-- 2012 ~ Travel and Immigration 101

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Philippine Entry Visa Not an Entry Guarantee to Philippines

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has reminded foreigners that possession of a Philippine entry visa is not a guarantee that its holder will be automatically admitted into the country.
Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. made the statement following complaints from some members of the Filipino-Chinese community about the alleged excesses of BI officials in preventing the entry of arriving Chinese tourists with valid visas at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

He explained that a visa imprinted on a foreigner's passport merely authorizes the bearer to present himself for admission to an immigration officer in a Philippine port of entry. "It denotes that the visa application of the visa holder has been properly examined by a consular officer at a Philippine post abroad," he said.

He stressed that the decision to admit a foreign national into the Philippines is the primary function of immigration officers at the port of entry, adding that it is an international practice adopted by all countries throughout the world. "Thus, no foreigner who holds a Philippine visa can invoke his right or privilege to enter the country. He still has to pass inspection or assessment by our immigration officers who will determine and decide if he should be admitted," David said.

"If upon inspection and profiling a foreigner is found to be improperly documented or is deemed as likely to become a public charge or a threat to national security, public health and safety, he will be excluded," David said. The official clarified that in most cases the immigration officers involved in preventing the entry of foreigners did not abuse their discretion but only did their job because the aliens they excluded were profiled as public charges.

Basically, an arriving foreign tourist is deemed a public charge if he cannot explain his purpose in visiting the country, does not have hotel accommodation, return ticket and does not have sufficient funds to support his stay. On allegations that some immigration officers have been extorting money from tourists, David again challenged the accusers to name names so that those responsible could be punished and dismissed from the service.

"These sweeping allegations of corruption by our airport personnel without the culprits being pinpointed have only besmirched our bureau to the detriment of those who are uprightly doing their job as gatekeepers of our country," he said.

Friday, November 16, 2012

US Election Result Brings Hope of Immigration Reform

THE people of the United States have reelected Barack Obama to a second term as America’s chief executive. Over the next four years, President Obama will maintain the ability to appoint justices to the Supreme Court and to the lower federal courts and to the heads of the federal agencies. Obama has pledged during his campaign that he remains committed to immigration reform, and to policies that favor the growing immigrant base that just helped him win the election.
When Obama was first elected president, he promised to bring comprehensive immigration reform before Congress. In his first term, his efforts at reform were thwarted by a Congress that was unable or unwilling to make bipartisan compromises in order to promote effective change. Unable to pass laws without the support of Congress, President Obama used his executive authority to improve the system in place and open avenues for relief under the existing legal framework.

Starting last year, through his Secretary of Homeland Security, President Obama encouraged agents and attorneys with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to exercise prosecutorial discretion in deciding which cases to pursue for removal or deportation from the United States. The President advised ICE to focus resources on high-priority cases involving dangerous criminals, and to make available the option to cancel removal in the case of a person with strong family ties, no criminal record, and other favorable equities. This policy has resulted in the termination of numerous deportation and removal cases, preventing the break-up of families that were facing seemingly imminent separation.

Earlier this year, President Obama proposed regulatory changes that would permit a person who entered the United States without authorization to file for a “provisional waiver” before departing the United States to apply for readmission abroad. This waiver would significantly shorten the time that families are separated while family-based applications are pending. The provisional waiver is ready to be implemented, and the momentum from this election inspires confidence that final regulations will be forthcoming soon.

Recently, President Obama exercised his authority to put in place an application process known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in order to provide some relief through administrative channels for young persons who have lived in the United States for several years and attended schools in the United States. Many believed that if Mitt Romney had been elected, he would terminate the program, or decline to renew individual applications when they expire after two years. With Obama back safely in the White House, we can proceed with DACA applications with the confidence that the program will remain in place, and that DACA grants will be extended in two years’ time. We remain confident, as President Obama pledged during this campaign, that once the Dream Act is finally passed, the work authorizations issued under DACA will lead to permanent residency and citizenship.

The Obama administration may also provide support for changes necessary to exercise the full benefit of the Child Status Protection Act for aged-out beneficiaries of immigrant petitions. As benefits are expanded and more immigrants are eligible to apply for admission to the United States, the visa quota system will need to be expanded. The Obama administration would likely favor a push for increased visa availability to accommodate the influx in applicants who are now eligible to apply.

The reelection, and changing dynamics in Congress, also provides good cause for optimism that comprehensive immigration reform is possible. This election demonstrates that the Republican Party must update its message to address substantial numbers of Latino and Asian voters. In order to adapt to the changing American demographic, Republicans will need to soften their stance on immigration policy. The parties should be encouraged to work together to promote business immigration policies that will maintain American competiveness in a global economy. As President Obama said during the second debate, “there are folks all around the world who still see America as the land of promise. And they provide us energy and they provide us innovation and they start companies like Intel and Google. And we want to encourage that.”

Barack Obama’s second and final term in office is his opportunity to preserve a progressive, immigrant-friendly legacy, and to expand on the base support of immigrant communities for the future of the Democratic Party. President Obama does not need to tow a centrist line anymore, and can forcefully advocate for the positive immigration reform he has promoted throughout his presidency and his campaigns. We are optimistic that the next four years will open new pathways to immigration relief and reform for the betterment of this great melting pot.

