Sunday, July 25, 2010

Maid in the Philippines

I have been down with a cold the last few days, and have not done our laundry for the last two weeks (we went out last weekend to be with relatives). Which means that as of today, I have a mountain of a laundry. On top of that our 36-square meter, one-bedroom unit certainly needs some cleaning.

But since I am coughing profusely, much of the chores have been left undone. Luckily, in the cooking department, my husband is an able cook. But in the cleaning and laundry I have not been of any help.

I guess if anything else, I can always bring the laundry to the nearby laundry shop which will do my 5 kg laundry for roughly a little more than P200 ($4). The problem sometimes is if you chanced upon a laundry shop that doesn't do their job well, you can lose a piece or two, or have small holes on t-shirts (like my husband had a couple of weeks ago). On the other hand, I am no goddess of laundry, and maybe somebody else can do better than me. :p

In the matter of cleaning our small living space, I have asked one janitor in the office before to clean our entire place (36 sq m) for P500 ($10). I can also do that when I am pretty busy.

But lately, I have been considering getting a maid. I can surely use the extra time off after work to myself. I do a lot of planning/thinking after work, and I need the luxury of time to do that.

On the other hand, I hate having a stranger in my home, and at 36 sq m, there is not much you can do about maintaining privacy and avoiding one another. I guess, we can always move some place else with a bigger living space but I like the security that a condominium can offer. Also, our condominium unit is in a complex which allows us just to go outside our unit and buy some essentials in the store nearby which is within the complex itself. We do not have to worry that just by going to the nearby store, a stranger can follow us around and plot to rob us. I guess that sounds a little phobic, but I just do not want to risk my husband's safety. Everyone thinks foreigners have so much money. They certainly have more than what the average filipino has, but they shouldn't be fair game to robbers because of that.

Also having a maid who is not a relative compromises ones security. You do not know the kind of people you are letting in your house and whether when you leave, they would let someone in. Again that sounds phobic, but better safe than sorry. I have two officemates in this year alone who had their houses robbed, and the suspects were workers they hired when they had repairs/renovations done in their houses. With every stranger you let in the house, and with them knowing you have a foreigner inside the house, you put each other at risk.

On the other hand, if I ever get one, I will get from an officemate of mine who gets from the women in her province. I know she would not risk people she knows by her referral, she herself being a lawyer.

So what is the average rate for maids here in Manila? I would say from P2,000 up ($43 up). And that doesn't count social security contributions. Of course alot of people don't necessarily follow the mandated social security benefits, but honestly, if your maid gets sick, that social security benefit can save you the money you will end up paying for their hospitalization.

I recall one time when my mother was hospitalized for heart attack, we were in a private hospital, and there was this maid who was suffering from high blood sugar -- 200 ++ I think. And the most unfortunate thing was her employer left her to fend for herself. It was her boardmates who took her to the hospital. It was sad and unfortunate, and what could have been resolved with a little less stinginess and a few pesos worth of contribution to SSS.

Here is some of the breakdown for employer's contribution to SSS:

Salary Range Salary Employer Cont. Employee Cont. Total
1,000.00 - 1,249.99 1000 70.70 33.30 104.00
1,250.00 - 1,749.99 1500 106.00 50.00 156.00
1,750.00 - 2,249.99 2000 141.30 66.70 208.00
2,250.00 - 2,749.99 2500 176.70 83.30 260.00
2,750.00 - 3,249.99 3000 212.00 100.00 312.00
3,250.00 - 3,749.99 3500 247.30 116.70 364.00
3,750.00 - 4,249.99 4000 282.70 133.30 416.00
4,250.00 - 4,749.99 4500 318.00 150.00 468.00
4,750.00 - 5,249.99 5000 353.30 166.70 520.00
5,250.00 - 5,749.99 5500 388.70 183.70 572.40
5,750.00 - 6,249.99 6000 424.00 200.00 624.00
P.S. the minimum wage for domestic helpers now is P1000. That is in the same law.

