Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Required Ph Documents When Petitioning a Filipino Spouse to the US

We write…

Audio Script:

If you are a Filipino married to a U-S citizen and you both decide to settle in the United States, you will go through the U-S immigration process.

First, your American citizen spouse will have to file and receive approval for a petition and affidavit of support on your behalf with the U-S-C-I-S. Then, you will file the immigrant visa application. The process can take between eight and 12 months to finish.

Friday, September 11, 2015

What a Bi-continental Relationship Teaches You

Photo from
We write…

When you live in two different continents from courtship to the first nine months of marriage, the time that you’re finally together is invaluable.

The 7,000 miles of distance between Southeast Asia and North America made the absence from each other difficult to deal with.  Our time apart was filled with longing simply from missing each other when we weren’t “together” on FaceTime or Viber.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Can the USCIS speed up processing time with social media?

uscis on twitter | can the uscis speed up processing time with social media
The USCIS shall begin to hold "office hours" on Tuesday, September 1, 2015, from 3:00-4:00 p.m. EST

He writes...

Tomorrow, September 1, 2015, the USCIS will host its first ever office hours on Twitter from 3:00-4:00 p.m. in an effort to find and implement "new and different ways" to help its customers with questions and updates on the US immigration process.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Surprising Sights in a Developed Country

LA Smog | Surprising Sights in a Developed Country|
A panoramic view of LA and smog at Runyon Canyon.
She writes…

Los Angeles has many panoramic and historical sights.

Aside from being the world’s entertainment capital, it has a destination for every type of tourist— from those who want to explore the great outdoors to those who prefer more intellectual pursuits. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

CFO Online Registration Now a Requirement

CFO | CFO Online Registration Now a Requirement|
CFO Manila is one of only two offices; the other one is in Cebu.

She writes…

Spouses and partners of foreign nationals who have gone through the Commission on Filipinos Overseas Guidance and Counseling before mid-2014 know the patience required in completing this.

(You can read CFO Guidance and Counseling Certificate: A Less Known Immigration Requirement to understand how different the process was more than a year ago.)

Friday, August 7, 2015

The immigrant's career journey: the art of the sell is one of the job aggregators for job hunters.

He writes…

A common aspect of the job search process for any jobseeker is that the search is an arduous full time job in itself. For new immigrants, however, the expectations of friends or relatives of what type of job to pursue tend to add challenges that, although well intentioned, are unnecessary.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

6 Financial Facts You Should Know Before Moving to California

California's housing cost. (Infographic from, click here to see more)

She writes…

As a former outsider, I’ve often associated California with Hollywood, Silicon Valley and the Golden Gate Bridge.

But living in the “Golden State” is not only about being close to the entertainment capital and breathing the same air as Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook. There are financial factors at play that can make living here a bane or boon, depending on how favorable circumstances are for a transplant or immigrant like myself.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A guide for extending your stay in the Philippines

Bureau of Immigration Main Office on Magallanes Ave, Metro Manila, Philippines (Photo from BOI gallery)

He writes... 

The Philippines is one of more than 160 countries that do not require US passport holders to have a visa to enter the country. Other visa-free countries include Canada, Malaysia, France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. This visa-free condition encourages tourism, but there’s typically a maximum amount of time before one would need to obtain approval from the governing immigration agency to extend one’s stay. For the Philippines, that maximum is 30 days, and the Bureau of Immigration is the agency that approves extended stays.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

6 Reasons Why US Presidential Candidates Should Discuss Immigration Reform

Clockwise: US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump (photos from

She writes… 

When Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy last month, his speech was peppered with politically insensitive phrases about Mexican immigrants in the United States.

The businessman said that Mexico sent "people that have lots of problems" that bring drugs, crime and rapists to the US. As offensive as his slew of words were that resulted in the cancellation of his role on The Apprentice and the discontinuation of his fashion line at Macy’s, recent polls in states like North Carolina show that despite his opinions, which some have denounced as mere fear-mongering, he is the top choice of Republican voters.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Living as a PWD in the US

She writes...