President Obama has already put several programs in place that provide relief that was not previously available, and there is good cause to believe additional relief is on the way. Any person seeking status in the United States is encouraged to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to determine what options might already be available.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Travel Entrepreneur to Complete Seven Continents with Young Daughter

Travel entrepreneur RJ Samson and his 12-year-old daughter Lizzie’s travel story is a unique one. The US-based Lizzie, who lives with her mom, began traveling alone at the tender age of eight to the Philippines, and has already been to six continents by the age of 12. 
Before Lizzie turns 13, the father and daughter tandem will make a trip to Australia to complete the seven continents, followed by a cruise to the Antarctic. “Lizzie and I are definitely excited about this trip. We’ve had such a wonderful time traveling around the world, just the two of us, and we can’t wait for our next adventure,” says RJ, who runs a travel company called iTraveler Asia. While RJ and Lizzie’s father-daughter bonding is far from ordinary, they have a routine for each trip. “Since Lizzie is based in the United States, we’d meet up at the airport of our destination and take it from there,” explains RJ. The pair doesn’t believe in setting itineraries without getting a feel of the place first, so they do the planning when they get to their destination. 

RJ shares that Lizzie likes to explore new places and if it’s the first time they’re visiting, they first check out the landmarks and find new experiences along the way.“Most of the time, we try to find kid-friendly spots,” he says.  Having been to Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America, South America and Africa, Lizzie has her favorites. “I like Singapore because there are a lot of places to go and do there while South Africa is another favorite because of the wildlife.” RJ adds, “Lizzie has also taken a liking to Michelin star restaurants which we make sure that we visit on each trip.” 
To travel the world is but a fantasy for many, but RJ and his daughter are living the dream. Yet for RJ, while traveling to exotic destinations is certainly a thrill, it’s the moments spent with Lizzie that make the trips worthwhile. “I always tell her that she’s lucky because I wasn’t able to travel as a child,” says RJ, who is proud that his daughter’s first travel experience was to the Philippines. “Traveling alone has made her independent and it has built a special relationship for us even if we don’t see each other on a regular basis. Traveling brings us together, and that is priceless.”

Friday, August 31, 2012

Wealthy Investors Lured with New Visas

Business-savvy migrants with at least $5 million to invest in Australia can apply for new investor visas from November. The investment visas were announced in May and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen released what the conditions were on Wednesday. People can submit expressions of interest through SkillSelect from November 24.
"The $5 million minimum is considered to be sufficient for a meaningful investment contribution, justifying eligibility for visa concessions such as not having to meet the points test, no upper age limit and access to reduced residence requirements," Mr Bowen said in a statement. They will have to invest in state and territory government bonds, Australian Security Investment Commission-regulated managed funds that invest in Australian assets, or in unlisted private Australian companies.

"Where visa holders choose to invest directly into Australian companies, these companies will need to meet certain qualifying business standards," he said. Visa holders will be able to extend initial four year visas by additional two year periods. They will be able to satisfy the residence requirement of 160 days in Australia at any time throughout their four year visa.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

PHILTOA Launches the Country's Largest Tourism Expo

If you've ever thought about taking a vacation and exploring the Philippines, now would be the best time to turn that idea into a reality. It doesn't matter if you want a quiet retreat or a thrilling adventure; whether you're planning your honeymoon or just going out with friends, there is no shortage of options in the upcoming 23rd Philippine Travel Mart (PTM) this coming August 10 to 12 at the SMX convention Center in Pasay City.
Now bigger than ever, the Philippine Travel Mart (PTM)—the longest-running travel trade show in the country—is set to showcase the Philippines in the upcoming Sale ng Bayan. Featuring heritage and eco-adventure tours from all over the Philippines, the 23rd PTM is the result of various familiarization and exploration trips that bring new tour products into the market every year.

The annual event is organized by the Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA), in cooperation with the Department of Tourism. With almost 250 exhibitors presenting their tour products through colorful pavilions and booths, the Sale ng Bayan will also launch “Philippine Island Fun Caravan Getaways”—joint group tours that cover various locations from all over the Philippines. These 4-day to 8-day tours pool local, balikbayan, and foreign tourists together to avail of special packages that would have otherwise cost a lot of money if done individually. Featured tours include the Batanes-Cagayan Northern-scape, Cordilleras Cultural Weekend Warrior Caravan, Central Visayas Backdoor tour, and the Tuna-T'Boli trail, among others.

“It has always been our goal to outdo ourselves every year,” says PHILTOA President Cesar Cruz, who is also the chairman of the upcoming PTM. “Innovation is key. We've been working closely with tour operators and government agencies alike to offer newer, better products yearly.”

Like most trade shows, the PTM will still feature classic destinations such as Bohol, Boracay, Cebu and Palawan. Also not to be missed are the individual tour packages that have anywhere from 70 to 80% discounted prices, such as “Kulinarya” (Binondo food trip for as low as P648), “Health and Wellness” (Tagaytay Wellness trip for as low as P2900), “Festivals” (Panagbenga trip for as low as P5500), and many more. Aside from the endless array of tour products in the country's biggest gathering of tour operators, the PTM will also provide informative seminars for students dubbed as Byahe-info. Also scheduled is an Eco Chorale Competition, a Folk Dance Competition, and even a Tourism Quiz Bee—ensuring educational activities for everyone in attendance.

