Studying in the United States through the Philippine-American Education Foundation (NIV)

by SONYA SCHOENBERGER

Studying in the US can seem daunting, but the experience is often life-changing. This is the first of three posts profiling three Filipinos—one undergraduate student, one graduate student, and one mid-career professional—who pursued degree and non-degree studies at US Universities. Each hoped to expand his or her worldview by taking time off from studies and jobs in the Philippines to explore the resources and cultural diversity of American institutions.

Jhesset Thrina Enano, an undergraduate journalism student at the University of the Philippines Diliman, pursued one year of non-degree studies at the University of Mississippi through the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program.Missy Maramara received a Masters Degree in Drama from the University of Arkansas over a three-year period. Atty. Arnel Bañas pursued one year of non-degree study and professional development opportunities at the University of Washington as a Hubert Humphrey Fellow. All were supported by the Philippine American Education Foundation (PAEF), the Fulbright Commission in the Philippines. While these three fellows had distinct academic experiences, they all found that their studies in the United States not only enlarged their worldviews, but also influenced the way they perceive and approach their lives back here in the Philippines.

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Jhesset poses with the statue of American author William Faulkner in Oxford, Mississippi

Jhesset poses with the statue of American author William Faulkner in Oxford, Mississippi

Jhesset Thrina Enano, who will begin her senior year as a journalism student at the University of the Philippines Diliman this August, recently returned from a year of non-degree studies at the University of Mississippi. Jhesset’s overseas experience was supported by a grant from the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program, which is administered by the Philippine-American Educational Foundation and funded by the US Department of State.

Jhesset, who loves travel, adventure, and academics, decided to study in the US because she wanted to experience an international education firsthand. At the University of Mississippi, Jhesset took classes in news and feature writing, multimedia production, photojournalism, and design. Jhesset also studied the history of journalism in the United States and found time to take Spanish language, American government, and documentary photography courses. Outside of class, Jhesset volunteered with the local public library, a respite day service, and a campus sustainability program. She also became involved with the University of Mississippi’s large international student community and shared Philippine culture, food, and language at international events.

According to Jhesset, studying at a US University is fairly similar to studying at an institution in the Philippines. One difference she did note, though, is the number of resources that US universities provide to support the academic and professional goals of students.

“From digital laboratories to extensive libraries, the US universities really foster an environment of learning for their students. It is only up to us to take advantage of these resources.”—Jhesset Thrina Enano

Jhesset found the diversity of her peers at the University of Mississippi one of the most rewarding aspects of her experience in the United States. She now has friends not only in the United States, but also in Egypt, Montenegro, El Salvador, Japan, Germany, Venezuela, Ghana, Algeria, Vietnam, and Pakistan. The experiences and perspectives Jhesset gained from this diversity, she says, have helped her to become a true global citizen.

During her nine months in the US, Jhesset traveled to nearly 20 states, experiencing many different American geographies and cultures. One of her favorite travel experiences was a spontaneous trip she took to New Orleans, Louisiana with a friend. After driving for six hours, they watched the sun rise over the Mississippi river and indulged in French beignets and creole jambalaya while listening to New Orleans jazz. Jhesset also gushes about Washington DC’s museums and the amazing architecture of Chicago, Illinois.

One challenge that Jhesset did experience during her year abroad was a bit of homesickness. Thanks to Skype, though, she was able to connect with loved ones back home. In terms of how her US study will influence her life and career back in the Philippines, Jhesset believes her nine months in Mississippi were truly formative. “My US experience has given me a stronger voice to stand for what I truly believe in,” she wrote. “It motivated me to be a better leader and to be of better service to the Filipino people . . . I am excited to pursue my final year in journalism and soon enter the journalism field with more perspective, more knowledge and stronger belief that I can contribute change in society, one story at a time.”

“It may be quite short as it was only for nine months, but the exchange program did not feel like just a slice of my life, but rather, a lifetime of experiences. Coming back, I can say that I have definitely become more confident. I feel that I have grown and matured more as a person, and in facing my life back here in the Philippines, I am more than excited to know what I can contribute to the table and to share the knowledge and experiences that I had with my friends and colleagues.”—Jhesset Thrina Enano

Jhesset has simple advice for Filipino students thinking about study in the US: “have an open mind and heart, and be courageous!” And, importantly: “Have fun!”

Jhesset in front of Space Shuttle Endeavor at the California Science Center

Jhesset in front of Space Shuttle Endeavor at the California Science Center

For more information on study opportunities in the US funded by the Philippine-American Education Foundation, visit http://www.fulbright.org.ph/.

Visa Annotation (NIV)

I will attend a conference in the United States and was issued a nonimmigrant visa with an annotation. What does the annotation below mean?

To Attend Conference                                                                                                               New York, NY                                                                                                                           December 1-5, 2014

The visa annotation stipulates the purpose of your travel to the United States. If your nonimmigrant visa has an annotation, it means that you can only use your visa for a limited and specific purpose based on the information that you provided to the consular officer during your visa application.

