Married and living abroad? Consular processing might be for you

Attorney Daphne Hankins specializes in bringing family together, no matter where in the world they might be. Barred in the United States and based in Seoul, South Korea, she handles cases from all over the world. For questions about how to bring your loved one to the United States e-mail her at Daphne@HankinsImmigration.com or call her at +82 010 3184 6858.  

If you’re living in Korea or outside of the United States, there’s a chance you’re contemplating marrying someone you’ve met in your new home. You might want to return to the US one day, but what many don’t realize is that now is the perfect time to start the immigration process for their loved one.

If you’re trying to choose between a fiancé visa or marrying your spouse and petitioning, see this article.

If you’re in the US, you’d normally petition for your spouse and when that’s approved, apply for adjustment of status / their green card. But if you live abroad, consular processing fulfills the same function faster and cheaper than the I-485. This means that you can jumpstart your spouse’s path to citizenship long before you ever return home.

Are you eligible for consular processing?

If you are a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident living outside of the US, you are eligible for consular processing.

What is consular processing, really?

Consular processing is the process of getting a marriage based green card. The entire procedure takes between 11 and 17 months and costs $1,200 if you’re living abroad. This price is all inclusive.

What makes it different from your standard green card process is that it’s an option for those living abroad. The United States Center for Immigration Services (USCIS) transfers your case to the National Visa Center (NVC), which is run by the U.S. State Department.

The NVC will forward your case to a U.S. embassy or consulate in the applicant’s spouse’s country of residence.

You’ll file your DS-261 online, which tells the State Department how to contact you. The next step is often the one couples struggle the most with. You’ll need to submit supporting documents which include:

  • An affidavit of support
  • A public charge questionnaire
  • Any additional supplemental documents the NVC requests.

For spouses living abroad, you’ll need to provide evidence that you intend to return to the US soon. You must also show that you have a job waiting for you, have enough liquid asset to meet the minimum financial requirement, or have a joint sponsor who agrees to take on the legal obligation of financially supporting your spouse in case you’re unable to.

Next, your spouse will have a medical examination by a State Department-approved doctor, then schedule a fingerprinting appointment at a visa application support center.

Once this is done, the green card interview is scheduled.

The Green Card Interview

This is the final step in the green card application process, and for many the most stressful and difficult part. It’s wise to go into the interview with an organized file and an idea of what questions the officer will ask.

The spouse living abroad attends the interview in their home country. The sponsoring spouse is sometimes not allowed to attend.

If the consular officer is sufficiently convinced that the marriage is not fraudulent, they may approve the green card application on the spot. But the officer may also:

  • Request for Evidence (RFE): ask for additional documentary evidence that your relationship is authentic. For example, requesting additional utility bills, bank statement, affidavits from your friends and family, etcetera.
  • Additional Review: the officer will review your case and then send you the decision in the mail.
  • Second Interview: the officer will invite you to return for a second interview to discuss certain areas of your relationship or background.
  • Denial: If the officer believes that the marriage is not bona fide the case may be outright denied. A denial may be on the spot. Factors that lead to denial include insufficient documents, issues uncovered in a background check, or immigration history issues. More often than not, the officer will give you a chance to clear up such issues before making a final decision.

Once you’ve been approved, your spouse has six months to enter the United States before the visa expires.

To ensure that you get the best possible result for your case, have an attorney guide you through the process and ensure that you’re prepared for all situations. For help with spousal petition and consular processing, contact Daphne@HankinsImmigration.com or call at +82 10 3184 6858.

Applying for a US Tourist Visa as a Filipino citizen comes with its unique challenges

Getting a visa to the United States can be a challenge for citizens of some countries, even if you only want a visa for a short amount of time.

For Filipino citizens, temporary visas are obtained through the U.S. Embassy in Manila. These temporary visas are nonimmigrant, which means that you will not be able to use it to obtain a green card or citizenship in the United States. However, there are many different types of visas which fall into the nonimmigrant category, with different visas requiring different things from their applicant.

There’s a general sense that it is difficult for Filipino citizens to obtain US Tourist visas (B-2), though the processing for applying for a US tourist visa as a Filipino citizen is fairly standard.

Beyond the basics of having a valid passport, you will first want to apply for a B-2 visa, which is for persons who wish to enter the US temporarily for tourism, pleasure, or visiting. With a B-2 visa you’re permitted to visit friends and relatives, participate in social events, sports and contests (so long as you’re not being paid to participate), and even enroll in short term courses for recreational study so long as that study does not give you credit towards a degree. An example of recreational study is taking a weekend long cooking class.

However, there are certain activities which are not permitted by those using a B-2 visa. Broadly, these are study, employment, paid performances, and any effort to stay long term to permanently in the United States.

To begin the application process, you must obtain and complete the DS-160 Form. This form must be submitted online as well as printed and brought to your interview. You will need to upload a picture of you that is formatted to meet the US embassy requirements.

Next, you must schedule an interview at the U.S. Embassy with the exception being if you’re under the age of 13 or over the age of 80.

With a B-2 visa, you will need to pay $160 USD or 7,933 PHP (as of April, 2017). This is a non-refundable, non-transferable visa application fee. You can pay your fee at Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) or, if you are an account holder at Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) or BancNet, you can pay online. The visa application fee must be paid whether a visa is issued or not.

Once you have paid, you may request multiple entries with a validity period of 120 months for your B-2 visa.

While this speaks to the legal process that an applicant must go through to obtain a B-2 visa, a Filipino applicant may still be denied if he or she does not carefully consider other nuances, which arise primarily in the interview.

At the interview, you should expect to be interrogated by the Consular Officer. There have been many people who have had difficult experiences with Consular Officers. The reason for this is that some Filipino citizens who come to the United States on a tourist visa choose to overstay their visas. It’s a phenomena that is described as tago nagn tago, literally “hiding and hiding”, and the reason for the sometimes gruff to rude behavior of these Consular Officers. For this reason, you may want to compile a file that shows that you have significant ties to the Philippines. Significant ties meaning family, assets, or a business that provides enough motivation to return to the Philippines once your visa has expired.

Failure to do so may lead to the rejection of your visa. If this occurs, you will have no choice but to re-apply, and re-pay your $160 fee. There are no refunds with rejections.