Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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What is a work permit, why do you need one and who needs one? In many states (but not all), minors must obtain this documentation in order to get a job. This establishes that they’re legally allowed to work and outlines the requirements for maintaining this eligibility.

If you're a teenager or the parent of a teacher who's interested in landing a part-time job, learn whether you need a work permit and how to get one. 

What is the minimum age for work?

Specific laws vary from state to state, but the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) set 14 as the minimum age of employment, except in the case of agricultural work. The number of hours minors are permitted to work is limited for those under the age of 16. Check with your state’s Department of Labor to find out the specific restrictions and legal requirements governing the ability to work.

How do you apply for a work permit?

The procedures for applying for a work permit vary from state to state, but generally speaking, they involve the following steps:

1. Find out your state requirements.

Not all states require you to have a work permit to get a job as a minor. Review your state requirements on the U.S. Department of Labor website to find out the laws in your area. You should also review your state’s age restrictions and the paperwork you’ll need to show if you are required to get a work permit. 

2. Obtain an application.

In most cases, you’ll be able to get an application from your high school. Otherwise, you should be able to get them from your state’s Department of Labor either online or in-person (the website is a good place to start).

3. Gather together the required documents.

Again, the specific documents you’ll need vary by state. Review the requirements for your state and gather together the necessary paperwork you’ll need to show. 

4. Submit your documents and application.

Go to the appropriate office (usually your state’s Department of Labor) to deliver your application and the necessary documentation. Usually, you’ll need a parent or guardian to come with you and sign your application, too.

5. Renew your work permit as necessary.

Pay attention to the expiration date for your work permit, and follow the procedures for renewing it as needed.

Can I work without a work permit?

There is no federal law prohibiting minors from working without a work permit. However, many states do require them. As we’ve discussed, you’ll need to review your state’s laws to determine whether a work permit is required at all and, if so, the age requirements for obtaining a work permit.

What GPA do you need for a work permit?

Some school districts require you to have a minimum GPA in order to obtain a work permit. Check with your school to determine whether yours is one of them and what it is. For instance, some may set the minimum GPA for obtaining a work permit at 2.0 (equivalent to a C average), and you would need to provide documentation of your GPA (such as your school transcript) as part of your application. 

Does a work permit require school attendance?

This also depends on the state. In California, for example, minors under the age of 18 must currently attend school in order to get a work permit. However, if a minor graduates before turning 18, she will no longer be required to have a work permit to have a job. If a minor between the ages of 16 and 18 wishes to obtain a work permit, she must enroll in continuing education or adult school classes for four hours per week before doing so. 

Can a work permit be taken away?

In some circumstances, a state may revoke a work permit. For example, in Indiana, a work permit will be revoked if the student's GPA or attendance drops significantly since the beginning of her employment. 

When does a work permit expire?

Usually, work permits are given for a specific period of time, such as one year. They must be renewed prior to expiration if the individual wishes to continue working. 

How to get working papers.

What documentation is required?

Again, you’ll need to check with your Department of Labor to find out what documentation you’ll need to present with your application. Examples include:

• A copy of your birth certificate, driver’s license, passport or other government-issued identification with your age

• Your social security card

• Your school records and transcripts, indicating your GPA

• A letter from a prospective employer describing your job responsibilities and hours you intend to work

• A certificate attesting to your physical fitness to work  from your physician

• A document attesting to parental consent, with your parent or guardian’s signature

• A work permit fee fee

How do I get a work permit in California?

In California, minors under the age of 18 must obtain a work permit in order to hold a job except in special circumstances, such as if they have graduated high school prior to turning 18. 

Prospective workers should obtain their applications from their school districts (if school isn’t in session, you should contact the Department of Education). Complete the form entitled “Statement of Intent to Employ Minor and Request for Work Permit.” You will need to have it signed by both your prospective employer and your parent or guardian. Return the form and any documention necessary, as listed on the application, to your school, which will issue the work permit (B1-4).

Your work permit will state the number of hours you may work, the responsibilities you’ll perform and the location of the work. If it was issued during the school year, it will expire five days prior to the start of the next school year, and you should get it renewed should you wish to continue working. 

Remember that procedures often differ from state to state, so it’s important to review your state laws to find out what you need to do, the documents you should have and other requirements, such as age restrictions.

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