Tuesday, June 30, 2015

US visa processing back to speed after computer glitch

WASHINGTON, United States - US visa processing has returned to full strength after hardware problems, the State Department said Monday, noting that 410,000 visas were issued in a week as officials scrambled to clear a huge backlog.

Deputy spokesman Mark Toner said the State Department does "regret the inconvenience to travelers who are waiting for visas as well as their families and US businesses that have been affected by this problem."

He complimented the Consular Affairs Bureau's "exemplary work" in addressing the computer problems and whittling down the visa backlog.

A team of about 100 computer experts had been working to resolve the hardware failure, which emerged at a State Department facility in the United States on June 9.

The hardware failure had been preventing processing and transmitting the mandatory security-related biometric data checks.

About 50,000 applications for visas are received daily by US embassies and consulates around the world.

Toner said that the US issued more than 410,000 non-immigrant visas from June 23 through June 29.

"Consular staff around the world worked throughout the weekend to diminish our backlog, the bulk of which has now been cleared," he added.

While the summer vacation time is busy, the system cranks up into overload toward August, when tens of thousands of students begin to flood to US shores.

According to the US Department of Commerce, close to 75 million tourists entered the United States in 2014. — Agence France-Presse

Amnesty offered to overstaying Filipinos in Bahrain —DFA

Filipinos who have overstayed or are considered runaway cases in Bahrain may avail of the general amnesty offered by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) for illegal foreign workers starting July 1, Wednesday.
 
According to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the amnesty period will run for six months until December 31. 
 
The DFA, however, clarified that illegal or undocumented foreign workers in Bahrain who face criminal cases or travel ban cases are not eligible under the program. 
 
Under the Amnesty Program, illegal/undocumented foreign workers in Bahrain may avail of the following options:
  • Leave Bahrain without paying any immigration penalties/fines and with the possibility of return at any time regardless of legal status (no blacklisting); or
  • Legalize their employment status in Bahrain with a new employer without the consent of the previous employer, and subject to certain conditions.
 
Qualified Filipinos wishing to avail of the amnesty program are advised to be ready with copies of their passports and Central Population Registry (CPR) cards, which are necessary for purposes of immigration status check.
 
There are no fees involved in availing of the Amnesty Program, DFA said. 
 
Filipinos qualified and wishing to avail of the amnesty program may come to the Philippines Embassy or call the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) at (+973) 3995-3235 or POLO at (+973) 1774-0951, for information or assistance.
 
They may also visit the LMRA website at www.lmra.bh or call the LMRA at (973) 1750-6055. Kathrina Charmaine Alvarez/KG, GMA News

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pinay falls to death from UAE building —report

A Filipina fell to her death from the sixth floor of a building in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday, a UAE news site reported.

Sharjah police have started an investigation into the death of the woman described as 43 years old, Gulf News reported.

Citing initial police information, the report said the woman fell from the balcony of an apartment on the sixth floor of the building at Al Nabaa area.

The woman was killed on the spot, police said.

Her body was taken to the Al Kuwaiti Hospital for autopsy.  Joel Locsin/LBG, GMA News

Lawmaker: Obamacare to create bigger demand for Pinoy healthcare professionals

Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of the US, will stimulate the demand for more nurses and in America that would possibly benefit Filipinos, a Philippine lawmaker said on Saturday.

In a statement, Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo said that the US Supreme Court's ruling allowing the government to give tax subsidies for the healthcare of poor and middle-class Americans will create new demands for healthcare services.

He said that providing US citizens with greater access to healthcare could also mean new demands for "Filipino nurses, physical and occupational therapists, pharmacists, speech pathologists, and other health care workers."

“A greater number of Americans will now have access to health care, especially hospitalization... Simply put, the US hospital industry is bound to boom, and so will their demand for foreign staff,” he said.

Moreover, he said US health insurance companies may also expand their business process outsourcing (BPO) in the Philippines due to higher operating costs in their homeland.

