One of the most exciting and exhausting days of my life…
Me and my husband have been together for almost 4 years now and this journey is actually like a fairy tale. I remember creating a blog about the two of us called “My White Knight”. There are ups and downs like any other heterosexual relationship. What’s worse is that we are 8000 miles apart. How’s that for a fairytale, right?
I also included some helpful links that hopefully can help you…
Anyways, this long distance relationship is about to end as my fiance, Mike, already filed my K1 Visa last June of 2017. He told me it was not an easy job. There are documents needed to complete the request especially because he was married twice. It is also important that he has a stable job and money to process it but he successfully submitted it to their embassy.
With all that said, it’s a waiting game and there’s no one to ask for any follow-up. Eventually, after 5-6 months of waiting, he received an email about the application. It was approved on November 20, 2017, and needs to be completed before March 2018. So we’re like, great! Now I only need to set up an appointment with the embassy as well as complete the medical assessment. I was wrong. The confirmation that we got is just an approval from the USCIS for the petition. A case number on their behalf is what we need so we can move forward. I got this information after I sent an email to https://ph.usembassy.gov/. Basically, my fiance and I are is doing this by ourselves and not with any help from any agency.
The case number should start with “MNL” so by this time I contacted the embassy in the Philippines to get an update or perhaps an idea on its whereabouts. Unfortunately, we really need to wait.
While Mike is finishing the application for the K1 Visa, he had enough money to buy a round-trip ticket to visit the Philippines by January 16, 2018. Having his fingers crossed, he also got me a one-way ticket so that I can come home with him on February 1, 2018. Yes, this is a very risky decision to make but he still did it. He calculated the timeframe for the application approval based on the stories he read and studied online. Stories about VISA journeys is really helpful. It’s January already and still no updates from the embassy about the case number. Up to the last minute of his arrival, I did not give up calling the embassy for the update. Mike finally arrived in Japan Airlines and by that time, I told him the sad news that the case number is still not ready. Then miraculously, he asked me to check my email. Long and behold, the case number is ready the same day he got to the Philippines. (Seriously, I truly believe it’s God helping us out).
Mike needs to take a break from that almost 24-hour trip so we rested for a day and decided to start completing other documents needed by tomorrow. If you noticed, I keep on mentioning dates because it’s really crucial for you guys to understand what we went through. Since that I have a ticket for February 1, we only have roughly around two weeks to complete my side of documents.
Once we are settled in, we visited this website > http://ustraveldocs.com/ph/ph-niv-paymentinfo.asp to settle the interview fee and create a DS-160 profile. The fee is around P13,000 pesos. The DS-160 is extremely important so please create one ASAP. (You can find the DS-160 Profile in the link posted.) You also need to have it printed because the embassy will ask for it. To schedule an interview, please click here > http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph/index.html?firstTime=No These links will also be included in the email that will be sent by the embassy with the MNL case number.
He brought his trusty laptop with him where he has a list of documents we need to complete for the K1 visa then he noticed something strange. CENOMAR. He asked me if I have it and of course I said I don’t. So with that being said, I need a copy of my CENOMAR (Certificate of No Marriage) didn’t notice that I need CENOMAR which is needed for the K1 visa application. We both find it funny, pun intended, that you need to have a certificate to prove that you are single. 😛
For the CENOMAR, you can get this online by clicking at this link > https://nsohelpline.ph/ or visit any accredited NSO branches to get it. It will take a minimum of 3-4 days for applicants from Manila and 5-7 days for applicants from the province. I live in Laguna so it means the soonest that I’ll get it is 5-7 days and that forces me to visit the nearest branch which is in Muntinlupa, Alabang. They have a cut-off period, around 1:00 PM, so the earlier you are the better. I don’t have enough time to finish it so I asked my mother to do it for me. She just needs a valid government ID and an authorization letter from me. While she’s working on my CENOMAR, I am having my medical examination at Saint Luke’s hospital. You can find the information in this link > http://www.slec.ph/. Mike cannot come inside with me since I’m the only one that has an appointment. They will only let guardians come in if the applicant is a minor or a senior citizen. The medical examination fee is around P17,000 pesos. By the way, you can only have an appointment with them once you have the MNL case number.
The medical is of course stressful. I don’t know why I got extremely nervous but that’s what you’ll feel even if you know yourself that you are not sick or not carrying any infectious disease. I advise not to talk to anyone as they will start sharing stories that had been passed through generations! They will tell you stories about “sputum” after finding spots in your lungs mainly because it’s a sign of TB or something so as long as you are getting a regular check-up from your local hospitals/doctors don’t panic. You’re gonna be okay. It’s also best if you bring any supporting documents that you already had chickenpox and measles so they can give you the vaccines right away. I don’t have any proof so I need to return the next day to have the vaccines. The first day will be a payment in cash, physical exams, X-Ray, blood samples and urine. I thought the physical exam will be rigorous but no. Just make sure you are honest. You can also find information about the process in this link > http://www.slec.ph/us-visa-applicants.shtml#required-exams.
