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Job Resources for Undocumented & DACA-Protected Youth

Last updated November 1, 2023

Understanding what is needed to work in the United States can be confusing for anyone applying for a job for the first time. This can potentially be even more complicated depending on your immigration or legal status in the country. Fortunately, there are job options available for both undocumented youth and youth who have specially protected legal status, such as DACA recipients. In this piece we’ll break down what your job options are and where to find job resources!

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Picture of a job application and a pen - Job Resources for Undocumented and DACA-Protected Youth

Determining your right to work

There are a few categories of legal status that you may fall under according to the federal government. Depending on your status, you’ll have different legal options in terms of what kinds of work you can obtain. We’ll break down the most common statuses below and link to great resources to learn more.

DACA and TPS recipients

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program provides young people who were brought to the U.S. as children with protection from deportation, a social security number, work authorization, and more. DACA, however, is facing some legal challenges. If you currently have DACA status, your right to work is still in place. While new recipients are not being processed, you still may be able to process a renewal so be sure to check your status before you apply to any jobs.

The Temporary Protective Status (TPS) program provides temporary immigration status to people of certain countries experiencing problems that make it difficult or unsafe for their nationals to be deported back to those countries.

Both of these programs offer recipients the ability to work legally in the United States. Here are some key terms and documents you’ll need to know to work successfully with these statuses:

  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) - As a DACA or TPS recipient, you will be eligible to receive an employment authorization document, or EAD. This document is all the legal proof you need to work! In order to keep your EAD valid, be sure to make sure that your DACA or TPS status is up to date and active.
  • Form I-9 - This is a legal form that employers are required to have all new employees complete. The federal government uses this form to ensure that all employers are hiring employees who are legally entitled to work in the United States. Your EAD is a valid form of identification and proof of your legal right to work and should be the only proof you need when you fill out your I-9 form.
  • Social Security Number (SSN) - A Social Security Number is a government-issued identification number that is used to track earnings, file taxes, and can be used as a part of loan applications among other things. As a DACA or TPS recipient, you may be eligible to receive a SSN. While a SSN is not required to legally work in the U.S., it is highly encouraged to obtain one because it can make things like filing taxes, applying for financial aid for college, and obtaining further employment easier.

Undocumented individuals

If you do not have legal work documents in the United States, like the ones a DACA or TPS or green card holder have, your path to employment can be a bit more complicated - but there are still ways for you to earn money! While securing employment can be difficult for undocumented people, since all employers in the U.S. require new hires to submit an I-9 form, there are still ways for them to earn money legally. Here are some key terms to know before you start earning money:

  • Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) - An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). An ITIN is given to people who are required to pay taxes but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain, a SSN. The ITIN allows people to report earnings to the IRS, open interest-bearing bank accounts with certain banks, and even start a business in the U.S. Getting an ITIN is the first step in earning money legally as an undocumented individual!
  • Form W-7 - This is the form you’ll need to complete in order to get an ITIN from the government.

How undocumented individuals can earn money in the U.S.

Because employers in the U.S. cannot hire employees without legal authorization, the best way to earn money as an undocumented youth is as an independent contractor, freelancer, entrepreneur, and through worker cooperatives. Once you have an ITIN, you can legally earn money (and pay taxes) in these ways:

  • Independent Contractor or Freelancer - The “gig economy” refers to a segment of the labor market in which clients contract with workers, often via apps, for specific tasks and activities. This includes things like being a driver for a ride share app like Uber or Lyft, working as a freelancer on apps like TaskRabbit, or even jobs such as computer programmers.
  • Entrepreneurship - Working for yourself is never a bad idea! This could include selling products on Etsy or eBay, providing services in your neighborhood, tutoring, babysitting, and more. Read our list of side hustles you can start today for some inspiration!
  • Key Resources to Help - Immigrants Rising is an amazing organization that helps young people earn money and know their rights. They have tools about getting started as an independent contractor, brainstorming your next business, and even offer grants to help you start your own business. If you are in college, be sure to talk to someone at your career center. Many schools have specific programs to support youth with a range of immigration statuses. They may have specific internships or fellowships that you can apply for.

Knowing your rights and figuring out ways to make money can be confusing and challenging, but we’re here to help! If you have any questions about finding or securing a job as a DACA recipient or undocumented person, text #Jobs to 33-55-77 to connect with one of our jobs advisors!

Get to College

Resources for Undocumented Students

Scholarships For DACA Recipients & Undocumented Students

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