Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Finding an exemption from the H-1B cap

If you are seeking H-1B status in 2015, most likely you will need to be concerned about the H-1B cap. By law, the number of H-1B approvals is limited each fiscal year to 65,000. Of this number, about 6,000 are reserved for nationals of Singapore and Chile.

The cap poses two issues. First, if the number of petitions exceeds the cap, then the immigration service will conduct a random lottery. See http://yi2min2.blogspot.com/2014/12/dealing-with-h-1b-cap.html  for details. Therefore, if your employer has filed a petition, and this petition is part of the lottery, you risk not being selected. Second, regardless of whether or not a lottery will be held, you might have timing issues in maintaining status until October 1, 2015, the time when new approvals become available. For example, your OPT grace period might end prior to April 1, 2015, leaving you a gap between that time and October 1. In such a case, you would need to find another lawful status so that you could remain in the US, or else have to leave the US. See  http://yi2min2.blogspot.com/2012/12/your-opt-ending-date-and-its-effect-on.html   for details on how an OPT ending date affects an H-1B cap-subject petition.
On the other hand, some petitions for H-1B status will be exempt from the cap.  If your petition falls into one of the categories below, and is otherwise approvable, you would not need to worry about any lottery or about any arbitrary filing or beginning-of-work dates.

·         The petitioner (that is, would-be employer) is an institution of higher education, or a nonprofit entity having a proper affiliation with such an institution
For example, a faculty person at a university probably would be H-1B eligible and also cap-exempt. So would, possibly, a researcher at a hospital at which medical school students from a university would study or do practical work

·         The petitioner is either a federal or a nonprofit research organization
An example of such an organization is the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

·         The beneficiary (that is, the would-be employee) previously held cap-subject H-1B status in the past
The Bible says that “since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again…” Romans 6:9. That is, because Christ died once, he therefore cannot die again.

In the same way, if a person previously was counted against the cap recently enough, that person is not required to be counted again. For example, suppose a person graduates with an MBA, then receives cap-subject H-1B status for the first time to work as an accountant. After a year, the person returns for a second master’s degree, changes back to F-1 status, and this degree requires a year. When this person again seeks H-1B status, this person need not be concerned with the cap, because of the previous cap-subject H-1B time.
Please note that simple nonprofit status of a petitioner, by itself, is INSUFFICIENT to qualify that petitioner as cap-exempt. In the same way, a non-government organization (NGO) is not automatically exempt from the cap.

The immigration statute provides another exemption, but only for the first 20,000 eligible petitions. This exemption is for people who hold a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education. This U.S. master’s cap exemption is already full, however, so that even if you held such a degree, the earliest you could work lawfully in cap-subject status, if at all, would be October 1, 2015.
If you are claiming an exemption based on the type of petitioner, be sure to pay attention to the address for filing. These petitions traditionally have gone to the California Service Center. In addition, please be aware that Federal Express, if not other courier services, will deliver only to a “real” street address, not to a post office box address.

I hope this information is helpful to you.
The above blog post does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.
Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law
610-296-3947, cell 215-983-3723
We Chat: calvin_t_sun

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Thin envelope "good," thin envelope "bad": understanding the H-1B lottery

If you are an international student, and you are seeking to work lawfully in the US following your graduation or your optional practical training, you might want to start planning for H-1B, and talking to your boss about it, if not already.

In particular, if you and your employer both are subject to the H-1B cap (and this blog post assumes so), then you must be aware of particular dates and of the possibility of a lottery. In this blog post, I will explain why certain dates are important for cap-subject H-1B petitions, and how to deal with both the cap itself as well as any possible lottery.
The two most important dates with respect to a cap-subject petition are April 1and October 1. Each year, by law, the government makes available 65,000 H-1B approvals (though the actual available number is less, due to provisions for people from Singapore and Chile, under the NAFTA treaty). If, during the current period, the cap already is full, then a person cannot begin working until October 1. This date is the start of a new federal fiscal year and is also the date that new H-1B approvals are available.

Furthermore, the H-1B regulations allow petitions to be filed at most six months prior to a given requested starting date. Six months prior to October 1 is April 1. Therefore, if you wish to file a petition that requests an October 1 starting date, you must do so only ON or AFTER April 1. IF YOU FILE PRIOR TO APRIL 1, THAT PETITION WILL BE DENIED, because the cap for the current fiscal year already is full.

