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Work Permits for Minors

What is a work permit for a minor student?

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

How to obtain a work permit for a minor student?

Working permits are available online and at the school of the district in which you reside. Students unable to access the electronic application should call or write to the school district to ask that a paper application be mailed to them. The student’s parent or legal guardian electronically signs the PDF or signs the paper application.

Each school district handles issuing work permits to all minors who live in the district, including those who attend non-public schools, cyber charter schools, or are taking part in a home education program. An issuing officer, in most cases, is a staff person found in the guidance office of a high school.

If you are interested in obtaining a work permit, contact your local school district to decide the exact location of the individual who issues work permits, and what hours the issuing officer is available.

What documents will I need to complete a work permit application?

The minor student attaches any required documents, such as a proof of age document, to the completed application and sends it to the school district.

If applying electronically, the student may attach digital copies, such as a scan or digital photograph.

If applying by mail with a paper application, the student should include photocopies of the required documents.

If an applicant is unable to provide a required document with their application, they can present it to the school district issuing officer at the next stage of the process.

A list of required documentation is found on the Pennsylvania Child Labor Law section of PDE’s website.

Does a minor student need a work permit before they have a job?

No, a student does not need a work permit before they have a job. A student can apply for a work permit without having a job offer. They also can apply for and accept a job offer prior to obtaining a work permit. However, a student may not begin working until they receive a work permit from the school district in which they live.

May a minor student work in another state from which they live?

Yes, a minor may work in another state in which they do not live. If the minor lives in Pennsylvania and will be working in another state, the student will need a work permit from the state in which he or she will be working.  The student should contact the school district in which the employer is in that state.

What happens after the minor graduates from high school?

A minor who lives in Pennsylvania but is a high school graduate, must obtain a work permit from the school district where the employer is located.  This requirement covers all such minors including those attending colleges, universities, trade schools, or any other individual seeking employment who does not have a current work permit issued in Pennsylvania. 

High school graduates who have a work permit are exempt from the work hour limitation for minors 16 years of age and older.  They also do not need to have a signature from their parent or legal guardian on the application for a work permit as long as they provide official proof of graduation.

Does a minor student still need a work permit to work while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pennsylvania Child Labor Act requires all minors, which is any person under age 18, to obtain a work permit from the school district in which they reside, regardless of whether they are enrolled in the school district, attend a charter school or non-public/private school, or participate in a home education program.

Where does a minor student get a work permit during summer vacation?

School districts manage issuing work permits, even when school is closed.

Minors who reside in Pennsylvania and plan to work in Pennsylvania will apply for a work permit from the school district in which they reside, regardless of whether the minor is enrolled in the school district, attends a charter school or non-public/private school, or participates in a home education program. Minors experiencing homelessness may apply to the district in which they are enrolled.

How does the approval process work?

Upon receipt of the application and documentation, the issuing officer at the school district schedules an appointment with the student that adheres to social distancing guidelines.

Appointments may be held virtually by way of videoconference. Social distancing also could be seen with a solid barrier between the issuing officer and applicant, such as a closed car window or clear glass door.

The purpose of the appointment is to enable the applicant to “appear before” the issuing officer, in accordance with the Child Labor Act, while following social distancing guidelines. It also enables the issuing officer to verify a proof of age document if one is needed but the student was not able to provide a copy with the application.

The school district issuing officer ensures that all the documents required by law have been examined, approved and filed, and all conditions and requirements for issuing a permit have been fulfilled, and then mails to the minor a wallet-sized, paperwork permit bearing a number, the date of issuance, and signature of the issuing officer.

The student signs the work permit when received and shows it to the employer, who makes a copy for their records. The student keeps the original work permit.

Can a school district issue a work permit electronically?

No. Work permits must continue to be issued on a wallet-sized piece of paper, which the student should keep after their employer makes a copy for their records. Therefore, the district will need to mail the permit to the student.

Can issuing officers process work permit applications remotely during the period of mandated school closures?

Yes. School districts’ issuing officers can temporarily issue work permits remotely during the pandemic. Districts should help this temporary process by finding an email address, mailing address, and phone number on their website so that inquiries and applications are directed to the issuing officer at the remote work location. Districts should ensure issuing officers working remotely are able to communicate with applicants via a secure school email address and videoconference, and have access to work permits, postage, and secure file storage for both paper applications and digital applications.