It's more fun in the Philippines!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rhapsody Residences - Resort-Inspired Condo in the South

Here's a good news for all those who wants to own a Condo unit but do not want to live in the busy cities like Quezon City or Makati City. Rhapsody Residences is DMCI Homes’s resort-inspired condominium village project located along East Service Road in Barangay Buli, Muntinlupa City. The construction that started two years ago is turnover ready by the fourth quarter of 2012.
Since DMCI Homes has been in the business for almost 60 years, it will be a plus factor for me because a land developer has to be reliable and be able to deliver their projects on time. Also, the community of Rhapsody Residences has access to main roads and is near business and technology hub Northgate Business District and the country’s premier shopping centers like Alabang Town Center and Festival Supermall. Health care is also not far with the Asian Hospital and Medical Center and that makes them standout with other Condos for Sale in Alabang Muntinlupa.
Here are some good reason to consider Rhapsody Residences;
  • Modern Construction Design
    • The project embodies a Neo-Asian architectural design for the modern urban dweller with a feel for traditional aesthetics - clean lines and minimalist style of Asian design combined with a bold and modern feel of wood structures and nature-inspired amenities. The project’s buildings also have single loaded hallways wherein homes are open to a view of garden atriums, landscaped with various ornamental plants and water features.
  • Comfortable Abode
    • Units are also fitting for start-up and growing families, who value a charming condo home that fulfills all their requirements and upwardly mobile professionals seeking space and comfort. Available are two-bedroom units that are considered roomier than the usual condo homes.
  • Sanctuary of Pursuit
    • The resort ambience can be experienced in lifestyle amenities available such as pocket parks, jogging paths, children's play area, basketball court, and a spacious play court for residents with active lifestyles. More than a hectare of the total land area is also dedicated to a diverse mix of outdoor amenities, and every home owner is bound to find a place to call their own within the community.
So if you prefer living in the South and looking for a condominium to move in soon south of Metro Manila Rhapsody Residences may just be the place for you. Read more information about it at http://www.dmcihomes.com. (Photo Source)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cotabato City - A Must-Visit Tourist Destination in Philippines

A city evaded by most travelers, Cotabato City’s reputation is scarred by bombings, infrequent kidnappings and the infamous Maguindanao massacre, the single deadliest attack for journalists in history. What was once one of the most progressive cities in Mindanao, has declined economically in the past few years. Located at the heart of Maguindanao, but politically independent from the said province, this blemished beauty is slowly making its mark on the map of domestic tourism.
For first timers, the city may seem ordinary, not exactly the type that you will put on your bucket list for a leisurely walk. The bustling city center is clogged by tricycles and jeeps, vendors, and old, forgotten buildings. A few famed fast food chains have sprouted downtown, but still, nothing beats the Muslim dishes and delicacies sold at barbecue stalls and eateries. After a heavy breakfast at one of the eateries near Filipino Hotel, we walked further down Sinsuat Avenue stopping by its famous landmark – the Sultan Kudarat monument. This brave man is a Muslim hero who successfully opposed the Spanish colonization, and hindered the Christianization of Mindanao. His monument stands in Pedro Colina Hill which was once his lookout. At the base of the hill, one can find the Kutawato Cave, “kuta” means stone and “wato” is fort. This cave which is said to be the only cave in the Philippines located in the heart of the city used to be a hide-out of the Japanese soldiers during World War II.

The old municipal building in front of Rizal Park is now a mecca for the Philippine Marines, while a new municipal building lies outside the city center which can be reached by an Awang-bound jeep. Along the way, at Governor Guttierez Street, a good stop over is the Barter Trade Center. Although the original concept of barter (exchange of commodities) no longer exists here, it is still worth a visit because of the abundance of bargain goods. Original hand crafted Maranao products, brassware, sarongs, hijab (headscarf worn by Muslim women), tubao (a traditional Muslim headdress consisting of a long scarf wrapped around the head), batiks, malong (a tubular Muslim fabric worn as a skirt of blanket) and inaul (a Maguindanao hand-woven fabric) are sold everywhere.

But the highlight of our trip is the emerging tourist attraction of Cotabato City. The stunning Grand Mosque named after the Sultan of Brunei - Sultan Hadji Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid who partially funded this massive structure. The mosque has yellow domes and a couple of minarets, the walls inside are painted in white. This massive mosque can accommodate up to 800 male and 400 female worshippers. It can be reached by a habal-habal (motorcycle) or tricycle from the road fronting the Husky Bus Terminal.

With the rise of the Sultan Hadji Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid comes the hope that eventually more and more visitors will visit Cotabato City and finally understand why the city they fear earned the moniker - “The Promise Land”.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tattoos can Cause Trouble for Immigrants

Legally immigrating to the United States can be a long and difficult process. Potential immigrants to this country have to maintain a job and clear criminal records or they can face deportation to their home country. It isn’t easy, but for those who achieve it, it is well worth it.
To add to the difficulty for immigrants, tattoos can also play a role in their being denied a green card to the become United States citizens. Many tattoos in certain countries and cultures have connections to gangs and other criminal organizations. Certain tattoos can affiliate a person from Japan with the Yakuza, certain iconography is associated with the Russian mafia, and various Latin street gangs have tattoos that identify their affiliations.

The issue with tattoos and gangs in Latin America has become a recent issue for immigrants from Mexico. The Wall Street Journal ran a recent article profiling two immigrants named Hector Villalobos and Rolando Mora Huerta. Villalobos has been working in the United States since 2006, but when he went back to Mexico to meet with an immigration officer about his processing for his green card, he was stopped at the border. He had two tattoos of the classic laughing/crying theatre masks—which can mean “Laugh Now, Cry Later” to certain gangs—on his back. Though Villalobos simply got the tattoos because he liked the artwork, that specific tattoo has been tied to Mexican gangs, and his re-entry into the country has been detained. He is awaiting review of his application, with no date set.

