Sunday, December 17, 2006

Legal Capacity To Marry

Before we could start the never-ending stream of paperwork for the US Visa, we first had to get married. As I found out, in the Philippines, getting married requires jumping through a few hoops. This is partially because there is no such thing as divorce here, so they want to make sure that you are truly ready for such a big step. It wouldn't have been so bad if we could have learned all of this in advance and taken care of some of the steps quicker. It was more of an inconvenience than anything.

To begin with, we were both required to obtain legal capacity documents, which is essentially an official document to say that you are not already married and are legally able to be married. In my wife's case, this meant a trip to the National Statistics Office (NSO) to obtain the letter.

I've been there with her on a few different occassions, and it's always a dreadful experience, at least if you are an impatient person like I am. Basically what happens is that you stand in line for an hour just to get inside, then you stand in another line for 30 minutes to have some guy look at your paperwork so that he can tell you what line to get in. Two hours later you present your papers at the window, and are instructed to get in another line for the cashier, who tells you to come back on X day to pick up your items. I've never seen a more inefficient system in my life, and if I was the one in charge of the NSO, I'd be very ashamed of myself and view it as a complete embarrassment.

Tricycle
A Tricycle. You can ride these things around like a taxi for just a few cents


For me, obtaining the Legal Capacity meant a trip to the embassy in Manila. I could have also went to the Consular in Cebu, which is closer, but we thought it would be nice to see her brother again, so we chose Manila.

Since there is no centralized record of marriage and divorce in the United States (it is left up to individual States), they can not issue this legal capacity document. What you obtain is a letter/affadavit in leu of the Legal Capacity document, which basically has a consular sign a document saying that it is ok for you to marry. It is a much quicker process than the NSO. We got to the embassy gate at 6:45am and we were back out again by 8am.

The main thing was that it was a bit of an inconvenience to track all the way back to Manila only a couple of weeks after we were last there. If we had known about this in advance, I could have gotten the letter when I was already in Manila the first time. So take notice, and if you're getting married in the Philippines, make sure to swing by the embassy to get this letter at your earliest convenience. I can't recall what the exact fee for it was, but believe it was something like $20.

Jeepney
The Jeepney, also called The King of the Road, is a Philippine invention. This one is very old and plain. They are usually highly decorated.


Having obtained the legal capacity documents, we next had to obtain proof that we had attended some family planning consultation. This was the biggest joke I've ever seen. Basically, we had a consultation with a health care worker, who taught us the male and female reproductive systems, and discussed different forms of birth control. I felt like I was in a Junior High health class. I had to pay the equivelant of $30 USD for this 30 minute crash course on safe sex. I suspect that is the real motivation behind this requirement - that it has less to do with population control and more to do with finding extra ways to pull a little more money from your wallet.

Having completed these steps, we put the paperwork together with a lengthy form (each) listing all of our personal information, parents personal information, and a signed request for a marriage contract. Since my wife is from the Philippines, she also had to include a photocopy of her birth certificate and a couple of more documents. We took this packet to the city hall in the city of Panabo, which is where her family is from and where we intended to marry. They submitted it and a week later the contract came through, the one that is presented at the time of the ceremony. You get a more formal one later from the NSO.

Finally, now we're ready to get married so that we can get on with the visa application...

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

thanks for this info! So all you have to do is go to the philippine embassy and acquire the legal capacity to marry?? no other paperworks that you need to bring??

Anonymous said...

how long before you were able to get the legal capacity in us embassy?

Googleheimer said...

Sorry for the delay. I haven't been here in a while and forgot about this place until I got an email telling me about your post. I guess I should come back and do an update. Once my wife got her interview date at the embassy, things just got kind of crazy and I lost track of the updates.

The legal capacity to marry only took one day, assuming you have never been married or have the divorce paper from any previous marriage.

As I recall, we arrived at the embassy at 6:45am. Since I am a US citizen we went straight to the front of the line, but I have been told they no longer do this. Get there early, regardless. We spent a few hours waiting in line before I paid a fee and then met with someone. He asked if I was single or divorced, maybe 2-3 questions total, then gave me the document. I was out of there before noon.

