Cheapest Way To Send Money to the Philippines

Although there are a lot of ways to send money to the Philippines, only Xoom offers the cheapest. Not only Xoom is the cheapest but it’s also fast and reliable. And currently, they have a program called “Refer a Friend” and if you’ll use my link below, each of us will get $25 gift card! The photo below is the Amazon gift card I got on March 15th, 2012 when I was referred by a friend so now it’s my turn! Aside from Amazon, referrer can also change the rewards into $25 paypal credit, Walmart, Lowe’s, and Sear’s!

http://xoom.tellapal.com/a/clk/3xnd1Z

What is the minimum amount that I could send?

$50 is the minimum. So when I sent $50 to my grandmother, and got $25 amazon gift card, I felt like I only sent her $25 but she got it doubled! :D

How much is the transaction fee? 

It is as low as $5.99 but if you send for the first time, you can use offer code LIBRE to send for free! Paying with your bank account will allow you to enjoy their low flat rate of $5.99 no matter how much you’re planning to send! Below is the chart of fees and exchange rates. 

 When will I get the $25 Xoom gift card?

After I sent the money, I got an email from Xoom that I’d get my credit within 10 business days. I did the transaction on March 8th and got the Amazon gift card on March 15th!

So click the link, sign up, and don’t go away from the page so both of us would get $25 gift card! Thank you so much! :)

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http://xoom.tellapal.com/a/clk/3xnd1Z

Our Simple Wedding

2 days before 2011 ended, Brandon and I got married! It’s not sinking in until now. It’s like we woke up one day and next thing we know is we’re married! Our simple wedding was held at Plattekill Town on December 30, 2011.

Because of the 90 day thing that K1 Visa is being linked to, we didn’t really have the money and time to prepare for the anime-themed wedding that we want. But we still really want to do it in the future. On my previous post about “how to a get marriage license in New York“, I mentioned that the Newburgh town clerk gave us a list of local judges and other marriage officiators that we can contact. Brandon hates calling, and I’m still shy about talking to other Americans because I don’t know, I think it’s a bit intimidating.

Anyway, Brandon and I had a fight recently and the main reason was our wedding. Believe me, first few weeks of being together is a big challenge! So on that day, Brandon woke up, called a few on the list of local judges and voila! He got a schedule of our wedding on that very day at 1pm! He woke me up and told me we’re getting married. I was like, we’re not okay and so he must be kidding. But yeah, it turned out he was serious. Everyone in the family were shocked as I was! No one was ready so we went to the hall unprepared that his grandparents had to let us borrow their rings haha! The judge was about an hour late but everything else went smoothly. The wedding only took about 5 minutes. We handed our marriage license beforehand to the judge and she said we’re going to get our marriage certificate in the mail in about 2 weeks. So yeah, I’m married now, congratulations to me! :)

 

Brandon left for work after we got married. When I got home, a dozen of flowers was delivered with a sweet message. I thought he planned the wedding all along. Turned out he ordered the flowers 3 days before because we had a fight. Take note, this means so much to me because this is the only second set of flowers he gave throughout our 4 years relationship. :D

 

How To Get a Marriage License in New York, USA

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Brandon and I got our marriage license at Newburgh Town Hall on December 22nd 2011. We got it right away on that day and the clerk also gave us a copy of local judges and other marriage officiators.

What are the requirements needed to get a marriage license?

1. Birth Certificate of you and your fiance

2. Social Security Number (How to get a SSN?)

3. Identification. So we brought both of our passports

When can you get married after you got your marriage license?

About 72 hours. On their site, it says, marriage ceremony may not take place within 24 hours from the exact time that the license was issued.

Does a marriage license have an expiration date?

Yes, it’s valid for 60 days.

What last name can you use after you got married?

In my case, I chose to keep my last name so I didn’t have to change anything (my signature, other ID’s like my passport and SSN). But here are the choices I got from this website:

One or both parties to a marriage may elect to change the surname by which he or she wishes to be known after the marriage by entering the new name in the appropriate space provided on the marriage license. The new name must consist of one of the following options:

  • the surname of the other spouse
  • any former surname of either spouse
  • a name combining into a single surname all or a segment of the premarriage surname or any former surname of each spouse
  • a combination name separated by a hyphen, provided that each part of such combination surname is the premarriage surname, or any former surname, of each of the spouses.