Likewise, those who are SSS (private employees)/GSIS (government employees) members are automatically enrolled to Philhealth under R.A. 7875. Otherwise coverage in Philhealth is compulsory.

The Philhealth employer and employee contributions can be found in the Philhealth website.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Intent to Return (Animus Revertendi)

Domicile as I have come to know in my early studies of law is not synonymous to residence. You can be a resident of another country (let's say the Philippines) and yet still retain the U.S. as your domicile. The determining factor as I have come to learn then was the intent to return or in latin, "Animus Revertendi". There could be many badges of ones intent to return -- like maintaining real property in your place of domicile, maintaining investments, maintaining a bank account, etc.

You may ask why my sudden interest on the subject. Well, we are on the next stage of our U.S. visa process, and inspite that we haven't received mail yet from NVC (we changed the address to a US mailbox), I have decided to do advance reading on the subject. At this point, we are about to collate documents for the Affidavit of Support and I am wondering if my husband is qualified owing to the residency (domicile) requirement provided therein. Although the website I am looking at appears to use it interchangeably, the definition was more clearly laid down in a separate website I found.

Subject: 1-864 Affidavit of Support Update
No. 4 - Domicile

Ref.. (A) State 228862 (B) State 211673


Domicile Defined

4. The new regulations define domicile as follows:
'Domicile means the place where a sponsor has a
residence, as defined in section 101(a)(33) of the
Act in the United States, with the intention to maintain
that residence for the foreseeable future, provided,
that a permanent resident who is living abroad
temporarily shall be considered to be domiciled in the
United States if the permanent resident has applied for
and obtained the preservation of residence benefit under
section 316(b) or section 217 of the Act and provided further,
that a citizen who is living abroad temporarily shall be
considered to be domiciled in the United States if the
citizen's employment abroad meets the requirements of section
319(b)(1) of the Act." (Note: "The Act' refers to the INA.)

Residence Defined - INA Section 101 (a) (33)

5. Section 101(a)(33): The term "residence" means the
place of general abode; the place of general abode of
a person means his principal, actual dwelling place in
fact, without regard to intent.

6. To be considered as having a principal residence
in the United States, individuals must demonstrate
that their sojourn abroad is temporary and that they
have maintained ties to the United States. They
can demonstrate compelling ties through a convincing
combination of the following types of actions:
voting in U.S. State or Federal elections, paying
U.S. income taxes, maintaining property, a residence
or a permanent mailing address in the U.S., maintaining
bank accounts or investments in the U.S., etc.

Qualifying Overseas Employment - INA
Section 319(b)(1)

7. Section 319(b) (1) defines qualifying employment abroad
as follows:


What Does it Mean?

8. To qualify as a sponsor, a petitioner who is
residing temporarily abroad must have a principal
residence in the U.S. (i.e. a place in the U.S.
to which he or she intends to return - the definition
of domicile in para 4 includes the issue of
intent) and/or work in one of the categories listed
in para 7. Legal permanent resident sponsors
must further demonstrate that they have maintained
their LPR status. A U.S. citizen or legal
permanent resident spouse or dependent who has
maintained a residence in the U.S. and/or whose
spouse/parent works in one of the categories listed
in para 7 would also qualify as a sponsor.

9. Many U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents
reside outside the United States on a temporary basis,
usually for work or family considerations. Temporary
is a relative term and may actually cover an extended
period residing abroad. As long as the sponsor has a
residence in the U.S., as defined in paras 5 and 6, to
which he or she intends to return, and/or if he or she is
employed per para 7, the sponsor can be considered to be
domiciled in the U.S.

So do you think my husband qualifies? I think he does -- his U.S. property remains under his name, we are still paying property tax for that, he has a U.S. bank account and his investments (private and public retirement) are all still there.

So in the end if USCIS makes it difficult I will make a case for why he still has his domicile in the U.S.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

One Step Forward.. But Feet Not out of the Door Yet

So we finally paid it... $470 to the National Visa Center. Inspite that I have spent sometime trying to analyze the pros and cons of going to the U.S. and leaving my profession; I honestly have not made any final decision yet.

