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California's law opens up work to many

Unauthorized California immigrants may be wondering how to obtain work permits now that President Obama's immigration plan has been placed in limbo by a deadlocked U.S. Supreme Court. However, some people could begin working thanks to a state law that allows unauthorized immigrants to work as independent contractors.

Current federal law forbids employers from hiring unauthorized immigrants, but the California law that was enacted in 2015 allows immigrants who do not have Social Security numbers to apply for professional licenses using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN. The law covers 39 professional disciplines, including architecture, cosmetology and nursing, and approximately 3,000 people have already applied.

There are other ways to legally work in California and some other states without a Social Security number. For example, unauthorized immigrants can own and operate their own businesses as long as they pay taxes through an ITIN. However, SB 1159 opens up work opportunities to thousands of skilled workers who have been shut out of the employment market until now. Some groups in favor of tighter immigration regulations are unhappy with the bill, believing it oversteps federal authority. Some immigrants also feel shut out by the law because they do not have the money to apply for a license.

Immigrants interested in applying for a California work permit under SB 1159 may want to speak with an attorney familiar with employment immigration laws. Legal counsel could ensure all required documentation is included and help file the application. An attorney could also help file the necessary paperwork for those in need of temporary or permanent work visas.

Source: SCPR, "After Supreme Court ruling, what's next for unauthorized immigrants seeking work?," Leslle Rojas, July 5, 2016

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  • American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • State Bar of California | California Board of Legal Specialization
  • Avvo
  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Irvine Chamber