It was a very easy process.

filipina said...

It's usually much faster to get a fiancee visa and get married in the USA. It's cheaper and there is less paperwork involved.

Googleheimer said...

I would never recommend that anyone go the fiance visa route unless it is just important to you (personally) to be married in the US. You will only get your visa interview scheduled about 2-3 weeks faster than the spousal visa takes. But the kicker comes once you are in the US and get married. After you're married, you will have to start all of the paperwork over again and fill out all of the spousal visa papers anyway. This means that people going for a fiance visa fill out twice as much paperwork and pay twice as many fees as those going for a spousal visa. It's just not worth it for a process that is only a couple of weeks faster.

Grant said...

I am planning on going to Philippines in May, '08 to marry my fiancee. I am bringing my passport, of course, what else do I need to bring? From my research, I think I need my birth certificate. Also, is there a way to get the Capacity to Marry here in the US? I am looking for the easiest way to get this done. Also, how long do I need to be there in order to get everything done? Is there a way to contact you, or for you to contact me directly? Thanks.
Grant

Googleheimer said...

Yes, bring both yous passport and birth certificate. You may as well make several photocopies of each, because you'll need to have copies handy. If you have been married before, you will need to bring proof of divorce as well.

You can get the Legal Capacity to marry in one day at the embassy, so it's not such a big deal. Maybe you can get it from somewhere in the US, but I'm honestly not sure where.

After this you will need to put all of your paperwork together, including her ID and birth certificate. If she doesnt have her birth certificate already, tell her to go to the NSO (National Statistics Office) and get one now, or else you may have to be waiting for a couple of weeks for it. The cost is somewhere around $5, maybe 10.

You will also need to get a certificate from officer saying that you attended the planned parenting seminar. This is a requirement for marriages. They basically teach you different methods of birth control. It feels like you're in a 5th grade health class, but its short and to the point.

It will take you a few weeks after sending your papers off before you get you marriage license. Maybe even a month. After this you can set an appointment with a judge or church for your wedding. I would say you need to plan on a minimum stay of 6-8 weeks if you can. And that is if you go home right after the wedding. If you stay in the Philippines while her visa is processed, it will be much longer. I lived there for a year and a half.

Grant said...

Sorry to continue to ask questions, I just want to do it right the first time. Is there work there for US citizens? What did you do while you were there? Also, if I am not able to stay for that long, what should I do? Should I stay for 10 days or so and get the first part done, and plan on going back later? Someone told me I could get everything done, minus her visa, in three weeks, is that completely unreasonable? How long ago did you do this? Have I asked too many questions yet? lol. Thank you so much for your help, you are awesome. I am sure I will have some more questions, if you want to email me directly, you can. captaingrant@gmail.com

Googleheimer said...

You are not asking to many questions. I found it next to impossible to get a reliable answer from the government, so I am happy to share my experiences in hopes that it will provide answers to others.

I may be wrong, but I do not think you can get a "normal" job in the Philippines. For one thing, what you consider to be a "normal" job may not even exist in the Philippines. This is, after all, a developing nation, so it is not like being in the U.S. Aside from that, there aren't even enough jobs for all of the Filipinos, so I think there are laws in place to give them priority over any jobs, as it should be.

What I did may not apply to you. I do most of my work online, marketing web sites, designing sites, consulting, etc, so I am always able to work from any location with an internet connection. Fortunately, I had enough money saved that I could be semi-retired for the time I was over there. This cost of living is about 1/4 of what it is in the US (maybe not that much in Manila, but on other islands it is cheaper), so it was easy to stretch a budget.

I think that technically, you may be able to get everything accomplished in 10 days, if you hit the ground running and work on it very hard. But any little snag would derail this. If she has to wait for a birth certificate, that will take more than 10 days alone, or if there is a backlog of paperwork when you file for your marriage license, etc.

