How to Get a Work Permit for Minors

How to Get a Work Permit for Minors

When it comes to underage workers (in other words, minors, or those under the age of 18), you must have the necessary documentation in place to get a job.

You may be a teenager looking to gain a little independence, or perhaps your parents feel that you need to understand the value of a dollar. Whatever the case, there is federal legislation in place which may restrict how many hours you can earn a week.

The US Department of Labor (DOL) has put in place the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This reduces child exploitation in the US workplace.

The FLSA sets the minimum ages of employment at:

  • 14 for non-agricultural jobs (for example, in a shop)
  • 16 for agricultural jobs (for example, on a farm)

It also restricts the hours someone under 16 can work.

Further, those under 18 cannot be employed in hazardous occupations.

It also requires certain certificates and permits to exist for minors to work.

This article will help you to understand what the rules are around underage workers and will help you discover whether you may need a work permit or not.

What Is a Work Permit for a Minor?

A work permit is a document (also known as 'working papers') that certifies that an individual (usually under the age of 18) can be employed.

Working papers are not federal requirements but many states will require them before employing a teenager or a child.

Some working permits for minors are issued by the state labor department and others are issued by schools.

Employers may request a valid work permit or age certificate to protect themselves from being prosecuted when employing a minor.

What Is the Difference Between Employment Certificates and Age Certificates?

An employment certificate includes the minor’s age and demonstrates their eligibility to work.

An age certificate is a document that provides evidence that the minor is above the minimum age to work.

It is the employer’s responsibility to retain hold of these certificates.

Where Do I Get Working Papers or Age Certificates From?

You can get a blank copy of your working papers online from your state labor office or your local school district.

You can often download the application form directly from your state department of education website.

If your school issues the papers (which can be confirmed by checking the details with the Department of Labor), the school will need to certify that your working patterns will not interfere with your education or damage your health.

If the school does not believe that working is in your best interest, they can refuse to sign the documentation. The school can also cancel a work permit at any time if they feel that the working hours are adversely affecting your education or your absence is causing a problem for other students.

Do the Rules Change in Different States?

Each state has distinct requirements for the employment of minors. The rules usually relate to:

  • The minimum age for starting work
  • Type of work permitted
  • How many hours can legally be worked

Some states require a permit for minors to work, others are content with an age certificate proving the individual meets the minimum age requirement.

The Department of Labor website has useful guides on varying regulations.

The DOL also clarifies whether employment or age certificates are:

  • Mandated (M) by state law
  • Requested (R) (not required but the law stipulates an administrative agency will issue the certificate if asked)
  • Practiced (P) (there is no required law, but the state will produce a certificate upon request)

Here is a breakdown of a few states which will help you to identify the differences.

This table is reproduced from the full chart provided by the Department of Labor.

StateEmployment CertificateAge Certificate
For minors of age indicated:Issued by:For minors of age indicated:Issued by:
Labor DepartmentSchoolLabor DepartmentSchool
ArizonaNot issued  Not issued 
CaliforniaUnder 18 for minors enrolled in school (M)X (for the entertainment industry)xNot issued 
FloridaNo provision  Under 18 (R)x
IndianaUnder 18 (M) x18-21 (R)x
MassachusettsUnder 18 (M) xUnder 18 (M) as part of Employment Certificatex
NevadaUnder 14 (M)  Not issued 
New YorkUnder 18 (M)X (for the entertainment industry)x18 and over (P) x
PennsylvaniaUnder 18 (M) xNot issued 
TexasNo provision  Under 18 (R)x
WashingtonUnder 18 (M) xNot issued 

As you can see, each state has its differences. The table above also defines which certificates are Mandatory (M), Request (R) or Practice (P) as detailed earlier.

Top Tip. If you are underage and looking for your first employed job, it is strongly recommended that you contact your local labor department or your school guidance office to find out the local requirements.

How to Get a Work Permit for Minors
How to Get a Work Permit for Minors

To find out what your state requirements are, speak to your school guidance counselor or check the requirements on the Department of Labor website.

This will clarify whether you need to obtain working papers or an age certificate, as well as clarify whether they are issued by your state labor department or at the discretion of your school board.

How to Get a Work Permit for a Minor

Once you are confident of what your state requirements are, it is time to fill in your application.

