How student visas open new doors for Filipino learners abroad

·6 min read
A Filipina student looks through a bulletin board in college. (Photo: Joel Gerone Larupay /Getty Images)
A Filipina student looks through a bulletin board in college. (Photo: Joel Gerone Larupay /Getty Images)

Unlike what a certain daughter of a dictator once elaborated, Filipino migrants and international students don’t head overseas “[para] mamasyal, makalimot, o magpakalayu-layo, magkaroon ng bagong buhay sa ibang bansa (to wander, forget, or go far away and find a better life abroad).”

While talking with Yahoo Philippines, James Jericho Bajar said that “they see that there are better opportunities abroad. If the Philippines has enough opportunities for Filipinos [...], why would Filipinos even think of risking and gambling everything for opportunities abroad?” he asked, adding that many had applied for loans or sold their properties just to seek opportunities overseas.

For students who plan to make ends meet, different challenges await them in the Philippines. According to him, “in the Philippines, it is almost impossible to work while being a full time student. If there are people who work and still excel in their studies, it is almost an exception to what usually happens. Many still are forced to discontinue schooling or fail their subjects and not attend classes because of the demands of work.”

Bajar works as an international education counselor for Ideal Visa Consultancy (IVC)’s branch in Pampanga. Since opening shop in 2014, the Philippines-based migration firm helps with visa-related concerns of Filipino clients who wish to study in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, and European nations such as the United Kingdom.

For him, it doesn’t have to be this way, as Bajar pitched one way for clients to secure opportunities and to continue their studies overseas. That is through the “student visa pathway.”

What are student visas?

Student visas are mostly considered as special “passport endorsements,” and are issued to international students who wish to take-up higher education overseas. For instance, if a student wishes to study in the Philippines (besides needing to be at least 18 years of age, per the Bureau of Immigration), they must secure a student visa first.

Bajar explained that student visas bring clients closer to “internationally recognized education.” If students wish, these can also speed-up applications for permanent residency.

“Obviously, this pathway has become a favorable option for many because not only [do] they get to receive an internationally recognized education and work experience, they also get to earn and save as they work part time,” Bajar continued.

The types of student visas available, as well as the steps needed to get them, vary from country to country. Generally speaking, interested students must secure valid and genuine passports, background and medical checks, and proofs of financial capacity to study abroad and affiliation with an educational institution.

Students gather in front of a laptop while they are at school. (Photo:Paul Bradbury/Getty Images)
Students gather in front of a laptop while they are at school. (Photo:Paul Bradbury/Getty Images)

What opportunities are there?

When asked what are the best countries to choose from, Bajar had three at the top of his head: Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

On the perks of heading to the Land Down Under, Bajar said that, besides quality health services and being closer to the Philippines, “prior [to] the pandemic, the working hours limit is 40 hours per fortnight [two weeks]. However, since the country experienced workforce shortages because [of] the pandemic, they decided to lift the work hours restriction. Thus, international students in Australia can work part time as much as they want as of today.”

When it comes to Canada, Bajar called the country as being ideal for immigrants, noting the quality education services there (in addition to “having some of the lowest university tuition fees among English-speaking countries”). Canada being “immigrant-friendly” was certified in 2020, when they ranked fourth among 52 countries who carried-out policies that cater to immigrants.

“Canadian college and university students graduate with a strong earning potential. That’s because we position them (and you) for a successful future and rewarding careers. In the last decade alone, Canada created 1.6 million new jobs for graduates,” Bajar enthused, adding that ten Canadian universities are among the top 250 educational institutions worldwide.

Additionally, applicants can take their families to either. While spouses can also secure full-time jobs in Canada, they can get part-time work in Australia. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well, it is currently not required to take the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) for a student visa in Australia (including Show Money in their case). Bajar said that a majority of Canadian schools are also not requiring applicants to take the IELTS either.

Finally, with New Zealand, Bajar pitched the nation’s dairy and farming program there. Here, clients, who must at least be high school graduates, would be trained and taught “practical farming skills” and agricultural lessons for 12 weeks. All with the possibility of earning up to P100,000 to P200,000 once training wraps-up.

Bajar added that “successful graduates will have the opportunity to receive job offers, and have a dairy farming career in New Zealand as a full time dairy farmer.” However, they would not be allowed to work part time while training.

Compared to Australia and Canada, however, New Zealand’s dairy and farming program does not require clients to take the IELTS at all.

What waits back home?

In comparing life in the Philippines and in New Zealand, Becho said that “in New Zealand, the minimum wage of dairy farmers was increased from 20 NZD [New Zealand Dollars] to 21.20 NZD last April. This is under the pandemic. This shows how NZ values their farmers.”

According to him, if Filipinos were to invest their efforts in opportunities, they would rather pick ones with benefits.

A 2018 Asian Development Bank (ADB) report revealed that limited job opportunities led to a number of Filipino youth preferring to work overseas. This gives an insight as to why 52.9% of Filipino youth respondents in a 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) would prefer to work out of the country.

Meanwhile, a study from Aubrey Tabuga would reach an almost similar conclusion. Although some of her respondents from Camachile, Bataan prefer not to leave the Philippines due to family concerns, there are households who are unable to make ends meet upon returning, and are instead forced to continue working abroad.

In Tabuga’s words, “more than a quarter, 27 percent, of those with migration plans reported that they would change their mind if only there were decent jobs around [sic] available for them. If people do have a choice, they would rather stay and be with their families and loved-ones.”

Besides the “social and political climates” under Rodrigo Duterte and now Bongbong Marcos, Bajar highlighted that lapses in the Philippines’ education system contributed to Filipinos wanting to seek opportunities elsewhere. These lapses included the K-12 curriculum, which added two years in high school.

“Not to mention that we are in a pandemic for the last two years, which forced us to be under the blended learning set-up, [wherein] many cannot afford too because many do not have access to gadgets and a stable internet connection,” Bajar lamented.

His sentiments would not be without merit, as a 2017 study from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed that in some cases, scholarships and financial assistance programs convinced families to not leave the country.

In summarizing his thoughts, Bajar affirmed that the student visa pathway is “definitely [a] good investment, since the quality of education that we have here in the Philippines is not [recognized] when we go abroad.”

Reuben Pio Martinez is a news writer who covers stories on various communities and scientific matters. He regularly tunes in to local happenings. The views expressed are his own.

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