“They will be compelled to transfer more contact center, insurance claims processing, clinical support analysis, medical coding, and other non-core, business support jobs to the Philippines,” he said.

37.5% more US NCLEX-takers in 2015

In a separate statement on Friday, Cebu Rep. Gerald Anthony Gullas Jr. said there were 37.5 percent more first-time US National Licensure Examination (NCLEX) takers in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.

Gullas considers the number of first-time NCLEX-takers a reliable indicator for the number of nurses who are trying to find employment in the US, but said they may look for employment in other countries.

"There’s still sizeable foreign demand for Filipino nurses in Northern Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere,” he said.

Gullas' statement indicated that a total of 158,551 Filipino nurses have taken the NCLEX for the first time since 1995. This number is expected to increase in 2015.

On the other hand, the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) has issued licenses to 15,292 new nurses in 2015, excluding the 9,707 May licensure exam passers.

A total of 22,202 nurses received their licenses from the PRC in 2014 alone.  Rie Takumi/LBG, GMA News

Palace: No reports yet of Pinoy casualties in terror attacks on Tunisia, Kuwait, France

As of Saturday morning, the Philippine government has not received reports of any Filipino casualty from terrorist attacks in Kuwait, Tunisia, and France, Malacañang said.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte also relayed the Philippines' condolences to the people of the three countries.

"So far we have not received any reports of any Filipino casualty in those unfortunate incidents," she said on state-run dzRB radio.

The Department of Foreign Affairs went overtime Friday night to check if Filipinos were among the casualties, she said.

Meanwhile, Valte relayed the Philippines' condolences to the victims in the countries being hit terror attacks.

"Nakikiramay tayo sa ... kaibigang bansa na nawalan ng mamamayan dahil sa pag-atakeng yan," she said.

An earlier report on CNN said ISIS had claimed responsibility for the attack on a seaside resort hotel in Tunisia that killed at least 37 people and wounded at least 36 others.

Also, ISIS claimed responsibility for a reported bomb blast at a mosque in Kuwait's capital. At least 25 were reported dead.

In France, a man reportedly caused an explosion at a chemical plant near Lyon after beheading his boss.  Joel Locsin/LBG, GMA News

PHL Embassy in Madrid issuing machine-readable passports starting June 29

Starting June 29, the Philippine Embassy in Madrid will be issuing machine-readable passports instead of the newer ePassports.

In an announcement, the embassy cited "technical difficulty" with passport production in Manila for the development.

"The Philippine Embassy in Madrid wishes to inform applicants for Philippine passports that due to technical difficulty with passport production in Manila, Machine-Readable Passports (MRPs) will be issued starting 29 June 2015 and will continue until further notice," it said.

According to the embassy, the MRP is valid for five years and "meets the minimum requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)."

But it added applicants will still be required to fill up an application form, make a personal appearance, and submit to electronic data capturing.

"Processing time will take 8 to 10 weeks and the cost will be 45 euros," it said.

"All applicants are advised to make their travel plans accordingly," it added. —Joel Locsin/KBK, GMA News

PHL Embassy in Madrid issuing machine-readable passports starting June 29

Starting June 29, the Philippine Embassy in Madrid will be issuing machine-readable passports instead of the newer ePassports.

In an announcement, the embassy cited "technical difficulty" with passport production in Manila for the development.

"The Philippine Embassy in Madrid wishes to inform applicants for Philippine passports that due to technical difficulty with passport production in Manila, Machine-Readable Passports (MRPs) will be issued starting 29 June 2015 and will continue until further notice," it said.

According to the embassy, the MRP is valid for five years and "meets the minimum requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)."

But it added applicants will still be required to fill up an application form, make a personal appearance, and submit to electronic data capturing.

"Processing time will take 8 to 10 weeks and the cost will be 45 euros," it said.

"All applicants are advised to make their travel plans accordingly," it added. —Joel Locsin/KBK, GMA News

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