United States Citizenship and Filipino Spouses of American Citizens
According to the USA.gov website, you need three things to become a naturalized citizen:
- Meet certain eligibility requirements.
- Be a legal permanent resident of the United States.
- Go through the naturalization process.
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 three 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 three years of continued residence in the United States.
There are exceptions to the continuous residence requirement. The main one is military members and their spouses who get stationed outside of the country.
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.
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.
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.