Here are some key parts you will need to fill in:

Minor’s Information

  • Name (first and last name)
  • Home phone number
  • Home address including city and zip code
  • Birthdate
  • Social security number
  • Age
  • Grade average
  • Signature for authorization

Parent/Guardian Information

  • Name (first and last name)
  • Signature for authorization
  • Date of signature

Employer’s Information

  • Business name or agency of placement
  • Business phone number
  • Supervisors name
  • Business address including city and zip code
  • Maximum working hours expected – broken down by hours per day and hours per week
  • Brief description of the nature of the work
  • Employers name
  • Employers signature
  • Date of signature

Once you have completed the application form, you will need to give a printed copy to the issuer (either the local labor department or your school) along with proof of identification that shows your age.

This could be a birth certificate, a copy of your passport, your driving license or even your school identification.

Some issuers may require that your parents/guardians accompany you to witness their signatures when authorizing you to start work.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Work Permit for a Minor?

It usually takes approximately 48 hours for your work permit to be processed.

Once it's confirmed, if you are under the age of 18, a copy will be sent directly to your employer to retain on their records.

When Does a Working Permit for a Minor Expire?

The employment certificates are only valid for that specific job. If you leave a job to get a new one, you may have to fill out a new work permit application.

Some states may also have regulations for when a permit may expire.

For example, in the state of California, all work permits for minors expire after the school has been open in the fall for five days.

This ensures that all working minors report to the school for the start of the new school year. If you have worked during the summer vacation, you will need to apply for a second working permit even if you intend to continue your work in the same job role.

We recommend checking with your local school counselor to confirm if your state has similar stipulations.

How to Job Hunt as a Minor

If you are ready to look for your first job, and your parents/guardians and school are happy that you meet the criteria set out to achieve a working permit, then it is time to start job hunting.

But before you start applying for the first job that you see, remember that it is wise to take the time to think about what type of work you would like to do.

You should use your first job as an opportunity to explore your interests and get involved in something which excites and motivates you.

Remember that there are federal laws in place which will determine how many hours you can work a week.

For example, if you are 14 or 15, you are legally unable to work shifts during school hours. You will also be limited to just three hours of work per school day or 18 hours per school week (or eight hours per day on a non-school day/40 hours per non-school week).

Make sure that you are aware of what the law says. If your employer asks you to work beyond these hours, make sure you tell a parent/guardian or teacher.

Here are some practical tips to help as you delve into the world of work for the first time:

  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you see a job advertised that you think sounds like the right fit for you, it may be beneficial to show the advert to a parent/guardian or teacher to confirm its legitimacy. As a minor, you will almost certainly be entitled to the federal minimum wage which is $7.25 per hour (but certain jobs are exempt from this, including babysitting)

  • Talk to your high school guidance counselor to find out if they can help you with your job search. Your school may have links with local businesses, community groups or voluntary organizations that are looking for new employees. Many jobs for minors are found through personal contacts and recommendations so it is worth asking friends/family members if they know of anything suitable for you.

  • Think about your cover letter and your resume. These documents introduce you to the employer. As it is your first job, you will likely not have any specific career experience to talk about. Instead, you should look at what skills you have (such as ICT skills, communication skills, language fluency) and explain how these skills can help you to do the job. You can bring in details of any school projects that you have worked on or any extracurricular activities that you enjoy.

  • Job interviews can be nerve-wracking. If it is your first job interview, take the time to prepare. Employers are not looking for vast experience from minors. They want to see someone who is hard-working, motivated and has a positive attitude. You can ask a friend or family member to run through some practice interview questions to help you get ready.

  • Don’t forget to dress appropriately for your job interview. This means wearing appropriate clothing that makes sure you are suitably covered, wearing sensible shoes, not drawing attention to large tattoos or piercings, and ensuring that you look presentable with brushed hair and clean face/hands. Remember that it is always better to be over-dressed in your first interview than under-dressed.

  • Be realistic about what you can commit to. Your working papers are contingent on your education and your school could decide to withdraw their authorization of your permit if they feel that your grades are adversely affected. You also need to consider how much time you spend on extracurricular activities as well as study time, family time and time for yourself.

Final Thoughts

The purpose of the working permit is to ensure that employers can confirm that a minor is an age that they say they are. It also allows schools the opportunity to keep an eye on students who are working to ensure that their grade average does not suffer.

Applying for your working papers or age certificate as a minor is a straight-forward process.

Remember, not every single state requires working permits or age certificates for minors. Your first important task is to confirm what your state preferences are.

As long as you meet the necessary criteria set out by the state, and you can prove that your grades are suitably high enough, your school or local labor department are unlikely to deny your permit.

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