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August 8, 2013
How to Find a Job as an Undocumented American

I’ve been working since I was 14 years old.

That’s at real jobs: set hours, a payday, and an employer – if you count paper routes, I’ve been working since I was 8. All (up until last year) while undocumented.

Yesterday at our weekly ASK Support Group meetings, we discussed the issue of finding a job while undocumented. This is one of the most frequently asked questions we get at Atlas: DIY; thus we felt it best to share our conclusions with the rest of the community. We also discussed the topic of workplace abuse, so I’ll list some videos at the bottom so you know your rights and can avoid such cases.


Don’t let the fear of being rejected stop you from looking for a job

Getting Over the Fear

First thing we did was ask everyone to share their job hunting experience. As we went around the room, one thing was immediately clear: the fear of getting rejected because of status actually kept many of the youth from even looking for a job.

Consider this, though: there are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of undocumented Americans working in the country right now. If they can do it, then it must be possible.

Why is it important to let go of that fear? Nearly every study on the subject has proven that the simple belief that a goal is attainable is enough to significantly improve your chances of success.

Where do I look for a job?

The girl is confused because she's looking for a job, she's undocumented, and she doesn't know where to look.

Getting over the fear of looking for a job is an important first step, but it’s not necessarily all you need: you also need to know where to look for a job. Below is a list of places that may not ask for a social security number when hiring:


We’re all familiar with this option. Small restaurants often pay their employees in cash and do not ask for a social security number in the hiring process.

Corner Stores

My first job (where I stayed almost 2 years) was at a corner store in Brooklyn. Small business owners often do not have online invoicing systems and pay in cash.

Paper Routes

My first paper route was at 8 years old. A friend of mine introduced it to me as a way to make money, and it was a great first job experience. Although the image that comes to mind when thinking “paper boy” is a young child, these jobs do not have an age limit. Just make sure you’re being paid fairly.

Community Organizations

Community organizations (such as churches) are a great place to look for a job. Not only will you make money, you may also connect with people in your community who may help you down the road. Not to mention, you’ll be helping your community!


I took my first internship as a few years ago. I wanted to apply before then, but was afraid I would be asked for papers (this is where the limiting fear comes in). Once I did start looking for internships, however, I found most of the good ones were paid and – more importantly – never asked me for proof of citizenship.

Internships can be a great way to gain experience in a field you want to go into and make some money while you do it. Just make sure you’re being paid fairly for your work – a lot of internship are unpaid (in some cases, that’s not illegal, but that’s a topic for another post).


Are you good at a particular subject? Look for people in your community who need tutoring. You’ll be surprised how profitable this is, especially if you can teach for a standardized test, like the SHSAT or SAT.

Here’s a quick exercise:

What other types of jobs don’t typically ask for a social security number? Share your ideas in the comment section below – you might help someone find a job!




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