As far as I am concerned, I am just making certain that the option is there if we choose to take it. There's no point in saying NO to it right now. Nothing is carved in stone and things that seem so great here now, may not even be that appealing in the future.

I think a great deal of my decision is still wrapped around trying to conceive. We aren't finished trying yet, and I am giving myself a year and a half to give it our best shot. After that I will set my sights into another goal but until that time, I will make it my number one goal.

On the side I am studying the next step to our U.S. spouse visa requirement. That is my job in our household, to figure out the legal requisites for everything, i.e. 1) legal requirements to getting married in the Philippines; 2) visa requirements for a foreigner to stay in the Philippines; and 3) spouse visa requirements in ths U.S.

Yes, you read it right. I am in-charge of even the spouse visa requirements. When we first started going together and first started with a Fiance visa petition, I gave my husband (then fiance) full reign in getting everything together in the petition department. My husband is an intelligent man, having graduated from the University of Michigan in Flint. So I naturally assumed he could figure that out -- well, I was wrong. Our petition was dismally denied and so was the subsequent appeal. I learned then that I couldn't blame him for not knowing the procedure. I think, he was just like most Americans, he thought America was going to give his wife a visa just because she is his wife. That is certainly far from the truth, and so far USCIS has been more interested in getting our money than in caring about whether we get together or not.

So eventually, I was the one who was in-charge of putting the Spouse visa petition together. I read up on it on the internet, and put the package (for filing) together. All that my husband had to do was sign it, mail it, and pay for the petition. Well, the petition was granted. So we are slowly plodding the next stage.

I still feel I need to read more and be careful as to who I take advice from. I always try to check if the website I am looking at is current, and if the ones giving the advice is actually giving just an opinion based on nothing more than perception, or if the opinion is based on experience backed by legal knowledge and facts.

Someday I may come up with my own step-by-step procedure to the visa process (U.S. and Philippines). But until then I will be cautious to always put a caveat in my post --- take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fork in the Road

July is a significant month for us, it is the time we re-activate our pending spouse visa application with US Immigration. Our petition has been approved a year ago, but we stopped at the point where we need to pay the Choice of Agent fee and the Affidavit of Support Fee - $470.

Right now, I have to say I really am 50-50 with pushing through with the spouse visa application. I have eight years of practice of law already in this country, and I am turning 40 next year (*blush*). So I wonder if I even want the hassle of starting over again in a place I have never been in.

Aside from that, I have just started really living my life - with my husband. I wonder if I want to continue that life with so many unknown variables - a different job and a different country. Here in the Philippines I am in my element and my credentials are fairly good enough to land me a comfortable job. Over there my U.P. credentials would probably not count any and I would forget about being an attorney for awhile; at least until I pass the bar. There is so much more unknown there for me. Aside from the fear of the effect of a recession to a newly arrived immigrant.

On the other hand, I wonder if by staying here I deprive my Asawa of good healthcare. I also wonder if by staying here I deprive myself even of the opportunities that would not be available for me here -- a higher-paying job and survivorship benefits. Also if we have kids I also wonder if by staying here, I would also deprive them of opportunities that could be available for them there.

Another thing I am considering is the loss of my license to practice law here if I acquire US Citizenship. Filipino citizenship is a necessary requirement to practice law in the Philippines. Even assuming that I can make use of the Dual Citizenship law, would I not have to initially relinquish my Filipino citizenship upon acquiring US citizenship and just subsequently re-acquire it? Does that mean I have to lose my license initially? Of course I am kind of thinking about all these things out loud. Eventually, I will have everything kind of charted in a kind of pros and cons thing where I can make a more careful evaluation of our options.

There are also so many advantages to staying here. I feel so much better raising children here (if we can still have one). I feel they can turn out more like the way we would want them if they were raised here. I don't know... but what do you think?