Mia Savchenko and crutches | Living as a PWD in the US
Mirasol “Mia” Savchenko,
a person with post-polio syndrome,
walks with the help of crutches
Like most modern long-distance relationships, Mirasol Fajardo Savchenko, a person with post-polio syndrome, met and fell in love with her husband online.
She was then working as a computer programmer at the municipal IT department of Dalaguete in Cebu and the president of the municipal association of PWDs.
After three years of cyber dating and spending short periods of time with her fiancé in the Philippines, Savchenko came to the United States through a K1 or fiancée visa in 2008.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

7 Pointers for Your US Immigration Interview

US Embassy in Manila | The Interview: the Last Step of the US Immigration Process
The US Embassy in Manila (Google Maps)
She writes…

Months of visa processing comes close to a conclusion with an email from the National Visa Center (NVC) indicating the interview date and time at the US embassy in Manila.

I was sure that I would be able to sufficiently answer all the immigration officer’s questions because Ray and I were very hands on with our visa processing. Of course it also helped that he was with me during the interview.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

7 Go-to Sites for Filipinos Immigrating as Spouses, Partners of US Nationals

US Embassy in Manila Website | 7 Go-to Sites for Filipinos Immigrating as Spouses, Partners of US Nationals
The US Embassy Website in the Philippines

We write... 

If you’re a spouse or fiancé/fiancée who is planning to immigrate to the US for love, these websites will be helpful to your journey. 

For your requirements in the Philippines, you will need the following websites:

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

5 Pros and Cons of Living in the US

self check out | Pros and Cons of Living in the US
One of the self check-out counters at Lowe's.
We write…

Convenient, fast-paced and automated is how many things in everyday life in the States is usually described. It was how Ray described laundry in the States the first time he and I rinsed and wrung out four to five loads of clothes at our building rooftop in Quezon City.

Things in everyday lifefrom laundry and shopping to transportation and diningwill differ between countries in terms of convenience and accessibility, and they usually become quickly apparent early in the adjustment period.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Two Centuries of Filipino Immigration to the US

top 25 totals by country | filipino immigration to the US
Top 25 Totals of Persons Obtaining Legal Permanent Residence by Country of Last Residence (1820-2013)

We write…

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month and the Building of an Immigrant Nation

1914 Chinese | Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month and the Building of an Immigrant Nation
Chinese American baseball team from Hawaii in 1914. Photo by Bain News Service
(Downloaded from the Library of Congress)
She writes…
A colleague reminds me every now and then that as Asians in the States, we are second-class citizens regardless of our accomplishments, qualifications and status back home. Herself a recent US immigrant, she says she has no illusions about the realities of being brown.
As a newcomer, my engagement to people who are neither family nor friends is limited. I have yet to try and test many opportunities but while I am finding my way around a country that still seems like one big conundrum, I choose to drown the many belittling voices.

Friday, May 22, 2015

A traveler’s guide to Philippine Juanderland

Maribago Bluewater Resort | A traveler’s guide to Philippine Juanderland
Maribago Bluewater Resort: one of the leading destinations in Mactan Island, Cebu.
He writes….

With holiday in our minds because of the long Memorial Day weekend and the imminence of summer, vacationing becomes a reoccurring thought.

Across the Pacific ocean, in the Philippines, the summer season is at its most intense but the heat should subside when it’s getaway time for us US residents.

If you’re the type of traveler who is wowed by tropical sights, visiting the Philippines can both be fascinating and rejuvenating. It’s one thing to hear and read about the cultural nuances of another country and another to experience them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Welcome to Pinoy County, USA

Pinoy in US Counties | Welcome to Pinoy County, USA
Los Angeles is the US county with the most Filipino immigrants.

She writes...

Maraming Filipino doon (there are many Filipinos there),” was the top description of friends and acquaintances about Los Angeles when they found out that it was where I would be living with Ray.

The second was, “when you’re a Filipino living in LA, you are often mistaken as TNT (Tago ng Tago or an illegal immigrant in hiding) even if you’re legal.”

Although I have very limited engagement and socialization, I have known that the first paragraph is fact – Filipinos are everywhere in LA. From the church and malls to grocery stores, beaches and parks, there is almost a 50 percent chance of bumping into a kababayan (fellow Filipino) or hearing one of the major Philippine languages spoken.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Ways to stay on top of the US visa application process

Following up on the immigration process  | Ways to stay on top of the visa application process
Both petitioner and beneficiary can follow up on the USCIS and NVC on the status of their immigration visa application.

