Applying for Our US Spousal Visa (IR1) in the Philippines and Getting Approved Without Using an Agency

July 05, 2019

Hi, how are you? Let me start this blog by telling you that I personally think the spousal visa is better than the fiancé visa. I will write a separate post for that. For now, I want to share with you our US spousal visa (IR1) journey without using an agency — from filling out forms to paying fees, getting interviewed, getting approved and waiting for my actual visa.

This will be a very long and honest post — grab a cup of coffee, sit down, get comfortable, and enjoy reading — I will try to go into all the details. Here we go.

PART 1: Gathering of the Needed Documents.
👉The best way to get your US Visa approved is to prepare all the needed documents, both originals, and photocopies. For spousal visa (IR1), here are the documents that we prepared before filing the petition.

  • Both of our Birth Certificates.
  • Marriage Certificate.
  • CEMAR or Certificate of Marriage (Philippines).
  • NBI Clearance (Police Clearance)
  • Federal Income Tax Returns (Sponsor's)
  • Form W2 (Sponsor's)
  • Evidence of Income (Payslip of the Sponsor or bank statements).
  • Proof of Sponsor’s US Citizenship.
  • Divorce Decree (my husband’s)
  • Military Record (my husband’s)

💡Note: We spent less than $1,500 US dollars in this whole process. This includes $420 for Form I-130, $325 for the IV Application Processing Fee, $120 for the Affidavit of Support, $213 for the Medical Exam, and the rest of the expenses are from acquiring local civil documents and transportation.


PART 2: Submitting a Petition for Alien Relative.
👉 After gathering all our needed documents, Daniel (my husband and my sponsor) filed the petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Please 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 checklist of the things needed to help us prepare our I-130 correctly. Here’s how we assembled our petition package.

(1) Required Fee of $420. We paid using my husband’s credit card. You can get a copy of the USCIS credit card payment form online.

(2) A completed and signed Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative

(3) Proof of US Citizenship: We sent photocopies of Daniel’s (petitioner) US passport and birth certificate as proof of his US citizenship.

(4) A copy of our marriage certificate. I got our marriage certificate from NSO Philippines also known as PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority).

(5) A copy of Daniel’s divorce decree.

(6) A completed and signed Form G-325A (biographic information). Note that you need to send two copies of this, one for the petitioner (my husband’s copy) and one for the spouse (my copy).

(7) 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.

(8) 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:
USCIS
ATTN: I-130
PO Box 21700, Phoenix, AZ 85036

We received a confirmation on July 30, 2015, that our Form I-130 immigrant petition for a 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 3: NVC Processing 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.

1.    Part 3-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.

2.    Part 3-Step 2: PAY FEES. After choosing an agent, you need to pay for the processing fees. There are two processing fees:

                           i.        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 that information, log into the Immigrant Visa Invoice Payment Center and pay your IV.

                          ii.        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.

3.    Part 3-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 can’t simply access this form online. After I finished filling out the DS-260 online, we put together our collected 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.

a.    ON TOP: Document Cover Sheet (sent along with the NVC welcome letter)

b. Financial Documents and other documents that are coming from my husband (the petitioner/sponsor):

1.) Affidavit of Support
2.) Federal income tax returns
3.) Form W2
4.) Evidence of Income (Payslip)
5.) Proof of Relationship. We sent a photocopy of our marriage certificate, as well as a copy of Daniel’s insurance that states I am one of his beneficiaries.
6.) Proof of US Status. Daniel sent a photocopy of his passport and birth certificate as proof of his citizenship.
7.) Divorce Decree.
8.) Proof of Assets. Although we didn’t send this, if you have one, send it, that would definitely help you out.  

c.    Supporting Documents coming from me (Philippines).

1.) Photocopy of my birth certificate.
2.) Photocopy of my Philippine passport.
3.) Two pieces of 2x2 inch colored-ID picture.
4.) NBI Clearance (Police clearance).

💡 Note: We submitted all our documents in ONE package to NVC. It is important that you send all your required documents. Failing to submit the required documents 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:

National Visa Center
Attn: DR
31 Rochester Ave. Suite 100Portsmouth, NH  03801-2914

 
PART 4: 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 7:30 am. I had to get my medical examin done before my interview. Here's what I had to do. 

1.) First, I registered online (http://www.slec.ph/us/registration) and printed out a copy of the online registration confirmation. Note that this registration is not an appointment confirmation. Setting up an appointment is actually not necessary as SLEC accommodates on a First Come, First Served Basis. The aim of this online registration is to help you avoid spending too much time filling up your form at SLEC. Your information will be ready, and you only need to have your biometrics captured upon arrival at the reception area.

2.) During the first day of my medical exam, I brought $213.25 (Php11,300) for the fee. This is the amount you need to pay if you are 15 years and older. For less than 15 years old, the fee is $185.35.

3.) Brought the original and photocopy of my passport.

4.) I also prepared 4 pieces of 2x2 colored ID pictures. Make sure your photo has a white background and you are wearing a decent attire with collar & sleeves. Also, write your complete name on the back of each photo.

5.) And I made sure I have the printed copy of the Interview letter from the National Visa Center (NVC) or Visa Interview Appointment Confirmation from the Embassy. I printed 2 copies of this.

💡Note: 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 a walking distance from the U.S. Embassy. Remember 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 5: Preparation for 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.

1.) Visa Interview Letter. I made two copies of this.
2.) A printed copy of my DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application Confirmation.
3.) My Philippine Passport.
4.) Birth Certificate.
5.) Marriage Certificate.  
6.) CEMAR or Certificate of Marriage. Please note that this is different from CENOMAR and yes, you need this. In getting this document, you will have to fill out 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.
7.) 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.
8.) I printed our chat logs, email logs and call logs.
9.) I also printed some photos of us together as additional proof of our relationship.
10.) 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 out 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.

PART 6: The Interview Day
👉 If I have one advice to give to you, it would be to follow instructions and be honest during the interview. One single lie will cost you everything. I have witnessed that during my interview. They know, and they will find out. So, don’t lie.

Anyway, on February 11, 2016, I went to the U.S. Embassy Manila, with my Mom. I was scheduled for an interview at 7:30 am, so Mom and I went there an hour early. I lined up with the rest of the applicants for the immigrant visa – Fiancée and Spousal. While in 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: 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. 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.

 1.) Finger Scanning

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.

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 to state my full name and date of birth and was told to get my fingerprint scanned again.

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 what I heard that’s why I asked her again. She told me yes and told me to proceed to step 5.

 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 7: 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. 

That’s our whole visa experience. It took us five (5) months to process and get approved. It was quite a long and frustrating journey but it’s all worth it. I flew to California on March 18, 2016 and has been staying with my husband since then.


I hope I have helped in any way 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. 

11 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. This is a huge help for those who are just starting. My husband and I just did by ourselves and got approved too. God bless you.

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