A similar situation happened to Huerta, who had been married to an American citizen, when he was arrested in 2008 for being the country illegally. His record showed only minor offenses, such as speeding. He was deported and in 2010 was interviewed at the United States consulate in Juarez, Mexico to attempt to get a visa. He had similar tattoos as Villalobos, though he denied any gang affiliations. His visa was denied to “have affiliation with a criminal organization”. Both men’s families are seeking legal action claiming profiling.

The trouble for these men is not unique in the world of tattoos and popular culture. There are instances of tattoos that marked one as affiliated with certain organizations that go back centuries. Yet as time has went on, the popular culture as time goes on and unfortunately law abiding citizens can find themselves in trouble with the law. With worries of gangs coming across the border with Latin American immigrants, the justice department can be accused of being “hyper cautious”, yet maybe they rightfully so given the current troubles that some of our southern neighbors are dealing with.

Unfortunately for these two men, their families, and others like them the love of artwork can has landed them in trouble with the law due to the lack of knowledge of the symbolism of their tattoos. Perhaps the moral of this story is not so much about immigrants being wrongfully deported and associated with gangs. Perhaps it is also a warning to those that get tattoos to make sure they research they symbolism before they get inked.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Black Canyon Coffee: Travel Free Thai Cuisine Experience

Hi guys here's a good news for all those who wanted to try Thai cuisine without travelling to Thailand. Last 24 June 2012, I was invited to attend a food tasting session and also launch of a new Thai style cafe-restaurant which is also their first branch in our country. Black Canyon Coffee is a cafe and restaurant based in Thailand and is located at the Food Street of the newly re-designed SM South Mall along the busy Alabang-Zapote Road of Las Piñas City.

Black Canyon Coffee is one of the most successful Thai names in coffee and dining. They made its name from its concept of being a full-service casual dining coffee place that serves not only a wide range of specialty coffee drinks and beverages, but also a complete range of delicious and healthy Thai & International food items, and that separates Black Canyon Coffee on other typical structure of coffee shops today.

Take your pick from signature Thai dishes such their award-winning Pad Thai and spicy Tom Yum soup all the way to other international or Asian-fusion soups, pastas, steaks, noodles, salads, sandwiches, and various rice dishes. You can also rest assured that the taste is the same as the Thailand branches because Black Canyon Coffee prides itself on its very strict and consistent measurements of ingredients for every dish to preserve food quality. You can also indulge in any of Black Canyon Coffee’s 24 specialty coffee drinks and 40 special beverages, especially their “Black Canyon Iced Coffee” - a special blend of pure Arabica coffee with two kinds of milk and plenty of ice.

By the way, I can say that I was lucky enough to try some of their dishes. I tried their signature Black Canyon Coffee Frappe, it was perfect for me because it was strong and creamy which is my preference when it comes to coffee.
Black Canyon Coffee: New Thai Cafe-Restaurant in the Philippines
I also tried their signature dishes. They are really spicy but who cares I like the kick and the flavor. Here are some of the dishes that they served to us;
Black Canyon Coffee: New Thai Cafe-Restaurant in the Philippines
Fried Sesame Pork Strips
Black Canyon Coffee: New Thai Cafe-Restaurant in the Philippines
Green Curry
Black Canyon Coffee: New Thai Cafe-Restaurant in the Philippines
Deep-Fried Prawns in Tamarind
Grilled Black Pepper Salmon Salad
Black Canyon Coffee: New Thai Cafe-Restaurant in the Philippines
Tom Yum Soup
Black Canyon Coffee: New Thai Cafe-Restaurant in the Philippines
They also served some of their desserts the Thin roof and the Premium Mocha Chips which is perfect after the spicy dishes.
Thin Roof
Black Canyon Coffee: New Thai Cafe-Restaurant in the Philippines
Mocha Chips
Black Canyon Coffee: New Thai Cafe-Restaurant in the Philippines
Try now the taste of Thailand at the comfort of our country, Philippines. Black Canyon Coffee is now open at SM Southmall, Las Pinas City at the Food Strip. For more pictures check out the Event Lover’s Hideout page and visit their facebook page now for more information.

Photo credit: Azrael Colladila

Friday, May 18, 2012

Changes on UK Family Visit Visa System

Foreign nationals refused a UK visa for a short visit to see family members in the UK will lose the full right to appeal the decision in the courts, the department of immigration has announced.
The step is a necessary one and will save tens of millions of pounds and free up tribunals to deal with more serious cases said immigration Minister Damian Green. In future the vast majority of failed applicants will have to re-apply, rather than launching a lengthy, taxpayer subsidized appeal.
‘We are not stopping anybody visiting family in the UK. If an applicant meets the rules they will be granted a visa. However, it is grossly unfair that UK taxpayers have had to foot the huge bill for foreign nationals who, in many cases, have simply failed to provide the correct evidence to support their application,’ explained Green.
‘These changes will save tens of millions of pounds and free up immigration tribunals to carry out the much more important work they were intended for,’ he added.
The number of appeals has soared since 2000, when full appeal rights were re-introduced for family visit visas. It was expected that there would be a maximum of 20,000 appeals per year but by 2010/11, the number had risen to almost 50,000.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

New Temporary UK Visitor Visa Announced

The new UK visa for visitors is aimed at allowing small groups of professionals to visit the UK for a variety of short term purposes. To apply through the new visitor route, applicants need only a formal invitation and proof that the intended visit relates to their field of expertise. Holders of the visitor visa are permitted to stay in the UK for up to one month and undertake paid work for which they have been invited for.
This can include giving a lecture or examination to students, participating in a chair selection panel, providing advocacy or arbitration in a legal dispute or working as a pilot instructor. Applicants can also be professional artists, entertainers or sports professionals invited to the UK to take part in a particular event, exhibition or broadcast which can range from artists exhibiting their own work, attending signings or award ceremonies.

