Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Suggestions regarding your OPT job search and job

Right now, many of you are either still looking for an OPT job, have started or will soon start such a job. To the first group, I wish you success, and to the others, I say congratulations. All of you, though, might be interested in what I have to say below.

-          Resumé suggestions
Consider whether to really show your home address
You were probably told, by your school’s international student office or by their career office, to put your home address on your resumé. Doing so, however, creates a potential privacy and security issue for you. This practice hearkens back to the “old days,” when (believe it or not) people DID NOT HAVE EMAIL! Rather, in order to get documents to someone, a person had to use the US mail. Today, however, with email and cell phones, an interested employer can reach you these ways, without needing to know your physical address.

For this reason, you might consider omitting a home address from your resume. Later, though, should that employer really need your address, you can give it separately from your resumé.

On the other hand, omitting an address might possibly be a "turn-off" to a potential employer.

As I write this section, I think about a former student with whom I still keep in touch. I noticed, at the end of her email, an address that looked like an apartment number. Curious about it, I asked if it was her office address or the department office at her university. I then wrote that I hoped it wasn't her home address.

She replied that yes, it was her home address.

Boy did I ever freak out at her. In 48 point type, I wrote to her, REMOVE  THAT ADDRESS!!!  NOW!!! LOL.
I explained to her, after I calmed down, that she has no idea what her recipients are doing with her email, in particular, to whom these recipients might be forwarding her mail. In other words, I said to her, people she might not even know might have her home address.

The same principle applies to your resume as to her email signature. 

If you really feel you must include an address, then consider renting a US post office box or private mail box, such as Mail Boxes Etc. or the UPS Store, and use that address rather than your home address. Or if you are still in school, and doing so is ok with school, use a departmental office address.

Be sure to include an objective
I realize that you will include a cover letter with your resume, and the cover letter will explain your job objective. Just the same, in case the two get separated, having an objective on your resume will make it stronger. Also, having such an objective in mind, while preparing the resume, will help you keep it focused.

Integrate school-related awards and honors into your “education” section
I have seen many resumes, and they have an “education” section, followed by an “honors and awards” section. Often, the latter will include items associated with a school, such as “Outstanding student in ‘Principles of Marxism.’” In such a case, I suggest that the student remove this item from the “awards” section and instead include it with the school information. Doing so gives a more complete picture of the education years.

I am not saying to get rid of the “honors and awards” section. Rather, reserve this section only for items not connected with the school, such as a community or service organization award.

-          Remember the 90 day/120 day unemployment rule
If you do not have a job the day your OPT begins, then remember that the “clock is ticking.” You are limited to 90 days of unemployment during a regular OPT, and 120 days if you have chosen a 17-month STEM extension. If you can work only part-time, then you must work at least 20 hours a week to be considered “employed.”

-          No IMMIGRATION LAW requirement that OPT job be paid
I often get questions about whether an OPT job needs to have a salary. I reply that the answer involves two issues: immigration laws and regulations, and also federal, state and local labor laws.
Unlike H-1B status, or labor certification green cards, OPT employment has NO requirements, from an IMMIGRATION LAW perspective, that a job meet any minimum salary amount, or that job be paid at all.

On the other hand, any OPT job still must comply with federal, state and local labor laws. The most common example (but not necessarily the only one) is a minimum wage law. So, therefore, even though a potential unpaid OPT job might pose no immigration law issues, it still might pose labor law issues. For this reason, you and your employer need to look carefully at any potential unpaid OPT job.

-          Think about when to have “the H-1B talk” with boss
Remember that your OPT time is limited to either one year or 17 months. In the former case, particularly, remember the Kenny Chesney song, “Don’t Blink.” 
www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f0p5KqdU9U  In this song, Mr. Chesney reminds us that “a hundred years goes by faster than you think.” In your case, one year goes by faster than you think. If we have another &$#@!&^  H-1B lottery, then your petitions must have been filed by no later than April 5. For this reason, if you wish to remain at your OPT job, you will need to plan a time to have “the H-1B talk” with your boss or human resources department. Please see this link for helpful tips: http://yi2min2.blogspot.com/2012/12/how-to-talk-with-your-boss-about-h-1b.html

Now I am upset. Thinking about it, I don't recall hearing Mr. Chesney perform this song in Philadelphia on June 8 lol.

I wish you well in your OPT.

