card and be legally allowed to work in the United States of America.

(This post is meant for educational purposes only. No Attorney-Client relationship is formed by reading this content.)


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