"The Government has introduced quite a bit of new legislation in recent weeks, the majority of it directed towards bringing UK immigration figures down," says Marissa Murdock, Casework Department Manager of the UK Visa Bureau. "However, the new visitor route provides a great opportunity for many needs and circumstances. With so many people having to travel internationally for work, there’s plenty of scope within this new UK visa route for it to become a preferred method of travel for many."

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy based in London which can help most foreign nationals lodge their UK visa application. This can range from tourist and student visas visiting the UK for short periods of time to permanent settlement in the UK. With qualified and licensed immigration consultants on hand to advise you on every step of the process, the UK Visa Bureau is one of the most experienced consultancies in the UK.

Monday, April 30, 2012

French Government to Suspend Visa-free Travel to France

French government officials are lobbying the European Union to allow the country to suspend visa-free travel to France amid concerns over mass immigration and stubbornly high rates of unemployment, reports the Irish Times.
Currently, tourists planning to travel to France and other E.U. nations do not require visas to move throughout the continent. However, French interior minister Claude Gueant said the Schengen treaty was encouraging illegal immigration and threatening further economic instability in the Euro Zone. "Schengen Visa is not functioning in a satisfactory manner," said Gueant, as quoted by the news source. "There are, according to experts, some 400,000 people who have entered in an irregular manner. Between two and four million foreigners live clandestinely in Schengen countries."

According to the BBC, Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, echoed Gueant's sentiments during a visit to Romania, which is currently lobbying neighboring nation Bulgaria to join the Schengen treaty. Other European heads of state, including Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel, have also warned of the growing threats to economic stability created by abuse of the Schengen treaty.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy said that a Europe that does not control immigration through border controls is finished.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Alabama House Votes to Strip Language from HB 56

Last Thursday, the Alabama House of Representatives voted 64-34 to make major revisions to the State's immigration enforcement law, HB 56.  (Montgomery Advertiser, Apr. 19, 2012) The changes were adopted through the passage of HB 658, introduced by Rep. Micky Hammon, also the House author of HB 56. House passage of HB 658 comes only two weeks after the bill's introduction, during which time the bill was heard and amended by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. (See Alabama House Bill Status for HB 658)

HB 658 weakens HB 56 in several ways. It limits the circumstances under which law enforcement officers check immigration status, weakens the penalties for knowingly hiring illegal aliens, eliminates the prohibition on renting apartments to an individual a landlord knows is an illegal alien, and eliminates the requirement that schools collect immigration data on their students for inclusion in state reports.  (See HB 658 as engrossed; FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 9, 2012) With regard to the last provision, however, HB 658 still requires that the state prepare a report on the cost of educating the children of illegal aliens and expressly allows the state to contract with scholars, economists, or public research institutions to complete it.

Debate on the Alabama House floor was long and contentious.  Opponents said the bill did not go far enough, calling for an outright repeal.  (See, e.g. Letter to House Speaker Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Marsh)  Early on, the House Legislative Black Caucus led a filibuster, saying the law had led to discrimination and other unintended consequences. (Montgomery Advertiser, Apr. 19, 2012) Rep. Hammon, however, promoted the changes as merely clarifying HB 56, particularly for law enforcement. "We've had a year to examine our law and talk to people who work with the law every day," said Hammon. "We have put together some clarifications and simplifications and few language changes in the law." (Montgomery Advertiser, Apr. 19, 2012)

The Alabama Senate will soon be considering companion legislation to HB 658.  The companion bill, SB 541, was introduced by Senator Scott Beason on April 19, the same day the House passed HB 658. However, in contrast to HB 658, SB 541 is much smaller in scope regarding the revisions it makes to HB 56.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tech City on visas: Stop complaining, Start claiming

Critics of the U.K.’s recent changes to immigration rules — which introduced new startup visas for entrepreneurs, but eradicated an entire class of visa used by engineers — are not taking full advantage of the system, according to Tech City chief Eric van der Kleij.
Speaking to GigaOM, the CEO of Tech City Investment Organization — the government arm charged with boosting London’s credentials as “the digital capital of Europe” — said that while the caps imposed on the number of skilled workers who can migrate to Britain have caused controversy, the reality is that applications for residency have been massively under-subscribed. “They [startups] tell me they’re worried about the skills shortage and the type of visa that you hire talented, skilled people on,” he told me. “They’re worried because they see caps of just 20,000 people a year.”

“So I asked the question: how many have been used? Last year half of the 20,000 have been used — half of them not used.” His comments are an attempt to head off complaints about migration that many feel is having a negative impact on Britain’s burgeoning startup scene. Those criticisms began when the government rushed through its British “startup visa”, allowing entrepreneurs and investors with substantial financial backing to apply for the right to live and work in Britain. But in bringing in the new rules, the government eradicated the startup visa’s predecessor, the general Tier 1 visa — a category which applied to highly skilled migrant workers without a corporate sponsor.

