If A Filipino Marriage Isn’t Recorded, Does It Exist?

Marriage, Nationality and Divorce

If A Filipino Marriage Isn’t Recorded, Does It Exist?

(updated 13 October 2018)

I’ve written many times before on this subject, and no doubt I’ll write more, it’s a very common question.

Here’s a recent readers question from the comments section, let’s take it apart and perhaps a lively discussion will get started.

Let me first make two disclaimers:

  1. I am not a lawyer and nothing I write here should be considered legal advice, it’s my personal opinion and personal interpretations ONLY.
  2. I would never, knowingly, advocate EVER, under any circumstances falsifying documents being submitted to the US government.

That being said, let’s hear from my reader:

My Reader’s Question

I have a question and i hope you can help me.. I was married and divorced in Dubai but never registered it here in the Philippines and upon checking all my documents here says that I’m still single.

What do you think, is she really married?  

OK, this is where my somewhat “tongue in cheek” article title comes from.

A very old philosophical question has been posed for many years … “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it. does it make a sound”?

Well people can discuss and argue and make all sorts of statements on this (many regarding an argument about what “sound” really is), but what can be said with relative certainty is this:

When the tree falls there will be vibrations of the air which would certainly be a “sound” if an ear where there to hear it.

If It Happened, It Happened

Doesn’t matter if it is a tree falling or the taking of marriage vows,

Legally and morally, a marriage and then a subsequent divorce actually occurred.

If our reader were to ignore this fact and to fill up and sign official US documents which did not disclose this fact, it’s my personal opinion she would be untruthful and committing a crime under US law.

Open and shut case?  Perhaps, but read the rest of her question:

Now i want to remarry to a foreign man(American) and my fiance’ wants to file for K1 visa for me , my question is, will the US government accept my marriage and divorce certificate abroad without it being recognized here in the Philippines?

If not what are the steps that I need to take so that i can remarry legally?  

I Say Disclose the Marriage and Subsequent Divorce and Let The Chips Fall Where They May

To apply for the US K series Fiancee’ visa there are two important forms to fill out (fill up if you are in the Philippines ;-).

The application for the visa itself, the I-129F form and, for the beneficiary/proposed recipient of the visa, the G-325F biographical data form.

In addition to all the fields requiring entry of data on both these forms, it’s important to note the explicit warnings printed on these forms

I-129F Petition Penalty Warnings

You may by law be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined $250,000, or both, for entering into a marriage contract for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws, and you may be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned upon to five years, or both, for knowingly and willfully falsifying or concealing a material fact or using any false document in submitting this petition.

This is actually two separate warnings in one.

The first part, promising jail time and a $250,00 fine is specifically addressed to people who might be committing outright fraud, as in petitioning and then marrying a foreigner simply so that he or she can become a US Permanent Resident with a path toward citizenship.

Sounds outlandish to some but if you think this sort of Immigration fraud doesn’t happen?  I’ve got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

It’s the second part of the warning which concerns this reader’s question the most.  Up to $10,000 fine and up to five years in jail.

G-325F Biographical Data Penalty Warning

Penalties: Severe penalties are provided by law for knowingly and willfully falsifying or concealing a material fact.

If a Filipino applicant willfully submits false information on the G325F, the US State Department can take whatever legal action they wish, but you know what the most common penalty imposed is?

A ban from entering the USA for a period varying from several years to life.

That’s right, a lifetime ban from entering the USA “just” for falsifying facts submitted to the US government.

Strict?  Oh, yes, it is.

Does it ever happen?  Oh yes, it does, indeed.

So What Can This Reader Do?

If A Filipino Marriage Isn't Recorded, Does It Exist?In my opinion, nothing she (and her fiance’) can do except forge ahead, disclosing all facts.

Under US law, I believe sheThe application may sail right through the process at the US Embassy, if what the reader means when she says  “all my documents here says that I’m still single.” is that she has a CENOMAR from the Philippine PSA (Formerly NSO).

A CENOMAR indicates the Philippines has no record of the person being reported on being married.  Perhaps the application will pass right on through.

If the K-1 processing IS held up because the applicant truthfully all my documents here says that I’m still single reported her marriage and the subsequent divorce, the only legal resource I know of is to file a case with the Philippine court to recognize the foreign divorce.

Without knowing the details of the Dubai divorce, I can’t offer an informed opinion.

  1. If the former husband was also a Filipino, and the wedding took place under Christian rites, the divorce won’t be recognized, period.  Filipino citizens are not allowed to divorce.
  2. If the marriage took place un Shari’a (Islamic) rites, then the reader can seek a divorce through the Shari’a court system here in the Philippines.  Islamic Law does allow divorce, and a Shari’a court divorce decree is recognized by both the Philippine and US government.
  3. But most importantly, if the reader has documentation of the Dubai divorce and her CENOMAR, she should proceed exactly as the I-129F and G-325F forms direct her to.

Personally, I’d fill up all the forms, truthfully and completely and then submit, with the CENOMAR, and see what happens first.  It’s the legal, moral and ethical thing to do, or so “Philly” opines.

The Reason This Is So Complicated

My reader is still married, in one sense, under the Philippine law.  She might or might not be able to get the Dubai divorce accepted by a Philippine court.  If she wants to marry in the Philippines, this is essential.

But she doesn’t want to marry in the Philippines.  She wants to go to the USA and marry there.  She only needs to satisfy the US that she has “the capacity to marry”, that is, that she is not married.

Here’s what a prominent US immigration attorney has to say on a similar situation:

You don’t need a Philippine annulment to get married in the U.S.

First, divorce is recognized in the U.S. for U.S. immigration purposes. You do not need to annul your marriage in the Philippines in order to get married in the U.S. Instead, you can divorce your spouse in the U.S., which would constitute a valid termination of your first marriage, enabling you to enter into a second marriage.  (Uncontested divorces, where the other party will sign the papers, and not contest the divorce, typically takes about 6 months. That’s a lot shorter than the time for an annulment.  Further, in most states, you don’t need a reason for divorcing; just “irreconcilable differences,” or “we just don’t love each other anymore”.  In the Philippines, there usually has to be a reason, like abandonment, psychological incapacity etc.)


Third, U.S. immigration law is clear that if a divorce is valid and recognized where it was obtained, it will be recognized for immigration purposes. Therefore, if you obtain a valid U.S. divorce, it will be recognized by USCIS, and with that divorce, you could marry your boyfriend. ….

So what do you think?  Should she disclose her previous marriage and divorce?

If A Filipino Marriage Isn’t Recorded, Does It Exist?



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