American Citizenship (Naturalization): The Final Step for your Filipina Spouse

It’s time to talk about naturalization: acquiring U.S. citizenship for your Filipina spouse.  But before we go further let’s review.

Here are a few of the steps I have already discussed in previous posts:

  1. Getting Married in the Philippines
  2. The Medical Exam
  3. The Embassy Interview
  4. The CFO Stamp
  5. The Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence (applying for the 10-year visa)

The above steps are for the spousal visa.  The process for a fiancee visa is a little different, but steps 2-5 are part of everyone’s immigration who comes to the USA to be with his/her fiancee/spouse.

There is one final step once you’ve gone through all of this: naturalization.  By this I mean your Filipina wife becoming U.S. citizen.

Here are the requirements, straight from the USCIS Website:

  • Be 18 or older
  • Be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
  • Have been living in marital union with the U.S. citizen spouse, who has been a U.S. citizen during all of such period, during the 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application and up until examination on the application
  • Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of  filing the application
  • Have continuous residence in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  • Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization until the time of naturalization
  • Be physically present in the United States for at least 18 months out of the 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (also known as civics)
  • Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during  all relevant periods under the law.

How soon can you apply?  Within 90 days of reaching the requirement of living in the USA for three years as a “lawful permanent resident.”  Take note: if you apply before she reaches this window your application will be denied. 

Should you apply as soon as she is allowed?  It’s really up to you.  By this time she’ll have her 10-year visa, so there’s not necessarily a rush.  You may be planning to move, expecting a baby, or other events that would make the timing less than idea.

There are three things I would advise you to keep in mind:

  1.  Don’t wait until her 10-year visa is about to expire if you plan to apply for citizenship.  By this time you should be familiar with the sluggish pace at which the U.S. government moves regarding immigration issues.  In other words, plan for delays and make sure she has plenty of time left on her 10-year visa when you apply (a minimum of two years would be my recommendation).  You could apply for another 10-year visa I guess, but planning ahead will eliminate paying unnecessary fees.
  2. Keep an eye on her Philippine passport’s expiration date.  You don’t want your wife to be without a viable passport if you can help it, and you probably wouldn’t want to go through the hassle of renewing her Philippine passport if you are just weeks away from her getting a U.S. passport.
  3. Remember that government fees never get cheaper.  The longer you wait, the more likely that fees will increase.

Let’s say you are ready to apply.  Here’s the good and bad news (bad news first):

Bad news:

Your government loves fees, and you’ll have to pay 725$ when you apply (640 for the application fee and 85 for the background check).

There is a wait involved, just like every other step.

Good news:

The n-400 form is pretty simple and straightforward–it’s actually less complicated than some of the previous steps.

You are waiting out this process together as husband and wife.

You are (hopefully) just months away from being finished with this process for good–no more USCIS red tape!

The Naturalization Process

The application for naturalization is form n-400.  Go to the government page, read the instructions, and download the form.  Fill it out and send it in along with the fee and anything else that is required.  You may find it helpful to look up sample completed n-400’s online to guide you.

Next is the biometrics notice and appointment.  You should get a notice for her biometrics (fingerprinting, etc.) appointment within a month or so of applying.  The appointment itself usually happens within about two months of the application.  Once she’s done with biometrics you’re in for another wait.

She should get a notice for her naturalization interview appointment within 3-5 months.  The interview itself usually happens within 5-6 months of the initial application.  By this time she should already be studying for the interview.  There are materials available on the USCIS website, and there are apps available for both Mac/Apple and Android.

The actual citizenship interview is usually scheduled within about 6 months of the application.  The typical Filipina will have no trouble with this interview as long as she’s studied.  Her English proficiency will be more than enough to satisfy the language requirements, and the civics portion is not difficult.  The interview only takes a few minutes, but you may have to deal with the hassle of traveling to a different city (depending on where you live and the nearest USCIS office).

