A Fresh Start? Here Are The Top Countries To Migrate To, According To Real Filipino Workers
Are you looking for a fresh start, a blank canvas, a brand new life? Somewhere to start your family or find new opportunities? Or maybe you’re just finding a second option for your family "just in case".
Whatever your reason is, choosing a country you can migrate to might be a little daunting and tricky, but let us help you get a perspective into some of the perks and challenges that Filipinos encounter in countries they choose to migrate to. We asked some of our friends who have made it in other countries to hear their experiences and difficulties, settling into a new world.
As of 2018, there are more than 44 million immigrants living in the United States. And despite the continued crackdown of the US president, Donald Trump, on immigrants, the country continues to open its arms to deserving individuals who want to settle down in the land of the free. In fact, since the country’s native white population is aging rapidly, there really is a demand for younger migrants to keep the country alive and contribute to the economic processes.
Relocating to the US is easiest if you have an employer who is willing to sponsor and vouch for you. Many students also come to the US to study, and then are able to find employment to secure their stay in the country. Many are also lucky to have their family members sponsor them.
Tired of the rude and undisciplined Filipino drivers on the road? Ey De Asis has been living in the Washington state for 8 years now, and she shares that two of the best things she loves about living in the US are the respect of personal space and the discipline in traffic.
“I do enjoy a lot of things like when people respect my bubble when lined up in a back or in a fast food chain. May personal space pa rin kasi ’di sila dumidikit. Pero pinaka nakaka-shock talaga is traffic enforcement. Iba talaga sa pinas, it triggers my anxiety. There are still rude drivers in the US but at least most people obey the law, the lights. People stay in their lane. And it’s also very friendly to pedestrians,” she shares.
But adjusting to the culture doesn’t take overnight. In fact, it’s even harder to adjust to a single culture in America since the country is largely heterogeneous and multi-cultured. It is home to one of the biggest immigrant populations in the world. Ey shares that one of her biggest adjustments is exactly this: being able to adjust to the many cultures and types of people living in one place.
Ey with her fiance
“Sometimes it’s hard to understand different accents and adjust to different values and religion,” she shares. “So sometimes even the different physical attributes are being used against other people, so may mga nabu-bully and nang-bu-bully, there's racist comments.”
But while the multicultural nature of America can be a bit challenging, it is also one of the country’s most attractive side. It’s easier to blend in when there’s no one standard to blend in to. And it’s easier to be different when everyone is different from everyone.
Canada is perhaps one of the most famous destinations for Filipinos who want to migrate permanently to another to another country. This is not a surprise since the Filipino population is thriving in Canada, and the country itself is generous and open towards its immigrants. As of 2016, there were at least 851,410 Filipinos living in Canada, mostly in urban areas like Toronto. And this number is expected to grow even more with Canada’s new multi-year Immigration Levels Plan in 2017, where the country is expected to welcome nearly one million new immigrants through 2020.
This aggressive encouragement for immigrants aims to attract and retain overseas talent to support labor market shortages across Canada. And that’s a win-win situation as both Canada and interested immigrants benefit from the immigration plan.
But while transferring to Canada sounds like a breeze, Jenica C., who has studied, worked, and acquired citizenship in Canada during her six-year stay in the country, says that there are some pointers interested applicants should take note of. Getting a job, for example, is fairly tricky since Canada has different qualifiers and standards when it comes to education and work experience.
“You may want to research ahead if your current job or education qualifications is transferrable in Canada. They have very strict education and employment standards there, and may not accept Philippine certificates or degrees as a qualification. I’ve seen doctors, nurses and agents who moved to Canada, but can’t pursue their career without going through their whole education again under Canadian regulation,” says Jenica.
Jenica on her very first hockey game
And if you’re wanting to settle down, you might also need to consider the cost of real estate in Canada. Housing in various cities in the country are an astounding 50 percent more expensive than in the US, averaging at US$352,076.
But don’t let these challenges sway you from trying to move into Canada. Jenica, for one, says she absolutely loved the country and would probably retire in Canada in the future. And for outdoorsy people, Canada is also quite the gem. “As a college student there, I was so excited to juggle my studies, a part-time job, cross-country travel, and camping trips! If you’re an adventurous outdoorsman, you’ll love Canada for its quick opportunities for scenic hikes, camping, forests, wildlife, and skiing—and they’re all so much easier to get to because the transportation is really efficient.”
Dubbed the Switzerland of Asia due to its strong economy, Singapore remains one of the most popular immigration destinations, especially for Filipinos. It is home to some of the highest paid workforce in the world, with a low cost of living that lets citizens and residents enjoy a high standard of living.
And while immigration usually comes at the cost of being away from your family, in Singapore, they have lenient immigration rules compared to other countries and give specific kinds of passes for family members of the immigrant. So you can bring in your parents and dependents as long as you earn a certain amount per month, showing that you are able to sponsor them comfortable while they’re there.
The beauty of Singapore and the good political, economic, and educational climate has indeed attracted a large expat community in the country. This is why Anton Javier, Associate Editor at Portfolio Magazine who has lived in Singapore for 11 years, says that “it’s become increasingly more difficult to secure a job in Singapore if you come over with no leads or job offers. Reason being the huge influx of foreigners in the past few years, and sentiments from locals thinking that companies prefer hiring foreigners as opposed to local talent.”
But if you do manage to make it find a good job with a competitive salary, Anton says “you’ll find yourself in a comfortable lifestyle, with enough wiggle room for spending and saving.”
