Hello, everyone. I hope you are all doing great. I got my US Spousal Visa, from US Embassy-Manila, delivered a couple weeks ago. Since then, I've received tons of emails from people asking me the same questions. Instead of replying each person individually, I've decided to share the whole experience here. I will share with you how my husband and I processed my US spousal visa (IR1) — from filing up forms, to paying fees, getting interviewed and waiting for my actual visa.
Before I move forward, I want to share with you a no-brainer tip in getting your visa approved — prepare all the needed documents (both originals and photocopies), follow instructions, be honest during the interview, and do not hesitate to ask questions or do your own research if you are confused over something.
And oh, try to grab some popcorn or a coffee, because this is going to be a long post. Sit down, get comfortable, and enjoy reading — I will try to go into all the details. Here we go.
Daniel and I have been married for almost 4 years. We finally decided last year that it’s about time for us to live together. So we started working on the needed documents and started the process — we decided not to use an agency because we think we can do the whole thing on our own, and we successfully did.
PART 1: Submitting a Petition for Alien Relative
The first step in the whole process is for the sponsor to file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You have to take note that only a citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States can apply an immigrant visa to sponsor a foreign national, a Filipino in my case. Daniel and I had a long check list of the things needed to help us prepare our I-130 correctly. Here are the documents we sent –listed them in an order or the way we assemble our package.
Ø Required Fee of $420. We paid using Daniel’s credit card. You can get a copy of USCIS credit card payment form online.
Ø A completed and signed Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative
Ø Proof of US Citizenship: We sent photocopies of Daniel’s (petitioner) US passport and birth certificate as proof of his US citizenship.
Ø A copy of our marriage certificate.
Ø A copy of Daniel’s divorce decree.
Ø A completed and signed Form G-325A (biographic information). Note that you need to send two copies of this, one for the petitioner (Daniel’s copy) and one for the spouse (my copy).
Ø A passport-size 2x2 colored-picture ID. This should be stapled to the lower right hand corner of your completed Form G-325A. Don’t forget to write your name or your husband’s name on the back of each photograph.
Ø We also submitted a completed Form G-1145 form so we can receive an email or text message or e-notifications from USCIS regarding our petition. Note that this is optional.
Our application was sent to:
PO Box 21700, Phoenix, AZ 85036
We did get a confirmation on July 30, 2015 that our Form I-130 immigrant petition for relative was approved. It took us about a month before we got the approval confirmation. After a week, August 7, 2015, we received another notification that our case was sent or forwarded to the Department of State (NVC) for visa pre-processing.
PART 2: NVC Processing – Fees and Completion of Required Documents
On August 21, 2015, we received a mail from NVC, an invoice and a document cover sheet. In the letter we were instructed to go to http://nvc.state.gov to follow and complete the six steps to begin our NVC Processing.
· Part 2 – Step 1: CHOOSE AN AGENT. You can act as your own agent, but you can assign your sponsor (petitioner), a family member, or your lawyer as your agent. You need to formally select an agent to represent you for your visa processing. In our case, I assigned Daniel (my husband) and myself, as my case’s agent. You can do this process by visiting the Consular Electronic Application Center – Immigrant/Diversity Visa portal.
· Part 2 – Step 2: PAY FEES. After choosing an agent, you need to pay for the processing fees. There are two processing fees:
1. Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee (IV) - $325. In paying this, you will need your NVC Case Number and the Invoice Number which you can find in the NVC welcome letter that was sent to you. Once you have those two information, log into the Immigrant Visa Invoice Payment Center and pay your IV.
2. Affidavit of Support Fee - $120. You cannot pay both fees simultaneously. You have to wait another one or two weeks after you pay your IV fee, or you can pay this as soon as you receive your Affidavit of Support Fee Invoice. In our case, it took almost 2 weeks before we got our invoice.
· Part 2 – Step 3 to 6: SUBMIT DS-260 AND REQUIRED DOCUMENTS TO NVC. You will only be able to access your DS-260 Application for an Immigrant Visa after you finished paying your fees. You just can’t simply access this form online. After I finished filling up the DS-260 online, we started collecting all our supporting documents. Here’s the list of documents we submitted to the NVC. We sent the following documents in an order shown in the document cover sheet.
1. ON TOP: Document Cover Sheet (sent along with the NVC welcome letter)
2. Financial Documents: Most of these documents belong to Daniel, my husband who is my petitioner/sponsor.
i. Affidavit of Support
ii. Federal Income Tax Returns
iii. Form W2
iv. Evidence of Income. Daniel sent his US Navy pay slip.
v. Proof of Relationship. We sent a photocopy of our marriage certificate, as well as a copy of Daniel’s insurance that states that I am one of his beneficiaries.
vi. Proof of US Status. Daniel sent a photocopy of his passport and birth certificate as proof of his citizenship.
vii. Proof of Assets. We didn’t send anything for this one, but if you have one, send them, that would definitely help you out.
3. Supporting Documents: Most of these documents belong to me, the beneficiary.
i. A photocopy of my birth certificate.
ii. Daniel’s divorce decree.
iii. A photocopy of my valid passport.
iv. Two pieces of 2x2 inch colored-ID picture.
v. Police Certificate: In my case, I send a photocopy of my NBI Clearance.
