Why PH is the world’s ‘US fiancé visa’ capital
Filipinos may have the lowest US visitor visa issuance rate among foreign countries but not when it comes to fiancé/fiancée visas.
At the recent national immigration law conference held in Washington, it was interesting to discover that the Philippines is considered the fiancé visa capital of the world.
This fact is supported by figures published by the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, which indicates there were 8,525 Philippine nationals petitioned by their US citizen fiancés in 2014.
The Philippines is followed by China and Mexico with 2,177 and 2,101 fiancé visas issued for fiscal year 2014, respectively.
There may be several reasons for the steady rise of issued fiancé visas for Filipinos, such as an increased population of Filipinos in the United States, the ease and ubiquity of online dating services and social media outlets, or even the Philippines’ active tourism campaign of “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” which attracted millions of visitors may have spurred many love connections. Most plausible, however, are the advantages in filing a fiancé visa petition over a spousal petition.
The fiancé visa is a temporary nonimmigrant visa. The expected processing time is generally five to eight months. This is relatively faster than a spousal petition (I-130) by a US citizen, which can take up to one year to process the immigrant visa.
Once the fiancé arrives in the US, the couple must marry within 90 days and file an application for adjustment of status for the “green card.”
Another advantage of the fiancé visa is the inclusion of derivative minor children. If the fiancé has minor children under the age of 21, the US citizen does not need to file separate petitions for the children. They may travel with the fiancé as derivatives.
Unlike spousal petitions where the US citizen and his spouse must have been married before the child turns 18 to qualify as a minor stepchild of the US citizen and a separate petition must be filed for each child.
There are also certain protections afforded to fiancés. If the US citizen has prior arrests or convictions, especially for violence or sexual offenses, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or Department of State consuls will disclose this information to the fiancé/fiancée.
Furthermore, a US citizen with a conviction(s) relating to sexual offense against a minor is prohibited from petitioning for a fiancé/fiancée unless the US citizen can prove to the USCIS that he/she poses no risk to the fiancé/fiancée.
The surprisingly high number of fiancé visas for the Philippines is a testament to the commonality of distant overseas relationships as well as the slow US immigration process for family petitions. Hopefully, most of the fiancé visa holders are now married to their US citizen spouses and living their dreams.
For those who were not fortunate to marry their US citizen fiancés, there are still forms of relief that they may avail of especially if they have been victims of domestic violence.
With the uptick in the number of fiancé visas issued for Filipinos, it is important to increase awareness of spousal rights and domestic violence issues for noncitizens.
(The author may be reached at [email protected], www.
colaw, or at  721-1963.)
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