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Next Step: Get Married! :D

Source:

http://www.health.ny.gov/publications/4210/

 

How To Apply For SSN Social Security Number in USA

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Before I applied for SSN, I made sure that I’m here in the US already for 2 weeks. This was to make sure that my record of arrival was already in the SAVE-ASVI system. If you insist to get SSN even if you don’t have a record yet, SSA office would need to file a G-845 with the USCIS to manually verify your record. That may take days so you better just avoid that. But also, don’t wait too long until your I-94 is already about to expire (14 days prior to expiration date) because SSA won’t allow you to get a social security number until you get a green card.

Why do you need to have a SSN? According to Wikipedia, its primary purpose is to track individuals for taxation purposes. It is also like your identification. You would also need this for your employment, opening a bank account, etc. The first time I used this was when me and my now husband, then fiancé, applied for marriage license.

As a K1 Visa Holder, these are the documents I prepared before I went to the nearest SSA office to apply for SSN:

1. Passport with my K1 Visa and valid I-94 in it
2. Another form of ID (I brought my Postal ID but it was never asked)
3. Bring a printed copy of https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0110211530 (some SSA officers aren’t really aware that K1 Visa holders can get SSN so this document will prove that you are eligible)
4. Fill out the form SS-5 or fill it out at the SSA office
5. Don’t forget to bring a pen! :)

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I applied for a SSN on December 12th, 2011, a month after I arrived. I was told that I’d get it in about 2 weeks or 10 business days but I got it in just 3 days! The process didn’t take too long; I only waited for a few minutes.

And these were some few questions that were asked by a SSA officer:

1. Have you ever had any work here in the US?
2. Ever went to a US school, college, university?
3. Have you ever visited USA before November 12th, 2011?
4. Have you ever opened a US bank account?

All my answers were no and I could say that throughout my process so far, that was the easiest. :P For more information, go to http://www.ssa.gov

 

 

Next Step: Get a Marriage License

My Arrival in the US Port of Entry or POE

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On November 12th of 2011 (5 days before my K1 visa expired), I left for the US via EVA Airlines. I flew from Davao to Manila, Manila to Taiwan, then Taiwan to New York.

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The flight was smooth although I was left by the plane from Davao to Manila! I didn’t have the time to argue with the Cebu Pacific airlines staff because I was running out of time and my only choice was to get to another plane. It was an about 18 long hour flight but it’s all worth it. Seeing the love of my life took off all my exhaustion. But before I get corny here, I want to share my experience during my travel to the USA.

What are the documents to bring?

  • Valid Passport with your US Fiance Visa and Commission on Filipinos Overseas sticker
  • Unopened Visa Packet
  • Plane Ticket
  • Vaccination worksheet and x-ray cd from St. Luke’s
  • Other documents like birth certificate, employment and school records (Although these were not initially asked during the POE, you may need that later on when you apply for work or school)

How much money do I need to bring?

In my case, I really didn’t bring a lot because I knew the food was included with the plane ticket my fiance bought for me and usually, that is the case. I just made sure that I have something to pay for Travel Tax and Terminal Fee. The Travel Tax that I paid was 1,620 pesos but if you’re going to be a first class passenger, the travel tax amount is 2,700 pesos. The Terminal Fee that I paid was 750 pesos (update: it is now 550 pesos effective February 01, 2012)

How about the baggage allowance?

I think it depends with your airline. You can check it through your airline’s website or better yet call them. But in general, you are allowed 1 hand carry that can weigh up to 7 kg and 2 check-in baggage that can weigh up to 23 kg each. Anyway, you don’t really need to bring a lot. Just bring a few clothes because US weather is different from the Philippines. When I got here, it was winter and so the clothes I brought weren’t that useful, lol!

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What happens once you reach your port of entry?

You need to fill-out an I-94 form once you reach the airport in the US. I’m not sure about the other airlines, but with EVA, a stewardess gave me the form. Although I had to get another one at the airport because I made some errors, lol. Don’t hesitate to ask questions too if you don’t know how to fill it out because there are officers there that can help you. Below is the I-94 form which the custom officer stapled on my passport.

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After I finished filling out the form, I went to the custom officer and presented my Visa Packet and passport. I was also asked some few questions like:

Officer: Where did you meet your Fiance?

Me: I met him online 4 years ago.

Officer: You met online and he gave you a visa?

Me: It wasn’t really like that. He visited me in the Philippines 7 times before I was granted a visa.