He writes…

It’s no wait for Godot but petitioning for an alien spouse to the US can take a while. 

The immigration visa petition period is long because of the waiting periods between the several process steps.

Luckily, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the National Visa Center (NVC) have methods that can keep you connected with every step, and can also help with questions at no cost. But beware: contacting the NVC and USCIS requires a good deal of patience and preparation.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ako ay Isang Imigranteng Filipino...

Plane View | I Am A Filipino Immigrants
Aerial view of The Philippines

She writes...

Ako ay isang imigranteng Filipino...

Malayo sa aking sariling bansa, sabik sa aking pinagmulan
Ako ay isang baguhan sa mga estrangherong bayan.

Ako ay Hilaga, Ako ay Kanluran
Ako ay Timog, Ako ay Silangan.
Kayang kong sayawan ang tugtog
Saan man sa mundo ang aking tirahan.

Ang “Perlas ng Silangan”
ang aking inang bayan.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Medical Requirements for Filipino US Immigrants

St. Luke's Medical Center | Medical Requirements for Filipino US Immigrants
SLEC is at 1177 J. Bocobo Street Ermita, Manila
(Google Earth Photo)
She writes...

Throughout our immigration process learning pains and pangs, there was nothing that I dreaded more than the medical examination. 

A clean bill of health is a prerequisite for the last step of the visa application: the interview at the U.S. Embassy. The thought of failing too close to the finish line was daunting because it would set us back for three to four months, maybe more.

I was confident in Ray's ability to follow instructions to the T, and I knew that with filling out forms, he would do it as smoothly and as efficiently as the latest upgrade of a Mac Operating System. I also knew that he would see to it that he would go above and beyond what was required just because he's wired that way. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Love or Consequences: The Value and Costs of the US Spouse Visa

US Spouse Visa | Love or Consequences: The Value and Costs of the US Spouse Visa

He writes

A United States citizen may not fully understand the premium behind her or his citizenship status until she or he reads the dozens of articles on the web about marriage fraud.

News stories occasionally cover incidents of US citizens who become grooms or brides for hire in order for a non-US resident to gain entry into the country and become a citizen in a few years.  This is usually a business deal where a non-resident either pays a US citizen, or the latter is paid to “assist” someone else, to gain entry into the US by exploiting the immigration system.

The occurrence of such incidents begs the question, “how dumb and desperate do you have to be” to try to game a system that takes months to complete, that has an investigative force of multiple governmental agencies behind it, and that carries penalties of jail time in federal prison? As was quoted once in a movie, one must ask oneself, “is the juice worth the squeeze?"

Saturday, April 18, 2015

I am a Filipino Immigrant...

San Diego Bay | I am a Filipino Immigrant...
At the bay near the San Diego USS Midway Museum

She writes...

I am a Filipino Immigrant...

Away from my homeland, detached from my roots
I am a beginner in many strange lands.

I am East, I am West
I am North, I am South.
I can conform to the norm  
wherever I am.

The “Pearl of the Orient Seas”
is my motherland.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Filing Your Taxes in the United States

Tax Day 2015 | Filing Your Taxes in the United States

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
-Benjamin Franklin

He writes…

If you worked in any US State in 2014, you have most likely received your W2 in the mail some time ago.

By now, you’ve probably seen all the commercials, border ads, and maybe emails about Tax Day coming up on April 15th. The day is approaching quickly, and other than Christmas Day for those who are horrible at finding gifts for others, it’s a day that every US taxpayer dreads for various reasons

The process of filing one’s tax return is somewhat of a social equalizer, a responsibility that everyone shares. Unlike in the Philippines, where your employer would file your taxes on your behalf with the Bureau of Internal Revenue, we here in the States must initiate the process ourselves. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The “First World” American Way of Life from a New Immigrant’s View

sachet vs king size tide | The “First World” American Way of Life from a New Immigrant’s View

The battle of purchasing power: the sachet for the third world and the tub for the first world.
She writes

My weather is still in Celsius and my distance in kilometers instead of the US imperial system of Fahrenheit and miles.

When my husband and I go to shopping malls and I see the $20 price tag of clothes on sale, I still think it’s too pricy and still say “that’s only $7 in Divisoria and Circle C” as if the malls are just a jeepney ride away from wherever we are. It’s already spring and supposed to be more temperate but it’s still chilly by my standards.

