Filipina Dating and Money Matters

One of my readers sent a question about his Filipina girlfriend and financial responsibilities/expectations. He is dating a young woman who works as an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) in another part of Asia. She gives most of what she makes to family and even friends that ask. His concern was what would be expected of him if ever he brings her to the USA (via spousal or financial visa).

I wrote about this a long time ago, but I figure this would be a good time to write a more detailed article about it. Let’s start with an introduction to Filipino families and money.

Filipino Culture and Sharing Money

Money typically flows in one direction in Western families–from older to younger. Parents raise their children, maybe put them through college, and then the kids will (hopefully) get jobs and start families of their own. Grandparents then spoil their grandchildren with gifts. It isn’t unusual these days for parents with grown children to continue giving a helping hand to them. That’s because some members of “Generation X” have ended up making less money than their parents (reversing the trend from previous decades).   But even this is part of the older-to-younger money flow.   There are exceptions to this, of course, but that’s the way it usually works.

It’s different in Filipino families. Parents are expected to support/raise children, but the children are often expected to contribute to the overall well being of the family once they are old enough to earn money (or once they finish college, etc.). This may mean helping siblings (or even other relatives) get through school and even sending money to make sure aged parents are taken care of. Filipinos have a sense of obligation called utang na loob–the idea is helping those who have helped you (even if it was their responsibility).

Filipinos also tend to have close ties with extended family members, and money can flow through these relationships as well. An aunt may support the studies of her nephew, and he may be expected to support his siblings once he has finished school. I think you get the idea.

This is the primary way families combat the high rate of poverty in the Philippines: they try to make sure no family member gets left behind. It’s a trait I admire, though sometimes it can be abused or cause family dysfunction (more on that later).

Learning to Compromise

Family is everything in Filipino culture, and a Filipina will want to make sure hers is doing well. You need to be aware of this and prepare to adapt to it if you want to date or marry a Filipina. But adaptation goes both ways–she will also have to adjust to your culture.

Here’s another way of putting it. You (the Westerner) need to be willing to help her family out financially. Asking her not to do this would be like asking you to disown your own children. She (the Filipina) will have to understand that your funds are limited and your primary responsibility is to your own immediate family (her and your children).

The way some couples handle this is the Filipina works and sends most of her income back to the Philippines while the (Western) husband supports the immediate family (the wife and children).   This is fine, but keep in mind that she may not be able to work immediately if she comes to your country on a fiancée visa. And there may be circumstances in which she can’t work (has a new baby, etc.).

Advice

Here are a few suggestions for navigating this issue:

Be sure you talk to your girlfriend or fiancée about this before you get married. This sounds like common sense, but some guys see a cute, young Pinay and forget that marriage requires hard work and communication. Both of you need 100% agreement and clarity on what would be expected of you in terms of financial support to her family. This may mean sending a monthly amount or putting her sibling(s) through college. It may simply mean sending a little money for Christmas or in case of emergencies. Whatever the arrangement, be sure both of you are clear on it.

Be ready for these boundaries to be tested. Her immediate family may be fine, but it isn’t uncommon for people to come out of the woodwork and ask for money once they find out your wife has made it to the “promised land.” Distant relatives may start thinking your wife can pay their bills. I know of a Filipina who started getting money requests from old high school classmates she hasn’t heard from in years after moving to the States. Your wife will need to be prepared to say “no.” She needs to start practicing if it isn’t part of her vocabulary.

Beware of “toxic” families. As I mentioned, the Filipino system of sharing among families is admirable. But it can also be really dysfunctional. Some family members feel they are entitled to part of every dollar their son/daughter (or nephew, grandchild, etc.) makes. It’s often referred to as a “crab mentality”: the one family member with some form of stable income ends up getting dragged down by everyone else.   This kind of family will probably make your life miserable–especially if your wife has grown up believing it is normal and doesn’t know how to have reasonable boundaries.

Money management will make or break any marriage and yours will not be the exception.  Keep this advice in mind and it will go a long way towards helping you make good decisions.

Dating and Marrying a Filipina: The Five Greatest Challenges

Wedding_rings

I am extremely happy with the life that my Filipina wife and I have together.  I can’t imagine being with anyone else or being married to someone of my own race/culture.  Our love is a beautiful thing that has enhanced my life in ways I could never fully describe.

But I never want to present being married to a Pinay as some kind of panacea or fairy tale.  All marriages require work, and mine is no exception.  Marrying a woman from the Philippines, in fact, will come with some unique challenges that you wouldn’t face if you just dated someone from your own country.  Here are a few that come to mind:

Challenge #1: Choosing with Limited Information

This isn’t always a big factor for those of us who have spent time in the Philippines and dated while living/visiting there.  But most Filipino-American couples first meet online.  Usually this means the man joined a dating website (like Christian Filipina–the one I recommend), met a pretty Filipina, and started communicating via email and chat.  This works out well for most of the couples that I’ve met, but it is arguably more risky than being able to meet/date in more traditional or conventional ways.  In other words, the men usually have to make a decision based on very limited face-to-face time with their girlfriends.

