From Waterford to Boston – A Successful Connection!

Dale Harris

Dale Harris is a participant in the J-1 Work and Travel program, currently employed and residing in Boston. A County Waterford native, Dale had previously visited America as a J-1 Summer student and wished to return after graduation on the J-1 Work and Travel program to spend a full year living and working in the U.S.A.

Dale chose Boston in particular for a number of reasons. He was eager to gain professional experience in a foreign market and learned that an Irish owned asset protection company called Netwatch had an opening in their Boston office. He submitted his resume and got the job! Dale says that his role at Netwatch is in business development and marketing but he has been given the opportunity to sample everything from helping with the operations side to account management.

The application process to obtain his visa was nothing as bad as he anticipated. “I am grateful to the staff of the Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC) for making the process as easy as possible and for their continuing support. They are always on hand to answer any questions I might have,” says Dale.

Dale also has advice for anyone interested in the J-1 Work and Travel program - “I highly recommend participation in the program to any recent graduate. It offers huge benefits in the employment market upon returning home, but it’s also a great opportunity to immerse yourself in a foreign culture and gain a broader perspective on life in general.”

Prior to this past year, Dale had never been to Boston but the strong cultural links with Ireland was a draw. “I really like Boston as a city – the people are friendly, there’s plenty to do and the nightlife is great,” reports Dale.

Before returning home, Dale has plans to travel to the West coast. Also, skiing is something that he has never tried and with the recent abundance of snow, he is anxious to head for the slopes!

IMMIGRATION DOCUMENTS: KEEP THEM SAFE

Q: I just received my US permanent resident card (“green card”) in the mail from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). I was thinking of putting it in a safe deposit box at my bank to make sure I don’t lose it. Is this a good idea?

A: No, the law actually requires that you keep your original green card with you at all times. Therefore, you should not store it in a safe deposit box or at home. Instead, you should make a clear, legible color photocopy of the front and back of the green card and store that in a safe place in case the original ever is lost or stolen.

Permanent residents should likewise keep the original of their home-country passport in a safe place when not traveling. The same goes for US passports for US citizens, as well as naturalization certificates. When traveling, everyone should make a photocopy of passports and other necessary immigration-related documents and take them on the trip along with the originals (but packed in a separate place). Copies also should be left with your emergency contact person in the United States. This will make replacement easier if the documents are lost or stolen.

We often receive inquiries about what to do with other documents from USCIS and other authorities. Here is a summary:

People who are not US citizens or permanent US residents should store the original of their passport in a secure place such as a hotel safe or bank safe deposit box. They should make copies of the pages of their passports showing their photograph and identity data, the page with the US entry stamp, and any current visa. This way they would have evidence of their immigration status if they were ever required to show it to US immigration authorities. In cases where someone needs to present the original of a passport, such as to cash traveler’s checks, great care should be taken not to lose the document.

Permanent residents and others, including naturalized citizens, should maintain a file with copies of each and every document ever sent to or received from immigration authorities. Even for cases that are closed, it is always possible that a situation will arise in the future that requires that a copy of a document be produced (when a naturalized US citizen is petitioning for permanent residence for a relative, for example). These records should be kept wherever other important family documents – birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, deeds, mortgages, tax records, etc. – are kept. A bank safe deposit box is the best place; a fireproof safe at home would be the next best.

Some of our clients have indicated that they carry their Social Security cards with them. That is not a good idea. You should never carry the card, or any other piece of paper showing your Social Security number, on your person. If your wallet or purse is stolen, a thief could use the number to commit identity theft. The same goes for items such as bank account PIN numbers or any other passwords. (Be careful, by the way, of giving out such information unless you are absolutely sure of the identity of the person requesting it and the legitimate reason for doing so. For example, never give it to anyone who calls you on the telephone, no matter what government agency, bank, etc. they may claim to represent.)

With regard to USCIS documents establishing your immigration status, it is not just inconvenient if you should lose them. There are substantial fees and long waiting periods for applications to replace lost green cards, work authorization documents, naturalization certificates, and so on. So be sure to guard your originals carefully.

Disclaimer: These articles are published to inform generally, not to advise in individual cases. US Citizenship and Immigration Services and the US Department of State frequently amend regulations and alter processing and filing procedures. For legal advice, seek the assistance of IIIC immigration legal staff.