I still interpret the world on a Philippine mindset and there’s no surprise there. I’ve uprooted myself for love as a mid-career woman who has spent more than three decades living in different parts of my country.

Monday, April 6, 2015

CR-1 Immigrant Visa from USCIS to NVC

offices that process a US immigrant visa | CR-1 Immigrant Visa from USCIS to NVC
Institutions/offices involved in processing a US immigrant visa

He writes…

Making progress towards achieving something that’s important to you such as successfully petitioning your better half can bring about feelings of excitement, elation, and hope. 

When the results aren’t always guaranteed or prompt, it inspires one to continue to move forward with the same verve and determination as with which one started. It also strengthens belief in the established institutions that their system of procedure works. 

After the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) forwarded our petition to the National Visa Center (NVC), there were more steps to take, forms that needed to be filled out, and fees to pay. The following are the forms that we accomplished and completed for the NVC:

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Easter or Wester: a Latitude of Holy Week Observations

Palm Sunday 2015 | Easter or Wester: a Latitude of Holy Week Observations
Palm Sunday mass, L.A. 2015

He Writes...

For those who observe it, Holy Week in the US must seem to look different every year, and I wonder if it has become easier to uphold the feeling and tone of the most solemn time among Christians.

Amid the store sales ads, the commercials for the best libations, and the images of elation among students lucky enough to have Spring Break on the same week, does the week still feel like the days leading up to Easter Sunday? Does it still hold as the time to reflect and gather oneself for all that follows the weekend of awareness and remembrance?

Friday, March 27, 2015

8 Misconceptions about the US Immigration Process

Wrong assumptions | 8 Misconceptions about the US Immigration Process

We Write... 

We must have received a number of suggestions and unsolicited advice from family, friends, and acquaintances on how we can be together through a successful petition to the United States. Aside from the advice, we’ve heard several stories about how other visa applicants prepared for their documents and interview to guarantee visa approval.

While some recommendations came in handy, there were also some suggestions that turned out to be either misconceptions or which were no longer applicable.

It was funny how the most vehement with advice usually came from those who never actually experienced the situations they were giving advice about. But we digress...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How Completing our Visa Application on our Own Paid Off

LA Airport | How Completing our Visa Application on our Own Paid Off
The stairway to immigration, Tom Bradley International Airport, Los Angeles, CA
He writes…

One of the most pressing questions we faced when we first began our visa application process was whether or not to hire someone to help us with it. We considered it, spoke with a couple of pros, and then I met with an immigration attorney to start the process. However, a seemingly innocent question from a representative from the law firm opened our eyes and answered an even bigger question for us: we needed to do it ourselves.

Back when we first began our process, a family member’s friend referred us to an immigration specialist. During a brief consultation period (and what I discovered later to be unnecessary and a complete waste of money), Kira and I were asked to complete a personal profile and questionnaire after being assured that this firm “handled many Filipino spouse petitions.” The questionnaire was emailed to both Kira and me.

Friday, March 20, 2015

CFO Guidance and Counseling Certificate: a Less Known Immigration Requirement

CFO Sticker | CFO Guidance and Counseling Certificate: a Less Known Immigration Requirement
CFO Sticker Registration in passport
She writes...

The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) Guidance and Counseling Certificate (GCC) is an immigration requirement that I would not have known if I did not have a friend who used to work there. Even the petition forms that Ray and I filled out did not mention the certificate.

Those immigrating on a fiancée/fiancé
visa will probably only learn about the GCC requirement when they get their visa packets since the US Embassy of Manila sends a leaflet reminder along with them. Spouses who decide to legally change their names to their husbands’ find out they need this when they apply for a passport.

Monday, March 16, 2015

CLARIFY Your Case: Tips on completing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative

Form I-130 tips | CLARIFY Your Case: Tips on completing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
She visualizes: Tips on completing USCIS Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
He writes...

The visa application process consists of several forms and steps to build a successful case for a US visa. What worked best for us, and what I believe reduced processing times of our Form I-130 is an acronym I created: CLARIFY.

