Gray Matter


Citizenship for Filipino Spouses of Americans

citizenshipObtaining United States citizenship isn’t difficult if you do everything you need to do and in the right order. Even then, the paperwork can drive you crazy.

According to the website, you need three things to become a naturalized citizen:

Detailed Citizenship Instructions

The USCIS website gives you the information you need for naturalization. Most of it is very detailed but some of it is somewhat general. That’s because some information has to be obtained from your home country’s government.

For Filipinos heading to the United States on a visa due to marriage (or to get married) to an American citizen, there are a few things you need to know. Not only will the paperwork drive you crazy, but the fees can be difficult to come up with.

Even after arrival in the United States, the Filipino spouse still has things to do.

The Green Card

When my wife, Josie, went to the United States, they issued her green card automatically. I don’t remember, but I think we received it through the mail. Her green card had no expiration date.

Filipinos who entered the United States later received green cards with expiration dates. I think they had to renew them after two years, but I’m probably mistaken. Old age memory loss and all that.

I don’t think it’s automatic anymore. In fact, one of Josie’s relatives had to apply for a green card after she arrived. I think that’s still the case. After all, obtaining citizenship isn’t necessary for living in the United States. You can be a permanent resident as long as you keep your green card current, renewing it before it expires.

According to the green card page and the pages beyond it, green cards now expire for permanent residents in 10 years. That’s plenty of time because you can apply for naturalization after five years of continued residence in the United States (three years for military spouses).

There are exceptions to the continuous residence requirement. The main one is military members and their spouses who get stationed outside the country.

Dual Citizenship

Traveling in and out of the United States for naturalized Filipinos can be a pain. The Philippine’s repatriation law took effect in 2003, so anyone who entered the United States before that has to prove dual citizenship in some way. Because left hands don’t talk to right hands, it’s probably true of anyone not born as a dual citizen.

Josie carries two passports, one for the United States and one for the Philippines. She shouldn’t have to do that but airport ticket agents always ask for something to prove dual citizenship when her tickets are one-way trips.

Every Filipino who now becomes a naturalized United States citizen is automatically a dual citizen, as are children born after that date. A United States passport should be good enough since it shows the country of birth on the data page, but don’t bet on it.

My daughter-in-law, Cathy, arrived in the United States in 2018. She’ll soon be eligible for naturalization because she’s married to my younger son, Jon, who’s in the Army. When she obtains her American citizenship, she’ll be a dual citizen, but she’ll probably have to prove it when she travels.

Passing the Naturalization Test

The next to the final step in becoming a United States citizen is passing the naturalization test. It isn’t a difficult test if you study for it, and you read, write and speak English well enough.

I knew two Filipino women who had difficulty passing the test before I left the United States in 2006. One wouldn’t study (but eventually passed) and the other refused to learn English well enough to pass it.

Photo Attribution: Ronile from Pixabay
Edited and updated. Originally published at one of my other websites in January 2017.

Author: RT Cunningham
Date: January 31, 2021 (UTC)
Categories: Culture

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