IIIC Updates

Ár gCara, Peter Koutoujian

The staff of the Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC) was saddened to learn of the recent death of a friend of ours, Peter Koutoujian. Peter, former Clerk for the City of Waltham for thirty years, died suddenly at home on January 16 at age 77. Peter along with his wife of fifty-four years, Connie (Cassidy) Koutoujian were longtime supporters and always attended IIIC events. We will miss Peter’s warmth, wit, and characteristic smile that lit up any room he entered.

Up on the Hill

As the legislature on Beacon Hill gears up for its new session, thousands of new bills have been filed for consideration. The IIIC is advocating the adoption of two important measures that failed in previous legislative sessions:

The Safe Driving Bill would make the roads safer for all Massachusetts residents by removing immigration status as a barrier to going through the licensing process. If passed, Massachusetts would allow all qualified residents to take the driver's exam, buy insurance, and carry a valid driver's license.

Higher Education Equity Act. This is an Act regarding higher education opportunities for high school graduates in the Commonwealth relative to the eligibility of students for in-state tuition rates and fees at public higher educational institutions. These Higher Education Equity Bills would allow all students, regardless of immigration status, who attended a Massachusetts high school for at least three years and graduated or earned equivalency degrees to pay the same in-state tuition rates at public colleges as their fellow classmates.

Family Healing Workshops Begin February 3

Do you know the signs of alcohol or drug addiction and how it can be prevented? Alcohol and drug addiction has been described as the biggest preventable social problem in Ireland and has laid to waste families, relationships, and careers. New England has the highest rate of substance abuse in the nation. Many individuals and their families suffer, most in silence. By collaborating with Catholic Charities Recovering Connections in South Boston along with RFK Corps and COASA, the IIIC will be running a four-week series of Family Healing workshops where the above questions will be answered. Families will leave with hope and resources for action, offering healing in their own home, and connecting their loved ones to treatment.

Please join us on Tuesday, February 3 for the first of our four week Family Healing Workshop Series with refreshments and resource sharing from 5.30pm and the workshop beginning promptly at 6.00pm at the Laboure Center (275 West Broadway, South Boston, MA 02127). Childcare is available but YOU MUST RSVP TO CONFIRM. Please call Danielle at the IIIC (617-542-7654 ext.14 or dowen@iicenter.org) if you have any questions about this series or about recovery in families. Change IS always possible – We can help!

U.S. Citizenship Workshop – February 10

Ready for U.S. citizenship? The IIIC can help you with that. The IIIC offers assistance with the completion of forms and with any issues you might have regarding your application for naturalization.

On Tuesday, February 10, there will be afternoon and early evening appointments from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the IIIC Downtown offices to assist eligible Legal Permanent Residents with their applications. Pre-registration is required. To register or to obtain additional information, call Ambreen at 617-542-7654, Ext. 41.

Executive Action Information Session in Brighton – February 19

The IIIC will present a special information session to inform clients about President Obama’s Executive Action plan for immigration relief. The information session will be presented on Thursday, February 19 at 6:00 PM at the Green Briar Restaurant & Pub, 304 Washington Street, Brighton, MA 02135. All are welcome.

Free Computer Skills Workshops Have Begun

This winter, the IIIC is offering basic computer skills drop-in workshops for people ranging from those who have never turned on a computer to those who may know a little but want to gain confidence and more knowledge and improve their internet skills, including sending emails and searching the web. The workshops provide students with skills, confidence, and computer competency. There will be weekly drop-in workshops on Thursday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00pm at the IIIC Downtown office. To learn more about the basic skills workshops, contact Sarah at (617) 542-7654 x36.

Job Opportunity at the IIIC: Irish Outreach Program Coordinator

The IIIC is seeking an Irish Outreach Program Coordinator to reach out and connect with the Irish community, supporting Irish immigrants’ access to IIIC’s legal, wellness and career advancement services, and other support services. In addition, the Irish Outreach Program Coordinator will assist with the day-to-day operations of the J-1 Irish Work and Travel Program. For a full job description see our website at iiicenter.org (Go to: Get Involved/Career Opportunities)


Quote of the Week

“If Candlemas Day (February 2) is wet or foul, half the winter has gone at Yule. If Candlemas is fine and fair, half the winter is to come and more.” - Irish Proverb

Dale HarrisIrish International Immigrant Center