“This information does not constitute legal advice.”

csun@calvinsun.com, 610-296-3947, 215-983-3723

Postdocs and green cards

Postdoc: A postdoctoral scholar ("postdoc") is an individual holding a doctoral degree who is engaged in a temporary period of mentored research and/or scholarly training for the purpose of acquiring the professional skills needed to pursue a career path of his or her choosing. http://nationalpostdoc.org/index.php/policy-22/what-is-a-postdoc

This definition, from the National Postdoctoral Association, has important implications for you, the postdoc, as you consider your green card options. The most important factor, from a green card standpoint, is the “temporariness” of the position. According to the definition, a postdoc position is not a permanent one. For this reason, therefore, you are precluded from (that is, you are ineligible for) the following types of green cards:

-          Outstanding researcher or professor (EB-1B)
-         Advanced degree or exceptional ability alien, via labor certification (EB-2 PERM)

Both of these green cards require regular jobs.  The outstanding researcher or professor green card requires, among other things, either a tenure track teaching position or a permanent research position. The EB-2 PERM green card requires, among other things, a labor certification, showing that no ready, willing, qualified and available U.S. workers exist for the offered job. While ANYONE with an advanced degree or with exceptional ability (not just academics and researchers) might qualify for such a green card, it still nonetheless requires a permanent job.

Therefore, should you wish to gain a green card while you are a postdoc, you have only two options, and most likely only one of them is realistic.  However, the good thing is that neither of these green card options requires a permanent job, and in fact neither of them requires that you even have a job at all.

The first such green card is for aliens of extraordinary ability, 特殊才能的外籍者. However, this category expects that successful candidates are in that small percentage of persons who have risen to the very top of their field. When I discuss this option, I tell clients that they need to be at the level of a Yao Ming or a Lang Lang. While this option technically and legally can accommodate you in that it does not require a job at all, much less a permanent one, the high standard might make this option impractical.

For this reason, the second option—the national interest waiver (NIW, 国际利益豁免)—is your best chance for a green card while being a postdoc. The NIW is considered an EB-2 category green card. Normally, such green cards require a labor certification. However, the immigration laws of the United States provide a waiver of this labor certification, as well as a waiver of a job requirement, for those who can demonstrate that their work will benefit the national interest of the United States. From a policy standpoint, this provision for the NIW is saying that should your work meet the standards for an NIW, then the U.S. considers your getting a green card to outweigh the importance of protecting the U.S. workforce via a labor certification. In slang terms, with regard to the labor certification requirement, the U.S. government will “let it slide.”

Be aware, however, that the EB-2 nature of this green card could involve a period of waiting if you were born in China, India, Mexico or the Philippines. Right now, for example (that is, in June 2013), people born in China who filed their EB-2 green card petitions on or before July 15, 2008 are just now getting their green cards, meaning they had almost a five-year wait. http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5953.html
That is, people with priority dates on or before July 15, 2008 only this month are now becoming "current."

If you wish to discuss the national interest waiver, I am happy to do so with you.

This material does not constitute legal advice.

csun@calvinsun.com, 610-296-3947

Monday, June 10, 2013

Problems with the U.S. Department of State non-immigrant visa (DS-160) application system

If you have been trying to use the online non-immigrant / DS-160 visa application system of the U.S. Department of State, https://ceac.state.gov/genniv,  please be aware that the system has had major problems ever since June 8, 2013. At that time, according to the web site, the system had been scheduled for maintenance. Furthermore, the web site said that responses that were saved to the site prior to the maintenance activity might not be available after that activity was finished, and that users should consider saving their responses as well to their own computer.

As late as 11:05 pm on Monday, June 10, 2013, the system STILL has problems. In particular, a person is UNABLE either to “start and application” or to “upload an application” (that is, to restore, from a backup file on the person’s own computer, responses that previously had been saved).  If you visit the site ceac.state.gov, and select the link for DS-160, you will see, on the next screen, the these two options are non-hyperlinked. Rather, the only option that can be selected is the one for “retrieve an application.”

I urge caution if you choose this last option, that is, if you are planning to retrieve responses that you previously saved to the web site. A client tried to do so on Sunday, June 9, but found that many of her responses had been lost. If you try the same action, you may find yourself in a similar situation.
I have serious concerns about how the State Department handled this maintenance activity, in particular their apparent inability to backup the system properly and to restore it again. I do hope the system will be fully operational soon. I have reported this situation to a contact of mine, who in turn has reported it to the Department of State.

Remember that even if you are represented by an attorney in your non-immigrant visa application process, you yourself (not the attorney) must be the person who electronically signs and submits your DS-160.

I can be reached at csun@calvinsun.com, 610-296-3947. This blog post does not constitute legal advice.