Challenge #2: The Visa Process

Let’s say you do find a great woman (as so many do) and are 100% sure you want to marry her.  The next challenge is enduring the process of getting her spousal/fiancee visa so she can move to your country and (eventually) become a citizen there.  The process is doable but it does require a lot of patience on your part.  The government agencies involved get your tax dollars regardless of their inefficiencies and can be frustrating to deal with.  I have recommended a service to help you do things correctly, but it takes a few months even under the best circumstances.

Challenge #3: The Distance

The most difficult thing about being married to a Filipina is you are always going to be far away from either her family or yours.  This usually means being far from hers because of the better opportunities available in America (or other Western countries).  There are exceptions–guys who decide to live as expats in the Philippines.  Either way you’re going to live halfway across the world from someone’s family.  Family ties are extremely important in the Filipino culture, so you can imagine how difficult this can be.  Being able to chat via Skype does help, but the dilemma is still there regardless.

Challenge #4: Money Issues

Money issues are probably the biggest cause of divorce worldwide. This issue can be especially challenging if you’re married to a Filipina because sharing resources with family members is deeply ingrained in Filipino culture.  This is a potential source of conflict if the husband and wife don’t have good communication with each other or healthy boundaries with family members back in the Philippines.  The couple has to find a balance of sharing with family while making sure they are not putting themselves in a bad financial situation.

Challenge #5 Cultural Differences

A Filipina and a Westerner have grown up in two completely different cultural contexts.  Their respective worldviews have been shaped by factors that go back centuries.  This can also be a source of conflict if one of them is xenophobic or can’t learn how to be open to another point of view.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the most significant challenges that come to mind when I think of my own marriage and the other couples that my wife and I have met.  Here’s the good news: I can honestly say it has been 100% worth it for me.  I think there’s a good chance you’ll feel the same way, but be sure you are going into any relationship with eyes wide open.

The I-751: Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence

Green card

The first (and maybe most difficult) step to living happily ever after in the USA is getting the initial 2-year green card for your wife (I’ve shared some things about that process in previous posts).

There’s one more hurdle awaiting you on your way to her becoming a US citizen: the ten-year green card (or ten-year visa).  You will eventually have to complete an I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence in order for her to continue living in the United States legally once her 2-year green card expires. (and eventually apply for citizenship).

It’s more paperwork and red tape, but it isn’t all bad news.

I-751 Application

*This step is not nearly as complicated as the initial spousal/fiancee visa process.  There’s no harm in getting some professional help for it, but you may find that it is unnecessary.  The form is fairly simple and straightforward.  You can look for some sample forms online that have been filled out (with fictitious names, of course–just to give you an idea of how it should look).

*Unlike the previous step, you are presumably waiting out this one together.  She should already be with you at this point and maybe you’ve even started your family (having children).

*Technically the burden of proof would be on the government to deport her–a judge would have to get involved.

*Most filers don’t have to go in for an interview if their paperwork is in order.

The only bad news (other than the cost) is that it may take 8-9 months.  The government is backlogged (at the time of this post) and most offices are running behind.  Good thing you are waiting this out together, right?

Here are some tips for the I-751 application:

*You are eligible to apply once you are within 90 days of the expiration of her 2-year green card.  Go ahead and send it once you reach this time frame, but don’t send it any earlier than that–otherwise your application will be rejected.

*Documentation: The most important thing you can do to avoid delays is have complete documentation (evidence of relationship) in your initial application.  They may ask for additional information if they aren’t satisfied with what you sent.  The instruction form spells out the kind of documentation they are looking for, but here are a few additional ideas that will help:

  • Probably the most important thing you can do is provide copies of a Power of Attorney (POA), Living Will, and Last Will and Testament with you and your spouse listed as each other’s beneficiary or POA. If you don’t have any of these forms you can buy them at a place like US Legal Forms (the “Dave Ramsey special” is a good deal), fill them out, and get them signed/notarized.  You can go to an attorney if your will is more complex.  Legally binding documents like this are strong evidence that your lives are intertwined. Birth certificates of children would also be very strong evidence if you have already started your family.
  • Provide evidence that joint bank accounts or credit card accounts are still active.  Just showing them a copy of a check or bank card with both of your names on it isn’t quite enough.  Print out a few months’ worth of transactions and include that with your application.
  • Include proof that joint insurance policies are paid for.  You can ask your insurance company to email a letter to you or (easier still) print out a transcript of your payment history.
  • You can order IRS transcripts online a few weeks before you put your information together.  These are considered authoritative in terms of evidence that you filed jointly (and paid your taxes).  Ordering them online also saves you the hassle of having to make copies yourself.
  • Make a cover letter with a list of all the evidence you are including with your application.

The government can still ask for additional information (or even for an interview), but following these steps will probably minimize the chances of that happening.

After you apply your spouse will be required to go to a local office for biometrics (finger printing, etc.).  This happens pretty quickly (within a few weeks after your application).  You’ll also receive an official government letter stating that your spouse’s green card has been extended for one year.  Hang on to this letter because it’s the only legal proof you have of her legal immigration status while you wait for application to process.  She would have to carry this letter with her if for some reason she needed to leave the country and get back in.

You probably won’t hear anything from the government for a while after the letter and biometrics appointment.  You just wait for their decision.

Once the petition is granted your spouse will have almost all the rights of a US citizen (she can’t vote, but almost everything else would be the same).  You’re set for the next ten years and you can apply for her US citizenship once she’s eligible.