Is US Embassy Manila (USEM) Closing?
Currently making the rounds are rumors that the US Embassy located in Manila is closing in July 2019. This rumor is absolutely false. The US Embassy has no intention of closing or moving or curtailing any of its services.
When embarking on the path to deal with US immigration to bring your fiancee or spouse to the USA there is a lot of information on the Internet. Sadly there is a lot of mis-information too. There are rumors, out of date material, and sometimes deliberate lies and pranks.
And that really is why, why it’s good idea to work with an experienced guide who knows the facts and can certainly separate rumor from reality.
I am Fred Wahl the VisaCoach and I help you get through a confusing and frustrating Immigration process so you can have a happy life together in the USA with your foreign partner.
In this video I’ll talk to about the background on what’s REALLY going on. And by the end of this video you will know who is effected and who is not.
About two months ago I announced in one of my videos that the USCIS international offices scattered around the world, were going to close. USCIS has been reducing its overseas presence for many years, currently or at least when the notice was made they still had about 20 offices with about 70 American personnel plus local staff. Their work was to support the US Embassy where they were located in helping process applications that came from Americans and their dependents who were living in area that the US embassy served.
This kind of service was called Direct Consular Filing. What DCF means is that Americans and their dependents, who are living in the overseas country that the consulate served, if they were applying for immigration benefits, could for applications such as spouse and dependent visas, submit their applications directly, in person to a local USCIS office or the consulate, and this avoided expensive mailing and speeded processing times.
For example, for an American ex-pat living in the Philippines. If he or she had been granted an alien card by the Philippines government, and then had had lived in the Philippines for at lease six months, then he or she could file directly to the USCIS office in Manila, for his or her spouse or child. The American could make an appoointment, come in, show proof of the Alien card and over 6 months of residence, and then drop off the application.
In only a few short months, the USCIS staff would complete their review of the application, then pass it over to the consular staff at the Embassy. The Embassy staff would conduct the final interview.
This was a real boon to those applicants, because most applications are submitted in the USA, and take about a year and a half to be processed, before arriving in Manila for the interview. Instead the application filed using DCF, would take only a few months to get to the interview.
Twenty years ago when I applied to bring Joyce to the USA on a spouse visa, all US embassies and consulates offered direct consular filing. I was living as an expat in Hong Kong with Joyce, and I was able to file directly to the Hong Kong embassy on Garden Road, and we got our spouse visa in about 5 months.
As time went by, one by one, the various consulates and embassies stopped offering DCF. Finally only 23 locations still offered it. These were locations that ALSO has a USCIS office. Now these USCIS offices are closing. And with their closing, Direct Consular Filing, DCF will no longer be available.
But for most, the closing of the USCIS offices makes absolutely NO DIFFERENCE. Only a very few applications were eligible for DCF, the VAST majority all followed the standard route.
And by the way, while this process was available for spouses and dependents, it was never available for Fiance visa applications. Always Fiance visa applications had to be submitted in the USA, regardless of whether the American sponsor lived inside or outside the USA.
So the closing of the last USCIS international offices, will frankly have little to no effect, simply now regardless of where the American sponsor lives, when he applies to US immigration, he will have to submit his application to USCIS offices in the USA. No longer can he submit the application or drop it off at a local USCIS international office.
So what caused the rumor that the US Embassy in Manila is closing in July?
Well, basically people are misreading the headlines.
The news announcements, the headlines in the Philippines press all say something like. “USCIS Closes Manila Office”
Somehow people miss read that statement and changed it to the “US Embassy in Manila is closing”.
USCIS is closing its small office presence, is certainly not the same that the US Embassy is closing.
USCIS had some office space located within the US Embassy compound. There a half a dozen American USCIS personel and local Filipino supporting staff conducted USCIS business working on DCF applications. Now these few Americans are returning to the USA and will conduct their work in the USA.
The Filipino staff will probably be reassigned to job opportunities at the US Embassy itself. And some office space within the Embassy will temporily become vacant.
The embassy itself will continue to operate, business as usual. Interviewing visa applicants and processing their cases, also business as usual.
The last local DCF application was accepted by the Manila USCIS office on May 4. Then they stopped excepting any further DCF applications. Today they are wrapping up the last cases they have in the pipeline, and packing to move back to the USA.
The vast majority of applicants never were eligible for DCF, so for them there is absolutely no change. For the few, well, now they will be treated just like the rest of us.
The few applicants who were previously eligible to apply locally in the Philippines now must send their applications all the way to the USA, and then wait for them to eventually return to Manila where the interview will be held at the US Embassy that is open today, will be open tomorrow, will continue to be open in July, and will remain open as long as the USA and Philippines have diplomatic relations.
By Fred Wahl