Instead, previous Tier 1 applicants were directed towards the broader Tier 2 visa — a more restrictive version, similar to America’s H-1B, and which has an annual cap of just 20,700 immigrants. At the time, this caused a variety of concerns. At Techcrunch, a prominent startup lawyer claimed the new rules “were only halfway there”, and there was consternation from those who would have previously been able to migrate to the U.K. after studying there.

Meanwhile industry leaders worried that the cap could have far-reaching implications across a range of jobs and industries. But van der Kleij said emphatically that concerns about the cap were misdirected, since there was no evidence that applicants were being turned away because of the limitation on numbers. “People that I hugely regard were tweeting “this is madness!” — but I am able to ask the question of why is there a cap, and how many were approved,” he said. “I asked more questions, like how many were turned down. Every single one that was qualified was approved. “

However, he did admit that an early version of the rules — which placed monthly quotas on companies who were sponsoring new applicants, were “horrible” and had to be rapidly reworked. “At the changeover there was a horrible cap per company, and that was badly handled. That was at the beginning of last year, and companies were absolutely right to shout about.”

Friday, April 13, 2012

US Non-Immigrant Visa Fees Increased by US Embassy Starting Friday

The US Embassy announced it is raising fees for some non-immigrant visas, including tourist, business and student visas, starting tomorrow (April 13). Those applying for tourist, business, crew member, student and journalist visas will have to pay $160, from the current $140.
Nonimmigrant Visa Processing Fees
Type of VisaPrevious FeeNew Fee
Tourist, Business, Transit, Crew Member, Student, Exchange Visitor, and Journalist visas$140$160
Petition-Based visas (H, L, O, P, Q, and R)$150$190
Treaty Investor and Trader visas (E)$390$270
Fiancé(e) visas (K)$350$240
Border Crossing Card (age 15 and older)$140$160
Border Crossing Card (under age 15)$14$15
However, there will be lower fees for all immigrant visas, as well as those for fiance/fiancee visas and trader/investor visas.
Immigrant Visa Processing Fees
Type of VisaPrevious FeeNew Fee
Immediate Relative and Family Preference Applications$330$230
Employment-Based Applications$720$405
Other Immigrant Visa Applications$305$220
Diversity Visa Program Fee$440$330
Determining Returning Resident Status$380$275
The U.S. embassy said the reduction in the immigrant visa fees is due to a new law that allows the U.S. Department of State to seek reimbursement from other federal agencies such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

"U.S. embassies must collect higher fees for tourist and other types of non-immigrant visas because U.S. law requires the Department of State to recover the costs of processing those types of visas. The new fees more accurately reflect the costs of visa processing services as determined in a U.S. government study completed last December," it said.

Visa application fees paid before April 13 at the old rate will be honored through July 12, 2012. However, starting July 13, applicants who had paid application fees at the old rate will have to pay the difference between the prior rate and the new rate.

For visa categories that have lower fees starting April 13, there will be no refunds for those who paid the fees before the effective date. For further information, visit the U.S. Embassy Manila website at http://manila.usembassy.gov/visas.html

Friday, April 6, 2012

UKBA Launches Priority Visa Services for Thai Visitors

The UK Embassy in Bangkok made an announcement on April 03, 2012 about the introduction of two new premium visa services offered by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and its commercial partner for visitors wishing to enter the UK in 2012 – the year of the London Olympics.
As indicated in the announcement, UKBA launched a priority visa service that allows visitor visa applicants to have their UK visa application placed at the front of the processing queue if they meet certain criteria and pay an additional fee. Applicants have to pay 3,000 baht for the new priority service at the time the application is submitted. The UKBA aims to turn around priority applications within three working days.

In addition, to bring more convenience to applicants, the UKBA also introduced a Prime Time appointment service that allows applicants to make an appointment to lodge their visa application and provide biometrics at the visa application centre on Saturdays. Prime Time appointments must be made online, as stated in the announcement. Customers can also collect their documents between 9am and midday on Saturdays at no charge.

The introduction of the two premium visa services with greater choice and flexibility for Thai applicants is in response to the highly growing demand for UK visitor visas. According to the announcement, the UK is welcoming unprecedented numbers of Thai visitors. Last year, more than 50,000 visitor visas were issued to tourists, family visitors and business travellers from Thailand, a 16 percent increase in comparison with the same period in 2010. 94 percent of all UK visitor visa applications filed in Thailand in 2011 were successful.

"It is great to see that even more Thai people are choosing the UK as the ideal destination to travel and do business. The UK offers a wonderfully diverse range of attractions, from historical sites to modern architectural designs, and some of the best business event and conference facilities in the world," said British Ambassador to Thailand, Asif Ahmad. "We hope to welcome even more visitors in 2012, the year of the London Olympics, where the world can see the best of what Britain has to offer," he added.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Zealand Plans Simplification of Visa Application Process

Shifting immigration policies speak volumes about a country's desire to embrace change for its economic growth. New Zealand is the latest country to join the bandwagon.
The plan has been published in the form of its Vision for 2015 document. New Zealand's immigration minister, Nathan Guy, welcomed the blueprint and voiced that "Immigration New Zealand has put a lot of hard work into winning back the confidence and trust of the public and the Government." He expressed that the plan was an important step towards building on these achievements.

