In pursuit of the American dream

By ANNE MARIE DE JESUS PORTUGAL
With unemployment estimated at 7.8 percent (as of July 2007), the Filipino diaspora remains unabated, and can only be seen to grow in the coming years.

And while Pinoys are willing (if not at all ready financially) to try their luck in either the Middle East or Asian countries and even Europe, the United States of America remains to be the common Pinoy’s dreamland.

Wikipedia said that this year, Filipino population in the US has escalated to approximately four million.

Welcome to dreamland

“Amy” (not her real name) was a housemaid in the Philippines when her employer brought her to the US eight years ago.

Hoping for a better future, Amy was more than willing to embark on the journey. She entered the US with a tourist visa and the belief that her employer would take care of her work permit.

She described herself as an “all-around helper,” meaning she does the laundry, housecleaning and taking care of the children. She was promised a $200 a month salary, but which was not given her.

Amy’s employer also intentionally did not process her work permit. And since she had no money to pay for her plane fare going back home, she had no choice but to stick with her abusive employer.

Amy’s tourist visa expired after a few months, making her an illegal alien trapped in the US. Aside from labor abuse, Amy also mentioned that her employer would sometimes hit her.

“Minsan nga binato pa ako ng plato (There was a time when she threw a plate at me),” she said.

Amy’s case is not isolated. There’s also this couple who once lived more than comfortable life in the Philippines. But fate took a sudden turn when their family business shut down. They risked what little money they had left and went to the US where they found an elderly couple, both Americans, who employed them as personal caregivers.

The two have been in the US for more than 10 years now, working illegally.

“Mahirap pero ganun talaga. Kailangan tatagan lang ang loob. Kundi magugutom naman ang mga anak ko sa Pilipinas… Dahil dito sa trabaho namin, naka-angat ulit kami (It’s difficult but that’s the way it has to be. We have to stand strong or else our children will starve… Because of this job, we were able to thrive again),” the Filipina said.

The risk they took paid off, and the couple was able to support the education of their three children who were left in the Philippines. They were also able to help some of their relatives to start a small business.

But they failed to see the children grow up.

“Uuwi rin kami. Pag marami nang ipon. Kasi pag ngayon kami umuwi, walang mangyayari sa amin sa Pilipinas. Mauubos lang ang kinita namin. Hindi na kami makakabalik dito (We still have plans of going home but that’s when we have enough savings. If we return to the Philippines now, nothing will happen to us. Our funds will be depleted and we can never go back here again),” she added.

Filipinos flock to the US for one primary reason – a better quality of life… because for a lot of people, America is still a land of dreams.

A ticket to the US

Entering the US is not easy and definitely not cheap. Applying for a US tourist visa or the B-2 visa would already cost $100. And that is the least of the worries.

Once the application has been submitted, the US Embassy would schedule the applicant for an interview where the applicant is required to show proof of financial stability – of how one can support his or her travel to the US.

There is no rule of thumb to assure that the application will be approved. A student lawyer was denied three times.

This is probably because through the years, a large number of Filipinos have opted to use their tourist visas as a one-way ticket to their dreamland. Once they reach America, they never went back home. Thus, the rise of the so-called “TNT” or “Tago Nang Tago”, a term used for Filipinos who work illegally in the US – as is the case of Amy and the Filipino couple mentioned earlier.

The process of getting a US work visa, also known as the H-1B visa, is a more complicated process.

Over all, the process would cost around $10,000. Almost half of this would go to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, while the remainder would go to the agency for marketing and placement fees.

Marketing is the term used for endorsing applicants to prospective companies in the US.

This is why it is advisable for the applicant to already be in the US before applying for this kind of visa. He or she must be physically available for interviews.

It is also important to know that the applicants may not necessarily land a job in line with their profession.

When the agency finds a US company that would be willing to sponsor the applicant, the immigration lawyer employed by the job agency would then work with both the company and the applicant to accomplish all the application forms and requirements to be filed before the USCIS in order to start the processing of the H-1B visa.

But there is still no guarantee that the USCIS would grant the applicant the work visa. USCIS has a quota of the number of work visas it can issue in a year. The agency also increased its application and processing fees this year, expectedly surging up agency fees as well.

Full Story

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