The results will be available after the vaccines have been provided through the release is quite longer than usual so just be patient. I waited two hours for it to keep yourself busy. Do not open the envelope. I know that just like me, you’re excited to know what’s inside it. The nurses or the person who will release it will not give you any information about what the results are as they are not entitled to do so. The results will be given to the embassy while you are being interviewed. They’re the one who will check it for you so please be patient. So what if you have an infectious disease? Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that but maybe, they will not release it or they may then the interviewer will tell you that you can’t leave the country. I’m sorry. So be prepared. Have yourself tested or have a general check-up with local doctors before going through this process. No one wants to waste 17K, right?
Before the interview on January 26, 2108, we got all the requirements ready that includes my CENOMAR, Medical Exam, and NBI Clearance. Don’t forget your Birth Certificate.
We went to the embassy an hour earlier as recommended. Since my fiance is an American, he has 100% permission to enter the building. The receptionist took my passport to double check with the appointment number and scanned the barcode in the DS-160 before we proceed. (See, DS-160 is really important. Without it, you cannot get through). Before the interview, I highly suggest you and your partner go through all your documents so both of you can practice. There is a set of questions that will be asked to you so get ready. This link will help you be more equipped > https://rapidvisa.com/fiance-visa-interview/. I’m pretty sure that you and your partner created a file with pictures and shared messages, right? Then REVIEW!
It didn’t take that long before my name was called. They will ask you for these four documents. NBI Clearance, Birth Certificate, CENOMAR (if there’s any) and the brown envelope (which is your medical results). Initial interviewer (which is a Pinoy) will ask you basic questions like, when and where did you meet? How long have you been together? and so on and so forth…
After that, you will proceed to another window where they will scan your hands. Yup, not just fingers.
Then, in the final interview. You will be interviewed by an American who go deeper in the application. She will also ask those basic questions again so be prepared. The more genuine you sound, the more chances that you will get through. Not only that, the documents your fiance submitted for the application should be accurate and true. Don’t lie. Remember, this is 13,000 per appointment so don’t screw it up! I think one of the advantages that I have is I have my fiance with me. He helped boost my confidence and held my hands to remove all the nervousness I can feel. He’s awesome. The interview lasted for only 15-20 minutes but that really depends on your answers because of course, they will get questions from your answers. Try answering as concise as possible and it’s okay to answer “I can’t remember or I’m not sure”. It’s okay instead of making stories up. Once the interviewer gave you a piece of paper about calling 911 for any physical abuse, you are in good hands. She told me that she’ll recommend my application for approval so I was like, hmmm.. Did I pass? Mike told me I did. We also told her (interviewer) that we have a plane ticket we bought last year for February 1st and she said she’ll take note of it and will do everything that she can to have the VISA expedited.
I can finally breathe, YES! All thorns have been removed from my throat. And then…
CFO (Commision of Foreign Overseas). A friend of mine who now lives in America congratulated me for passing the interview. Both of us got really, REALLY excited because we might see each other soon then she asked. “Have you already attended CFO?” and I was like, “What is that?” She told me that every Filipino who will leave the country for work or permanently should attend this seminar. I couldn’t believe it at first so I googled it. It says that it is needed for the overseas worker so I was like, “Nah, it’s not that necessary.” that’s what my brain is telling me but my heart was so concerned. So I did deeper in the web and found this > http://www.cfo.gov.ph/faqs/2014-06-20-06-35-41.html. I guess I really need to attend it. By this time, it’s already the 27th of January and this thing requires an appointment. You can create an online appointment by clicking here > http://www.cfo.gov.ph/gcp.html. The soonest appointment available was February 1 which is the same day as my flight. I thought this is too much. I am already at the edge of giving up. I already accepted the fact that I will not come home with Mike but he doesn’t want to give up. So we called the phone number on the website over and over until we reached the coordinator. She’s super kind and advised us to send an email so I can attend the seminar on the 30th of January.
In my case, I need GCP since it’s for a K1 visa. PDOS is for OFW’s.
God is good. The seminar lasted for 2-3 hours and teach you a lot of things to protect yourself once you’re outside the country. It’s really good to know that our Kabayan’s will always be there to help you even if you’re not in the Philippines. There will be an interview after the seminar and for some reason, she put an H on to of my paper which means “HOLD”. I was a little but did not show it to her instead I showed her all the documents that will prove that my relationship with Mike is true. She then removed the “H” and replaced it with OK. She told me that I will get the certificate on the first floor but might not get the ticket since I don’t have the passport. Remember that my passport is in the embassy. They took it while they are processing the VISA. The VISA will be released in the next 3-4 days, that’s the soonest they said not including the weekends okay! So if I passed the interview Friday (January 26), the VISA can be released as early as the 31st of January.
