Sunday, July 28, 2019

Prepping for the Visa Interview

If you have gone through the entire immigration process, you would know that getting the petition approved is actually the easy part; all you have to prove is 1) the relationship between the petitioner and beneficiary; and 2) the right to petition of the petitioner (U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident).  But once your petition is approved, the next step is the bigger hurdle. You and the beneficiary/applicant has to overcome the disputable presumption that the beneficiary/applicant may become a public charge.

Under the Old Rules

My husband and I went through the immigration process in 2017.  Trump had just been newly elected and he did not then yet make any sweeping changes to the immigration process. Consequently, we migrated under the old rules where the burden of proving that the immigrant would not become a public charge rested heavily on the sponsor/petitioner.

Under the old rules, the Affidavit of Support (AOS) played a heavy part on the approval of the visa.  For as long as the sponsor's income and assets met the 125% poverty limit for the household size and state, the visa was usually approved as a matter of course.

Under the old rules, if the income was insufficient, the sponsor has to have assets that is five times the difference between the income and the 125% poverty limit. For example, for a family of three in 2017, the income has to be $25,525.00.  Since my husband was already retired, he had a very small social security income that was only about $12,000.00.  So the difference would be $13,525.00.  If an LPR were to prepare the AOS, the asset would have to be $67,625.00. Since my husband is a U.S. Citizen he only has to have assets that is three times the difference or $40,575.00. The asset has to be something that can be liquidated within a year from the immigration of the applicant/beneficiary.  So a more liquid asset like cash in the bank or investments is preferred.

Under the New Rules

Although the AOS still plays a part on the evaluation of whether the beneficiary/applicant may be a public charge, it is only a positive factor.  Under the new rules, the self-sufficiency of the applicant comes into play.  In 9 FAM (Foreign Affairs Manual) 302.8-2(B)( 2 ), the "totality of circumstances" will be under evaluation. The manual takes into consideration: (a) age; (b) health; (c) family status; (d) assets, resources, and financial status; and (e) education and skills of the APPLICANT.  It would appear that the present rules will make even family-based immigration "merit-based".  

How will this effect the immigration of your elder parents, or your wife who may have a spotty work experience or none at all? Most likely their visa application will be denied.  For older applicants that may have some health issues, proof of medical insurance or ability to pay medical expenses is required.

If in the previous guideline, the applicant's financial resources is not the main consideration for the approval of the visa, it can be a positive factor now.  So if the applicant has sufficient financial resources, then it is to the advantage of the applicant.  But as in the previous rule, the asset has to be liquid enough that it can be liquidated within a year.  If the asset includes real property, plans on how to dispose of that real property has to be in place, or if the applicant has money/investments in a foreign bank, how they will be transferred.  

Since these guidelines took effect only in 2019, its effect on the number of approved visa applications remains to be seen.

Sadly, if the visa application for your wife or significant other is negatively impacted by these guidelines, you cannot complain and say how come others were not.  Administrative rules and regulations, as this is, is prospective in character and consequently will affect only those whose visa applications were pending upon the approval of the new rules.

Disclaimer

I am a lawyer licensed at the moment, only in the Philippines. I am, however, studying for the NY bar, and on the side I read US immigration rules and regulations "for fun."  Nonetheless, I am not an authority on the matter so please do consult licensed lawyers in the U.S..  Once I am licensed I will tell you, and even then you are not my client and consequently anything I say should not be considered as an advice to you.  


  

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Best of Both Worlds (USA v. the Philippines)

I have come upon this topic and have been wrestling with it myself, of where the better place is to live in - the USA or the Philippines.  For those of you who live in the US, and enjoy the amenities of living here, I can understand how you may say that living in the US is far more superior than living in the Philippines, but there are many advantages as well to living in the Philippines.  It is of course, not to say that there are no advantages to living in the US, there are! Both have their pros and cons and deciding on which country to live in will depend entirely on what you have available to you at the time and which country offers the better option.  

Healthcare

While it may be true that there is an Affordable Care Act that you can take advantage of, the truth is there are many moving parts to this story yet.  There are legal challenges to the law presently pending, and the outcome is anybody's guess. 

More importantly, if you are thinking of bringing your wife here (and her minor children - not related to you), she usually will not qualify to avail of Medicaid because of the 5-year bar for lawful permanent residents. There are, however, exceptions given to veteran families.

If you should choose to get private health insurance for her and/or her children, the high monthly premiums, high deductibles and co-pays are something you should consider.  Unless they are generally healthy, it may not be a good idea to bring them here, because ultimately healthcare in the Philippines is far cheaper than it is over here.  Healthcare can be a great drain on your finances if she or you are chronically ill.  Even with Medicare, you still have to consider that part that will not be covered by Medicare (20%).  There are Medicare Advantage Plans but with an average of $100 a month or more, it may still be cheaper to get healthcare in the Philippines.

Although I have healthcare now, I continue to pay my very cheap (P200) monthly premiums for Philhealth as a "back-up" plan.

Also with the Affordable Care Act, if you made the poverty threshold for the Affidavit of Support for your wife (and children), you most likely won't qualify for Medicaid, your next alternative would be to be covered under Medicaid Expansion.  Before you move to a state, check if they have Medicaid Expansion, because not all states offer them.

Realistically, since you pay for everything in the Philippines, the cost of healthcare can also be heavy for someone who is older. That is why if you can retain access to some healthcare that you are entitled to in the US, it is advisable to keep them.  After all, you pay about $100 a month for Medicare which you don't use while in the Philippines. 

Work

Again, depending on which state you are in, the availability of "good" work is something to consider.  In my city of Flint, most work seems to be service crew work which I have no inclination for, and I also don't see myself doing good work in that field. I guess I am picky, but I did leave a job with "good pay" by Philippine standards (P110,000.00 a month plus allowances and bonuses) and it is not physically straining.  It is mentally straining but I always preferred that type of work.

I have found jobs outside of our city an hour of drive away.  My husband does not want me to take those jobs because: (1) they don't pay well enough to cover the cost in gas; (2) not all of them offer healthcare; and (3) it is dangerous to drive in the freeway, during the winter, for a new US driver.

I have found work as a substitute teacher; more flexible hours and I work close to home.  But when I do think of not doing work that I am most passionate about (study of the law), it does bother me big time. But I am willing to think of it as a temporary thing while I study for the bar. 

Education

The cost of education here is atrocious! I went to the state university in the Philippines for my undergraduate on P2,000 a semester of tuition.  After that, I went to law school on P20,000 a semester of tuition.  In both times I NEVER incurred any debt.  When I went to law school, I worked full-time (40 hours a week). I graduated with zero debt! Of course I had no savings though, after paying for my tuition and books.

I worry for my son and we are working hard for him to get good grades so that someday he can qualify for a scholarship.  Because if he can't qualify for one, he will have to go to the Philippines for his college education. Not going to college is NOT an option.  I believe education is important, not only for the edge in getting a job, but also in the ability to think critically to better ones self.  

I do not want my son to do service crew work or factory work for the rest of his life.  I want work that will challenge him and make him more prepared for a 21st century economy.  I cannot see that achieved without an education.