Starting on April 1,  the immigration service will begin receiving and counting the petitions it receives. The H-1B regulations state that if the cap is reached during any of the first five business days of April, the service must make ALL petitions filed during those first five days available for a random lottery.  In other words, even if 100,000 petitions arrive the first day, the service has to continue to accept petitions for the next four days, then conduct the lottery. Yes, you are correct: your petition could be the first one that arrives April 1, but even still it might not be selected in the lottery. Conversely, your petition could be the last one that arrives on April 5, and that petition could be number 150,000, but even so it possibly still could be selected in the lottery. Yes, this arrangement s*&@ks  and is unfair to you if your attorney was diligent and filed right on April 1. But please understand, I did not make these regulations.
The lottery occurs in two stages. First, the service looks only at those petitions where the beneficiary (that is, the would-be H-1B employee) has at least a master’s degree from a United States institution of higher education, because by law, the first 20,000 such petitions are exempt from the cap. The service then randomly chooses, from these petitions, 20,000 of them. Any unselected petitions then get placed with all other filed H-1B petitions—that is, those where the beneficiary lacks a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education. Note: you would be INELIGIBLE for the U.S. master’s cap exemption if your master’s or higher degree(s), if any, came from only (a) non-U.S. institution(s) of higher education. This remaining pool of petitions is the source for the second stage of the lottery.

In the second stage, the service chooses, from this remaining pool, up to 65,000 petitions for review. These selected petitions, plus the 20,000 selected from the first stage, are the only ones that possibly can be approved for cap-subject H-1B status for the period beginning October 1, 2015. Please note: simply being selected in the lottery is not enough for H-1B status. Rather, your petition still be reviewed to ensure it meets H-1B legal standards. Furthermore, neither the strength of the petition, nor the election of premium processing, has anything to do with its chances of being selected in a lottery.

Now that you have this understanding, what are key points to remember?
Timely filing is crucial

The most important aspect of filing a cap-subject petition is to file as soon as possible on or after April 1,  BUT NOT BEFORE. If you cannot file right on April 1, then the latest you should be filing is the fifth business day of April. If you file after this date, your chances of acceptance under the cap decrease dramatically, or might even be zero. If you miss this window, then your only chance for consideration is that no lottery is held. Even then, your petition must arrive in time, before the cap fills up. The best arrangement, therefore, is to file no earlier than April 1 and no later than the fifth business day of April.
H-1B cap-subject filing involves WINDOWS, NOT “deadlines”

When I talk about “windows,” I am not referring to any computer product. Rather, I am referring to the idea that your filing can occur neither too early (that is prior to April 1) nor too late (that is, later than April 5).  For this reason, H-1B filing involves a window, not a deadline. The latter implies that filing can occur any time before a particular date. However, such is not the case with cap-subject H-1B. If you file too soon, that is, prior to April 1 2015, you will be DENIED.
Qualifying for the U.S. master’s cap exemption increases your chances

If you qualify for this exemption, your chances of acceptance increase, because, effectively, you have a chance at an “additional” 20,000 approvals.

Some H-1B beneficiaries who might otherwise qualify for this exemption might be discouraged by the timing of their graduation. They could think that because the H-1B window is April 1 to April 5, and because they might not get their degree until after that time, perhaps May or June, that they are ineligible. In some cases, though, they could be WRONG. The immigrations statute requires only that the degree be EARNED, not that the degree necessarily be AWARDED. If you are such a person, then you might want to consult with your advisor or other relevant academic official. If that person legitimately considers you to have completed all requirements of your degree, such that the only other requirement is your graduation, then you could be considered to have met the exemption. In this case, you should get a letter to this effect, on letterhead, and send to your attorney.

Prior lottery results have no effect on current lottery chances

A number of people have asked me whether their non-selection in the previous lottery gives them an advantage in the upcoming lottery. Unfortunately, no such advantage exists. Every petition that is filed theoretically has an equal chance, regardless of what happened to that beneficiary in a previous lottery.
The nature of your job has no effect on your lottery chances
Your chances of being selected in the lottery has nothing to do with the nature or location of your job. That is, whether that job is in Philadelphia or New York is irrelevant. Similarly unimportant is whether your job involves a STEM area or not.
Getting through the lottery is necessary, but not sufficient
If you find that you were selected in the lottery, you should be happy. But please remember, the immigration service STILL has to review your petition to see if you are eligible for H-1B status.