It’s January 31st and by this time, I can’t remember how many times we called the embassy for the update. We are also tracking it at 2GO website since this is the address we requested it to be sent. We were told that the visa might be delivered around 4:00 PM since that’s the time where they send the new packages to that access point. So basically, at this point, I need my passport so CFO can give me the sticker and finally come home with Mike. CFO closes around 5:00 PM we decided to just go to the SM MOA and pray. The plan was if we get the passport/visa around 4 PM, we will have enough time to run to CFO before it closes to get the sticker. Sounds risky, right? YES, IT IS! Up until now, I can still feel how exhausted I am on that day.
The lady at 2GO couldn’t find my name nor the package that will be shipped today, it was 4 PM. She said that it may come tomorrow. We lose hope so we rode a jeepney back to Alabang. Devastated. Hopeless. Helpless. Mike once again looked into his phone to check the package. While we’re in the middle of the road, there it is. They received it. Then I received a call…
The lady said they made a mistake. It’s ready for pick up now. It’s 4:30 PM.
So we head back to SM MOA to pick it up but do not have enough time to go to CFO since it’s too late. We need to have a new plan to get this done. Also by this time, my spirit is up. I can see light. I can see this happening but me leaving the Philippines is still not sinking in. I feel like I’m in a game, getting more experience as we get all the pieces of the puzzle done and connected with each other. When we got home, we started packing. I feel strange. I want to cry because I’ll be leaving everything behind me in a couple of hours but I also feel excited because this is happening. The plan we come up with is that we leave Laguna around 5:00 AM and go straight to CFO. They will have people come in around 7:00 AM so there’s a line I need to be there first so I can be prioritized. Did I mention that my flight is around 9:50 AM? No? Well, that will add to the thrill for sure.
I waited and waited until someone starts calling numbers from the register. I seek assistance and empathy from all the employees in the building, hoping that I can get the sticker ASAP. They are very kind especially the guards. They helped me remove my anxiety and did their best so I can get the highest assistance. One of them asked me to wait in the priority lane and after window 1 finished the application of the first senior citizen, he assisted me. He then said that I can have the sticker in NAIA but that was never mentioned by anyone. He then asked me to call NAIA using the phone from the entrance. I told the story to the person on the other line and he said that CFO should be able to give it to me. It’s a game who can give what to who. It was frustrating but sure enough, CFO gave me the sticker. It’s around 8:30 AM.
We rushed to the airport, Terminal 1 and by this hour, the traffic is heavy. We just keep our faith up but you can tell in my face that I’m already exhausted. My faith starts to shatter again but Mike, being who he is, hold my hands and lifts me up. It’s amazing how he can motivate me and change my mood.
We finally get to the airport, it’s between 9:00 -15 AM. I was worried that the plane will leave without us but he told me that once we checked-in, the plane will NOT leave without us. The timing is just about right so we can check-in and have our luggage picked up by the attendants. We made it. With all these activities happening, I am unable to properly say goodbye to my family. We hugged and bid each other farewell but I still don’t feel that I’m leaving the country. Until I am on the airplane, on our way to Japan. That’s when it struck me. That’s when I started crying.
It was quite a ride but all of these is not possible without the help of all the people around us. My parents, siblings, friends, and coworkers. All of them prayed to make this happen. I truly believed that God was with us all throughout that adventure and up until now, when I reminisce what happened, I’m really thankful that we were able to pull it through. All of that in just two weeks. So whenever you feel like you’re about to give up, don’t. It is also important that there is someone who will keep you fighting. Keep believing that you will make it. Have faith and pray. God is with you through thick and thin. HE might actually be making it a little hard for you to test you… 🙂
*Make sure you secure some of the government documents you can get from your local government offices. For example: NBI Clearance (that you can either get same day if there are no issues or latest will be business days), CENOMAR (you can either get it online or visit any NSO Certified Offices that provide though I prefer online because the line goes on forever), Birth Certificate and the CFO/GCP.
*Make sure to visit links that I posted because it will give you more idea of what you need to do when you get to the embassy or when you get your medical examination.
*I highly suggest that you quit smoking or take good care of yourself if you really want to stay in America or other countries so you can enjoy it. The weather here is incredibly cold until spring.
*Have tons of patience. Everything will work out just have faith.
*As long as they are not saying “no we cannot help you” don’t stop!
*When calling the Philippine embassy, make sure you have your passport number ready. They will ask for it
*Once you have the MNL case number, you are ready to finish all other requirements you need. 🙂
GOOD LUCK in your journey! Hopefully, these insights helped a little. 🙂