US citizenship entitles you to get a marriage visa to marry your Filipino spouse and sponsor his/ her application for marriage immigration to America. Applying for a marriage visa and preparing for marriage immigration can be a time consuming task and you will need to be organized particularly with your US documents. To qualify for a spouse visa you must fulfill these basic criteria:
• You must be an American citizen or legal permanent resident aged 18 years or over
• You must be able to prove that you are financially independent and able to support your Filipino spouse and any dependent children
• You must be able to prove that you have adequate housing where you, your Filipino spouse and any dependants can live
When you get married to your Filipino fiancé(e) you can legalize your Filipino marriage in the USA.
Getting Ready for Marriage Immigration
Before you leave the US, you need to prepare for your marriage immigration. You should obtain a Single Status Affidavit. This certificate can be prepared by the American citizen services at the US Embassy in The Philippines.
You will also need an original or certified copy your Birth Certificate.
If you have been married before you must produce one of the following documents to support the Single Status Affidavit:
- If divorced, you will need your Divorce Decree
- if widowed you will need your Certificate of Marriage and Death Certificate of your previous spouse
Changing Your US Documents
When official documents issued in the USA are to be used in the Philippines, they need to be “authenticated” and “legalised “in order for them to be valid there.
The first thing you need to do is get your documents “authenticated” by the the Philippines Embassy in the US . The purpose of the authentication process is to prove the validity of the documents issued in the US. If not previously authenticated by a Filipino Consul in the U.S., your U.S. documents must be legalized in the Philippines by the The Philippines Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The last thing to do is to get your documents translated into Filipino and “legalised” by the US Embassy in The Philippines. After that your documents acquire legal validity in the Philippines.
Documents in Need of Legalization for Marriage in The Philippines
- Single Status Affidavit
- Divorce Decree (if relevant)
- Former spouse’s Death Certificate and previous marriage certificate (if relevant)
- Your Birth Certificate
- Name change certificate (if relevant)
- Your US passport cannot be legalized as it is already an internationally recognized document. You must however have photocopies of the ID and bio page notarized as true copies of the original.
Philippines Visa Requirements
As a US citizen you do not need a visa to visit The Philippines, providing that your stay does not exceed 21 days. Your passport must be valid for at least six months after the 21 day period and have at least two blank pages. You must have a return ticket or ticket to another destination outside of the Philippines as well as enough money to support your stay in the country. Should you need to extend your stay in the Philippines you must apply to the Bureau of Immigration before the 21 day period runs out.
Once you have prepared all relevant documents and you have a valid US passport, you may make arrangements to fly to the Philippines to join your intended spouse.
Getting Married in The Philippines
You may decide to marry your Filipino spouse in the US, however, getting married in The Philippines is an inspiring experience and relatively straight forward providing you are organized and ensure that you and your Filipino spouse have the correct documentation.
Under both US and Filipino Marriage Law, only the civil registration of your marriage will be recognized as legal and only a legal marriage will allow you to bring your Filipino spouse back to the US.
The legal age for marriage in the Philippines is 18, but if your Filipino spouse is under 25 years of age they must obtain written consent from their parents or guardians. This should be given personally and in writing in front of the local civil registrar officer. Alternatively, it can be in the form of an affidavit made in the presence of two witnesses. If your Filipin spouse does not obtain such documentation, the marriage license cannot be issued for three months.
To register the marriage legally with the Philippines authorities takes a lot of work and you should not underestimate the time or work involved.
The first step in planning your wedding in the Philippines is to go to the city hall or registrar with your Filipino fiance and apply for a ‘Notice of Application for a Marriage License’, which costs PHP 315.00. You should take your passport and all of the documents you brought with you from the US. Your Filipino fiancé needs to present a Filipino Affidavit of Marriage Status known as a CENOMAR as well as their passport, birth certificate and proof that they are no longer married. If they are under 25 they will need a letter of consent from their parents.
After applying for your marriage license, the information given in the application will be posted for 10 consecutive days inside the city hall or the municipality where your spouse lives. The marriage license will be issued after the completion of this 10-day period. The marriage license is valid in any part of the Philippines for 120 days. If you have not got married during this 120-day period it will then automatically expire.
