Fake news: There is no ‘visa-free’ travel to the US for Filipinos

I WANT to warn Filipinos about fake news reports that Pres. Trump had signed an executive order allowing Filipinos to travel to the United States without visas for 30 days. This is false. There have been no changes in US policy concerning eligibility for visitor visas. Filipinos must obtain a visitor’s visa to come to the US, and are not eligible for “visa-free” travel.
I had been receiving numerous inquiries about an article appearing on the Internet, that looks like legitimate news, claiming this bogus executive order was a change in visa policy for Filipinos traveling to US, and would permit them to stay in the US for up to 30 days for tourism or business, to strengthen trade between the US and Philippines. This is not true, and if anyone goes to NAIA to board a flight to the US without a visa, they will be turned away.
The US Embassy in the Philippines has confirmed no such visa-free policy exists, and has posted a warning that the Embassy “is aware of the fraudulent article reporting changes to US visa policy in the Philippines. Please note that US visa policy in the Philippines has not changed.”
Therefore, don’t be fooled if anyone claims they can help you travel to the US visa-free. You must apply for and be issued a tourist visa. But before applying, make sure you are qualified or eligible. Eligibility for a visitor visa is based on you proving you have strong ties to your home country (such as family, job, social, economic, etc.), such that you have strong incentives and reasons to return, and not overstay and become a TNT in the US. The burden is on the applicant to demonstrate to the consul they have such strong ties to their home country and they have a reason to return.
A strong reason to return is the primary focus of eligibility, and not necessarily the purpose of your visit. That is why some people applying for a visitor’s visa to attend a parent’s funeral or to be at the bedside of an ailing family member are refused a visa, but someone wanting to go to Disneyland is issued a visa. That does not make sense to many people: how can the consul turn down a person wanting to attend a funeral or be at the deathbed of a parent, but let someone else visit Disneyland? The answer might be that the person seeking a visitor’s visa to attend a funeral is unemployed, a jeepney driver, is under petition, is last family member left behind in the Philippines, or is working at a low-paying job, earning a few pesos a month. The applicant wanting to go to Disneyland, on the other hand, lives in Forbes Park with 15 or more yaya’s.
In the above examples, the person wanting to attend a funeral really does not appear to  have strong ties to the Philippines, such that they would want to return. The person wanting to go to Disneyland obviously has a good life in the Philippines and most likely would want to return.
The bottom line is there are lots of scams going on and fake news concerning immigration and benefits available. Before you fall victim to the scams, check with a reputable immigration attorney, to make sure the benefit is true and you are eligible. n

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Michael J. Gurfinkel is licensed, and an active member of the State Bar of California and New York. All immigration services are provided by, or under the supervision of, an active member of the State Bar of California. Each case is different. The information contained herein including testimonials, “Success Stories,” endorsements and re-enactments) is of a general nature, and is not intended to apply to any particular case, and does not constitute a prediction, warranty, guarantee or legal advice regarding the outcome of your legal matter. No attorney-client relationship is, or shall be, established with any reader.
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Atty. Michael Gurfinkel
Atty. Michael Gurfinkel

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