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13
May

Cinco de Mayo: a popular celebration around the globe

Cinco de Mayo: a popular celebration around the globe

Cinco de Mayo is a wonderful holiday that enables many people to learn about Mexican heritage and culture. May 5 marks the annual holiday, and those who plan to attend Cinco de Mayo celebrations may send money to friends and family members to get ready for these festivities. 

On May 5, 1862, a Mexican troop of 4,500 soldiers faced 6,000 French militants at the Battle of Puebla. Under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza, the Mexican force defeated the French army, and Cinco de Mayo honors those who fought for Mexico's freedom.

Myriad celebrations are held around the globe to commemorate the Mexican army's victory at the Battle of Puebla. For example, The Associated Press reports that ballet folklorico dancers will help Mexican-Americans celebrate the holiday in Houston in 2013, while New York City will close parts of Spanish Harlem and Queens for various street fairs throughout the day. 

"It's very similar to how Irish-Americans celebrate St. Patrick's Day," Jody Agius Vallejo, a sociology professor at the University of Southern California, told the news source. "One way they can honor their ethnicity is to celebrate this day."

28
Feb

Financial expert busts common credit myths

Certain longheld beliefs about credit have led to financial disaster for some consumers.

Before coming to America, many immigrants may have had certain assumptions about what life was like in the U.S. These beliefs may have been passed down from family members or they may have been stereotypes that they heard while growing up.

While some of these generalizations may have been confirmed, it's likely that the majority of them proved to be inaccurate, as times change and life often proves to be different from what was forecast.

There are some truths that hold up no matter what and remain constant in all walks of life. And as financial expert Jeanne Kelly writes for the Huffington Post, consumers will find this when they're dealing with money matters and credit. Even here, though, certain myths have held up over the years that need to be set straight.

For example, it's often said that in order for people to improve their credit scores, they need to pay off all of their expenses before a given bill's due date. While this is a smart thing to do, it's not the be-all, end-all in determining what a credit score will be. The average consumer has a variety of expenses they need to take care of – whether it's paying off a bill or making an international wire transfer to family back home – all of which, sometimes, can't be paid off in time.

"Life is busy and there are always plenty of things we need to spend our credit to purchase," said Kelly. "So if you can't use and pay off your credit card each month then the next best thing is to use each of your credit cards and pay them down to 20 percent of the high credit limit."

In other words, some people think that if they can't pay off the total amount, there's no sense in paying some if it. At the very least, strive to pay the bare minimum before the bill's due date.

Credit score involves more than loan activity
Another half-truth that's stood the test of time is that a person's credit score is a three-digit number entirely defined by how well a consumer has handled their credit cards, loans and mortgages. While this does, indeed, represent a good portion of a credit score, it's not the only aspects that define credit. Kelly notes that other financial purchases are considered as well, such as when an electric or water bill is paid. This makes utility bills an important expense to take care of in a prompt fashion.

The final myth that often keeps people from attaining the best credit score possible is the notion that if they have fewer credit cards, the better they'll appear in the eyes of creditors. Kelly notes that creditors like to see that people are capable of handling multiple lines of credit over an extended period of time, as good credit is something that's earned with experience and a history of making smart money decisions.

In other words, it's far better to have a history of credit card usage than to have never used them, as creditors will have nothing to base their decisions on when considering a loan or mortgage application.

It's important to point out that an individual's credit score can occasionally be hurt through no fault of their own. The Federal Trade Commission recently reported that approximately 20 percent of Americans have an error on their credit report, or a mark that suggests they haven't paid off an expense when they actually have.

This makes it crucial to review one's credit report on occasion, which can be done by requesting a copy from the U.S.' credit reporting agencies TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.

27
Nov

¿Podría estudiar en Estados Unidos?

Las diferencias entre las escuelas de educación superior públicas y privadas y el costo para un extranjero.

Según un reciente articulo de la revista estadounidense Time, los altos costos de las universidades norteamericanas podrían dejar a una familia de clase media en una situación precaria y de incertidumbre económica.

De ahí la necesidad de transparentar la información y que a partir del 29 de octubre pasado, unas 7.000 universidades a lo largo de Estados Unidos han sido obligadas a publicar en sus páginas web una calculadora online que les permitirá a las familias calcular el envío de dinero que ellos tendrán que realizar a las escuelas y cuanto podría ser la ayuda económica que probablemente recibirán por parte de éstas.

Según el mismo reportaje algunas universidades pueden incluso pueden llegar a los 50.000 dólares anuales, si bien este valor puede dejar sordo y sin ganas de seguir leyendo a cualquiera, la verdad es que también ofrecen ciertas ventajas. Ya que estos planteles educativos ofrecen a sus estudiantes incentivos económicos lo cual significa muchas veces una rebaja en más del 90% el precio anual de la carrera.

