US citizens and permanent residents have the right to work in the US with few or no restrictions. If a person can show a valid green card or proof of citizenship, they can show that they are authorized to work in the US. Those who are not citizens or green card holders must secure work authorization, which is usually granted on a temporary basis. Work authorization in the US serves several important functions. It ensures that only those qualified to work in the US do so. It also ensures that workers in the US are documented and therefore protected by the laws of the US.
Employers need to fill out and file a Form I-9 for every new employee. This form shows that the employer has seen and checked the work authorization of every worker. Once employment authorization expires, the worker must no longer continue work for the employer. However, there are situations in which this can become somewhat complicated. For example, a worker may have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) work authorization but may not yet have a current employment authorization card.
TPS status is granted to nationals of countries affected by civil unrest or natural disaster. For example, currently Nicaragua, South Sudan, El Salvador, Somalia, Honduras, Sudan, and Haiti have this designation. In each case, there is an expiration date for the status, but the USCIS often extends the status to allow workers already in the US under TPS status to apply for a new employment authorization document. This means that a worker from a TPS status country may have an expired work authorization document (with the old TPS expiry date on it) but may actually be authorized to work in the US without a new document under a USCIS date extension. Employers can check which countries have been granted TPS status and what the current expiry dates are for each country by visiting the USCIS site at www.uscis.gov/tps.
If an employer has a TPS worker who is affected by a date extension in this manner, the employer can bring up to date Sections 1 and 2 of the worker’s Form I-9. Once the employer has confirmed that the work authorization has been extended automatically by the USCIS, the employer can cross out the old expiry date on the Form I-9 and write the new expiry date in along with the words “TPS ext.” Both the employer and employee should initial the new dates. Once the new date has expired, the employee will need to present new work authorization documents or will need to be affected by a new automatic extension of the TPS status.