I am an H1-B holder working at a university. I was recently invited to join a research project in Europe as an external investigator (I will receive a small amount of salary). I consulted with the immigration office in my university, the staff told me that this is a grey area, and this could affect my future application for permanent residency. I wonder if anyone in this community had similar experiences? Any advice will be greatly suggested.
I paid for a consultation with an attorney once over an immigration issue (seeking to obtain permanent residency). The immigration official handling the case had basically said that if the proper documents were not all submitted exactly as prescribed that the whole process could be aborted and would have to be started again from zero. The woman did not even detail what exactly she was expecting, leaving questions about why the documents submitted had not been adequate. That's when I went to the attorney.
The attorney gave excellent advice, but it was of a more pragmatic/social nature than a legal nature. He basically said two things:
The official was out of place and not following standard procedures to make such threats and provide no documentation to support what was being required; and
It would do no good to address the official's errors, but that, instead, one should approach the officials with a humble, asking-for-help, attitude, and let them decide how best they could help. (He also warned against informing the official of having gone to an attorney.)
It boils down to this: officials are human; and many humans like the sense of power they derive by their position. It is best to meekly submit, and not to challenge this.
On another occasion I called multiple officials trying to ascertain the validity of an advance parole document to return to the home country. I ended up calling all the way to Washington, D.C. (headquarters) to learn that once in hand, the document could be used regardless of the reason--even though, technically, it is not supposed to be issued during the initial residence period (prior to permanent residency) for returning to one's native country.
This experience taught me that the officials themselves can sometimes seem at odds with each other in the interpretation of the legal codes.
Putting these two pieces of wisdom together, I advise you to seek your answers from more than one authority/official, if possible, and always in the attitude of a humble petitioner, letting them help you.