And he nodded. I know, it was a bit intimidating but I think they’re just doing their job! He told me to get into a room which I forgot what it was called but I presented my documents there too. I got my baggage and voila! I borrowed someone’s phone to call my fiance because I arrived too early, lol. So yeah, I’m not ashamed at all. I hope my arrival in the US Port of Entry or POE guide helped you guys somehow! :)

Next Step: Apply for Social Security Number

CFO Seminar For K1 Visa Applicants

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I attended the CFO Pre-departure Seminar on November 4th, 2011 at SMEF-COW, 8 days before my flight. I went there at 8AM and the seminar was just for a few hours and I got my certificate and stamp on that same day.

Make sure to photocopy the documents they need because they charge higher than the usual. And don’t forget to get your fiance’s contact number because they need it too. I had to go to an internet cafe just to get my fiance’s contact number and it was such a hassle.

How important is to attend the CFO Seminar for K1 applicants?

It is as important as your passport and visa. You can’t leave the country without it.

What form should I fill out?

http://www.cfo.gov.ph/pdf/downloadable%20forms/registrationform.pdf although you can fill it out in their office.

What are the documents that I need to bring when I attend a CFO Seminar?

  1. 2 valid IDs with photograph
  2. original and photocopy of passport
  3. if married, certified true copy and photocopy of marriage contract on security paper from the NSO, or Local Civil Registry Offices; or original and photocopy of marriage contract duly authenticated by the Philippine Embassy/Consulate (if married abroad)
  4. Other documents may be required by the counselor so just bring some pictures of you and your fiance too :)

How much are the fees?

P400.00 CFO Registration Fee P250.00 Counseling Fee so that’s a total of P650.00

Where can I attend CFO Pre-Departure Seminar?

There are different locations where you can attend your seminar. I attended mine at

SMEF-Center for Overseas Workers
Good Shepherd Convent 1043 Aurora Boulevard Quezon City
Tel. Nos.: (+632 )913-6439, (632) 911-1814

Also,

SMEF-Center for Overseas Workers Cebu
3rd Floor Ayaay Arcade, 60 Mango Avenue 6000 Cebu City
Tel. Nos.: (032) 235 -3745 ; 235 -3746

PRISM office
2nd Floor BDO Building, 2422 Taft Avenue
Tel. Nos.: (632) 525-3114, (632) 525-3783, (632) 525-4314

 

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When will I get my CFO certificate and CFO sticker?

You can get them on the same day. If you attended the seminar before you got your visa, then you can only get the certificate and go back to the office to get your CFO sticker. So I think the best thing to do is attend it once you got your visa approved. :)

 

K1 Visa Interview

 

This is my WHOLE experience during my interview day! If you only want to know about my K1 visa interview I had with the consul that took only about 5 minutes and the possible questions, click here :)

 

Once you get to the Embassy of the United States in Manila, you will notice a couple of lines outside the gate. There is a sign where you should stay in line which is usually under the “immigrant visa” line.

There could be changes with their rules so you better ask the guards or any officers in there. Remember, that who questions much, shall learn much and retain much. :) Prepare your passport and appointment letter before you reach the guard or an embassy officer. The guard or an officer will attach a sticker on your passport and the same sticker will be placed on a form that will be given to you. The form is about your address and other info where your visa will be sent to once it is approved. You can fill it out inside the embassy while waiting for your queue. You will hear the guards and officers announcing some instructions before you get in so it is important to listen even if it already gets annoying. :D They strictly don’t allow food, water, cell phones, any gadgets, cigarettes, lighter, and even USBs.

You will go through an x-ray and metal detector just like what you see at airports. You will fall in line again at an immigrant visa unit and you will see 3 windows. The fiancé visa applicants will be asked to prepare their DS forms and appointment letter. The officer will then give you your queue number and she/he will also attach the same number on your appointment letter. You will be told where you should drop the DS forms to.

When you get to the building, you will go through another x-ray and metal detector and a guard will check your bag. Take note that the left side is usually for other visa applicants and in your case; you should go to the right side where the fiance visa applicants usually are. Drop the forms at the window that you were told about. You should alertly watch the queuing board because numbers (with the window number you should go to) are strictly not in numerical order. Once your turn arrives, you will be asked to give all the requirements from you prior to the interview. Note that some of the requirements will not be asked from you.

 

While these documents are asked from you, the Filipino interviewer will ask you basic questions such as your name, petitioner’s name, when you intend to go to America, etc. this will actually help you prepare for your actual interview with the consul as these are also the most common questions asked by them. The Filipino interviewer will arrange some of the documents for you and you will be instructed to show them once the consul asks. You will have to wait again for your queue for the finger printing. Once it is done, you better sit at the very right side of the building as it is where the last interview happens. I noticed that some were just interviewed at windows like the other windows I went before the last interview. In my case, I went to a window in a separated private room.

