How to Get Working Papers (Employment / Age Certification)

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Working papers are legal documents that certify that a minor (someone under 18) can be employed. Working papers are categorized into two types of certifications: employment certification and age certification.

There are no federal requirements that mandate that minors get working papers before starting employment. However, in some states, if you're under eighteen, you may need to obtain working papers in order to legally be able to work.

Here's information on who needs working papers and how to get an employment or age certificate so you can get hired.

What is the Minimum Age for Work?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states that 14 is the minimum age for most (non-agricultural) work. The main exception to this is that minors of any age can hold certain jobs, such as babysitting, chores, delivering newspapers, and a few other exceptions. Read here for more information about the minimum age for work according to the FLSA.

The FLSA also bans minors from certain occupations, particularly those that are considered hazardous (such as coal mining, using balers and compactors, roofing work, operating certain power-driving machines, and more).

That being said, many states have their own child labor laws. Some of these have a higher minimum age than the FLSA. In these cases, the higher minimum age is always taken.

Again, the FLSA does not require minors to have working papers if they want to be employed.

However, certain states require minors to hold working papers.

Do I Need Working Papers?

The rules about who needs working papers vary from state to state. In some states, you will need working papers if you are under 16. In other states, you will need them if you are under 18. There are some states where you won't need any certificate to get hired.

Review this list of State Labor Laws: Employment/Age Certificates to find out which states require working papers. This list explains whether or not your state requires certification, at what age, and whether the state requires employment certification, age certification, or both.

The best place to find out if you need working papers is your school guidance office. If you need working papers, the counselors can give you the form you will need to complete or tell you where to get it.

How Do I Get Working Papers?

If you find out you need working papers, you can get these from your school guidance office. You can also get them through your state department of labor. You can either visit the office, search for the working papers on the state department of labor website, or call/email the office asking for working papers.

This list of State Labor Laws: Employment/Age Certificates not only explains whether or not your state requires certification, but it also states whether you can get that certification from your school or your state department of labor, or both.

What Information Will I Need to Give?

Requirements vary from state to state, but in general, here's what you will need to do to get working papers, and get your papers approved:

  • Obtain working papers/ certificate application from your school or department of labor.
  • Obtain a certificate of physical fitness from your doctor. You may need to have had a physical within the last year.
  • Bring the completed application with proof of age (copy of birth certificate, school record, school id, driver's license, or other document that lists your age) to either your school or department of labor.
  • A parent or guardian will probably need to come with you to submit the papers and will need to sign the application. He or she may also need to come to obtain the papers.

Each certificate varies, but generally you will be asked to give information such as your full name, date of birth, grade completed, and your parents’/guardians’ names.

Often, the certificate will expire after a certain period of time.

For example, most are valid for about one year.

If you lose your working papers you can request a duplicate copy from the office that issued it.

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