During the time period I submitted my Petition for Kira, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received a total over 126,000 petitions just like mine at all of its field offices and service centers. My petition joined over 57,000 other petitions at the Nebraska Service Center at which there was a published processing timeframe of five months.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Speeding up NSO Marriage Certificate Processing

NSO Marriage Certificate | Speeding up NSO Marriage Certificate Processing
NSO Marriage Certificate Processing

He writes...

The marriage certificate is perhaps THE key document one needs to “prove family relationship” on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Petition for Alien Relative Form I-130, the form which began the entire application process for Kira’s CR-1 visa.

Even before the day we got married, I didn’t have any ill-conceived notions that the processing of civil records, forms, and applications in the Philippines would be as efficient and take the same amount of time as in the US. I had a feeling things would be slower. I just didn’t know how slow until we tried to get a National Statistics Office (NSO) copy of our marriage certificate. Perception usually feels real only after actual experience occurs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

We DO! Married in Manila

wedding bands | We DO! Married in Manila
Wedding Day, 2013
He writes…

I’ve attended and have been a part of my fair share of weddings. All of them were magnificent events, and clear manifestations of the splendor and beauty that the bride and groom envisioned for their special day.

The selection of the gowns and tuxes, the flowers, the venues, the color schemes, and the reception programs over a lengthy period of planning and calling and scheduling all culminate into the few hours of bliss that mark a new beginning for two very lucky people.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Licensed to Wed: Marriage License Requirements in the Philippines

Peart Farm | Marriage License Requirements in the Philippines
Proposal site at Pearl Farm, Davao

She writes… 

Since I started considering marriage at 30, my dream was for the ceremony to take place at the Supreme Court where all decisions are made absolute.

I also wanted a very private ceremony without making a fuss of who to invite, what to wear, what to serve the guests, souvenirs to give away, flowers, reception and the rest of the details that need funding and attention.

I wanted none of the frills that make weddings a multi-million-peso industry. Most of all, I had no desire to complicate my life by inviting stress and anxiety.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Reliable Courier Services for Love-in-a-box

care package | Reliable Courier Services for Love-in-a-box
Care package contents
We write…

When in a modern day long distance relationship, technology and a good Internet connection are your BFFs.

Yet even in this time of digital romance, some traditional expressions of love never go out of style. These include sending handwritten love letters and sweet little trinkets that serve as thoughtful reminders that someone across the pond cares.  

Technology may somehow ease the loneliness of being miles away from your loved one, but tangible proofs of love can even make the person seem closer.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Connections Across the Pond

red roses | Connections Across the Pond
Valentine's Day flowers, 2015
We write…

Being away from each other on special occasions throughout the year were especially difficult even though technology has reduced the world into a global village. Birthdays, Christmas and New Year's Eve are among those occasions that are extra special that you’d want the one you love to be beside you. But Valentine’s Day reigns as THE occasion on which being away from someone you love can be especially torturous.

Nothing can replace the physical presence of the one you love. Thankfully there are now many ways to bridge the gap that makes it feel less like a chasm. We used several ways, some more than others, until we found what worked best for us. Here’s a rundown of those ways, in the order we used them.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Meeting of Hearts

He writes…
NAIA I | Meeting of Hearts
Departure Area at NAIA, 7.16.2013

Thanksgiving dinner in 2012 is the most memorable holiday dinner for me because it is when I learned of the existence of Kira. My sister-in-law mentioned her to me by name in a conversation that was quite random, a sort of, “hey, there’s someone we’d like you to meet” statement commingling with a lineup of the evening’s delectable entrees and attractions. 

She mentioned that Kira was a journalist. Immediately, I was intrigued because Kira’s profession was the first of its type of all whom friends and relatives have wanted to introduce me to. In the back of my mind, I was relieved that I could potentially meet someone who could finally understand me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

And the Rest is Loveonexcel

She writes...
loveonexcel logo | And the Rest is Loveonexcel
Loveonexcel logo

One November afternoon in 2012, a friend called me and said she wanted me to meet someone.

She gave me his name, and being the cyberstalker that I am, I searched for him on Facebook.

He looked young in his profile photo, so I wasn’t interested.

More than a month later, I received a friend suggestion from a mutual friend and we became acquainted. Apparently, he read my chapter on Democracy at Gunpoint and that piqued his curiosity.