I am very familiar with the Philippines. I have traveled all over the country from Laoag in the far North to Zamboanga in the far south.
The first ever immigration petition I prepared almost 50 years ago was for my own Filipina fiancee.
I am Fred Wahl the VisaCoach and I work for you to prepare and craft
your applications to submit to US Immigration. Sometimes callers
ask me “Do I fill in the forms for them, or do they have to do it themselves?”. Of course, I and the VisaCoach Team together prepare your application for you.
And unlike the other services, we do not abandon you once you submit
your application but remain at your side, and continue working and guiding you all the way on this journey until your Filipino Spouse calls to say she or he is “on the way”. And then after arrival to USA, I am also available to help with the next steps at US immigration, obtaining the unconditional green card, and eventually US Citizenship.
What is Your current situation?
Well you have fallen in love, Your special someone is from the Philippines.
Covid has blocked you from meeting in-person. You have been desperately waiting for quarantines and restrictions to be lifted. And now finally in February 2022 they HAVE been lifted. Finally you can meet.
Finally you can start the process to bring her or him home to the USA to
join you for a happy married life together.
So, what do you do?
Well, besides getting on the first available flight to the Philippines,
you need to prepare yourself to overcome a complicated and difficult immigration system that stands in the way of your happiness.
Fortunately, I am here to help you.
Today I am going to explain “How to Bring your Filipino Spouse home to the USA”
And , please watch to the end of this video, because near the end I
Will also explain what happens after your spouse arrives.
After all, after going through so much effort, you don’t want her or him to
have to leave your side. I will speak about the next steps after arrival,
how to obtain and keep permanent residency and finally how your partner can become a US citizen
Now, let’s talk about “How to bring your Filipina Spouse to the USA”
So the Big picture is:
We prepare an application, it is submitted in the USA to the United States
citizenship and Immigration service (USCIS),
And then once USCIS has completed its review, the case goes to the US State
department’s National Visa Center (NVC) in New Hampshire.
And finally NVC couriers the case overseas to the US Embassy in Manila for the in-person interview and approval of the visa.
Then your uses the visa to travel to and enter the USA
Now let’s get into the details:
First we submit a thick package of application forms and supporting documents and evidence. This is the “front loaded petition” that VisaCoach is famous for.
My philosophy, the VisaCoach philosophy, which we rigorously follow on every case, team VisaCoach works on, is that success, final outcome, final approval, depends 99% on the quality of your application that you and we together prepare and submit to US immigration.
We take every opportunity, leave no stone unturned, in making your application as complete and persuasive as possible.
The quality of the work we accomplish at the start, at the “front” of this process, determines the ultimate outcome.
When quality goes in, a positive result comes out.
The petition package is mailed to USCIS.
Spouse Visa applications go to Chicago, Dallas or Phoenix
After initial sorting then the applications are assigned and forwarded to one
of six USCIS service centers that are scattered throughout the USA.
At the destination USCIS service center your case is reviewed and processed.
USCIS takes many months to complete their review.
Normally, USCIS should complete their review in under 5 months, but recently however, under Covid they have been taking around twice as long.
Hopefully this will improve. Recently I just had two cases emerge from USCIS in a super fast, three few months. I don’t know if that is a trend for 2022 (I hope so) or an anomaly. It’s too soon to really tell.
If I get good news later, I will post a short “In a minute” video to update processing times. For the time being expect it to be slow.
Slow or fast, US immigration is like a one lane highway. The sooner you enter and get in line the sooner you exit, and the cases that enter after you, will only get to Their destination after you do. So the sooner you apply, the sooner this will be behind you.
The review at USCIS includes an FBI background check. This is usually only on the US Citizen’s background, however it will also include your Filipino Spouse if she or he had ever lived in the USA for a while.
When USCIS is satisfied with your application, they “approve”, at least as far as they are concerned, then hand your case over to the NVC, based in New Hampshire.
While your case is at NVC, two fees are paid, the visa application fee and the
affidavit of support fee.
Then we gather and submit to NVC various civil documents and evidence that they require
Your Spouse’s Police Clearances
Marriage and Birth Certificates
And your financial Evidence
Once NVC has all of your materials they will review them. This review usually takes one or more months. Eventually NVC says you case is “Documentarily Qualified”. Or DQ.
Normally, right after your case is documentarily qualified, NVC reaches out
to the US Embassy in Manila, checks the consulate’s appointment schedule and books your spouse’s Interview. They email you to advise the date and time then pack your application into a DHL mailbag and ship it off to the Philippines.
At least that is the way it normally works. The Philippines shut down and shut down hard back in March 2020. Since then the shut downs and quarantines have continued, and most businesses and services were closed for extended periods, some still have not reopened, some only partially reopened.
The US Embassy in Manila followed the local quarantines as well. And while closed, or only partially opened, cases kept piling up.
