Navigating International Work: Understanding Work Permits vs. Visas

Working abroad is a great opportunity for employees to develop their skills and gain new experiences. But understanding whether a work permit or visa is required is essential to avoid any legal complications.

A visa is an endorsement stamped on your passport that enables you to travel to and enter a country. A work permit, on the other hand, is an Employment Authorization Document that demonstrates your eligibility to legally work abroad.


When it comes to working abroad, navigating the complex legal requirements can be challenging. To help simplify the process, it is important to understand the differences between work visas and work permits.

Obtaining work permit for expatriate allows an individual to enter a country for a specific purpose such as tourism, business, or study. On the other hand, a work permit or EAD (Employment Authorization Document) is issued to allow an international worker to legally engage in employment activities for a particular employer.

Work visas and work permits have different terms and conditions, which vary by country. For example, a work visa is valid for a certain period of time, but a work permit can be renewed as needed. Some work visas also have restrictions on how many times an individual can change jobs, which can be frustrating for a career seeker who wants to switch employers.


Work Permits and Visas have a wide range of requirements that vary by country. Eligibility criteria includes the type of job being performed, the duration of the visa or permit and any other legal requirements like educational qualifications.

It’s important to check the visa or work permit requirements before applying, as a failure to meet these guidelines can result in a rejection by USCIS. If rejected, it’s often best to seek expert advice and re-apply with the help of an experienced Immigration Attorney.

For example, it is illegal to work in the United States without an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) issued by USCIS. The EAD is a photo ID that looks a lot like a driver’s license. It’s granted to people who qualify under certain categories, such as asylum seekers and students.

Visa Application Process

The process for obtaining work permits and visas vary depending on the country you are working in. Generally, visas are granted for specific purposes and allow entry into the country for a certain period of time.

Visas can be applied for from the embassy or consulate of the foreign country. You will need to provide a variety of documentation such as your passport, proof of identity, and employment details.

A work visa is a photo ID card that demonstrates your eligibility to legally work in the country where you are living and working. It is issued by USCIS and looks similar to a driver’s license. It’s also referred to as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).


Work Permits are required in addition to a visa and regulate what individuals can do while in a foreign country. They often require a degree, previous job reports or expert “testimony” among other requirements.

Visas on the other hand typically limit what activity you can participate in, like traveling to a conference or conducting business. This also differs by country.

For example, a work visa is necessary for anyone seeking to become a confinement nanny in Singapore. However, a US company may sponsor the visa for an employee without a degree through a Labor Conditions Application (LCA) and Certification. This requires that the employer proves there is no qualified domestic worker in the US to fill this position. This process is more extensive and lengthy than applying for a visa itself.

Navigating Legal Requirements for Working Abroad

If you’re considering working abroad, or are already doing so, a clear understanding of the difference between work visas and permits can help you navigate the legal system. It can also help you avoid mistakes or misunderstandings that could delay or derail your plans.

A work visa usually ties you to a specific employer, and it remains valid only for as long as that company employs you. This makes it difficult to change jobs or locations if you’re not happy with your current job.

Ogletree Deakins’ Cross-Border Practice Group will continue to monitor the issues that impact individuals and companies who work globally, and we will provide updates on our blog as new developments occur. In the meantime, we hope this information can help you achieve your career goals.