What if you scheduled a 10 day trip and had something unexpected come up? What if you had to leave the country and make a second attempt another time? These are things to consider. I would say that you should try to plan at least a 30 day trip. It would be even better to go for the full 59 days that you can go without having a visa. That also gives you time to take photos with her in different places, with friends, with family, etc, which will all be a big help later when she has her interview at the Embassy.

Another option is that you could stay in the US and file for a fiance visa, which would allow her to come to the US for the wedding. This generally is not good, in my opinion. For one thing, it is only about 2 weeks faster in getting processed, so it doesnt save much time on her coming to the US. For another thing, you would have to repeat all paperwork and fees after getting married. But it's mostly not applicable to most people because you have to prove that you have known each other in person at some point in the last 2 years, and that is not always the case. My wife and I actually met in Dubai, but had no proof, which is why we went to the Philippines.

As for the timing, I did all of this a year ago. There have been no major changes since that time, so all of the information in the blog should still be completely accurate. I do need to finish it though. I sort of trailed off about the part with the interview and after the interview. I should probably include that at some point.

Grant said...

Thank you so much for your info. I think what I am going to do is go for 10 days, and try to get it done. Then if I am not able to do it, I will just plan another trip a couple months later. I also do some work on the internet, but I have a "go to" job as well. I will be going the first of May, so I will let you know how it goes. I read somewhere that we are only able to visit for 21 days now, not 59, but that may not be accurate.
So if she has her birth certificate, is there anything else that she can do to be prepared for my arrival? Can she go to the American consulate and get the paperwork started or anything? She lives in Cebu. Do you have any more advice for me knowing my plans? Again thank you so much.

Googleheimer said...

Now that you mention it, I think 59 days is how long it is with a visa, otherwise it's 21. I would recommend not wasting your time and money on a visa though. You can just keep going to the local immigration office in Cebu to get an extension for up to a year. That's what I did. Every other month I would go in and get a two-month extension. Very simple process.

I do not think she can go to the consulate for you to get the Legal Capacity to Marry document. You will need to do that in person because the Consular will want to interview you in person. Basically he just looks at your papers, asks if you have ever been married, and if you have, asks to see something to show you are divorced, and then he gives you the document. It still takes several hours, however. Waiting in various lines, including one at the cashier to pay a fee for the document.

My guess is that you will be arriving in Manila before going to Cebu. I would recommend going to the embassy while you are here, and taking care of this before continuing to Cebu. There is a consular office in Cebu, but I never went because I was told that they are only in the office a few days a month and do not do the Legal Capacity there.

So, it's best to take care of it while you are in Manila. There are quite a few hotels in the vicinity of the embassy. I have stayed at a couple. One was an Aussie place about half a block away. I forget the name, but it was a complete dive. There is a Best Western for the same price that is about a block from the embassy, and it is a much better hotel. Either one will pick you up at the airport so that you do not have to blow money on a taxi. Use the currency exchange at the airport to get some pesos so that you wont have to find a reliable exchanger (not all of them give good rates).

I would recommend trying to get to the embassy at around 6am, or earlier if you think you can handle it, so that you will be one of the first in line. When I went, US citizens went to the front of the line, but I was told that they changed this and now everyone has to wait. Still, it may be worth trying to see if they will let you in ahead of the line. If you are Canadian or not from the US, most embassies are in the same general area, so just check out where to go.

When you are ready to go to Cebu, I would recommend using Cebu Pacific instead of Philippine Air. It's not that big of a deal either way, but Cebu Pacific usually has cheaper prices, especially if you are booking your flight online. Make sure to take proof of your flight when you go to the airport. It's a little different than you are use to. They check tickets or itenerary before they will even let you into the building at all.

I cant think of anything else she will need off hand. If she is below a certain age then she will need written consent from her parents. If you are being married by a priest you will need to get something from them as well, I believe. If I think of anything I will post it. If she can call the local city hall and ask what is required, they will give her a list of everything that is needed.

Googleheimer said...

Just one more thought here. Since 10 days is such a tight deadline, make sure to take a lot of pictures of yourself at different places.

That way, if you can't manage to pull it off in 10 days, you can at least have proof of meeting in person so that doing the fiance visa is still an option. I would recommend going straight for the spousal visa if at all possible, but it never hurts to have an option. Here's hoping that you get it done in 10 days.

