Hope is priceless. Cost of Hope is not

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FROM the time the Treaty of Paris was signed – when the Philippines were sold to the US by Spain for $20 million — the United States has been considered the land of milk and honey.

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For sugar cane, cannery and agricultural workers recruited, to the student pensionados, veterans and their families as well as millions more, the U.S. is where the pasture is greener: green bucks and green card convey the image of Hope.

When Filipinos are killed randomly or by choice (by hit-men and paid mercenaries), where gainful employment and recognition of merits is a myth, when government officials plunder the national treasury and get away with it, the ordinary Filipino first looks inward (assessing his chances of survival and success at home) then outbound, to find a level playing field overseas.

Given a chance, most Filipinos see the US as the country of choice for temporary and permanent residency.

More than a thousand people apply for visas at the US Embassy everyday. The figure bandied about is anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 daily.

Of this number, about 20% go home with long faces, their dreams of seeing Disneyland, or watch a Manny Pacquiao fight short-circuited.

Chances are they will apply again. Most of them will scour their visa applications or documents in search of answers – before they go online to get a deposit slip, bring that piece of paper to an authorized bank, pay the $160 application fee and start all over.

In peso equivalent, the US tourist visa fee swings from P7,200 to P7,500 depending on the exchange rate. At time of writing the exchange rate was $1:P46.

Based on official figures from consular officers and travel industry practitioners, at least 50% of applicants seek the B-1/B-2 visitor visa. This category and other temporary categories require the P7,360.00 fee. The other temporary visa applicants pay higher.

If half of daily applicants pay a P7,360.00 visa fees to be interviewed, the US Embassy earns approximately P5,520,000.00 every day for tourist visa applicants only. Assuming the others pay the higher fee of P8,740.00.00 the total visa fees collected at the U.S. Embassy Manila is P12,075,000.00 a day; P72,450,000.00 a week; P289,000,000.00 a month or P3,477,600,000.00 a year.

In addition, at least 25,620 Filipinos apply for immigrant visas in the different Family and Employment-based categories.

In the last three years (2011 to 2013) an average of 56,261 Filipinos paid approximately $335 each for immigrant visa fees; another $165 for the issuance of their green cards. The fee is paid before you leave for the US, when you apply for your immigrant visa fee.

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