Why Can’t My Filipina Wife Get a Tourist Visa To The USA?
- 0.1 The Anger Is Fully Justified, In My View
- 0.2 The US Visa System Just Doesn’t “Fit” the Way Most Expat Families Live
- 0.3 1. Tourists (Temporary Visitors) Who Have No Attachment To The USA
- 0.4 2. Spouses Of US Citizens Who Want To Come To the USA to Establish Legal Residence (Get a Green Card)
- 1 We were “normal” in the view of the US government.
- 2 Seems Perfectly Normal To Any Thinking Person That a Married Couple Might Want To Visit The USA, but Not Move There Permanently.
- 3 Whatever it really doesn’t matter.
- 4 To The US Embassy Manila, This Seems So Abnormal They Almost Never Allow It.
- 5 The Aspect Of Visa Fraud Is Always On The Embassy’s Mind Also
- 6 Why Would A Consular Officer Suspect The Couple Be Lying?
- 7 That’s a Powerful Temptation To Take a Shortcut.
- 8 Strategies That Might Help Get The Visa, Despite Suspicion
- 9 In other words, they prested evidence of strong ties to the Philippines.
(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:
- They had a bank loan, with both their names on the loan document to buy a 50-year lease on a house.
- They had a car, with both their names on the title.
- The wife was enrolled in a Master’s program at a local college and they were traveling during semester break.
- The husband’s pension was going directly to their joint bank account in the Philippines.
- 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.
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