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Author Topic: Accepting foreign positions and restrictions on movement  (Read 23131 times)
New member
Posts: 3

« on: May 31, 2011, 4:00:40 pm »

Hello. I am originally from New Jersey and completed
my Doctoral degree in the U.S. in 2007. In April of 2008 I applied to a
job opening through chronicle.com for a position at the University of
the West Indies in Trinidad  and Tobago. The position was listed as
lecturer in Management. I was offered the position and started
on November, 2009. I am still employed in this position today.
Lecturers, I came to learn soon after my arrival, at this University
are required to ask permission to leave Trinidad and Tobago. Basically,
you must provide a document asking permission to leave the country. You are asking your employer to allow you to leave and not the government or any other entity. I contacted an editor at the Chronicle about this because this is an uncommon practice at universities and should be listed in the job posting for prospective
employees (I applied for the position through the Chronicle). I have been denied (which may happen) the permission to leave Trinidad recently. Had I known of this practice here at the University of the West Indies I would of put much more thought into coming here and probably
declined the offer.  This is an unwritten rule, not in my employment
contract or in the employee handbook (Rules for
Academic Staff, Senior Administrative Staff and Professional Staff).

Now, why did I contact the Chronicle about this? The next person who
applies for a position as a lecturer at the University of the West
Indies in Trinidad and Tobago should be aware of this need to ask for
permission to leave the country.  This is a serious matter for those
who need to travel, whether it be for work, research, family or
anything else.  It would make a big difference in deciding to accept a
position or not.
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 6,039

« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2011, 4:16:07 pm »

You may also want to post this information on the "universities to be feared" wiki page.

I just hate it that I constantly have to like everyone and everything. -- moonstone

O, what a hateful feminist concoction!
Jews, communists, "lesbians", feminists and marihuana addicts  --Pyshnov
On far too many committees
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 6,556

« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2011, 4:22:49 pm »

Can anyone else confirm this?  What a terrible position to be in.
New member
Posts: 3

« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2011, 4:45:14 pm »

I do have documents that prove that this is taking place at the University of the West Indies (a document granting me permission to leave the country, etc.). Can we attach documents in these posts? If so, could someone please tell me how? I do not see an "attach" link/button anywhere?

Qryptacular, and not really a Member-Moderator
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 6,355

I thought I had escaped from this place...

« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2011, 5:04:49 pm »

I assume this is a condition of employment, not a restriction imposed by the government.  The latter would be a pretty serious violation of international law (as I understand it -- there's something about the right to leave as a basic human right). 

As such, I wonder what is really going on here.  OP, are they unhappy about a trip you propose to take during term/teaching time?  Or do they want to know about holiday plans?  Even in the UK, I'm supposed to let my department know where I am, notify them when I plan to be on holiday, etc. 

I realize you might not want to disclose this here, but it would be interesting to know what reason they gave for denying you permission to leave. 

What's the use of getting sober
When you've gotta get drunk again?
New member
Posts: 3

« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2011, 6:13:43 pm »

This is not during teaching/term time. Basically, they want me to "notify" them for plans to be on holiday, or anything where I must leave the country. I understand notifying or asking for permission during the semester, but this is for June/July/August when the semester is out.

The system here is based off of the British system where one is to let their department know where they are at all times, even during holidays, but I find this as an infringement of my privacy (I will be traveling home to see my family, do some research, nothing more). This is not common practice in the U.S. at all. Also, it is not "notifying" when the campus can refuse a particular trip as has recently happened to me. This is asking for permission. I find this entire procedure unnecessary and borderline childish.

I have asked my University why this procedure is done and I have heard the following reasons from different individuals:

1. Insurance purposes (I would think the insurance companies would be happy for individuals to leave the country for a certain time as crime/kidnappings and auto traffic accidents are extremely high for such a small nation)

2. To know where you are in case of an emergency (I find this hilarious as I teach management and marketing and not Cancer/AIDS research and being on the brink of a cure)

3. and finally, I have been told that it is common courtesy to let your department know where you are during non teaching months ("We can still keep in touch through emails", I thought to myself).

All kidding aside, this is a serious issue and something individuals looking into employment at foreign universities should know about before accepting a position.
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 11,084

Representation is not reproduction!

« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2011, 6:33:11 pm »

North Korea here I come
Right back where I started from
The kimchi, instant tenure
Oh, I can't leave?
That's what you say
I've tricks up my sleeve

The Im Jin, the Yalu
I'll swim across
I'll sneak through Panmunjon
Just like a ghost

Kalashnikovs, M-60s firing at me
Oh Jesus, oh Krishna, why this T-T?
The Pueblo I'll take it
And try to get out
PT boats are circling....glub...

Taste o' the Sixties
Posts: 218

« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2011, 3:39:04 am »

The reasons are similar to ones I've heard in European countries where I have worked (but I haven't heard of a trip declined before, so I too would be curious about the reasons). About insurance: I'm pretty sure it refers to cases where you would need to be transported back (either because of death or serious injury). If it is work-related, insurance would cover the cost, but you would need to inform the university beforehand.  If your contract is for the entire year (as opposed to a nine month contract), I don't find it unreasonable to ask where you will be outside the teaching year if it is for an extended period of time.
Junior member
Posts: 54

« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2011, 4:15:56 am »

If I understand it correctly, you have to apply at your employer's HR offices if you want to take days off or go on a business trip (that sounds very common to me - if the employer pays your salary, of course the employer can decide when it is okay to take days off). Once you have permission, you are free to leave the country. Is that correct? What happens if you turn up at the airport without your university's permission to leave? Is the border police not allowing you to board the plane?
Junior member
Posts: 50

« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2011, 7:33:24 am »

Do they confiscate your passport when you take up your position?  If not, why can't you just leave?
New member
Posts: 25

« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2011, 4:26:02 pm »

Frankly, the US has exactly the same requirement for visiting scholars in the US on a J1 visum. The University has to give permission/sign a form if the scholar wants to leave the country before the end of visum. In most cases, the HR people just sign the stuff and give you permission to leave the country whenever you want.
Friendly Neighborhood Troll and
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 5,498

« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2011, 10:17:11 am »

I am assuming that the OP is afraid of losing their job if they go on the trip that was refused. Here in Australia we are on a 12 month contract and get 4 weeks holiday in addition to public holidays and the days between Christmas and New Year. So if you don't have any available vacation time accrued you could be refused the trip in theory even if you have no teaching obligation at that time. And you are supposed to file some form with a contact number etc. But our systems are so confused at the moment (one online and one on paper and conflicting instructions on what to use) that I doubt people are really filing that. The solutions could be to dream up some academic purpose for the trip - e.g. collaborate with someone at a local university where you are going or to ask for unpaid leave but then you lose some salary. Nobody is keeping tabs on where academics are on a day to day basis here. But if you go away for several weeks and can't attend stuff they will notice. This isn't like the US with 9 month contracts where you could legitimately tell the chair that you won't do any work in the summer. When travelling on official business we are insured by the university. I just organized a trip to an Asian country and 2 non-weekend days I can't specify any academic activity or travel I designated as vacation days. This then could result in theory in me having to pay some fringe benefits tax on the plane ticket.

I'm sure the OP could actually leave the country, but they might lose their job.
New member
Posts: 1

« Reply #12 on: January 05, 2012, 1:33:10 pm »

I began work at UWI last year, and have not come across such limitation of movement -- you go and come as you please. I think the problem is with the university bureaucracy -- if you actually start strictly adhering to all the rules and policies, you may expect negative outcome. I simply would not bother applying for leave, unless it really affects your teaching duties. Nobody is going to stop you from leaving or entering the country!

I certainly would not advice any interested candidate to be put off by this!
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 8,396

"Righter of wrongs, queen beyond compare."

« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2012, 1:58:27 pm »

Being denied permission to leave the country is cause for contacting your local U.S. embassy and/or your (home) members of Congress.  Immediately.

"Face it, girls.  I'm older, and I have more insurance."     -- Towanda!
New member
Posts: 14

« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2012, 4:51:50 am »

In Turkey academic staff are generally expected to get written permission even to spend a single night off campus let alone travel abroad. But the restriction is not policed and I was not aware of it until it came up in conversation with a Turkish colleague. But in smaller universities such conditions might well be rigorously enforced.
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