Additionally, he said that to benefit New Zealand visa applicants and staff at the visa offices, the immigration department has greatly reduced visa decision-making times. Some 500,000 visa decisions are made every year by the department, according to Mr Guy. Part of the Vision for 2015, Global Visas report is the simplification of the application process. An example of how the systems will be improved is the rolling out of Immigration Global Management System, which will allow more applications to be made online.

These changes in immigration policy aim at benefiting not only outsider applicants but also the country. Guy explained that, "Immigration makes a major contribution to New Zealand's economy. New migrants add an estimated $1.9 billion to our GDP every year, international students contribute $2.3 billion, and inbound tourists around $9 billion."

Friday, March 9, 2012

Parent and Grandparent Super Visa Increased

More than one thousand Parent and Grandparent Super Visa applications have been approved in less than three months since the Super Visa program took flight, for an overall approval rate of 77 percent, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today.
“I'm pleased that the Parent and Grandparent Super Visa is working as intended and giving large numbers of eligible parents and grandparents an opportunity to spend extended periods of time with their families in Canada,” said Minister Kenney. The process for getting a Parent and Grandparent Super Visa is simple and straightforward. Applicants for the Super Visa must submit proof that the host child or grandchild meets a minimum income, demonstrate that they have purchased comprehensive Canadian medical insurance and undergo the Immigration Medical Examination. Almost 99 percent of Super Visa applicants who met these requirements also went on to meet all other standard admissibility criteria which are required for all visa applicants.

In the days following its announcement, Abbotsford-based writer Manpreet Grewal said that “few would argue the wisdom of the new parent and grandparent super visa.” She added that “the super visa will allow parents and grandparents to follow a natural flow between Canada and other countries without creating an unnecessary burden on the Canadian taxpayer or spinning families into unnecessary stress.”

As of February 26, 80 percent of the finalized Super Visa applications were processed to a final decision within 41 calendar days, well below the target of eight weeks. As application volumes ramp up, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will continue to aim for a Super Visa processing time of eight weeks or less.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Let Our Voice be Heard - No to Mining in Palawan

We all knew that Palawan is one of the major tourist spot in the Philippines, and if the mining will be implemented in this place every beautiful and scenic spot in Palawan will be ruined. Join the battle cry and make your voices heard—loud and clear—in support of a national rally to protect our environment. Spread the word and play a key role in the evolution of consciousness of our people by urging more Filipinos to say NO to MINING in Palawan and other fragile island ecosystems.

The signature campaign is the power of good; it’s the power of many. If we all own the battle and act decisively and dynamically, then maybe we can try for 3 million more signatures by the end of the month, before hitting the ten million mark by Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012. Help us deliver a strong message to the government and the world: that Filipinos are one in protecting Mother Nature and our own future.  Let’s make it happen—play a key role in the consciousness of our people. Our future depends on it…

Friday, January 27, 2012

More Countries Added as Eligible Applicants for H-2A and H-2B Visas

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced last week that there have been five more countries added to the list of eligible nationals who can participate in the H-2A and H-2B programs in 2012. This brings the lists total to 58 countries. The list of Countries will be reviewed again one year from the date of publication.
The H-2A and H-2B programs allow US employers to bring foreign workers to the US in order to fill temporary agricultural jobs and temporary non-agricultural jobs. USCIS generally may only approve H-2A and H-2B petitions for nationals of countries that are designated as eligible to participate in the programs. USCIS may also approve H-2A and H-2B petitions for nationals of countries not on the list if it is determined to be in the interest of the US; this is taken on a case by case basis. In addition to the 53 countries currently on the list, the following five countries were added for 2012: Haiti, Iceland, Montenegro, Spain and Switzerland.

Effective 18 January 2012, nationals of the following 58 countries are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B programs: Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Nauru, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Samoa, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Tonga, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Vanuatu.

Philippine Special Visas available to Alien Traders

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has resumed granting Philippine special visas to foreign businessmen who put up businesses that employ at least 10 Filipinos. Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. said the special visa for employment generation (SVEG) would allow the foreigners to remain in the country indefinitely along with their wives and children under 18.
The visas were resumed two weeks ago after the BI issued the SVEG’s revised implementing rules and regulations that were approved by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. The SVEG was first introduced in November 2008 pursuant to Executive Order No. 758 issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to attract more foreign investors and create more jobs for Filipinos.

But the BI suspended the program last July pending revision of its rules to make it more responsive and relevant to the purpose of the law. The visa is still subject to restrictions imposed by the Constitution and existing laws on foreign investments. SVEG applications may be filed at the BI main office or any field office. A P10,000 application fee, P1,000 clearance fee, P20 legal research fee and P1,000 express lane fee shall be charged each applicant. Cris Villalobos, head of the BI-SVEG one-stop facility, said the new rules provide for the outright issuance of an indefinite visa to a qualified foreign applicant, instead of the initial probationary one-year visa provided in the old rules.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Liberal Immigration Critic Calls Conservatives’ “Super Visa” A Sham!

There has been a lot of discussion about the Conservative government’s new “Super Visa” in the community recently, but unfortunately it has turned out to be an insult to families desperate to bring their parents here. The Super Visa was supposed to bring families closer together by allowing parents and grandparents to visit their children in Canada for up to two years at a time over a decade.
But the reality is that most families won’t be able to afford the high-costs involved with the Visa, including meeting minimum salary levels and paying thousands for private health insurance. All of this is assuming the application is even approved, and we all know how difficult that has become under the Conservatives. Worse, the Super Visa controversy is distracting attention from the Conservatives’ decision to freeze parental sponsorship applications for two years – breaking a promise to new Canadians. For some, having the right to sponsor their parents is the reason why they chose to come to Canada. What the Conservatives have done – no matter what their excuse – is not right.