The land down under is another one of the most popular choices of Filipinos who are migrating abroad and in 2017, Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that 10% of OFWs leaving the Philippines are actually settling in Australia. Who wouldn’t want to live in Australia? It’s capital, Sydney, is the 11th most livable city in the world, while Melbourne, another Filipino-favored city in the country, is ranked 17th. That’s taking to account socio-cultural, political and economic environment, medical and health considerations, educational and leisure opportunities, and the housing market.
If you’re looking to pursue your degree in some of the most prestigious schools in the world, Australia is able to provide free or subsidized education for residents and citizens. And you wouldn’t have to worry twice about your health because the country provides free and subsidized healthcare for everyone.
Justine with her partner
“It’s nice to get a check-up without having to think about exorbitant doctor fees, and even get subsidy on my prescription glasses,” shares Justine Figueroa, who has been living in Australia for almost five years. “It’s very chill in Australia because the population is small and establishments close early, so it’s not as suffocating to walk around, commute, or hang at the mall—unless of course there’s a big sale or it’s New Year’s Eve, then expect everyone to come out of their homes!”
In terms of work, the minimum wage is also fairly high compared to other countries, and the Australian dollar is also quite competitive and has the reputation of being one of the strongest currencies in the world. “Imagine working two part-time jobs but still being able to afford your own place and your own car. And you still have left over money to spend on clothes and bags—which are always on sale!” shares Justine.
But of course, it may sound all peachy, but Australia is still a predominantly white nation, and sometimes, you’ll still notice that there’s still favor going to Australians at work, especially when you’re applying for your first job. Like Canada, Australia follows a different and very strict educational system so if you’re bringing a degree or credentials to the country, you might have to have it credited first—or in some cases, you have to retake certification courses again.
“We have a family friend who is already an accomplished dentist with her own clinic back in the Philippines but when she transferred to Australia, she had to retake classes and exams again, and it took her years to be able to get an assistant dentist job,” says Justine.
It’s true, migrating to Australia can be quite difficult and expensive, compared to closer Asian countries, but when you actually get to settle down, it’s actually one of the most comfortable places to being.
Oh, and did we forget to mention the cute koalas?
If you love the cosmopolitan and diverse life, there’s no need for convincing why you should migrate to Dubai. United Arab Emirates (UAE) is home to over 200 different nationalities and 7.8 million expatriates as of 2013. That’s out of the 9.2 million population of UAE! That’s why everywhere you look, you’re sure to bump into a fellow Southeast Asian or a Filipino, making it more comfortable and familiar compared to other foreign lands.
UAE has a very stable and self-sufficient economy, thanks to their oil revenues. They also have global free trade agreements, liberal tax laws, and investor-friendly trade policies that benefit individuals and encourage businesses to grow. So if you’re planning to start a business, might as well check out Dubai.
The government has also rolled out the 10-year visa for international investors and professionals, making it easy for interested individuals to try their luck in the country—and even bring their family members on extended stays, too.
The comfortable economic environment really translates into the kind of life citizens—both local and expats—enjoy in the country. Candice Camara, a PR Manager living and working in Dubai, says that Dubai really helped her grow in the way of her career. “I don’t think I would have accomplished as much as I have in my career if I stayed in Manila. I was lucky enough to land a job with a fashion communications agency within the first week of moving back and working with some of the best luxury brands has been very rewarding.”
She also notes that Dubai is great for people who love to travel like her. “Unlike in the Philippines where you’d need to travel 2-3 hours to get to a beach, it’s just a 15-minute drive from where we live. I also travel every chance I get when it’s not a busy time at work. Dubai is centrally located so it’s easy to get to places with direct flights.”
But of course, Dubai has its own dark stories, despite its shining opportunities. Many Filipinos are being duped into unfair contracts and illegal recruitment. As long as you steer clear of these dodgy arrangements and make sure that all your documents are legal and valid, there’s a bright future waiting for you in Dubai.
Historically, Japan is one of the most conservative countries about immigration, and 2013 data shows that less than 2 percent of Japan’s population is made up of foreign nationals. But still, it is certainly a dream for many otakus and fans of their culture to live and settle in the country. Fortunately, Japan’s problem with their aging population is opening up the country to skilled workers and students who are interested to augment the country’s working force. And in 2017, Japan finally modified their point-based system for immigrant workers in the country so it’s fairly easier to apply for permanent residency after three years of having lived there.
But what remains as the biggest blockade for interested immigrants to live in Japan: the language. Shaula Santos has been studying at the University of Tokyo for more than a year now and she emphasizes how the language barrier is one of the biggest difficulties she’s encountered living in the Nihongo-speaking nation. “I speak Japanese but sometimes it’s still difficult to understand written Japanese and high-level kanji. Also, ’yung cultural nuances ng ibang words or phrases, as a foreigner, ang hirap pa rin minsan gamitin nang maayos.”
Shaula in Japan during the Sakura season
There’s also still a stigma towards foreigners since the country has closed off its doors for quite a long while. Shaula recalls the time when she was hunting for an apartment during her stay in Japan, “there are landlords who rejected my application just because I am a foreigner. May stigma pa rin na kapag foreigners, baka hindi magbayad ng rent, or they won’t take care of the apartment.”
Japanese people are well known for their discipline, while the rest of the world, well, not so much. And this kind of discipline and order translates veryf well into their amazing public transportation system, probably one of the best—if not the best—in the world.
Shaula also adds, “Apart from the good transportation, malinis ang streets, at marami pa ring trees kahit nasa city so relatively less polluted. And walang magca-catcall sa'yo! You feel safe and you don't have to fear na baka ma-snatch-an or ma-hold up ka kapag gabi or kapag dadaan sa street na hindi matao.”
All of these if you’re ready to give up singkamas and bagoong, says Shaula, which you won’t be able to find in Japan!