Today there are about a year’s worth of cases, which were approved at USCIS, assigned to Manila for processing, and are still waiting for their interviews.
These cases are mostly still at NVC waiting for the US Embassy in Manila to say they are ready to interview more cases. Whenever that happens, months worth of the oldest cases are doled out and sent to Manila for processing.
The good news, is that since you are now allowed to travel to the Philippines as a tourist, this is what the consulate was waiting for. If quarantines are relaxed enough that anybody can fly to the Philippines, and that also means that more officers and contractors can also fly to the Philippines to temporarily swell the consulate’s staff and processing capacity.
I expect this means more staff, more interviews each day, more visas issued, and the size of the backlog reduced day by day.
Hopefully by the time your own application gets Documentarily Qualified at NVC, the backlog will be cleaned up, or at least seriously reduced.
So that when NVC reaches out to Manila to schedule your appointment, time
slots will be available and your case can be transferred to the consulate
for processing without any extra delay at NVC.
Fingers crossed !!
Finally the day will come when your case is sent via diplomatic pouch to the Philippines.
There are two US consulate locations in the Philippines, in Manila and Cebu City.
The Consulate in Manila handles all Spouse visa interviews.
Sorry, even if your partner lives across the street from the consulate in Cebu, she or he must still make the trip to Manila for processing.
In the run up and preparation for the interview there are a few steps we need to accomplish.
And please recall, that unlike other services, VisaCoach will still be with
you on this journey, still providing personal guidance. I will provide you with clear instructions on exactly what needs to be done, and provide detailed personalized checklists.
You, the US sponsor, send your spouse the affidavit of support we had prepared, along with your corresponding financial evidence such as tax returns and employment or asset proofs.
Your Spouse obtains the Certificate of No Marriage, from the Philippines Statistics Office. This is abbreviated CENOMAR, and pronounced “sen oh mar”.
And yes, while it is called certificate of NO marriage, it is still required. This time when it is issued and reviewed it will say your partner “IS MARRIED”, to YOU.
And finally your Spouse undergoes a two day medical exam at St. Luke’s Clinic in Manila.
On the big day your Spouse attends the interview at the US consulate.
Shortly, after arrival at the consulate your Spouse is greeted by a local Filipino clerk, and asked to show all of the documents that the consulate expected to be presented for your case.
The clerk will go over each item on his or her checklist, ticking off that your
Spouse has brought the needed documents.
It is critical that your partner be well prepared and has brought EVERYTHING that is required.
Failure to bring even one item might cause the interview to be canceled,
or if allowed to proceed, might add months of additional delay till the visa is issued.
Because this is so critical, and with proper planning it is so easy to avoid problems, we at VisaCoach prepare for you a personalized precise checklist on what must be brought to the consulate without fail for your case. We prepare this checklist using our knowledge of your background and situation combined with our previous experience working with the consulate, knowing what they want and what they don’t want.
Finally comes the actual interview. This is when your Spouse meets with an
American consular officer, it is no longer the local hires. This officer will be
making the final decision on your case.
This is the BIG event.
During the interview, the consular officer must be CONVINCED your relationship is bona fide and not a sham contrived for immigration purposes.
Sorry, to say this, but US immigration has had a long and troubled history with fiance and spouse visas. Their experience has not been a good one.
For regular immigration, there are simple tests of eligibility. For example if a naturalized US citizen were to apply for his/her mother or brother to immigrate to the USA, the simple test would be birth certificates. As all the names on these official documents would match, the mother or brother would be clearly eligible and approved for their immigration visas.
But for “romance” type visas, for spouse visas like you have applied for there is no simple, clear test.
Instead, the officer must rely on you and your spouse words, your statements that your relationship is real, not a sham for immigration purposes..
Don’t get me wrong. I know that YOU are totally sincere, totally in love, totally genuine.
But the officer does not know you like I do. There is nothing personal about the officers suspicions, the problem is that the “well has been poisoned”, by the con-men and scammers who long ago figured out that if they could trick their way into the USA. These crooks have made it difficult for honest people.
Because no simple reliable test exists, because so many consular officers have been tricked and made fools of before, because of their frustration and embarrassment, the consular officers have decided to take the pessimistic and confrontational attitude that all romance visa cases are probably shams. not bona fide.
Sadly they will treat you and your spouse as “guilty until proven innocent”
The original application that we prepared and submitted to USCIS, long long ago, at the start of the application process, now is opened on the Consular officers desk for his or her preparation for the interview.
The officer always reviews the application while your partner is waiting in the lobby of the consulate. He or she is preparing what questions to ask and
is searching for “red flags” that increase his or her suspicion. The officer is
looking for reasons for denial.
And this is why the Visacoach method of “front loading” a petition is so valuable. We craft each application, understanding the consular officers’ stand point.
We understand as a professional, if he or she finds convincing evidence of
your sincerity he or she will be prepared to approve and issue the visa.
