I have received a lot of queries over the years about visitor (B2) visas to the US for Filipinos. How do they work, how much do they cost, can my girlfriend get one, etc. It occurred to me today that I hadn’t written about these issues in some time, when I opened an email from a reader here with some specific questions. Here are a few thoughts on the subject from my answer to him, along with some important source links. This can be a very difficult subject, so be sure you go to official sources.
This is also a prime area for fixers to pop out of the woodwork … there are probably more “fixer problems’” in this area than any other legal activity I know of in the Philippines. Be sure you follow the official US State Department steps, and use only real, true legal documents. You can’t go buying a birth certificate on Recto Street and expect to get a visa issued. The folks at the US embassy have seen every scam in the book, there are no legitimate shortcuts..
Thanks for writing. Yes, foreigners may have a very difficult time visiting the US, depending mainly upon their nationality, age, marital status and economic means. I am assuming that you are writing about a friend in the
Philippines who holds Philippine citizenship, correct? Essentially anyone who wants to visit the US must hold a valid
Second, those from countries which do not have a reciprocal ‘no visa’ agreement with the US must have a visa, issued by the US State Department in their home country before they can depart for the trip. The Philippines falls in that category, Filipinos must have a visa before they can board a flight to the US.
Any Filipino has the right to apply for a US visitor’s visa. It can even be done online now from the US embassy, Manila, website. It costs US $131, cash, and the application fee is non-refundable. You also might want to also read this page from the Embassy … always better to go to the source rather than listening to ‘what people tell you’.
As the State Department says, their main concern is evidence that will convince the Consular Officer that the applicant has ties here in the Philippines sufficient to cause the applicant to return to the Philippines. Typically this includes real estate or incorporated business owned here, spouse, family, higher-level employment, etc.
There are at any given time hundreds of thousands of Filipinos "overstaying" their visas, that is, failing to return to the Philippines. Sad fact, but it’s the truth. The Filipinos even have a slang for it, Tent … tango nag tango … literally translates to "hiding and hiding".
A young person is usually very high risk, as they typically have no substantial ties here in the Philippines … nothing to lose if they leave and don’t return. A young, single woman is a particularly high risk, because in addition to the possible intent she will find illegal (but readily available) work in the US and fail to return, she may find a husband in the US and not even have to worry about finding a job.
If the consular officer gets the idea she is trying to visit the US to meet an available man, it’s a virtual certainty the application will be denied … there’s virtually no chance she is coming back to the Philippines if he
issues her the visa to allow her entry.
These are the cold hard facts of life, my friend. Her word means nothing … all applicants are basically treated as if they are lying (mainly because a huge percentage of them _are_). Your word means nothing. A US citizen has no real say in the matter. Also, realistically, the US citizen has no control over the visitor after s/he enters. Remember too, realistically, you do not know this woman at all. If it were to turn out she is not who you think she is in real life, what
alternatives would you have?
You can’t call the police and have her arrested for overstaying, if she runs off on her own the only crime is an immigration violation, you can only report the offense to the USCIS (formerly the INS) and they will add her to the list for apprehension/deportation. Typically that could take 10 years, so you can see why this is considered a worthwhile gamble for Filipinos … even if eventually caught, they might get 10 years or more in the US for a hundred thirty one dollar visitor visa … better odds than buying lottery tickets for sure.
Many Americans get really angry when you bring out the facts this way. Get used to it. In immigration matters you have little or no say in the matter. Just look at the news every day with people constantly complaining about
illegal immigrants, even arming themselves and threatening violence in some cases, and you’ll see why the laws are the way they are … if I were a Consular Officer, I’d probably deny a huge percentage of the applicants I
interviewed as well.
Hope this answers your questions, although I doubt the answers made you happy. You want to meet this young lady? Come to the Philippines yourself.
If you think I have missed the mark on anything here, or you want valid legal advice, which my meanderings certainly are not, this fellow is one of the world’s leading experts on US/Philippine immigration issues, and he will
give you straight, honest advice: http://www.gurfinkel.com/ (this is not a commercial link, I have no connection with attorney Gurfinkel), I just know he is a straight shooter and helps a lot of people with these sort of issues.