Para que el sistema de la calculadora funcione, los usuarios deben responder una serie de preguntas y si bien el modelo desarrollado por el departamento de educación consta de tan sólo nueve preguntas, otras universidades incluyen interrogantes más específicas, como el precio de la casa donde se vive, el tiempo que queda por pagarla, etc.
Algunas consideraciones a la hora de elegir un plantel, además del costo de la carrera y de la matricula, es el costo de la vivienda, libros e insumos, transportación y gastos personales.

Universidades Públicas y Privadas
Muchas universidades llegan a cobran un promedio de más de 28.000 dólares al año. En Estados Unidos, al igual que muchos países de Latinoamérica, existe la diferenciación entre universidades públicas y privadas, llegando estas últimas a ser más poco accesibles para un bolsillo común y corriente.

En tanto, las universidades  estatales tienen dos tarifas: una para los residentes del estado y otra para todos los demás. La segunda categoría se aplica por igual a los solicitantes de otros estados de EE.UU. y de otros países, cabe destacar que esta opción es más cara que la de los residentes.

Según la organización de apoyo al estudiante del College Board, la tasa promedio para un universitario que estudia una carrera  de cuatro años en una universidad pública, incluido el recargo fuera del estado, se encuentra actualmente 20.770 dólares por año. Sin embargo, casi la mitad (44%) de los estudiantes de tiempo completo en el país están inscritos en una universidad de cuatro años con tasas de menos de $ 9.000 por año.

Asimismo en Estados Unidos existen los Communities  College, que vendrían siendo como universidades más técnicas y más accesibles para la clase trabajadora del país, en estas escuelas se estudia solamente dos años y si bien no se puede obtener un titulo completo, estos se reconocen como un titulo asociado.

Estos títulos son validados y pueden ser reconocidos como una licenciatura en una universidad, en la cual se puede completar los otros años restantes.

En tanto algunas universidades privadas como Harvard aplican una política de que cualquiera podría ser aceptado como estudiante, siempre y cuando sus méritos académicos se lo permitan.

Aquellos estudiantes de  familias que no puedan financiar la carrera serán aceptados de igual forma, e incluso aquellos que provengan de una familia que ganen menos de 65.000 dólares al año serán ayudados en cuanto a alojamiento, vuelos para volver a casa y tuición. Por ende la universidad no cuenta con un número limitado de alumnos elegibles.

15
Aug

Answering questions about deferred action immigration plan

Immigrant children may be able to take advantage of the government's deferred action program.

On Wednesday, August 15, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services began officially accepting applications for its deferred action program focusing on the children of illegal immigrants.

The program allows people who illegally immigrated as children to defer deportation for two years and gain a work permit.

While there has been a great deal of news coverage about the program, and how it may eventually allow your children to gain legal residency in the U.S. so they can send money home, you might still have some questions.

Here's a short summary of some frequent questions from USCIS.

Who is eligible?

In order to qualify for the program, you must have been be under the age of 31 as of June 15, when the program was announced, and have come to the U.S. before the age of 16.

In addition, you need to have stayed in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007, and have been physically in the country on June 15. That continuous residency can include short absences, as long as they were innocent and not because of deportation or other legal issues.

You must also be in school, have graduated from high school or achieved a GED, or served honorably in the armed forces or U.S. Coast Guard. You must also have not been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanors and not pose a threat to national security.

The program also only applies to individuals who qualify, so your immediate relatives are not eligible just because you are.

Is it free?

No, unfortunately the program is not free. The filing of the application comes with a $465 fee, which covers the paperwork processing and issuance of a work permit. There are also no fee waivers for the work permits, and limited fee exemptions in general.

How long will it take? 

There's no good answer to this question. The government hasn't said how long it's likely to take for your application to be processed and read.

The program was only announced two months ago, so USCIS hasn't had that much time to plan. If the agency gets your application and agrees that it is complete, it will have you come in for an appointment. If you want, you can sign up to get an email or text notification that your form has been accepted. 

Does this make me a U.S. citizen?

No, the deferred action does not make you a U.S. citizen, and it can't make you a legal immigrant.

The idea of the program is to delay deportation for two years and make it possible for you to get a legal work permit. That can allow you to apply for official training certificates, industry licenses and other programs to further your career.

After that two-year period is up, you will be able to apply again if the program is still active.

Will this information be shared with enforcement personnel?

No. USCIS says that by law, any information you send in for the program is generally protected from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials for removal purposes.

The only reason the data would be shared with those agencies would be for the investigation of a serious crime, national security or to prevent fraud. That information also extends to any of your family members and/or guardians.

How does someone prove they are in school or graduated?

Since part of the eligibility for the program revolves around school status, there are a number of ways to show that.