You may be wondering how you will know whether or not you were selected in the lottery. If you were selected, your employer or attorney will receive, relatively quickly (that is, within two to three weeks) a thin envelope with a form I-797 receipt, showing the filing fees your employer paid (and remember, your employer, not you, should be paying these fees).

However, if you were not selected, then several months later, your employer or attorney will receive a THICK envelope, and the contents will be your petition filing. This envelope will contain the uncashed filing fee checks. It also will contain a blue sheet that explains that in spite of being filed in time, your petition was not selected in the lottery.

Key point: thin envelope is GOOD, thick envelope is BAD.

Now let’s talk about some WRONG ways to improve your chances in a lottery.
DO NOT “stuff the lottery box”

“Stuffing the [ballot] box” is an American idiom that refers to the practice of voting, illegally, multiple times for a given candidate. In the old days, and in certain places in the U.S. still, elections are conducted via paper ballot, where a voter marks the ballot then places it in a ballot box. A dishonest person who wanted a particular candidate to win therefore could try to “stuff the box” by placing extra, unauthorized ballots in that box, with that candidate selected.
Some employers might have this same idea with respect to an H-1B lottery. That is, they believe they can increase the chances of petition approval simply by filing multiple cap-subject petitions for the same person.

If they do, the immigration service will deny every such petition from that employer, leaving that beneficiary with NO chance for H-1B with that employer. In other words, an employer may file, for a given fiscal year, a maximum of ONE cap-subject petition for a given beneficiary.
Be skeptical of anyone who says that they can otherwise increase your lottery chances

If anyone says that for a fee, he or she can increase your chances in the lottery, apart from what I have described above, listen if you wish, but be skeptical. Or else, simply run as fast as you can from that person.  
The information in this blog post does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.
Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law
cell 215-983-3723, office 610-296-3947
We chat: calvin_t_sun

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Regarding the extension of validity periods of visas to the U.S.

You probably have heard that effective November 12, 2014, the U.S. and China agree to extend, reciprocally, the validity period of certain visas to each other’s country. The visas affected are those for business, tourism, student study and exchange visitor activity. http://translations.state.gov/st/english/texttrans/2014/11/20141110310752.html#axzz3JO8QJDf3

In particular, nationals of China who seek the following visas to the U.S. will have the following lengthened validity periods:

Student and dependent(s) (F-1, F-2, M-1, M-2) 60 months
Business (B-1)                                                                   120 months
Tourist (B-2)                                                                       120 months
Business-tourist (B-1/B-2)                                            120 months
Exchange visitor and dependent(s) (J-1, J-2)            120 months
These changes had no effect on H-1B validity periods, which remain at 12 months.
Please keep in mind, however, that the validity period of a visa can differ from the amount of time a person with that visa may remain lawfully in the U.S. These two concepts are different. Therefore, a non-immigrant visa holder must address two separate questions with regard to being admitted to the U.S.:
Question 1: During what period of time is this visa valid for entry into the U.S.? Question 2: Once admitted into the U.S. with this visa, how long may the person remain lawfully in the U.S., based on this visa?
Let’s address question 1.
A holder of a U.S. visa has the ability to be admitted to the U.S., subject to final approval of an immigration officer, and subject to the terms of that visa. This ability to enter the U.S., however, does not last forever. Rather, it has a particular starting date and a particular ending date. Before the starting date or after the ending date, such a visa is invalid for entry into the U.S. That is, the visa is valid only between the starting date and ending dates, and this period is the validity period of the visa.
The validity period of the visa determines the period of time a person can use the visa to enter the U.S. However, once the person actually is admitted into the U.S., that visa is irrelevant as far as determining how long the person may stay lawfully in the U.S. In other words, a person could be in lawful status in the U.S. even with an expired visa. Conversely, a person could hold a valid visa, having been admitted into the U.S. with that visa, but yet lack lawful status in the U.S., for example because of staying too long in the U.S.
For example: a person from China, could receive a B-1 visa with a 120 month validity period. However, having such a visa DOES NOT MEAN that the person, once admitted with that visa, can remain lawfully in the U.S. for 120 months. Rather, the person would need to check his or her admitted-until date, a concept discussed below. Such a date could be only six months from the time of admission.
The November 12, 2012 changes refer to this visa validity period.
Now let’s look at question 2.
Once a person is admitted to the U.S. with a non-immigrant visa, that person generally is assigned an “admitted until” date. So long as the person otherwise complies with the conditions of the visa class, that person would be in lawful status until this admitted until date. Without further action, therefore, such a person would need to leave the U.S. on or before this date.
While most non-immigrant visa holders are admitted until a particular date, others instead are admitted “for duration of status.” People so admitted are those with F, J and M classifications. Such people do not have a definite date that they are admitted until. Instead, such persons, so long as they maintain the conditions of their status, are considered lawfully present in the U.S.
A non-immigrant, at time of admission, is “given” a form I-94, on which is recorded, among other things, that person’s admitted-until date. This date might be a real date, or else it will be shown as “admitted for duration of status,” sometimes abbreviated as D/S.  In previous years, the I-94 was a real paper document. Now, however, the I-94 is stored electronically on the web site of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The November 12, 2014 changes in U.S. policy have NOTHING to do with a person’s admitted-until date, but rather only with a visa validity date.
In summary:
-          To determine when you are able to enter the U.S. with a given visa, look at the visa stamp itself and see its validity dates. The November 12, 2014 changes lengthened such dates for F, M, J and B visas.
-          To determine how long you may remain in the U.S. lawfully, look at the I-94
-          Visa validity dates and admitted-until dates are separate concepts.