And this is how my interview went that might be able to help you.

You will be told right there and then if you passed, didn’t pass or if there are any additional papers or documents required. If your visa is approved, you will be asked again to wait for your queue and give the form that’s given beforehand. You will be told where you should submit that paper and you can happily go home! :)

Next Step: Arrival in the US Port of Entry or POE

 

How To Track Visa

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Once your visa is approved, you will receive your passport and visa through 2g0 courier. You can track your visa using your Passport/UID Nos or Case Nos through this link: http://supplychain.2go.com.ph/CustomerSupport/etrace/index.asp .

It didn’t work for me before but I got my visa within 7 business days after my K1 Visa interview in Manila. It may take a bit longer for those who live in the province. You can call or chat with 2go’s support at http://supplychain.2go.com.ph/CustomerSupport/contactus/index.asp Mondays to Fridays, 8AM to 5PM. You can also call the US Embassy Manila at (632) 982-5555 or (632) 902-8930, Mondays to Fridays, 8AM to 8PM. So these are the ways on how you can track visa.

Hope this how to track visa helps! And oh! Once you receive your K1 Visa, make sure that you read the instructions and don’t open the envelope but just get your passport. Good luck! :)

My K1 Fiance Visa Interview 2011

I had my interview on May 23rd of this year. I dressed up well like I was applying for a job. :D The time indicated on my appointment letter was 6:35 AM but I didn’t have my K1 Fiance Visa interview with the consul until about 10 AM. So see, it’s like going through a whole process of job application! Whatever outcome we may get is like getting the career we’ve been waiting for in our lives! :D

I noticed that the other interviews conducted were outside, near the waiting area, with a window between the consul and applicants. In my case, I was called in a small room but with the same window as outside’s. It was like confessing to a priest! :P

So here’s how my interview went.

Me: Hi, good morning! (smiling)

Consul: Good morning. She looks snob. She must have had a bad Monday sickness. :D

Consul: What’s your name?

Me: Catherine Salazar

Consul: And the name of your petitioner?

Me: BMW I said his full full name including his middle

Consul: Okay, raise your right hand… Do you promise to tell only the truth during this interview and blah blah blah…

Me: I promise.

Consul: Okay, when and how did you meet?

Me: We met online through a site called ___ that was June of 2007. And he went here to meet me personally for the first time on August 31st of the same year.

Consul: When was the last time you met?

Me: On May 12th this year during his 7th visit.

Consul: And what does he do for a living?

Me: __

Consul: Do you plan to work when you get to the United States?

Me: Yes.

[stextbox id=”info”]That was my answer on one of the DS Forms, so I remembered answering yes. She was scanning my papers while looking straight into my eyes once in a while. So it is very important that you think for a few seconds before you answer. It is also important that you are confident or the consul may think that you are unsure of what you’re saying. This may cause delay and they may ask for more evidence of your relationship with your petitioner.[/stextbox]

Consul: Murmuring something while looking at my unclear NBI Clearance

Me: I interrupted and took initiative. That’s actually my personal copy, I have the other exact copy of it if you want to see but it’s a bit damaged. I’ve been using it as an ID whenever I get remittances. I handed it to her.

Consul: She looks confused. So you don’t have any ID’s?

Me: During the time that I used it, I don’t have anything else yet.

Consul: But you were allowed to use it?

Me: Apparently, yes.

She just scanned up to the last page of my application for a few seconds (which was arranged by the Filipino interviewer beforehand), typed something on her computer while looking at me once in a while and…

Consul: When was the last time you met again?

Me: On May 12th this year.

Consul: Oh, that was like 2 weeks ago. And her mood began to change. :)

Me: Yes.

Consul: So do you promise to marry your fiancé within 90 days of your arrival to the United States?

Me: I do. It’s like I’m marrying :D

Consul: Okay, congratulations, your visa’s approved! She smiled, finally! :D

Me: Thank you! I stood up and realized she deserved more than that. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. :)

Consul: Good luck. Just wait again for your queue at the waiting area.

I walked away smiling. It took no more than 10 minutes! :)I realized it wasn’t that hard at all as long as you and your fiancé know each other very well. All questions were just about the both of you and there’s nothing that you can’t possibly answer! Although I would really suggest that you eat before leaving the house because I was more concerned of my aching stomach than my interview, lol! I hope my K1 Visa interview experience at the US Embassy Manila helped some of you somehow. :)