For those currently in school – You need to show evidence that you are enrolled in a public or private school, education or other career program.

For those who graduated high school or got a GED – Your high school diploma or GED is enough documentation to show you have completed school.

The key here is to have clear documentation. USCIS says it won't accept any "circumstantial evidence" about your schooling, so get the paperwork to back it up.

Helpful Links

USCIS FAQs page

Necessary forms

Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization

Form I-765WS, Worksheet

 

13
Apr

Seven questions to ask a home inspector

Important questions to ask your home inspector.

When you send money to your family back home, you want to be sure that what you're sending will get there without a problem. Similarly, before you put money down on a house, it's important to determine that everything is up to code and that it's in good condition.

The best way to ensure that happens is through a home inspection. But before you have one done, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says you should ask them a few questions first.

1. How long have you been a professional? It's important to make sure that the person who's doing the inspection is skilled and has experience. Therefore, HUD says they should be able to supply you with their education, how long they've been an inspector and names of people who can attest to their work.

2. Have you been trained for residential inspection specifically? HUD indicates that many people can have familiarity with residences and buildings, but familiarity and expertise are two different things. You should ask if they've been trained in the specific field of home inspection and whether their work has been related to commercial or residential properties.

3. Are you a member of a home inspector group? There are many associations that inspectors join to stay up to date on what's going on in the industry. HUD says that you may want to ask your home inspector what group they belong to, as this can provide more proof of their professionalism and experience.

4. How long will the inspection take to perform? Once you're satisfied that your inspector is qualified, you should ask them how long the inspection will take. HUD says that a typical inspection takes between two and three hours for a single-family style house, while larger buildings can take longer.

5. How much will it cost me? As with just about any service, it will cost you some money. As a general rule, HUD says the expense varies depending on the contractor, how big the home is that's being inspected and what part of the country you live in. Expect to pay anywhere between $300 and $500, but again, prices could fall outside this price range.

6. How will I know the results? After an inspection has been completed, the inspector will provide you with a report that outlines what they looked at and whether any issues were discovered. HUD says the reports are usually ready right after the inspection has been done or within a day. If you're unfamiliar with what the report says, ask the inspector to explain what the terms mean so that you know what needs to be done, if anything.

7. Can I watch while the inspection is being done? You may not want to be in attendance during the inspection, but HUD says not to be shy about staying around. Quality inspectors will encourage you to stay so you can learn about what they are doing. 

20
Mar

Eliminate traveller trouble with this checklist

Travellers checklist serves as a useful reminder to make sure you have everything you'll need.

As you've no doubt learned by now, it's easy to send money with Xoom, as you probably can make a money transfer in minutes. But something that tends to be much more complicated are the steps involved should you want to travel, as arranging the documents you need can be difficult.

Fortunately, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has published a checklist you can consult to make the travelling process as simple as possible.

1. Passport. No matter what your status is in America, everyone must produce a passport if they're travelling overseas. But be sure to carry it on your person rather than packing it away, as you'll likely need to show it on more than one occasion.

2. Green Card. Lawful permanent residents need to present their green cards, which can be obtained by filling out an I-551 Form. Should you not be able to produce one, you may be allowed to travel but it will cost you a hefty waiver fee of $545.

3. Medications. There are a variety of restrictions in place that prevent you from carrying certain medications with you. As a result, you should only have the medication with you that's been prescribed by a doctor, which should be carried in its original container, CBP advises.

4. Receipts. You may be asked to present a receipt for electronics that you're carrying with you. While this is generally not necessary for goods that are more than six months old, CBP recommends carrying receipts with you for any electronics that were purchased within the past 150 days. Receipts may also be a good idea if you're taking a large amount of jewelry with you.

5. Pets. When you reach your destination, you may want your family to meet your new four-legged friend. CBP says you can generally take animals with you, but you'll need to present proof that they have been vaccinated for various diseases, such as rabies.

6. Have traveller entry form filled out. Before you know it, your trip will be over and you'll be on your way back to the U.S. But before you get here, CBP says you should be sure to have a traveller entry form filled out.

Regardless of your citizenship status, everyone that returns from visiting a foreign country must have a travel entry form with them, or what's also known as a 6059B Form. You'll usually be given one before you leave. This should be filled out with all the goods that you're bringing into the country that you didn't have when you left. In addition to the form being filled out, you should also have a copy of the receipts that came with your purchases while you were away. To keep everything together, you may want to hold them all in an envelope so that you can retrieve them quickly, CBP recommends.

By being prepared, you can make travelling as simple as the remittance process.

Helpful links:

Travel Entry Forms Brochure
Traveller Checklist

19
Mar

Going home? Six things to keep in mind before you return to the U.S.

Some things to keep in mind when you return from visiting your native country.