I hope you find this information helpful.
This blog post does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law 610-296-3947, cell 215-983-3723 csun@calvinsun.com
Weixin calvin_t_sun

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Verifying other background matters of the person you plan to marry

I thought he was single, but he really was married.
I thought he owned that real estate, but instead his mother owned it.

In a previous blog post, I discussed ways to verify the immigration status of someone you plan to marry. Here, I discuss the verification of other aspects of the person’s background.

I have been working with a woman who received a green card through marriage, but now has become divorced. Because she received her green card based on a marriage that was less than two years old, that green card was a conditional one. Therefore, I am working with her to remove the conditions on her green card. Normally, a person must be married in order to do so, that is, both spouses must file this petition. However, under certain conditions, a divorced person can petition for a waiver of this joint filing requirement, and we are seeking such a waiver.

The two statements above are statements my client made to me. That is, she believed, prior to her marriage, that her ex-husband owned not only the building where he conducted his business, but also a home he said he bought for them. In addition, she believed that he was single prior to their marriage. In fact, however, he did not own either the building or the home. Rather, his mother did. Furthermore, during their time prior to marriage, the man actually was still married to someone else.

Here are some things the woman could have done differently, and things you may wish to consider as well:

-          Verifying ownership of real estate
Generally speaking, ownership of real estate is public information, and is usually available from a county or state government tax office or department. Due to privacy concerns, you might not be able to get information about addresses of property that particular person might own. However, you still should be able to get information about the owner of a particular property at a given address. In the woman’s case, therefore, she might have been able to confirm the owner of the business building and the home, assuming she had both addresses.

-          Verifying income
To verify income, you could ask the other person to show you pay statements or W-2 forms from the person’s employer. Alternatively, although it involves more effort, you could ask the person to ask his or her payroll department to send you a letter with that information.
You can get even more detailed information about the person from a tax return. In particular, a taxpayer can request, from the Internal Revenue Service, a transcript of his or her federal tax return for a given year

-          Verifying credit history
Three agencies—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—collect credit information about individuals and summarize that information via a number between 300 and 850. This score, known as a FICO score (named after the Fair Isaac Corporation, which developed the score), rates a person’s credit-worthiness. The higher the score, the better the person is viewed risk-wise. Nothing prevents you from asking the other person to request his or own credit report, with score, then giving that report to you.

-          Verifying marital status
Before marrying her now ex-husband, my client had been dating him. At the time, she believed that he was single, but later learned that he actually was still married.
A man who claims to be single, but who actually is married, can exhibit one or more of the following behaviors or traits:
o   Marks or tan lines on the ring finger
Married men generally will wear a wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand.  The ring generally will be plain gold or silver. If such a man wanted to conceal his married status, the easiest way would be simply to remove the ring. However, even after doing so, evidence of the ring often remains, in the form of indentations or a lighter shade of skin from lack of tanning. Therefore, seeing such things is a fair indication of a married man who is trying to hide that fact.

o   Requesting that he not be called, rather that he be the one that calls
If the man insists that he be the one to call you, and that you should never call him, beware. Such behavior could mean that he doesn’t want to risk the chance that you will call when his wife is around.

o   Speaking in a low voice when calling
If the man speaks in a low voice during the call, he may be trying to conceal the call from his wife.

o   Having family sounds in the background when calling
When he calls, listen for background sounds such as voices of children or of a woman. Particularly listen for a woman’s voice as she calls for the man. Such sounds and voices could indicate that the man has a wife and family.

