Why Can’t My Filipina Wife Get a Tourist Visa To The USA?

Filipina US tourist visa

Why Can’t My Filipina Wife Get a Tourist Visa To The USA?

(Updated 2 November 2020)

Updated and corrected to bring it up to date

This question comes up frequently.  Often there is a lot of anger attached as a US citizen husband finds out that his lawfully married foreign spouse can’t get a US B2 Visitor (Tourist) Visa, despite having all paperwork and immigration status documents in order.

The Anger Is Fully Justified, In My View

But it doesn’t matter if you are angry, or even if I am angry in support of your position.

In many cases. the Tourist visa just ain’t going to happen.  Why?

The US Visa System Just Doesn’t “Fit” the Way Most Expat Families Live

And it’s not likely to change any time soon.

Everything about the US Immigration system is geared to handle two things:

1. Tourists (Temporary Visitors) Who Have No Attachment To The USA


2. Spouses Of US Citizens Who Want To Come To the USA to Establish Legal Residence (Get a Green Card)

There’s Little Room in the Mind f the State Department For Any Other Category

Now, of course, I think this is wrong as rain.  I’m an American, native-born and I lived the first 20 years of my life in the USA.  Then I went into the US military and lived in many countries during 38 years of combined military and civilian government service.

I could live anywhere in the world, basically.  (But I chose, more than 17 years ago, to live full-time in the Philippines.

I met and married a wonderful woman who was a Phillippine citizen, brought her to the USA on a K-1 Fiancee’ visa, and she eventually became a US citizen.

As soon as she attained her US citizenship, she reacquired her Philippine citizenship under the provisions of the Philippine Republic Act 9225, commonly called the Dual Citizen Act.

We then moved back to the Philippines, built a home, and have made our life there for nearly 14 years.

So my wife never had an occasion to apply for a US Tourist visa.  We followed the number 2. “mindset” above of the US State Department.

My fiancee’ at the time, wanted to come to the USA to qualify for Legal Permanent Residency (a Green Card). so we followed the steps of that process like dutiful little school children following their teacher’s guidance.

We were “normal” in the view of the US government.

Now, of course, we (as US citizens) are sort of “abnormal”, because we only visit the USA occasionally.  But it doesn’t matter for our discussion here, since, as US citizens, neither my wife nor I ever have to apply for any sort of visa to enter our country of citizenship, the US of A, ever.

But What If I Had Come To The Philippines And Married And My Wife Never Went To The USA?

Well if I, as a US citizen still chose to live in the Philippines and my wife didn’t want to go to the US to become a resident, we would definitely fall into the State Department’s “Abnormal” category.

Many people who read this blog and many other US citizens will be happy to talk your ear off about how hard the USA makes it for married couples to live normally if one spouse is a foreigner and does not choose to emigrate and seek residence in the USA,

Seems Perfectly Normal To Any Thinking Person That a Married Couple Might Want To Visit The USA, but Not Move There Permanently.

Perhaps they want the spouse to meet the US citizen’s family.

Perhaps they just want to see where their spouse grew up and also visit their own Philippine family in the USA.

Maybe they just want to visit the Magic Kingdom in Orlando or Disney Land in Anaheim.

Whatever it really doesn’t matter.

The US citizen half of the couple is certainly going to believe that s/he has that much freedom left (even after the TSA and the American Patriot Act).  But he or she would be wrong.

To The US Embassy Manila, This Seems So Abnormal They Almost Never Allow It.

When the foreigner spouse applies for a B2 Visitor Visa to accompany his or her US spouse, they are almost 100% turned down.

When a reason is given (sometimes the disapproval is abrupt and discourteous), the Consular Officer will often say … “You’re asking for the wrong visa.  Since you are married, you should be asking for a Spousal Visa so you can properly emigrate to the USA”.

Never mind that the couple’s intention is NOT to stay longer than a brief visit in the USA, and never mind that the foreigner spouse has no intention or desire to become a US permanent resident, this is the “locked-in” mindset of the Embassy.

The concept of a foreigner who _CAN_ enter the USA and _CAN_ legally seeks residency, but chooses not to is just too bizarre for the Embassy personnel to comprehend.  The couple might as well be speaking Klingon or Swahili.

The Aspect Of Visa Fraud Is Always On The Embassy’s Mind Also

Many couples I know of that have been caught in this pickle have had Consular Officers tell them, outright, “It appears to us that you are just trying to “beat the system” by not applying for a spousal visa.”

In other words, the Consular Officers believe the couples to be liars.

Insulting.  Unfair.  Degrading.  But it happens. time and time again.

Why Would A Consular Officer  Suspect The Couple Be Lying?

Well, the “normal” path for a couple to go to the USA and have the wife get Legal Permanent Resident status is for them to file an IR1 or CR1 Spousal visa.

These cost real money … easily over several thousand dollars before all fees come due and are paid.

Also, these visas take a lot of time to complete, often more than one year total.

And normally, the US sponsor for one of these visas has to travel to the USA and establish legal residency there, as well as meeting (now much more strict) income requirements.

A B2 Tourist visa costs only $160 and is processed in a few weeks.

That’s a Powerful Temptation To Take a Shortcut.

Now if a couple did try to take such a short cut, once the wife exceeded the amount of time she was granted upon entry to the USA, she would become an illegal … an undocumented alien, subject to deportation.