It's really a shame that you cant stay longer. There are a lot of incredible places in the Philippines. Especially if you are interested in WWII era history. I would love to go back for a couple of years to see more of the islands, but I dont think my wife will be willing to go back there any time soon.

Googleheimer said...

I wasn't sure if I was clear on this in the original post, but she will need to get her own legal capacity document as well. It's basically just a certification that she is legally capable of being married (not already married). She can get this at the NSO (National Statistics Office). It will take most of a day standing in lines, and might take a week or two to arrive, followed by another long line session for the pick up, but it is required.

I forget what the cost is. It's probably around $5, maybe 10. If she can take care of that in advance, it will be a big help to you. If she needs a birth certificate, then she will need to go there anyway, so she can take care of everything at the same time.

Anonymous said...

for future reference there is no way in this world you can go to phils for 10 days and get married.. not even by court marriage timing.... the waiting period till the marriage contract is released is 10 days itself. If you get married in a church 10 days is just wasting your time... the minimum time in my experience in the process is at least a month... I stayed a month and had a church wedding i stayed a month and it was a race to the finish line. Mainly because some probs with documents always account for problems... In philippines there is no EASY way to get married lol.

Grant said...

I did it. I don't know what your expertise is, but I was there for 10 days, and I got it done. I do recommend that you spend a month there so that you don't run into any problems, but I was able to get it done in just 10 days. If you do go for a month, do it in December of January because I did it in October and I was miserably hot and sweaty the whole ten days.

DiggIt said...

That is how the weather always is in Manila. Every time I have been there it was always crowded, hot and dirty. I lived much farther south, on the island of Mindanao. I actually miss living there and wish I could go back, but not until my wife has full citizenship. She is still on the conditional residency right now, with the conditions set to be removed in June. I'm not sure what happens after that. Maybe one of these days I will update this blog with more information.

Anonymous said...

how long would it take to have a spouse visa? We will try to get a cert. of legal capacity to marry by Jan. 05, 2009 then apply for a marriage licence. We are wondering if how many months would it take for me (Filipina) to go to the US. My fiance will do the paperworks as soon as he gets back to the US maybe last week of January. We'll be having a civil wedding ceremony, i think the only difference is that the 'entourage'..when it comes to the costs, believe me, same. Please send me an e-mail (or chat) at taz18_risha@yahoo.com. Would be glad to talk to somebody who can inform me about this. Thank you.

pinaygrl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Googleheimer said...

Pinaygrl, the rest of the blog will probably give you more details, but the summarized version is that you fill out the form requesting a visa for your spouse or husband. After a few months you will be given a new form for the affidavit of support. This basically swears that you will be financially responsible for him, and that if public assistance is ever needed, you will have to pay it back. After that is his interview at the embassy, which is basically just to prove that you are a real couple and not just someone pulling an immigration scam.

At the interview he will leave his passport so that the visa can be printed into it. They will return it by courier along with further instructions. Those instructions will tell him to take an exit class in Manila that is suppose to help prepare him for life in America, but is really just an excuse for them to collect some of your money before you go. The class will put a sticker in his passport. After that he is free to get on a plane at his convenience.

pinaygrl said...

Do I need to bring anything to the philippines & do you know how much its going to cost.... Thanks for your help I really appreciate it

Anonymous said...

Since it will take 10 days before the marriage license is issued because they will post the informations inside the Filipino's city hall, is it possible for the Philippine national to start filing while waiting for american fiance to arrive..?Because my fiance will stay only for 21 days. I thought that while he's still there, I might as well start the paperworks and the legal capacity to marry to be followed.I think I read it somewhere but not really sure.

DiggIt said...

You can do a lot of the work yourself before your spouse arrives. You can obtain the legal capicity documents, birth certificates, etc. However, your spouse will still need to arrive in the Philippines before you can actually file the paperwork. For one thing, I think they need to sign the application form.

