Many Philippine nationals that have been in Palau for many years are facing the heartwrenching decision of sending their young children home amid a raging pandemic because they no longer meet the minimum income levels required for having their dependents or children here with them.

The Division of Immigration has informed many parents whose income in 2020 fell below $15,000 that they have 30 days to come up with a solution to their dependents’ status; if they can’t, they are given 30 days to send their dependents home. They are also warned that failure to do so is in violation of law and they could be fined and/or penalized.

“I don’t know what to do,” cried one mother whose husband died last year; she is here with her child, who is still in elementary school. Because her husband died, her salary alone no longer meets the $15,000 minimum.

Another parent was in tears and worrying about how they can send their child home with no flight and no one to escort the child.

A similar tale is repeated by others who feel they are caught in a situation with no solution in sight.

Many of those affected had their work hours reduced or their companies shut down due to the pandemic. Some are working under the CROSS Act, with employers banking on opening quickly upon recovery from the pandemic. Their contracts remain in place but their hours are reduced or they are still receiving the minimum wage under the CROSS Act. 

Director John Tarkong of the Division of Immigration, Customs, and Border Security said that they are just following the law. The law says an income of at least $15,000 is required and the income tax reports from 2020 show that they had fallen below the minimum.

He added that the law says income and other benefits such as housing are not considered income.  

When asked if they would accept bonds as a way to ensure that the kids can be sent home once there are flights, he said that no bonds are accepted. 

Mr. Tarkong added that they will consider extending the visas until the end of school so the kids can finish their schooling.

There are currently no direct flights to the Philippines and in order to go via Guam, the Philippine nationals need to obtain a U.S. visa first. The cost, uncertainty, and lack of flights to the Philippines place these unfortunate parents under undue stress and fear. (By: L.N. Reklai)

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