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Commission on Filipinos Overseas

As you know from reading this site, I just moved back to America a little over a week ago. Now I am preparing to file for my wives Petition for Alien Relative, or better known as Spousal Visa.

To file you need to send an I-130 form “Petition for Alien Relative” and an I-325a “Biographical Data” form for both your wife and yourself.

Once the petition is approved, you will need to file a G-864 Affidavit of Support to show you can support your wife and she will not become an expense to the country. With this form, you need to show you made a specified income for the past two years.  Being in the Philippines for over two years and not earning any money except a small pittance monthly from an annuity, I do not have the income qualifications. Luckily, a family member can submit the form too as a joint sponsor. Both my mother and brother have offered.

These forms are not difficult to fill out and there are instructions for them available online.

Now for the other side of the coin, Elena realized her passport will expire soon and decided to go to the DFA (Department for Foreign Affairs) to renew. After standing online for many hours she was informed she cannot renew until she had a CFO sticker.

CFO (Commission on Filipinos Overseas) is a government agency that gives seminars for any Filipino who is planning to move abroad. To get this sticker you have to attend a seminar. The problem is the seminar is only taught in Manila or Cebu.  There is also a Catch 22 with this needed seminar and Elena’s process for her Visa.

When Elena goes for her interview at the US Embassy, she must have a passport valid for at least six months. To get the CFO sticker, Elena has to show her US Visa. To get her passport renewed she has to show her CFO sticker. With all this said, you cannot get anything until you show something you cannot get until you get the other. If you are confused reading this, think of me writing it.

Well it turns out you can take the CFO seminar before you receive your visa, which should allow the DFA to issue her passport renewal. Then once she receives her visa, she must return to the CFO to get the sticker. This will entail another flight to Manila or Cebu.

If you are saying that this is a real “pain in the A__” you are right, but then again, with the Philippines, what is easy.

62 Responses to “Commission on Filipinos Overseas”

  1. Ben says:

    Bruce:

    I feel your and Elena’s frustration. My wife and I had to go through the exact same mess. The good news is, though, it gets better once you and Elena have all the requirements in hand. Thank goodness for your family’s willingness to help you. We’re praying for you and your wife. Hang in there, brother.

    • Bruce says:

      Ben,
      I hope Elena can handle the stress of all the processes on her side. Once here I know life will be better for us both.

  2. Marcel says:

    It does not make a sense Bruce… As far I know, all Filipinos that are leaving country need to go trough above mentioned seminar in order to be allowed to leave the country, however, I don’t think that she was informed correctly about needing sticker for new passport. She doesn’t even know if she will get her spousal visa yet. When I have married my wife she decided to get a new passport with a new surname in it because she knew that we will be applying for her to immigrate to Canada and no one ever asked her for this sticker to get a new passport.
    I would verify this information, Bruce, I think it is incorrect, from experience I know that many employees in the Philippines are incompetent and provide incorrect information quite often.
    Logically, would she need this sticker if she wanted to go to Singapore for a weekend? She should not let them know that she will be moving to USA, I think that that extra information caused short in a brain of DFA officer.

    • Bruce says:

      Marcel,

      Elena want back again. I think as mentioned, she needs the seminar for her passport renewal since she is changing her name to mine from maiden name and told them she was coming here. I will discuss to her to keep it in her maiden name and as you said, tell them we are going to Singapore or somewhere for a weekend.
      i will update all on how the process is going.

      • Marcel says:

