For many foreign born individuals seeking to obtain residence in the U.S., marriage to a United States citizen or green card holder may open up the doors to this process. The regulations may vary depending on the country the individual is from. In this case, we are going to discuss the procedures required for marrying an individual from the country of the Philippines.
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MARRIAGE AND IMMIGRATION STATUS
If you and your significant other have not tied the knot quite yet, you have the option of petitioning for him or her to be able to leave the Philippines and enter the U.S. as your fiancé so that you may have your ceremony in the U.S. You may also choose to get married in your fiancé’s country of origin. In both cases, your fiancé may then apply for a green card once you are married. This petitioning is only possible however if you are a United States citizen, not if you are a green card holder yourself. In order to do this, you must prove:
- The legal status of the petitioner (either citizen or lawful permanent resident)
- A legal marriage ceremony will occur in the future, or has already occurred
- The marriage is not a fraud (a deceptive attempt to obtain a green card)
- The foreign individual is not deemed “inadmissible” by the government
The fiancé visa is referred to as the K-1 visa. It lasts for a 90 day period for the purposes of holding the wedding ceremony. The fiancé will have to apply for this visa after his or her significant other files a visa petition with the I-129F form and submits it to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before leaving the Philippines.
FROM THE PHILIPPINES TO THE U.S.
The process differs slightly for a couple who has already been married and is now applying for a green card for the foreign born individual. This requires filing an I-130 form with the USCIS. Individuals applying through a spouse who is a U.S. citizen may often proceed to the next part of the application process. Individuals applying through a spouse who is a lawful permanent resident however may have to wait for up to two years to enter into this next stage of processing. The next stage involves the foreign spouse submitting forms and holding an interview at the U.S embassy in Manila otherwise known as consular processing. It is important to file the correct forms at the embassy so that they can properly process your request and you can avoid legal trouble upon entry into the U.S.
VALIDATING THE MARRIAGE
According to information provided by the U.S. consulate, before you can obtain a marriage license to wed in the Philippines, you, the U.S. citizen or resident, must first submit a “Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage” from your embassy. Because the U.S. embassy instead gives you an “Affidavit In Lieu of Certificate of Legal Capacity to Marry”, some local registrars may not accept the affidavit. In this case, you will have to find one who does accept it. Instructions on how to make an appointment to obtain this Affidavit are given on the “U.S. Citizens Services” page of the embassy website.
At a minimum, the U.S. citizen will need to present the documents below – and additional items (such as baptismal and confirmation certificates) if it’s a church rather than a civil wedding:
- evidence that any of your past marriages have ended, such as a divorce decree or death certificate
- U.S. passport
- documentation regarding paternal consent or advice if you are under age 24 (If either of you is between the ages of 18 and 21, you must provide written parental consent; and if either is between age 22 and 24, you must show that you have received parental advice. ).
You can be legally married in front of a judge, minister, or other person authorized by the Philippines government. Philippine law does not allow marriages by anyone under 18.
You will need to plan ahead for a ten-day waiting period between the filing of your application for a marriage license and its issuance. The license is good for up to 120 days.
After the ceremony, you will need to wait another ten days before you can obtain a certificate of that marriage for purposes of U.S. immigration. Currently, the U.S. looks for a marriage certificate from the National Statistics Office (NSO).
In the United States the laws will vary depending on which state you decide to hold your nuptials. It is important to view the marriage laws in your state so that you may be fully equipped to perform your ceremony, whether in the Philippines or the United States.
HELPFUL INFORMATION: MARRIAGE REGULATIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES AND THE U.S.
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Carl Shusterman served as an INS Trial Attorney (1976-82) before opening a firm specializing exclusively in US immigration law. He is a Certified Specialist in Immigration Law who has testified as an expert witness before the US Senate Immigration Subcommittee. Carl was featured in the February 2018 edition of SuperLawyers Magazine.