I hope that by following the above points, you can avoid the situation my client encountered.

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.

Calvin Sun, csun@calvinsun.com, 215-983-3723

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Verifying the immigration status of the person you plan to marry

Husband to wife: “Um, I actually don’t have legal status here in the U.S.”

These probable words led that wife to hire me for her divorce. They had gotten married a few years earlier, with a joyous and elaborate church ceremony, after a period of courtship. She had been in H-1B status and he had said that he had F-1 status. Later, after a few years of marriage, she began to apply for a green card, and needed evidence of her husband’s status. When, after numerous requests, she failed to get that evidence, she finally confronted her husband and learned the truth.  

This woman erred in failing to confirm the man’s status before marrying him. If you are in the same situation—that is, you are in a non-immigrant status and you are seeking to marry someone, this woman’s situation has lessons for you. In this blog post, I will discuss ways to confirm someone’s status, unromantic though it may be. In future blog posts, I will discuss the issue of verifying a person’s assets and marital status, and the importance of preserving evidence of a good-faith marriage.

The most important aspect of any marriage between people who are not both U.S. citizens is that the marriage be bona fide. That is, purpose of the marriage cannot be to evade U.S. immigration laws. Entering into a fraudulent marriage can carry severe penalties, including removal from the United States and, for a naturalized U.S. citizen, the loss of citizenship.
Assuming, therefore, that your intended or possible marriage is bona fide, you still might want to verify the other person’s status. Below are ways to do so.

U.S. citizen

A person who is a U.S. citizen might be able to show any of the following evidence of such citizenship:
-          A U.S. passport
-          A certificate of citizenship
-          A naturalization certificate
-          A birth certificate that shows a birth within the United States

Someone could have been born outside the U.S. and have a certificate of citizenship, but not have a naturalization certificate. U.S. immigration law provides that such people can become citizens once certain conditions are met, that is, via operation of law. Such persons therefore are not required to be naturalized.

Generally speaking, persons born in the U.S. receive U.S. citizenship at birth. A U.S. citizen is not required to have a passport.

Permanent resident

A permanent resident will have a green card. In addition, that person might have an immigrant visa stamp in his or her passport.

Non-immigrant classifications

Someone admitted in a non-immigrant classification will have a form I-94. If the classification involves admittance for a specific period of time, then the I-94 will show such an “admitted until” date. Other classifications, including F-1 and J-1, involve admittance for “duration of status.” That is, the person is lawfully present in the U.S. so long as that person maintains the conditions of that status. Persons in F-1 or J-1 are supposed to have a current I-20 or DS-2019 form, respectively.

I never met the ex-husband of my divorce client. By the time she came to me, she already had kicked him out of their home and he already had returned to his own country. However, I suspect that that person might actually have been in F-1 status at some point, but then may have stopped his studies while remaining in the U.S. In such a case, his I-94 would not have shown his lack of status. Rather, he would have been unable to show a current I-20 to my client.
I hope you, unlike my client, do not face the same shocking revelation.

[PS I still remember one of my first meetings with this client. After we sat down, I looked at her. She looked at me. We both started laughing.] 

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Have you checked your I-94?

If you have just been admitted to the United States, either as a beginning student or even as a returning one, and if you have not yet checked your I-94 arrival document, you might want to do so. Keep in mind that the I-94 is no longer a hardcopy piece of paper that you fill out while on the airplane, and which the immigration officer stamps during your inspection. Rather, the I-94 is stored electronically on the web site of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

This change to electronic format is a “two edged sword.” That is, it has good points and potential problems ones as well. On the one hand, you no longer have to worry about losing a hardcopy I-94, and paying a couple hundred dollars to apply for a replacement. On the other hand, the issue of “out of sight, out of mind” arises. Not having an immediate copy of the I-94 might lead some people to forget about it, in particular to forget about their “admitted until” date. This date is important for you because you normally must leave the US on or before that date. Staying beyond this date, even if unintentional, could cause problems.

