Undocumented individuals face certain challenges because of their immigration status. Insurance, licensing, and employment are some of the things undocumented immigrants could struggle with within a country other than their national origin, especially in countries like the United States, with strong federal immigration reform and control acts. 

However, certain legal rights protect such employees from employment discrimination and make them eligible for certain benefits if they carry an appropriate insurance policy. Although your priority now should be how to change your undocumented status as an immigrant to a recognized by the state law. This article reviews how independent contractors, subcontractors, and other construction workers working in the construction industry can get insured and access some rights irrespective of their immigration status. We do this by answering major questions and providing beneficial answers below. 

Who’s considered an Illegal Immigrant? 

You must know your immigration status before contemplating how to get a job. You may not have entered the United States illegally and still be an undocumented immigrant. 

Here are things that categorize you as an undocumented immigrant/unauthorized alien:

  • Overstaying your visa
  • Presenting fake documents to the immigration services 
  • Impersonating a U.S citizen (individual with United States national origin), etc.

These three things can make the immigration services deem your entry into the U.S illegal.  

Can an undocumented immigrant work as an independent contractor? 

Although under the federal and state laws, it’s illegal for a general contractor to knowingly hire undocumented workers, the rule is lenient on independent contractors. Working as an independent contractor in the construction industry is possible for illegal or undocumented immigrants, regardless of their legal status. Independent contractors are self-employed. They perform the same work for different clients and are responsible for their profit and loss. Thus, they must carry a basic insurance policy that can protect them from certain losses. 

The appropriate authorities of many states can subject uninsured contractors or subcontractors to penalties for being uninsured. However, the workers’ compensation board goes through every employment hierarchy on the project to find a properly insured entity that can be held liable for claims. This implies that undocumented subcontractors can get insurance by being covered under a general contractor’s policy. The general liability insurance policy is vital to protect contractors and workers on a construction project. Therefore, every subcontractor needs to get this policy. Leveraging an independent insurance agent is another way an undocumented independent contractor can purchase needed coverage. 

Unlike undocumented employees, general contractors bother less about confirming the immigration status of independent contractors. This is because, apart from the federal laws that make hiring undocumented employees illegal, employers also have to bear the responsibility for anything that happens to employees during a project. Thus, employers usually demand proof of legal immigration or confirm with the immigration authorities to ascertain if an employee is eligible for employment. 

Undocumented immigrants can leverage the expertise of reputable attorneys with a sound understanding of the law to find ways for them to legally work at the stipulated minimum wage, enjoy workers’ benefits in most U.S states, including New York, and protect themselves from possible employer retaliation. 

What types of insurance can undocumented contractors get?

The Builder’s Risk insurance and General Liability Insurance are two basic insurance policies undocumented immigrants working as contractors can get. These policies have many benefits. They protect a business from major financial losses resulting from third-party claims while covering buildings and structures that are being built or renovated, legal fees from third-party claims, etc. Some legal practitioners offer free consultations on how to go about getting policies as an undocumented immigrant. This helps them maintain a strong attorney-client relationship. 

General liability is mandatory for contractors in most states; it’s an essential policy that protects you if, for example, you accidentally hurt a passerby during construction or break an expensive piece of furniture while remodeling a house. 

For the importance of Builder’s risk, you can refer to a broader article on the subject: Do Small Contractors Need Building Under Construction Insurance?

There are tons of different policies for your specific business that can cover undocumented workers. Always call a trustworthy independent agent to get detailed information and ask without fear all of your questions. 

Advantage of having insurance as an undocumented contractor

Carrying proper coverage comes with many benefits. It covers the employer and the employees from possible financial and legal risks. Apart from the protection against losses and legal actions, the right policies also attract more clients for contractors. It permits them to hire workers and perform other activities necessary for business growth. 

Workers’ Compensation for undocumented workers

Employers must hold workers’ safety paramount by ensuring proper working conditions to prevent workplace injury and other occupational hazards. Most state laws make it mandatory for employers to carry valid workers’ compensation insurance, which covers medical care, lost wages, and other expenses in case a worker gets injured. Laws regarding workers’ compensation for undocumented workers vary across the United States. New York and some states believe every employer should uphold the civil rights acts protecting an employee and ensure they receive workers’ compensation benefits irrespective of immigration records, but this belief isn’t general. The named insured of the Worker´s compensation policy needs a Social Security Number, so if you are undocumented, you must be covered by the policy of your employer, who needs to be documented. 

Some states, apart from New York, back employers that refuse an injured undocumented worker the right to workers’ compensation benefits, using the illegal status of the injured worker as an excuse. This doesn’t go in line with the policy’s regulations. The only conditions that can prohibit a worker from receiving benefits are being injured out of work, if the employer doesn’t carry a worker’s compensation insurance, or if they’re not an established employee. An injured worker denied workers’ compensation could seek the help of an attorney to lay claims. The employer might be in more legal trouble if it’s established that he knows the worker’s immigration status upon employment. There may not be legal actions in states like New York, as the law requires the unforced compliance of employers. 

Some employers may even fail to provide the undocumented worker’s benefits, which is another offense under the law, although workers’ comp laws for undocumented workers vary. An Undocumented employee with a reputable immigration attorney can leverage the attorney-client relationship to file claims if such an employee feels discriminated against or cheated by an employer.


What is ITIN? 

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is the closest equivalent of a social security card that foreign nationals and other individuals can own. The Internal Revenue Service usually issues it.

What percent of workers in the U.S are illegal Immigrants?

The population of illegal immigrants is low compared to actual workers. It’s not up to two-thirds of the working population. Some reports indicate it’s around 3.5%.

How to find work as a contractor?

The best approach to finding work as an undocumented contractor is to visit various construction sites in search of construction workers, leverage your network, have a well-crafted CV, and check local job listing directories. 

While you’re an independent contractor, you might still need to work under general contractors for big projects. But most hiring contractors would prioritize your skills and experience in immigration status. Hence, if you have constructive knowledge, it will be easier to work with construction companies. 

Can an Undocumented immigrant get a contractor’s license? 

Getting a lawyer for such matters is best, but some states allow young immigrants to apply for professional licenses related to the independent contracting business. The license proves business legitimacy and competence, making it easier to get jobs and work in the U.S; you must look for specific requirements to enroll. 

Accident at work of construction worker at site. Builder accident falls scaffolding on floor, Safety team helps employee accident.

How to open a bank account

To open a bank account as an immigrant with no SSN, you’ll need some other essential documents. This includes : 

  • Two government-issued documents indicating your name and date of birth – This could be your birth certificate, valid passport, government-issued driver’s license, learner’s permit, consular ID, etc.
  • Proof of addresslike telephone bills, gas bills, or electricity bills will be requested. The documents must carry your appropriate and current address.
  • Identification – Since you work but are not eligible for an SSN, your ITIN would suffice at the bank. This indicates that paying your taxes is essential even though you work as a self-employed. Consequently, registering your contracting business becomes essential to ensure it is taxable. 


Illegal immigration is a crime that can attract criminal charges and subsequent criminal penalties. Every immigrant should only use the legal means stipulated by the law to enter a country. However, there are certain provisions and rights for self-employed undocumented workers that pose no threat to the U.S. Most of it has been discussed above. It’s left to be seen if the current administration will maintain the law’s leniency on self-employed undocumented immigrants in their immigration reform. 

To know more about contractor insurance policies in the U.S, you can always book a free consultation with Builder’s Risk or visit their blog for information. With appropriate advice, you can get the coverage you need. 

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