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Everything You Need to Know About: Working Papers

Getting your first job is a rite of passage that many teens look forward to. According to New York State Labor Law, youth as young as 11 can work legally in a very narrow range of jobs. When you turn 14, however, you become eligible for New York State Working Papers, which are not actually papers but a card that allows you to work legally.

An employment certificate, better known as working papers, are a requirement in order to have a job in New York State. Without it, you cannot legally be employed. According to the New York State Department of Labor, there are 3 different employment certificates divided in to two age groups: 14-15 year olds, 16-17 year olds in school, and 16-17 year olds out of school.

There are different color cards for different age groups. The only place you can get working papers is from your school’s guidance office or from the superintendent’s office in the district in which you live, even if you do not attend school there.

The first step is to get the application, fill it out, and have your legal guardian sign the application.

You must return the application to the guidance office, along with proof of age such as a birth certificate, state issued photo ID, passport, or drivers permit or license.

You will be required to have a physical before working papers are issued.

Once you move into a new age bracket, you will have to apply for a new employment certificate, and once you turn 18 you will no longer need one.

Although these are the 3 primary working papers, there are special occupation permits as well. Youth as young as 12 and 13 are able to apply for a farm work permit, allowing them to work in the hand-harvest of berries, fruits, and vegetables. Also, newspaper carrier permits are available for youth ages 11 to 18 who deliver or sell and deliver to homes or places of business. Lastly, there are street trades permits for self-employed youth ages 14 to 18 who sell newspapers or periodicals.

Teens age 14 and 15 are eligible for work permitted by New York State Labor Law. These working papers are blue. At this age, you may work in all occupations not requiring the use of machinery, including lawn mowers, power tools, knives, or other potentially hazardous equipment. On school days, you can work 3 hours a day, between the hours of 7:00am and 7:00pm, though not during school hours. On weekends, you can work up to 8 hours a day between the same hours. You may not work more than 18 hours or 6 days a week when school is in session. As you can imagine, these restrictions make it difficult for employers to hire 14 and 15 year old workers.

As a 16 or 17 year old, you can work 4 hours on days you have school and have to go to school the next day (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) and 8 hours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You can work up to 28 hours a week between the hours of 6:00am and 10:00pm. You still are prohibited from working around certain machines, doing construction work, helping on a motor vehicle, and working with factory machinery.

During vacation periods, including summer vacation, 14 and 15 year olds can work 8 hours a day between the hours 7:00am and 9:00pm, for a maximum of 40 hours per week. Students ages 16 and 17 can work eight hours a day for a maximum of 48 hours per week between the hours of 6:00am and midnight.

When you get a job, the employer will keep your working papers on file. When you leave the job, the working papers must be returned to you.

Have your working papers and are looking for employment? Contact your local Career Center today!

For more information on special requirements, changing age brackets, hour restrictions, and laws governing the employment of minors, you can visit


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