For this reason, downloading and confirming your I-94 information is a good idea. Double-check, in particular, your "admitted until" date, and make a note of it. More importantly, make sure it is correct, and not earlier than what you expect. If you were admitted in F-1 or J-1 status, you normally would be admitted for “duration of status,” so your I-94 would say "admitted until: D/S," rather than indicating a specific date. If you are admitted as D/S, it means you may stay lawfully in the US indefinitely, so long as you maintain the conditions of your status. 

To download your I-94, visit the following site and have the necessary information available: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/request.html 

This material is for general information only. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Calvin Sun, 610-296-3947, csun@calvinsun.com

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Enhancing Your Personal Security: Business Travel

As part of your job, you may need to travel. I hope that the following information is helpful to you in such cases. Most likely, as you read, you will say yourself, about me, “this guy has been watching too many James Bond movies.”

Taking a taxi

Generally speaking, regardless of the city, a legitimate taxi will display a taxi driver license with at least the name and photo of the driver. Usually this license will be posted behind the driver’s seat or the front passenger seat, so that passengers in the rear can view it. Making sure that the driver really is the driver is a sensible step. This idea also applies if, instead of taking a taxi, the organization you are visiting says they will send a driver for you, for example to meet you at the airport. In such a case, try to verify the name of the car service and at least the name of the driver. Even better, try to get a photograph of the driver.  In either case, failing to verify the driver might leave you in the same situation as James Bond. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7Wq3ZHsKP8

As soon as possible, make sure the taxi driver knows that someone else knows about you and the taxi you are in. The best way is simply to make a telephone call from the taxi to someone, in which you tell that person your location, your destination, the taxi number and the name of the driver. When you speak, do so loudly enough so the driver can hear you. In this way, the driver is more likely to be dissuaded from any wrong intentions.

Whether you are on business travel or not, never be reluctant to take a taxi to go home if your work requires you to work late. This advice applies especially if your work can be charged to a client of your employer, and if you normally would take public transportation home. That client should understand that a taxi fare is a reasonable part of asking you to work late. Of course, the best approach is to speak to your boss or the client ahead of time about such a possibility.

Staying in a hotel

When you check into a hotel, the front desk person will give you your room number along with a key. However, that room number information should come via a written note, or by a computer printout. In no event should the front desk person say your room number out loud. Nonetheless, if the person should do so, you might want to quietly ask for another room, and this time to get the number as described above.

When you get to your room, look for at least two fire exits. Think about how easily you could get to them in darkness, because when a fire occurs, electricity in a building could fail. In fact, you might even consider testing yourself by blindfolding yourself to see if you nonetheless can reach a fire exit.

Because of this possibility of a power failure, consider bringing a flashlight, or else at least make sure your phone has a flashlight app. If you choose the traditional flashlight I recommend the Mini Maglite http://www.maglite.com/AA_Cell_LED.asp. This flashlight is well made, compact and light. In addition to merely providing light, however, it can double as a weapon because of the hard casing it has. That is, if need be, you can hit an attacker with it. Also, I have taken it with me on airplanes, in carry-on luggage, and I have never been questioned about it.

Driving a rental car

A few years ago, rental car drivers in Miami were facing a high number of carjackings and attacks. The criminals were drawn by stickers or decals that such cars had, identifying the car as a rental. As a result, rental car companies there stopped this practice, and most likely this practice has spread. Still, you might want to make sure by checking the car yourself as you are picking it up. If you should see such a sticker or decal, ask about having it removed.

Similarly, try to get, if possible, a car with an in-state license tag. Having one from out-of-state makes you more conspicuous, even if the car doesn’t otherwise indicate it is a rental.

Take time to make sure that the car’s registration and inspection information is current. Generally speaking, each state has a system and procedure for doing so, and will have some sort of decal on the license or on the windshield, along with a month and year of expiration. Yes, the car rental company staff should have made sure, but sometimes mistakes happen, and one such mistake came at my expense.

A few years ago, I was driving a rental car in Washington DC. One afternoon, I was making a turn from westbound Virginia Avenue onto northbound New Hampshire Avenue, in the vicinity of The George Washington University. Suddenly I saw red and blue flashing lights of a police car, and pulled over. The officer told me that the license tags on the car were expired, and was making comments about my potentially having to be detained. However, after viewing my car rental documents, he simply allowed me to leave.

When I returned the car, I asked for and received a steep discount.

