Cohabiting partners are also eligible for US visasBy Lourdes Santos Tancinco
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Spouses of nonimmigrant visa holders are usually granted derivative status and visas to be with their spouses abroad. A legal relationship must ordinarily be established to be eligible for such a visa. But for those who have been living together without the benefit of marriage, there is still an existing regulation that will allow them to be together during a temporary trip abroad.
Ruel and Maria have been living together for 10 years. They are not married but they have 2 children. For the past seven years, Ruel has been working as a Product Manager for a manufacturing company that is a subsidiary of a large multinational US-based company.
Recently, he was promoted to manage a small team in the US. He would like to bring Maria and their two children with him.
The US company filed a petition for Ruel as an intracompany manager. Ruel applied for his visa at the US Embassy in Manila. His two minor children were allowed to accompany him. But what about Maria?
Common law spouses
For those living together without the benefit of marriage and who can document their lengthy relationship, the B2 classification could be an appropriate visa for Maria. Note that this rule applies only to those who are traveling as temporary workers, investors, students and diplomats posted in the US.
To qualify for a B2 nonimmigrant visa as a domestic partner, the applicant must still prove the temporary nature of the activity in the United States. For instance, in the case of Ruel, he should show that they will return to Manila after a brief stay abroad.
Usually, nonimmigrant workers or students are granted more than a year’s stay. For the cohabiting partner, he or she will usually be granted an initial one year under the B2 visa and then the partner can apply for extensions in increments of six months or until such time that her partner returns to the Philippines after accomplishing the intended activity.
Same sex partners, too
Cohabiting partners include both those of the opposite sex as well as same sex partners. This was the interpretation made more than a decade ago by then former Secretary of State Colin
Powell in his July 1, 2001. Referring to the cohabiting partners’ visa, he emphasized long-term relationships—and this could be true for both opposite and same sex partners.
Those who are granted visas to accompany their partners must prove that the relationship is genuine and has existed for a long time. There should be proof of the viability of the relationship such as statements of joint finances, lease or deed of sale of their home, partnership agreements, if available, etc.
Since the visa that will be made available is the B2 visa, the cohabiting partner must still show that he or she has strong ties to the Philippines. This means that the applicant should show that he or she intends to return to the Philippines after the brief stay abroad. A long-term relationship will be a critical factor.
If, however, the principal applicant still has an existing relationship with a legal spouse but maintains a live-in partner, the latter may not be eligible for the B2 visa. Just like an applicant for a visitor’s visa, the standards for eligibility of a domestic partner are high.
(Tancinco may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 721 1963 or 887 7177)