Ask anyone who's left their native country for a job opportunity in the U.S., they'll likely tell you it it wasn't an easy decision. They may be able to send money to them so they can maintain a better standard of living, but feelings of homesickness can be significant.

As a result, it's not uncommon to leave your job for a little while and return to your native country to visit with friends and family. Upon return, some will bring something back with them to the U.S. to serve as a reminder of home.

But as the United States Customs and Border Protection indicates, anything you return with needs to be declared before you can come back. With this in mind, you should be aware of a few things.

1. What needs to be declared? You must declare just about anything you return with that you didn't have before leaving. This includes items that were purchased, things that were given to you or that you inherited, or items you intend to sell once you get back to the States.

2. Border officers are permitted to inspect incoming bags without a warrant. For starters, CBP indicates that border protection officers maintain the right to inspect your belongings without a warrant. This includes luggage, searching your person and your vehicle. Duty-free items – or purchases that aren't subject to a tax – have to be declared as well. You will also likely be asked several questions that pertain to your citizenship and the reason for your trip.

3. Be cautious of street vendors. Just about every country has street vendors that you may consider buying from when you're on vacation. However, these salesmen may sell goods that are counterfeit or unsafe. As a result, you may be forced to surrender them to authorities when you get home. You should be extra careful about making sure the items you're purchasing are authentic and will pass the inspection process.

4. What's "prohibited" and what's "restricted"? One way of determining this is by knowing what things are prohibited and restricted. As a general rule, CBP notes that anything that could potentially injure a person or community's health or public safety may be subject to scrutiny. This may include alcohol, alcoholic beverages, automobiles, ceramic tableware, cultural artifacts, firearms, certain types of animal furs, medications and foods like meat, poultry, vegetables and fruits.

While some of these items may be prohibited from entering the U.S., you should be aware that this is not the same as items that are restricted. For example, "prohibited" indicates that a product is forbidden to enter the U.S. under all circumstances. "Restricted," meanwhile, means that in order for it to come into the U.S., it may be subject to certain permits or licenses. Firearms, for instance, are a restricted item.

5. All Cuban goods are prohibited. For the most part, items can come into the U.S. on a case-by-case basis. But some items that originate from certain countries are forbidden under all circumstances. CBP indicates that this rule applies to any and all products that originated from Cuba.

The CBP offers several other tips to remember that will help make the declaration process as simple as possible. There is also a website you can visit for a list of countries where certain bans may be in place on specific foods due to food-borne diseases.

Helpful links:
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Top 10 Traveler Tips

28
Feb

Four ways to obtain your permanent resident card

USCIS gives some of the more common ways people apply for green cards.

Thanks to the internet and living in an information age, people who are thinking about coming to the U.S. to work may be familiar with what's involved in the money transfer process. This kind of knowledge can help guarantee their family will have a better life.

But in order to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis, they have to obtain a greed card, which grants them employment authorization. However, because there are many aspects to obtaining a green card, immigrants may be unclear about where they can go.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says the process depends upon immigrants' own circumstances.

1. Green card through family. Some people who wish to come to the U.S. on a temporary basis can do so through a family member that's a U.S. citizen. As a result, spouses, unmarried children age 21 and under and parents of U.S. citizens who are 21 and older may qualify for this benefit.

But family members of U.S. citizens seeking a green card may still be eligible even if they don't fit into one of the above categories. For example, USCIS says married children of any age who are the son or daughter of a U.S. citizen may also qualify for getting a green card through their family.

2. Green card through an employer. Some immigrants who arrive in the U.S. may have an employer with resources that enables them to get a green card. USCIS notes that a job offer may include the capability of becoming a permanent resident, which typically requires filling out an I-140 form.

In addition, some specific job categories give certain immigrant certain privileges with regards to green card acquisition. For instance, translators from certain countries, broadcasters, religious workers and former Panama Canal employees may have an easier route to get a green card.

3. Green card to individuals granted asylum and refugees. Other individuals from foreign countries are also given certain green card benefits. USCIS notes that this includes refugees admitted to the U.S., as they can usually apply for permanent residency one year after being admitted to the country. This privilege is also generally granted to asylees as well. Asylees are refugees who are already physically present in the U.S. Refugee status differs slightly, as in order to be classified as a refugee, immigrants must first be located outside the U.S. and be unwilling to return to their native country due to fears their life might be in jeopardy.

4. Other green card avenues. While these are the most common ways of obtaining a green card, there are a variety of other ways of accessing one. This includes people born to foreign diplomats in the U.S., victims of criminal activity, victims of illegal trafficking and people who have experienced hardship in their families, such as battered spouses or children who have been abused. Widows and widowers may also qualify, USCIS indicates.

Helpful links:

USCIS Green Card Resources
I-140 Form
Other Green Card Based Forms