Successful investigations into workplace protections rely on workers feeling comfortable participating in proceedings, especially without the fear of retaliation. Workers who do not have employment authorization often fear additional consequences or retaliation specifically related to their immigration status. To ensure all workers are protected, the US federal government announced new policies specifically to help workers, uphold workers’ rights, and hold abusive employers accountable. 

US Citizenship and Immigration Services now offers “discretionary protection” on a case-by-case basis for such workers, greatly increasing the ability of labor agencies like ours to fully investigate worksite violations. 

Here is what you need to know about the Philadelphia Office of Worker Protections and  how you can access protections regarding your work visa or work status if you are involved in a labor law violation. 

The Office of Worker Protections will never ask you about your immigration status.

Regardless of citizenship or immigration status, you are protected by Philadelphia’s labor laws. This includes people who work “under the table”, “off the books”, or who receive payments in cash or app based payments. The Office will never ask for, nor will the Office record, any details related to immigration status. No identification or​ proof of work authorization is required to file a complaint or to participate in an investigation.

The Office can support  immigration protections for those  who need a work visa.

The Office can provide  the federal Department of Homeland Security a “Statement of Interest Letter” to offer deferred action in the form of prosecutorial discretion  for victims or witnesses to labor violations who lack proper employment authorization. The“Statement of Interest Letter,” does not name any complainants or witnesses or provide identifying details of any individual involved except the Employer. These are granted on a case by case basis, and are not guaranteed.

The federal government has already granted deferred action to noncitizen workers participating in labor investigations.

Deferred action is a form of prosecutorial discretion to pause deportation against noncitizens. A noncitizen granted deferred action is considered lawfully present in the United States for the duration of the deferment for up to two years. If granted deferred action, a noncitizen may be eligible for employment authorization. It does not confer lawful status or excuse any past or future periods of unlawful presence.

Is this for me? Protections from deportation  can be granted for both complainants and for witnesses, and may come through several different methods.

Typically, if the Office of Worker Protections is investigating an employer during a particular time period and you were an employee at that time, you can be eligible for this protection. There are multiple pathways made available through the current federal administration and immigration law to protect workers from removal. These might include deferred action, parole in place, or T and U nonimmigrant visas.

If I am a witness to or involved in a labor law violation at work, how do I protect myself with deferred action?

  1. You or someone who helps you can contact the Office of Worker Protections via email and include “Statement of Interest” in the title.
  2. OWP sends a statement of interest letter to DHS regarding your workplace (this will not include your info) and will let you know if it is approved or denied.
  3. You or someone who helps you can request deferred action by contacting USCIS


→ This blog was written with assistance from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website. You can learn more about this process by visiting the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Website

→ To request the Office to submit a Statement of Interest related to your case or investigation, contact the Office of Worker Protections via email and include “Statement of Interest” in the title.