The main reason they have to be there is because the two of you will have to go to some kind of class where they teach you various methods of birth control. In my case, it wasn't really a class so much as a consultation. It was the two of us and a counselor at the health department (or whatever it is called there, I forget). Anyway, the whole thing took about 15 minutes, and it was actually quite juevenile. It reminded me of being in a 5th grade health class, but we needed that slip saying that we attended.

Miss Beth said...

Digg, thanks. Actually, I called the city registrar where I reside and inquired about this. The lady told me I can file while my fiance is still in US, he just need to download the form, fill it out and get it notarized by Philippine Embassy in his state and then send it to me by mail so that I can start the process. BTW, do you have any idea how much will it cost for the marriage license and that seminar also? Thanks.

DiggIt said...

I honestly do not remember how much it costs. I want to say that the health slip was around 150 pesos, but that seems too low. Maybe it was 1500, but that seems way to high, so I'm not sure.

I remember that the city hall gave me sort of a check list of everything that was needed and gave the prices. I also remember that the fees are higher if you are marrying a foreigner, for whatever reason. I think the fees were reasonable, I just do not remember specifically what they were. I may still have the receipts filed away, but it would take me some time to find them. Your best bet is to see if your city hall has a check list like the one I was given.

Also, if you have your fiance mail the forms, I would recommend asking him to use Fedex or another courier. The postal service in the Philippines is famously unreliable, or at least it was where I lived, plus it takes a very long time to send something by standard mail. He can send it by Fedex for around $30 and it will be there in just a few days.

Miss Beth said...

Thanks Digg, that was very helpful.

james jones said...

Thank You for the Information,
I will soon be going to jump through the same hoops. At the end of April 2009 I will be heading to the Philippines we have a really obtained our Cenomar and will head to the embassy the first day I am there. I have truly found a wonderful beautiful woman and will do whatever it takes to Marry her and get her back to the states.

if you have any more advice you can contact me at new2053@gmail.com

Again I appreciate the information

James Jones

Miss Beth said...

James, i want to know whether you will be married in churh or civil? Me and my husband just married last March 12, 2009, just a civil though here in Quezon City,Metro Manila.If your fiancee from QC, when u go to US embassy for ur certificate in lieu, be sure to ask the person giving it to write CERTIFICATE instead of AFFIDAVIT because QC City Hall doesnt accept "affidavit" anymore. I really dont understand why when actually the content is just the same and Im sure the person from US embassy knows what document should be given when an american asked for a cert. in lieu. We were supposed to be married by judge, but because of the "affidavit" thing, we had to be married by a Reverend, licensed and registered..i made sure he was. Be sure to make sure that every spelling are typed correctly because there were some errors in my husband's name so they had to re-type it. If you dont have enough time and need to go back to US, you can ask your fiancee to start the application for marriage license. That's what I did. My husband stayed here only for 21 days and we wanted to marry on his first week so while he was still in Las Vegas, I started calling the city registrar to ask for the requirements and the step-by-step process. If yoor situation is the same as ours, I would be willing to give you more info. You can email me at lostlady0914@gmail.com..Goodluck to you and ur fiancee.

Anonymous said...

I'm a filipina and soon will be married to a French Canadian by this coming December 2009. My question is,Do we need both our personal appearance to the embasssy or only him needed to get the Legal the Capacity to marry?" What are the requirements to obtain this document? Please help me to answer this. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

I'm a filipina and soon will be married to a French Canadian by this coming December 2009. My question is,Do we need both our personal appearance to the embasssy or only him needed to get the Legal the Capacity to marry?" What are the requirements to obtain this document? Please help me to answer this. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Hi there! I am a Filipino citizen as of now and I will become a US citizen in just few more months. I am schedule to get married on June 2010. I was just wondering if it is gonna be a problem if I try to get a Legal Capacity To Marry from the Philippine embassy even though I just got my US citizenship within 5 months. And what exactly do they look for in order to approve or give you the Legal Capacity? I will greatly appreciate all the information you can give. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

how long get legal capacity in Canadian embassy manila?

linokats said...

how many days get legal capacity in Canadian manila embassy?
please i want the answer because i need to know how many days i stay in manila.
thank you

rachel said...