You should receive an invitation for the oath-taking ceremony within a month of the interview (the invitation will include a short questionnaire).  But the USCIS does have 120 days (4 months) to issue a decision, so don’t get too concerned if you don’t hear from them right away.

The oath taking itself is the final step.  Here are just a few helpful hints for the ceremony, but remember things can vary a little (depending on how many applicants there are, the specific venue, your location, etc.).

*There will probably be two lines going into the venue: one for the applicants and the other for the applicant’s family/friends.

*The applicant will see an agent to make sure the details are correct on the certificate of citizenship.  She’ll surrender her green card and will receive the certificate after the ceremony.

*Be prepared for a significant wait.  The ceremony itself will probably be about an hour, but it may not start until 2-3 hours after the time posted on the invitation letter (once again, this may vary greatly).

*The ceremony is an official court proceeding.  You’ll be asked to dress and act in a way that honors the dignity of the event.

I think you’ll find this ceremony to be a very satisfying conclusion to the long process you’ve both been through.  Once she has taken the oath she is a US Citizen!

She may be able to apply for her U.S. Passport at the ceremony itself if agents are available.  If not she can just follow the passport application instructions from the Department of State for other locations.  Applying for the very first passport must be done in person at an approved location.

She’ll want to change her citizenship status with Social Security at some point.  This can be done either in person or by mail.

One last thing: she may want to consider obtaining dual citizenship–especially if the two of you want to take long visit to the Philippines (or even consider moving back there).  She can do a little research and find the closest Philippine Embassy office for more details.  The consulates will periodically travel to larger cities so that Filipinos can have access to services without having to go to the embassy location.

Filipina Bargirl Scammers

One of the reasons I started this blog years ago was to help guys avoid scammers. I still believe that most of the Filipinas who join dating sites do so with good intentions: they want to find a good guy who will love them and provide for them. Sadly, the scammers kind of ruin it for everyone: they harm the reputation of women from the Philippines and they harm the men who are sincerely looking for love. With that in mind I thought I’d share another aspect of scamming: bargirls.

Fields Avenue (Angeles City)

Bargirl” is basically another name for prostitute in the Philippines. The girls who work in bars are usually available to spend the night with patrons who are willing to pay a “bar fine”–an amount paid to the bar for her to “leave work early.” The bargirl gets a percentage of the fine (I guess) and then presumably gets a tip from her customer for what they do in private.

Prostitution is technically illegal in the Philippines, but it seems these laws exist on paper only. You’ll find that most of the big cities have prostitutes/bargirls that work without fear of legal consequences. Malate, for example, is one of the red light districts of Manila. Angeles City is infamous for Fields Avenue–a pedestrian street lined with bars.

You may be wondering how this affects you if you are a guy who just wants to find a good woman to marry. Well, remember that young women work in bars because they are desperate to make money. Some of them have a sideline business to supplement their income: online dating. More specifically, they create profiles on Filipina dating websites with the intention of scamming their online “boyfriends.” Once they have the attention of and admiring male they will start asking money for emergency medical bills, etc.

Victims of this particular kind of Filipina scammer lose in two ways. They are wasting money on someone who has no intention of doing anything other than ripping them off. To make matters worse, they aren’t aware that they are chatting with a prostitute. She isn’t the kind of girl you’d bring home to momma in the first place (I’m not saying this to be condemning or judgemental, but I think you understand where I am coming from).

How do you avoid this scam? The same way you avoid all the other varieties of Filipina scammers. I’d recommend you start with a good dating website like Christian Filipina, which does a better job in screening their members. From there you have to be careful and follow the advice I’ve mentioned in other articles. Move slowly, chat often (with video if possible), and never give money to someone you have not met in person.

See Also: How to Avoid Filipina Scammers

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 if you (the husband) make enough money without her help, 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.).


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 once she moved 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 be really dysfunctional in some select cases. You may encounter some families in which members feel they are entitled to part of every dollar their son/daughter (or nephew, grandchild, etc.) makes. It’s often referred to as “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.