Document Check: US Spouse
- Original Single status Affidavit issued in the US or by the US Embassy in The Philippines. It must not be older than three months from the date of issue
- Original valid US passport
- Original Birth certificate
- Original death certificate of deceased spouse if widowed
- Original divorce decree or annulment papers if divorced
Document Check: Filipino Spouse
- Original Single status Affidavit.
- Original Passport or ID card
- Original birth certificate
- Original death certificate of deceased spouse if widowed
- Advisory of Marriage Record and Marriage Certificate on NSO Security paper with proper annotation declaring the marriage null and void and a Certificate of Finality and court decision/documents if you are divorced
- If s/he is under 25 years of age, written consent from his/her parents.
Once the Notice of Application for a Marriage License is obtained, you and your Filipina spouse need to go to a judge or a mayor to administer the solemnization of the marriage. Two witnesses of legal age must be present. Ten days after the ceremony your marriage license will be issued. Marriage to your Filipino spouse does not automatically qualify you for Filipino nationality; you should also be aware that the Philippines is not a country that recognizes dual citizenship.
Permanent Resident Application
It is the responsibility of the American spouse to file an immigration petition as the sponsor of their Filipino spouse to come to live in the United States as a legal permanent resident.
The first step in the visa process is for the American spouse to establish that your relationship qualifies for a green card with USCIS. This is done by submitting the application ‘Petition for Alien Relative’ known as Form I-130. This form notifies USCIS that you want to apply for their green card; if they are applying for your dependent children you must fill out a separate I-130 for each child.
If you are a US citizen your application will be given priority over all other sponsorship applications because there is no waiting period for foreign spouses and their children (under 21 years of age) in the US immigration system. Spouses and dependents of lawful Permanent Residents are next in line. The American spouse must provide documentary evidence of their status as a US citizen or permanent resident and of your relationship to you such as a marriage certificate.
Form I-130 should be submitted to the Chicago Lockbox relevant to the state you live in unless submitting it with an application for permanent residence. USCIS then direct the I-130 petition to the appropriate USCIS Service Center . If the I-130 is sent to the wrong Chicago Lockbox, or to another USCIS address, it will be rejected. The fee for filing Form I-130 is $355.
Once your I-130 is received, USCIS send you Form I-797 known as a ‘Notice of Action,’ to acknowledge receipt of your application. You will also receive Form I-864 ‘Affidavit of Support’ which the US spouse must fill out to prove that they can financially support their The Philippines spouse. They must attach supporting documents to this form e.g. a letter on company letterhead detailing their employment status, where they live and photocopies of your Internal Revenue Service-issued transcript of their federal income tax return for the most recent tax year. They should also include their W-2s and/or 1099 forms.
If the US spouse is unable to prove that they can support the foreign spouse and any dependent children the application will be denied.
If the sponsorship application is incomplete or does not contain relevant supporting documents it will be rejected and the sponsorship process will be further delayed. Keep copies of all immigration documentation in a safe place in case the visa petition gets lost or mislaid.
Applying for a Green Card if you reside legally in the USA
If you are legally resident in the USA e.g. if you have a non-immigrant visa permitting you to live and work or study there, you can apply for an ‘Adjustment of Status’ by filing Form I-485 at the same time as your spouse files Form I-130. Form I-485 will adjust your status to that of permanent resident, more commonly known as a green card holder. Both forms should be submitted to a single Chicago Lockbox. The fee for filing Form I-485 is $1,010 (includes the $80 fingerprint fee).
Around a month after your green card application is received, you will both be required to attend a fingerprint interview where ink-free digital scans of your fingerprints will be taken. Your American spouse may also have to attend a visa interview with you.
Whilst your green card is being processed, you will be able to travel, work and / or study freely according to the terms of your non-immigrant visa or you can apply for ‘Employment Authorization’ using Form I-765. There is no fee for filing for Employment Authorization if you submit this form with your application for permanent residence.
Applications are refused if any documentation provided is false.