But if they have a home, and the US citizen spouse earns a living, the foreigner half of the married couple could live in the USA for years and years and never be discovered.

To many folks, this would be worth the risk.  It’s like a lottery ticket.  Occasionally they can pay off big.

So, looking at the situation from both sides, one can see why the Consular officer might, indeed, be suspicious.

Strategies That Might Help Get The Visa, Despite Suspicion

It always comes down to the intention to return to the Philippines.

Overcoming the presumption of intent to immigrate.

One couple I knew not too long ago got a Tourist visa for the Philippine wife to visit the US with the husband on their first try.  Approved.  No problems.

The US citizen husband gave me these tips:

  1.  They had a bank loan, with both their names on the loan document to buy a 50-year lease on a house.
  2.  They had a car, with both their names on the title.
  3.  The wife was enrolled in a Master’s program at a local college and they were traveling during semester break.
  4.  The husband’s pension was going directly to their joint bank account in the Philippines.
  5.  Both parties held office in their local Homeowners Association and had certificates to show it

In other words, they prested evidence of strong ties to the Philippines.

I don’t know if these ideas will be of any help to other readers, but’s that what I wanted to discuss today.  It certainly not easy for your wife to get a visa to visit the US with you, but it can be done.

Any other comments on Why Can’t My Filipina Wife Get a Tourist Visa To The USA?

7 thoughts on “Why Can’t My Filipina Wife Get a Tourist Visa To The USA?”

  1. This comment came in on FB from another American whose wife _DID_ successfully get her 10 years Tourist Visa. Thanks Patrick.

    Patrick Patterson ok to describe the process, I filled out the internet form not her, not a big deal and like you come from a LEO background so forms are something we do all the time.

    The main thing they are looking for is that she has ties to the community and are coming home not doing a B2 and disappearing into the country, .

    In my case my wife had a bachelors degree, had several bank accounts in her name ane she owns the house we live in.

    I made sure that I pointed out why we were going to the US ( meeting my family with my new wife) where I was going, for how long and when we were returning back to the Philippines.

    To be honest she told me that the interviewer spent all of 30 seconds with he before granting a 10 year multi visit visa, we have been back several times and for that matter are visiting in Guam as I type this.

    (Phillys Comment) This is common. These guys and gals have a workload of as many as 100 appicants per day. Make it simple for them and dont waste their time trying to figure out what you want.

    My pensions do not go into the PI, other than me having a PRA visa nothing special and 30 years span our ages in the marriage, again I have been told by retired INS guys that after checking the majority background info on the application they mostly have made up their minds by interview time.

  2. I believe owning a house is a big factor. Let me give an example:

    Lawyer Friend A who was not a lawyer yet and did not have a house but worked many years in the private sector first applied for a US tourist visa after graduating from law school. She got denied. Several years later and after buying a house and traveling a few times, applied again; she got approved.
    Lawyer friend B, newly graduated, without a house and without travels yet, applied for a US tourist visa. Denied the first time. Several years later, bought a house, a car and travelled a little. Applied again she was approved.
    Lawyer friend C worked several years as a lawyer already, hardly travelled, but owns her own house. Approved the first time around.
    Lawyer relative, applied before she was even a lawyer. No travels yet but owns a house placed under her name by my Lawyer Auntie. US Visa approved first time around.

    It appears having a house is a big factor.

    1. @ Claudette

      Indeed you are right, Claudette. When I look at the Phil/Am couples I know where the wife was granted a visa, homeownership or a long-term, written lease agreement seem to be a factor in all of them. Thanks again for contributing.

  3. Hello Dave and everyone reading!

    My wife and I want to go to the U.S. in Oct 2020 for my daughter’s wedding. However, after reading Claudette’s post and your reply, it seems she won’t be able to get the B-2 visa, as she owns no home or property, doesn’t own a business, is not a government employee, has never travelled outside of PI, etc.

    Anyway, I called the U.S. Embassy (today, Dec. 9, 2019), to get the numbers for the Visa Call Center, and the numbers given in the recording are not complete/correct. I called the embassy main line, got the operator and got the correct numbers. Please take note:


    Any other helpful comments or advice would be appreciated. I would prefer not to go to my daughter’s wedding without my wife, but we are planning for that option just in case.

    Thanks, take care, God bless.

    Lewis & Nora

    1. @ Lewis

      Thanks for contributing, and thanks for the update on the Phone numbers. I modified my last article on the Embassy phone numbers to include your changes.

      Your wife’s chances of a tourist visa for the specific purpose of attending your daughter’s wedding may not be hopeless. Everything seems to revolve around the permanent ties she may have that will make her want to return to the Philippines. You say she owns no property, but how long have the two of you lived here as man and wife? Got a lease on the home where you’re living? Just one thought/one example.

      You’ve got 11 months to come up with ties here that will cause her to return. Hope this might be of some help. Godspeed.

  4. so there’a not much chance of getting your girlfriend to visit you for a month in the US when u met online? and you pay fr air fare from he US ?

    1. @ Chaz

      Thanks for commenting. The answer to your question is, very little chance, Chaz. The key is, what will convince the consular officer that she is going to return to the Philippines at the end of her visit.

      Sorry to sound like the voice of doom, but that’s the way the facts are stacked.

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