Monday, July 02, 2007

Immigration Status on Your Resume

I am having issues with gaps of employment because of my immigration status. Basically I graduated from law school in 2002. I worked as a PD in Orlando for almost a year until my work visa ran out. Since then I have been volunteering off and on but I don't feel the work was significant enough to put on my resume (at least some of it isn't significant).

The problem I am having is that people are looking at me as if I am damaged goods and I suppose the fact that I live in D.C. isn't helping my cause either. I read the comment about the woman recovering from breast cancer but I kind of feel like my story would not draw as much sympathy or understanding, sort of like being a housewife. People seem unsympathetic. It is as if employers or agencies feel I somehow had control over my immigration situation and placed myself in the position I am in.

I am now eligible to work but haven't been able to find a job, even document review work, which frankly any layperson could do. I truly believe that the gap in employment is the reason. I send out my resume and do not get many responses except from temp agencies who ask the same question: "So what have you been doing since 2003?"

I wonder if you could offer me some advice on how to put together a resume that will account for the lapse in time.

by Beth Brown, Professional Resume Writer

Having a large gap in your professional work history is frustrating, at best. Employers tend to be wary of any gaps, and when a gap has to do with immigration status, that wariness may put your resume in the "circular file" immediately. So, what to do? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Put your current work status/eligibility to work in the U.S. at the top of your resume, in the Summary of Qualifications section. Perhaps your last bullet point or sentence would say “Eligible to work in the U.S.” or whatever your status is, such as “United States Resident” or “HB-1 Visa.”

2. In terms of your work since 2002, you need to account for your time. If you did volunteer work, you should list it. You could group the organizations together, as in:
2002-04 Volunteer Legal Advisor (your title)
Organization X and Organization Y (names, city and state)

Then include one or two points describing what you did, achievements you are proud of or were recognized for.

3. Widen the scope of your thinking about what you’ve been doing that could be considered relevant to your next career step. For example, if you were doing research about your immigration status and/or doing work to move that process along, you could also list it, especially if you are interested in legal work having to do with immigration law! One idea:

Independent research in U.S. immigration law, and completion of the immigration process, resulting in permanent work eligibility.

If there have been other steps to the process, such as consulting with attorneys or immigration officials, you could mention those steps in one or two additional points. Don’t feel you have to say a lot, but make sure that any prospective employer knows that you have been working hard to change your eligibility, and that you’ve been successful.

Good luck!

Beth Brown has been a resume writer on Susan Ireland’s team for over 10 years, and has worked with more than 1000 clients from all over the world and all walks of life.

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