We also know that if it is not totally clear that the couple is genuine, if
for any reason he or she is not totally convinced, that the officer
would prefer to deny, instead of taking any changes.
After all, if he or she approves a scamming couple the officer’s career
and reputation is hurt, but if the officer denies an honest couple, he or she is only being diligent, and the denied couple can always reapply, so “no harm done”.
So what we want to do is help the officer make the right decision.
We help him/her do their job by going the extra mile to make sure your application does the talking for you, that it contains what is needed to convince a reasonable but skeptical person to trust you and your situation.
It would be nice if you could attend the interview and personally smooth out
any misunderstandings before they cause problems. But you won’t be there.
Only your spouse attends the interview. Even if you are present in the Philippines you will not be able to enter the Consulate, you will be kept outside. Your spouse faces the interview alone.
While you can’t be there in-person, our plan at VisaCoach is to help you to
be there, at least “in Spirit”.
With each VisaCoach “front loaded” application, we include a personal statement from you that describes “how you met, why you were attracted to each other, the development of your relationship, key moments in your courtship, the circumstances of your proposal, what happened at the wedding and your plans for a future life and family together in the USA.
Bona fide couples have history. They have plans. Their history and plans have many, many details. By sharing these details, we help the officer to get to know you. And once the officer gets to know you, he or she is surely going to trust you and your situation.
For most of my clients, creative writing is difficult. I know it is difficult for me.
But I have designed our system at VisaCoach to help make it easy for you to tell your important honest detailed story.
We guide you step by step, bit by bit, prompting you with short questions, in order to hear your answers in your voice. Then using our expertise in what is important to the consular officer’s decision, we combine and edit your words together crafting a clear, readable document that goes a long, LONG way to bring the consular officer to an understanding of the you and your spouse as two sympathetic honest human beings, people who are truly in love, people could easily be his or her neighbors back in the USA.
By front loading your application with well chosen evidence, by including you there in spirit, we set the tone, for a successful interview.
Most of VisaCoach’s interviews are short and sweet, ending with “Welcome to the USA”.
About two weeks later, the consulate has printed the visa into your spouse’s passport and then returns her or his passport to your partner using LBC Express courier.
The courier can deliver the passport to your Spouse’s home, they have offices, and couriers on motorcycles scattered all over the Philippines to help do so. Or if your Spouse prefers, she or he can arrange to personally pick the passport up at one of 99 LBC offices, including one at the Mall of Asia.
Your Spouse’s visa is valid for 6 months. The clock starts on the, date of the St. Luke’s medical
This gives your Spouse plenty of time to settle affairs before leaving for the USA.
But, before your Spouse boards the aircraft, she or he must attend a 2 hour class sponsored by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO).
This is a requirement made by the Philippines government basically to
protect your Spouse teaching how to recognize spousal abuse and what to do about it..
Your Spouse must take the class, and obtain a stamp affixed to her or his passport. This is checked at the airport. Your partner will not be allowed onto the aircraft without proof of taking the class.
Soon after arrival your Filipino spouse gets her or his Green Card.
Regularly I am asked, “why does a spouse visa take longer to get than a fiancée visa?”.
Well the answer is because a Fiance visa only is like a temporary tourist visa. It only gives your partner permission to visit the USA for 90 days. But the Spouse Visa is more serious (at least in the eyes of US immigration). It is considered REGULAR immigration. They know your partner is not coming for a short visit, but is coming to stay permanently. So the process for a spouse visa takes longer because in addition to granting permission
to cross into the USA, you partner is granted permission to stay as a lawful resident.
This means her or his Green Card is already approved and is waiting on your partner’s arrival to be issued.
But wait ! This Green Card has an expiry date that is only two Years away !!
The reason that they only issue a Conditional green card valid for only two years is because US immigration is still cautious, they are still skeptical about your “romance” case and they want one more opportunity to catch you in fraud.
Just prior to the end of the two years of Lawful Residence, we apply to USCIS once again. This application is called “Removal of Conditions on Residence”
At the end of this process, usually 1 to 2 years, your Filipino spouse finally gets a regular Green Card, this one is permanent without conditions.
For many this is the end of the US immigration journey. Your Filipino spouse has her or his green card, can reside in the USA as long as she or he wants. Your spouse is still a citizen of the Philippines, and still uses her or his Philippines Passport when traveling outside the USA.
However, for most, there is one more, one last Final step that can be taken.
Once your Filipino spouse has been a lawful US resident for 3 years, if she or he wants, can apply to become a US Citizen, and be able to vote in US elections and travel using a US passport.
The couples Team VisaCoach helps become our friends and family. We are honored to guide you through each step of the immigration Journey. Starting from courtship to arrival on Spouse visa, to Green card and permanent residency and finally all the way through to US naturalization and Citizenship
This was Fred Wahl, The VisaCoach,