For certain types of nonimmigrant visas, the annotation may also include additional information about the visa. For example, a student visa will show the SEVIS number and the name of the school. A temporary worker visa will show the name of the petitioner, the petition number, and the petition’s expiry date. Visas for domestic employees will show the name of the employer(s).

Are there restrictions if my visa is annotated?

An annotation with a date means that your entry is restricted to coincide with the purpose of your visit. If your nonimmigrant visa contains an annotation that you may only enter the United States at a certain port of entry, it is important that you only use that port of entry for both arrival and departure. For example, if you are traveling to Guam for training and your visa has the below annotation, it means that you can only use the Guam port of entry for your arrival and departure, and may not travel to the United States mainland.

To Attend Training                                                                                                                   Guam Only                                                                                                                               December 1-5, 2014

I am planning to visit my relatives in San Francisco before I proceed to my conference in New York. Can I use my visa for this purpose?

You may consider applying for a new visa if your travel plans have changed or if you intend to travel to the United States prior to the date indicated on the visa annotation.

It is important that you provide the details of your purpose of travel to the interviewing officer so that you will be issued the appropriate type of visa. If the immigration officer at the US port of entry suspects that you have any other purpose when entering the US, you may be denied entry and your visa may be cancelled.

If you have questions or comments about this topic, please feel free to post your comments below.

 

Consular Fee Changes Effective September 12, 2014

The Department of State published an interim final rule (IFR) in the Federal Register on August 28, 2014 announcing fee changes for certain nonimmigrant visa (NIV) applications, immigrant visa (IV) applications, administrative and citizens’ services.  The new fees will become effective 15 days after the rule was published, which will be on September 12, 2014.

For Immigrant Visa processing, the fees for family-sponsored immigrants and the domestic review of an Affidavit of Support will increase while all other immigrant and special visa processing fees will decrease.

Likewise, the fee for K or Fiancé(e) visas, a non-immigrant visa category processed by the immigrant visa unit, will increase.

For Nonimmigrant Visa processing, the fee for Treaty Trader (E-1), Treaty Investor (E-2), and their qualified dependents, will decrease. No refunds will be available to persons who paid prior to the effective date of the new fees. All fees are valid for the usual one calendar year from the date of payment.

Additional information on these fee changes may be found on the Department of State’s website, http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/fees/fees-visa-services.html

Nonimmigrant Visa Processing Fees
TYPE OF VISA PREVIOUS FEE NEW FEE
Fiancé(e) visas (K) $240 $265
Treaty Trader (E-1) and Treaty Investor (E-2) $270 $205
Immigrant Visa Processing Fees
TYPE OF VISA PREVIOUS FEE NEW FEE
Immediate Relative and Family Preference Applications $230 $325
Employment-Based Applications $405 $345
Other Immigrant Visa Applications $220 $205
Determining Returning Resident Status $275 $180
Waiver of Two-Year Residency Requirement $215 $120
Affidavit of Support Review (only when reviewed domestically) $88 $120

Demonstrating Ties (NIV)

 Consular Officer: “Im sorry but this time, you do not qualify for a U.S. visa.”

 If you do not qualify for a nonimmigrant visa under Section 214(b) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, you will receive a blue letter from the Consular Officer at the end of the interview.  A Section 214(b) refusal typically means that you were not able to demonstrate that your intended activities in the United States would be consistent with the classification of the nonimmigrant visa for which you applied.

 U.S. immigration law assumes that all applicants to enter the United States are intending immigrants.  It is up to the applicant to prove to the Consular Officer that he/she is NOT an intending immigrant and will use the issued non-immigrant visa appropriately.  One requirement states that an applicant needs to demonstrate that he/she has a residence in a foreign country which he/she has no intention of abandoning in order to receive a visa. 

 While conducting visa interviews, consular officers look at each application individually and consider the applicant’s circumstances, travel plans, financial resources, and ties outside of the United States that will ensure the applicant’s departure after a temporary visit.

 What do you mean by “ties”(ugnayan)? 

Ties (ugnayan) are various aspects of your life that bind you to your country of residence, like your profession, employment, and social and family relationships.  All of these factors are considered in the process, and U.S. immigration law requires that the visa application be refused if these strong ties are not apparent.

In the case of younger applicants, who may not have had an opportunity to establish such ties, interviewing officers may look at educational status, grades, the situation of parents, and an applicant’s long-range plans and prospects in the Philippines.  As each person’s situation is different, there is no one answer as to what constitutes adequate ties.

For more information, please check our blog posts:
Social, Family, and Economic Ties (NIV)
I Received the Blue Letter. When Can I Reapply?
214(b) Refusals (NIV)
When an NIV Visa Is Denied (NIV)
Visitor Visas – B1/B2 (NIV)

Notice to Nonimmigrant Visa Applicants Scheduled on Tuesday, July 29, 2014

In observance of the Philippine holiday Eid-ul-Fitr on July 29, 2014, interview of applicants scheduled on this day will be moved to Monday, July 28, 2014, at the same interview time. Applicants must present their original appointment confirmation letter when they appear at the Embassy.