Hi I'm filipina and about to get married to my American fiance.he will live here with me in the Phils and as of the moment we don't have any plans in going to the US because he's already retired. i just want to know are the things that my fiance needs so he can stay here for good.

mjane24 said...

Hi .What is the easiest way to marry american?Like american and filipina?Easy in philippines or in USA?Where is more expensive in Phil or in USA?

Anonymous said...

i am abt to marry a american,what papers do i need to get before he comes here? he will just stay here for 3 weeks and we wnt all to be done b4 he go bck to US.we must get married. thank u so much

lorie said...

hi Googleheimer,

me and my fiancee are planning to get married in the Philippines..can he get the legal capacity to get married while he is in hawaii where he lives? and may i ask if you know what are the other requirements for the visa application after getting married?

I would really appreciate your answer..

thanks

MyHowTo said...

Hi Lorie,

Congratulations. Technically, he can not get the Legal Capacity to Marry in Hawaii, because no such document exists in the US (only in the Philippines), due to the fact that we have no national registry of marriages and divorces (it is all done state by state).

So, with that in mind, what he will have to do is go to the US Embassy in Manila. I would recommend staying at the Best Western La Corona. It's only 150 yards away, it is reasonably priced, has a great restaurant, and has nicer rooms than many of the hotels in the embassy area. Staying over night allows you to wake up early to get in line, cause you know how things are in the Philippines. In my case, I went to ask the guard if I was in the right line and he put me straight inside since I'm American, but that may have just been pure luck on my part.

Anyway, when he goes to the embassy he will fill out a form and wait in line. The form will ask if he has ever been married, and if so, when he was divorced. If this is the case, he should have a copy of his divorce papers or something to prove he has been divorced. The consulate will review these papers and then give him a "Letter in Lieu of Legal Capacity to Marry", which is the same thing in the Philippines. There is a small fee for this, but it's nothing compared to the other costs of the immigration paperwork.

I can't recall off-hand, but you may also have to go to the NSO to request a Legal Capacity document. Check with your local city hall or something to find out, because that takes a couple of weeks and if you need it you may as well go ahead and get it now to have it ready.

Once you've done that you will go to the city hall to apply for your marriage license. They will also send you to the health department for some type of consultation. Personally, I found the consultation kind of juvenile. It was like being in 6th grade health class and learning about the different types of birth control. Then at the end he asked to see us kiss to know that we are a real couple, which seemed really strange to me, but whatever, I don't need an excuse to kiss someone I love. lol.

After that you just need a judge or a priest. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi My US citizen Fiance and I a Filipina Non -Immigrant wanted to marry here in the Philippines. After which we plan to go back to the US together.
My questions: Will the US Embassy consulate ask for the name of the Filipina spouse? Will they have the record of it?


Now if we return together to the US after immediately after our wedding here,
will the US immigration allow me to enter the US border though I am a non immigrant or tourist visa holder?


Anonymous said...

Hi!

My US citizen Fiance and I ( Filipina Non -Immigrant US VISA holder) are planning to marry here in the Philippines.

My questions: Will the US Embassy consulate ask for the name of the Filipina if the US Citizen Fiance get a copy of Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage in the US embassy of Manila?
Will they get personal information of the Filipina and record it?

What are the usual questions of the US Embassy consulate?

Now right after the wedding in the Philippines, if we plan to go to the US together, will the US immigration allow the Filipina spouse (A Non Immigrant Visa holder) to enter the US? or will they hold the entry?

Do US immigration keep records also of the Filipina spouse?
Will they know about the wedding in the Philippines?

Thanks,


symphony said...

I still recommend getting a fiance' visa than a spousal visa. Ours only took 4 months to have it approved by USCIS and I was given 4 months to secure the fiance visa in the Philippines. Maybe there are more paperwork to submit. I was able to talk to several Filipina spouses during my visa interview and they said, it took a year to 3 years for their petition to get approved until they get their spousal visa. Good luck to all.

symphony said...

and yes, its cheaper also.