With a majority, the Conservatives have begun their Reform Party agenda, known for its anti-immigrant policies.  They have chosen to ignore all the hard-working new Canadians who elected them based on empty promises. In contrast, the Liberal Party of Canada believes in reuniting families. In government, Liberals worked closely with immigrant communities leading to a fair and flexible immigration system. Indeed, more immigrants have been welcomed in by Liberals than by any other Party in Canada.

Only with a Liberal government in Ottawa will Canada have an immigration policy that puts the concerns and needs of immigrants first.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Processing Waivers for Family Members Reduced from Years to Months

Last Jan. 6, 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted a notice of intent in the Federal Register outlining its plan to reduce the time that U.S. citizens are separated from their spouses and children under certain circumstances while those family members go through the process of becoming legal immigrants to the United States.  Currently, spouses and sons and daughters of U.S. citizens who have accrued a certain period of unlawful presence in the United States, and have to leave the country as part of the legal immigration process, are barred from returning to their families for as long as 3 or 10 years.  They can receive a waiver to allow them to return to their families by showing that their U.S. citizen family member would face extreme hardship as a result of the separation.  This proposal would streamline the processing of these individuals’ waiver applications based on unlawful presence; USCIS proposes to process their waiver applications in the United States before any American family faces separation.  The process would only apply to immigrants who are eligible for a US visa.
Under the proposed process, the spouses and children of U.S. citizens who are eligible for a visa to immigrate legally to the United States, but who need a waiver of inadmissibility for unlawful presence in order to obtain that visa expeditiously, would apply for a provisional waiver before leaving the United States to have their immigrant visa application processed at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad (as they must pursuant to law).  The notice limits the streamlined process to those individuals who are inadmissible based solely on having accrued a period of unlawful presence and – pursuant to statutory requirements – who can demonstrate extreme hardship to their U.S. citizen relative.  All individuals affected by this streamlined process would need to meet all legal requirements for admission to the United States, including the requirement that they process their visa application at a U.S. consulate abroad.

With the change outlined in the notice, individuals who currently qualify for a waiver of inadmissibility under the existing eligibility standards, and who can demonstrate that separation from their U.S. citizen spouse or parent would cause extreme hardship to that relative, would be allowed to apply for a waiver while still in the U.S.  By allowing these individuals to apply for waivers in the U.S. and making a provisional determination of waiver eligibility before the individuals must depart the country for visa processing, USCIS would provide a more predictable and transparent process and improved processing times, minimizing the separation of U.S. citizens from their families. The change would also streamline the process for both USCIS and the Department of State (DOS) when handling requests for these waivers.  As a result, this change would encourage individuals who may be eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility to seek lawful readmission to the United States by limiting the amount of time they would need to spend away from their U.S. citizen spouse or parent.

Following publication of this notice, USCIS will undertake further analysis and collaborate with the Department of State to develop the streamlined process in greater detail.  USCIS plans to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking in the coming months that will provide additional details and allow the opportunity for public comment.  A final rule will then be published to implement the streamlined process.  The rule will not modify the underlying standard for assessing whether denial of the waiver would result in extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen spouse or parent of such individuals.  It would modify only the process by which these applications may be filed and accepted by USCIS for processing.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Canada Immigration Opportunities for Biologists and Related Scientists

Canada has a large demand for biologists and other scientists; Those looking to emigrate can apply under the Canada immigration Federal Skilled Worker program. This skilled immigration program is for people in a range of different occupations including for biologists, zoologists, pharmacologists, and geneticists. If you have skills in occupations listed on the Priority Occupation List under the Canadian skilled worker visa category you will not need sponsorship by an employer.
Canada Immigration uses a Priority Occupation List which is a list of occupations deemed in demand by the Canadian Government; There is an ongoing national skills shortage in a number of areas. Skilled workers are people who are selected as permanent residents based on their points score and ability to become economically established in Canada.

Skilled workers who meet the visa program's requirements which includes the requirement that you have at least one year of continuous full-time or equivalent part-time paid work experience within the last ten years can apply for a visa under the Federal Skilled Worker program. Applicants also need to pass the official language proficiency test in order to apply.

If your occupation is listed on the Priority Occupation List, you are eligible for skilled migration to Canada without needing to have a job offer from a Canadian employer. In addition, processing times are quite quick; You may be able to gain entry to Canada within months of beginning the application process.

Here is a list of Biologist and some similar priority occupations that are in demand in Canada. If you come under one of these occupations and gain enough points under the skilled worker visa category you should be able to emigrate to Canada.
  • Biologist
  • Botanist
  • Geneticist
  • Marine biologist
  • Pharmacologist
  • Toxicologist
  • Zoologist
In order to qualify, applicants must have a bachelor's degree in biology or in a related discipline. A master's or doctoral degree in biology or a related discipline is required for employment as a research scientist in biology. Post-doctoral research experience is usually required before employment in academic departments or research institutions.

Once your application is submitted to Canadian Immigration and Citizenship, it will be processed according to the six selection factors in the skilled worker points grid, which are:
  • your education
  • your abilities in English and/or French
  • your work experience
  • your age
  • whether you have arranged employment in Canada, and
  • your adaptability
There are many ways to immigrate to Canada. If you don't meet the criteria to apply under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, you may qualify under another category.

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