If an applicant cannot make it on July 28, a new appointment must be booked. To reschedule, contact the Embassy call center through the following numbers: (02) 982-5555 and (02) 902-8930, open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. Appointments can also be booked online by accessing http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph.

 

Fact File: Immigrant Visa (IV) Unit

U.S. Embassy Manila’s Immigrant Visa (IV) unit is the second busiest in the world, processing an average of 65,000 cases per year.  In accordance with U.S. immigration law, most petitions are based on family connections, but we also see a fair number of employment-based petitions, primarily in the healthcare field. Unfortunately, high visa demand means that some Filipinos wait longer than anyone else—over two decades at times. On the other hand, nearly one out every five fiancés petitioned around the world are Filipino—more than 5,000 each year! And with the U.S. Supreme Court striking down key aspects of the Defense of Marriage Act, the IV unit has received dozens of same-sex fiancé petitions in recent months.

To manage this workload, our American adjudicators are assisted by a talented team of local staff who provide translation services, cultural insight, and continuous processing support.

For more information, check our Consular Affairs Fact Sheet.

Petition with Pride

On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Windsor v. United States that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (the 1996 law that denies legally married same-sex couples over 1,100 protections and responsibilities of marriage) is unconstitutional. President Obama then directed federal departments to enforce the decision and ensure that federal benefits for same-sex legally married couples were implemented swiftly and smoothly. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was tasked with reviewing immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.

U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents in a same-sex marriage to a foreign national can now sponsor their spouses for a family-based immigrant visa, and U.S. citizens who are engaged to be married to a foreign national of the same sex can file a fiancé(e) visa petition for their partners. For more details please visit http://www.uscis.gov/family/same-sex-marriages.

Same-sex marriage is now permitted in 19 states plus Washington, D.C. The states are: Oregon, Pennsylvania, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Three other states allow civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples: Colorado, Nevada and Wisconsin.

Stay tuned for more about same-sex marriages in our succeeding blog posts.

U.S. Embassy Hosts Temporary Worker Workshop To Discuss Visas, Trafficking Issues

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Manila, May 30, 2014: U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Brian L. Goldbeck offered the keynote speech at the Nonimmigrant Workers Visa Workshop, emphasizing that combatting trafficking in persons is one of the Embassy’s primary goals. The workshop served a two-fold purpose: highlighting the rules and regulations surrounding visas for semi-skilled workers (H-2B), professionals (H-1B), and intra-company transfers (L-1); and focusing on Philippine and U.S. anti-trafficking efforts.

Attendees at the conference included the Office of the Vice President/Overseas Foreign Workers, the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency , Philippine Bureau of Immigration, Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking , recruiting agencies, Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration, Homeland Security Investigations members of other missions, along with leaders from non-governmental organizations focused on anti-trafficking initiatives and Philippine overseas workers’ rights.

Source: http://manila.usembassy.gov/tempworkvisalayout.html

Visa Quota

I am one of the last applicants to be interviewed; can I still make it to the visa cut-off?

How many visas applications can the U.S. Embassy approve in a day?waiting in line

These are two common questions we encounter regarding the belief that there is a quota on the issuance of U.S. Non Immigrant Visas.

Well, here is the thing. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A QUOTA for Non Immigrant Visas. The U.S. Embassy processes hundreds of applications every day and approves visas to all QUALIFIED Non Immigrant Visa applicants.  This means that 100% of visa applicants could potentially be approved on a given day if ALL of those visa applicants were qualified; on the other hand, this also means that 0% of visa applicants will be approved on any given day of NONE of them are qualified.  Even if you are the last applicant in queue, you may still be given a visa. 

The U.S. Embassy in Manila seeks to facilitate and promote international travel to the United States.  Be honest during your interview, and if the Consular Officer finds that you meet all of the necessary qualifications for the visa class for which you are applying,  you will be granted a visa.

To learn more about the Non Immigrant Visa application, please read related articles as below:

·         214(B) Refusal (NIV)     

·         Interview and Supporting Documents: What you Say and Not what you Show Matters (NIV)

·         Non Immigrant Visa FAQ

For your feedback and questions, feel free to post on the comment box below.

U.S. Visa Policy Remains The Same

There has been no change in US visa policy for Philippine citizens wishing to travel to the United States.

The Philippines has not been added to the list of countries eligible for participation in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

If there are any changes regarding VWP-participant countries, the information will be reflected on the U.S. Embassy in Manila’s Nonimmigrant Visa website, http://manila.usembassy.gov/nonimmigrant-visa.html

For further instructions on the U.S. visa process, please watch this videowalang sikreto