By Atty. Mike Templo
When landing what may seem to be a lucrative job abroad, most people tend to lose focus on the essentials when preparing to leave. They get so excited at the prospect of striking it rich and how much money they will be sending home that they totally disregard the rights that they should know. Forget the fact that their employer will be holding their passport. Forget the fact that they didn’t keep a copy of the employment contract. Forget the fact that they paid a placement fee worth more than six months’ worth of their salary.
If you find yourself in this position or mindset, slow down a bit and re-think your plans when accepting that job abroad. The rules mentioned in this article deal with United States federal law. If you are being deployed to another country, you must find out whether that country has similar safeguards for you as a foreign worker.
Back in 2008, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (WWTVPA) was signed into law. This law requires that a person applying for certain visas must be made aware of their legal rights under federal immigration, employment and labor laws. Included in the awareness effort is information on slavery, trafficking in persons, sexual assault, extortion, blackmail, and worker exploitation.
You must know that you have the following basic rights:
- You have the right to be treated fairly
- You have the right to be paid fairly
- You have the right not to be told to work against your will
- You have the right to keep your passport
- You have the right to keep all your important immigration documentation
- You have the right to report abuse
- You have the right to seek help from labor groups, unions, etc.
- You have the right to sue in a U.S. court
Along with these rights, you have a personal responsibility to do the following:
- Keep your passport in a safe place
- Keep copies of your passport and employment contract with trusted family members or friends
- Keep the number of the nearest consulate where you work
- Keep your employment records – time and compensation
It is not an excuse that you weren’t able to do the above or keep copies of your immigration-related paperwork. It is also not an excuse that you trusted the person you were dealing with or that you weren’t told. When you are abroad, there are definitely groups that can help you but you must first have the common sense to help yourself so as to avoid being in a bad situation.
Atty. Michael Templo is an attorney admitted to practice law in New York State and Federal Courts and is a partner at Templo & Templo http://www.templolaw.com with offices in New York, USA and Makati City, Philippines. Atty. Templo specializes in US Immigration matters. Atty. Mike Templo is also a host for the weekly show “Crossing Borders” which airs every Thursday at 10:30PM on ANC and 2:30PM on TFC . The discussion above is not intended as legal advice, and cannot be relied upon for any purpose without the services of a qualified professional. For your comments and questions, Atty. Templo can be reached at email@example.com or log on to http://www.templolaw.com.