One final note regarding cars: for reasons that will be clear to you from this video, I dislike sitting in a car if someone is sitting behind me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wit1vpOXftg

I hope this information is helpful to you.    
The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship. The author does not guarantee that this information will be effective in any given situation.
Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law, 610-296-3947, csun@calvinsun.com

Friday, July 4, 2014

Enhancing Your Personal Security I: Protect Your Home Address

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. (NIV)—Proverbs 27:12

If you are reading this blog, then you probably are already working in the US with a green card or non-immigrant status, or you hope to do so soon. In any case, this blog post, and the ones that follow, will offer some thoughts on enhancing your personal security. I do not claim to be an expert, or to have any law enforcement experience. I will say, though, sadly, that two people I knew died from criminal violence in West Philadelphia. One of them, Wharton classmate Douglas Huffman, was mugged in the 4400 block of Osage Street late one night in our first year. During the incident, his head hit the curb. Refusing medical treatment, he instead went home and later died in his sleep. The other was a young man from my church, Cyril Leung 梁湘麒, a graduate student at Penn, who was beaten into a coma in Clark Park in October 1988 and died a few weeks later. My other crime connections include service as a juror in a capital murder case, and representation, for H-1B status, of an individual and an organization that counsel victims of sex trafficking.

I certainly do not wish such things to happen to you. However, as much as I would like, I am unable to guarantee that reading what I write will guarantee your safety. Still, I hope this information helps you and makes you think.

A few years ago, I was communicating with a former student of mine, a graduate of Tsinghua Law School, whom I had met in 2008. One day I noticed an address in her signature line, and this address struck me as strange because it didn’t look like an office address. Out of curiosity, I replied to her and asked her if that address was either the office where she was and is working, or whether it was the departmental address of the university she had graduated from. I then wrote that I really hoped it was not her home address.

She replied that yes, it was her home address.

Did I ever freak out at her. In 48-point type, I immediately and furiously wrote to her,
I explained to her, after I settled down, that the issue was not that friends of hers might have this address. Rather, the issue was that these friends might forward her email to other people, who might in turn forward it to still others. In other words, people she might not even know could have her home address via her email.

Putting a home address in an email signature is an extreme example. Probably you would never do such a thing, and neither, I hope, will this student anymore. Maintaining the privacy of your home address is a critical aspect of your personal safety.The more that you circulate that information, the less privacy you have, and hence the greater the chances that you are creating a security exposure for yourself.

One of the most common places where you might put your home address is in a resume. Doing so is a common practice, and it stems from the days before email and texting. In those days, the only way to communicate in writing was via regular U.S. mail. For this reason, an employer would want an address on a resume.

Today, however, we have alternate communication methods. For this reason, you may want to re-think the practice of putting a home address on your resume. Instead, you might want to limit your contact information to only a cell phone and email address.

On the other hand, a potential employer, particularly one from an older generation, might be put off by the lack of an address. Last year, one executive told me that he used the resume address as an initial screening, to give less weight to resumes which indicated that the candidate lived further away. I question this person’s logic, but it is what it is, and others might think the same way. For this reason, you will need to weigh the advantages vs. the disadvantages of putting your address on your resume.

One possible solution is to use an alternate address, for example by renting a box from the U.S. Postal Service. Then, instead of using your real home address, use the post office box. One disadvantage of this approach is that many if not all courier services will not deliver to a post office box, and a key example is Federal Express. That is, they and others would require an actual street address.

For this reason, if such delivery is important, you might want to consider instead a private mailbox service, such as the UPS Store, Mailboxes Etc. or similar business. Such services are more likely to be able to accept courier deliveries, assuming that they allow you to specify an actual street number and name along with the private mail box number.

If you do use such an alternate address, then you possibly could use it for more than a resume. You could use it for magazine subscriptions, merchandise orders and other things. If not, be aware of actions that could reveal your address, such as bringing a subscription magazine to the office, or else leaving it in your car such that someone could see it from the outside.

On a related note: if you live in a garden apartment complex, and if you have a car, then the management office probably wants to keep track of which cars are authorized to park. If the office does not keep a paper-based or computer file of license numbers and car model information, then probably they would require you to have an identifying sticker for your rear window or your bumper. If that sticker includes the name of your apartment complex, then be aware that you have given up some measure of privacy as to your address.

Later posts will cover other aspects of personal safety. I hope this initial post is useful.

The above content does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.

Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law, 610-296-3947, csun@calvinsun.com