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Working papers are documents that certify someone's eligibility for work. Such papers are required for people such as minors and foreign nationals in some nations and must be presented to employers before someone can be hired as an employee. Employers must keep documentation demonstrating that they inspected working papers and verified their validity, and in some cases they may be required to verify eligibility for employment by other means, such as an agency database.
In the case of minors, many nations have child labor laws that prohibit hiring people below the age of majority except in special circumstances. Minor employees are usually limited in terms of the hours and days they can work. Working papers for minors document a minor's age so that employers know how and when that employee can be scheduled. These papers can also document exceptions to the law, as when an emancipated minor receives working papers that allow him or her to work the same schedule as an adult.
Foreign nationals are typically barred from employment unless they have the proper authorizations. If a prospective employee is not a citizen, working papers showing that authorization has been received must be presented. These can include work visas, work permits, and other documentation. Employers who recruit overseas may include assistance with obtaining employment authorizations in their benefits as an incentive to talented employees whom they are trying to convince to relocate.
In the case of foreign nationals, working papers are issued by government agencies. They usually contain official seals and other information to verify their authenticity, and employers can call an agency to verify documentation if it appears questionable. Working papers for minors may be issued by a school, attesting to a minor's age and capacity for work, or may be forms filled out and signed by the minor's parents or guardians. Employers usually make copies of these documents for their records and people are advised to keep the original documentation in a safe place in case it is needed again, as obtaining replacements is sometimes difficult.
This term is also used in some other senses in the business community. In an audit, working papers are documents maintained by the firm conducting the audit. These papers document the processes used and verify that the auditors complied with the law while reviewing documentation. Technical reports and papers in progress may be referred to as working papers. In this sense, they are documents that people are working together to develop into a finished form.