After we collected all our documents, we submitted them in ONE package to NVC. It is important that you send all your required documents. Failing to submit them may delay your NVC process. Make sure that you only send PHOTOCOPIES of your civil documents. You need your ORIGINAL copies with you during your visa interview.
Our visa application and documents were sent to:
31 Rochester Ave. Suite 100, Portsmouth, NH 03801-2914
PART 3: Medical Examination
On December 30, 2015, we received an email from NVC. The email was to inform us that our immigrant visa petition has been forwarded to the U.S. Embassy in Manila and I was scheduled for an interview on February 11, 2016 at 7:30am.
After I received the interview letter through email, I decided to get my medical examination done on January 19-20, 2016. You can click here to read my detailed experience and to get some useful tips.
I also want to remind everyone that the U.S. Embassy only accredits medical examination from St. Luke’s Medical Center Extension Clinic. This place is located at 1177 J. Bocobo Street, Ermita, Manila 1000. It’s just walking distance from the U.S. Embassy.
Note that you cannot have your medical test done elsewhere and you won’t get interviewed if you don’t have your sealed medical examination result.
PART 4: My Spousal Visa (IR1) Interview
Before I had my interview, I made sure that I have everything prepared. I prepared the following documents and made two copies of each civil document I have.
Ø Visa Interview Letter. I made two copies of this.
Ø Printed copy of my DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application Confirmation.
Ø A Valid Passport.
Ø Birth Certificate.
Ø Marriage Certificate.
Ø CEMAR or Certificate of Marriage. This is different from CENOMAR and yes, you need this. In getting this document, you will have to fill up a cenomar form. If you are married, the document that they will send you will indicate your name and your spouse’s name, and that’s the CEMAR.
Ø Police Clearance. In the Philippines, we submit an NBI clearance instead of a simple police clearance. Make sure the one you got is no more than 1 year ago.
Ø I printed our chat logs, email logs and call logs.
Ø I also printed some photos of us together as additional proof of our relationship.
Ø I also had copies of money transfers, mostly Western Union receipts.
One more thing, before your interview date, make sure to register at www.ustraveldocs.com/ph and fill up the required information. You need to update your file and put the mailing address where you want your visa delivered. Without this, you will experience delay with your visa delivery just like what happened to me.
Anyway, let’s move to my visa interview experience. On February 11, 2016, I went to the U.S. Embassy Manila, with my Mom. I was scheduled for an interview at 7:30am, so Mom and I went there an hour early. I lined up with the rest of the applicants for immigrant visa – Fiancée and Spousal. While in the line, I prepared my passport and interview letter. The USEM staff checked them – they put my passport in a plastic bag and handed back to me.
Note that the following items are not allowed inside the Embassy: mobile phones, mp3 players, iPods, laptops, and even bottled water.
After going through the security scanner, I found 3 windows. I dropped my interview letter in one of the windows and they gave me a number and returned the appointment letter to me.
After getting my number, I was told to go to door 2. Inside, I had to go through 5 steps during my interview process, but it was quick.
ü Step 1: Finger Scanning
ü Step 2: Pre-screening. A Filipina woman was assigned to pre-screen me. She asked my assigned number first, and pulled out my file from the computer. She then asked for my passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, and NBI clearance. She then started asking me questions; my name, birth date, the date of my marriage and Daniel’s U.S. address. After the questions, she told me to proceed to the next step.
ü Step 3: Oath Taking. A smiling American lady was waiting for me at the window. She told me to raise my right hand and recite the oath. After the oath, I was asked for my full name and date of birth, and was told to get my finger print scanned again.
ü Step 4: Consul Interview. I was interviewed by a Korean woman. She wasn’t very friendly at all. But it’s okay. She asked for my documents: birth certificate, marriage certificate, report of our marriage (Cemar), and photos of us together. She then asked for my name, my birth date, my husband’s name, his birth date, date of our marriage, how many times he got married, how many times he visited me, and as well as the work of my husband. After that, the consul told me that my documents are perfect and my visa is approved. I was like, “did you say my visa got approved?” I can’t believe with what I heard that’s why I asked her again. She told me yes and told me to proceed to step 5.
ü Step 5: Releasing. I had a not-so-funny experience in here. I had to wait for more than an hour because they couldn’t find my document. I was told that the consul hasn’t forwarded anything to them and I was even asked if I am sure that I did get approved. I had to check with the guy at the window every 10 minutes. Finally, after more an hour, they got my documents and told me that everything is good and that the visa will just be delivered to my home address.
PART 5: My Visa Delivery via 2Go
I was a bit worried on this one. I was told that applicants within Metro Manila usually get their visa in less than 5 days, but in my case, it took a little while. I think it is because I fail to register at www.ustraveldocs.com/ph. My visa got delivered 3 days after I registered online, which is the 10th day after my visa interview date.
So there you go. That’s our whole visa experience. It was quite a long and frustrating journey but it’s all worth it. I will soon be flying to the US and live with my husband.
I hope I have helped in anyways I can with your Visa preparations. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me through the comment section below. I would also love to hear your visa journey stories. Cheers!