        Bruce, my wife changed her passport to get a new surname there. She did not need renewal. Same as Elena does not need it for next six months. My wife got a marriage certificate from NSO and went to get a new passport with new surname. She asked for new passport because her name changed, that was the reason. She was not telling anyone that she will be moving out of Philippines any time soon. Soonest she has got her new passport, she went for medical in Davao (i’ve got her appoitment over the phone in half an hour on the same day). In your case Elena will have to go to Manila for medical (but that is not important for the passport).
        Then, once she had her new passport, medical and immigration papers filled out, we have applied to Canadian Immigration for visa.
        Once my wife received her passport with Canadian visa in it by courier, she went to Manila, attended CFO seminar, got a sticker and hopped on a plane to Canada.
        In your case, I think Elena should get her new passport with a new married surname (passport with her maiden name wont be acceptable for US embassy as her current legal name and name on the passport must match). I am convinced that she was misinformed about needing CFO sticker for a new passport. Think with me, what if she wanted to stay in Philippines permanently and just use a passport with her real new name to travel to nearby destinations? CFO sticker is needed only in case if Filipinos are leaving country for work or live with their new spouses abroad but not for regular travel. And sticker is needed only before boarding airplane not anytime earlier…

  3. Marcel says:

    P.S. Sticker is needed by Filipinos that are leaving country as OFW or spouses of foreigners only. No one else. And seminar sticker is needed to satisfy airport immigration employees before departure, not before. She does not have a visa to USA in her passport yet, therefore they cannot ask for this at this point.

  4. Marcel says:

    One more thing…
    My wife went to this seminar only day or two before actually leaving for Canada. She processed all her immigration papers from Davao by mail. She did not even have to go to Manila for interview at the embassy. So only trip to Manila was the one when she was traveling to Canada.

    • Bruce says:

      Marcel,
      That is the Canadian Embassy, not the US. Canada has less restrictions. For US Visa all must go to St Luke Medical in Manila for the physical.

  5. Marvin says:

    These stinking immigration employees, if they don’t feel like lifting a pen they just make up some phony crap so you have to leave and come back some other time when they go on a two hour lunch break.

  6. Bill says:

    I have a Filipino wife and we both live overseas she does not have a sticker ?? However it would seem that as stated above the solution is to go step by step
    1. get the passport renewed (I need a weekend in HongKong etc)
    2. get the US visa
    3. Go for the sticker.
    Good luck
    BTW I found your blog after you left the Phils, always to late 🙂

    • Bruce says:

      Bill,
      Better late than never. 🙂
      There is over 300 articles I have written about my life and living in Davao and the Philippines. I will continue to write about my rebuilding my life in the US and also my wives progress coming here and cultural changes she will have. Also a few readers have promised to write for this site continuing the stories and life there.

  7. Greg says:

    Marcel—I have never heard of bypassing the medical and embassy interview—-wait–its canada; probably much different process.

    DFA has an email and phone number for inquiries I believe; I would ask officially if the cfo is required to renew, since she never left the country. I think there is a chance that an employee mixed up their information based on his/her own understanding.

    At a minimum, I would have her upgrade to a supervisor. Or again, send an official email inquiry to hopefully get a good answer.

  8. Marcel says:

    My wife did not bypass medical, it was done in Davao, there are bunch of doctors approved by embassy all over Philippines (in big cities) to perform medical examination for immigration purposes.
    Interview at the embassy is not always required, that’s at the discretion of the embassy. Our paperwork was in tip top condition and on top of it embassy f….. up causing some delays in our case and they did not call my wife for interview to Manila and just issued visa.

    • Bruce says:

      Marcel,
      As I replied, the US Consulate is different and there is only one place to go for medical exam.

      • Tom says:

        True for a US Visa you have to go to a clinic in Manila. Tell her to go eraly as they only do a specified number per day.

        For the passport she shouldn’t have mentioned leaving the country she should have just applied for a new one. May not be too late or is there another DFO office nearby? She will eventually need the sticker but not until after her visa approval.

        I just went through this with my fiancee. She renewed her passport but didn’t mention leaving. That really shouldn’t matter for getting the passport but you know how that goes.

  9. Marcel says:

    Bruce, is there any way one can edit his previous comments? I wanted to add or clarify some things in my fist comment and instead it ended up being 3 comments…

    • Bruce says:

      Marcel,
      I am the only one that can edit comments. If you want email me through the “Contact Me” tab, besure to answer the little test question and give me which comments to remove and/or edit. Or else we can let it all stand as is.

  10. Randy says:

    This seems a little backwards.
    I do know that Elena does require to take the 2 seminars with the CFO and she will then get the CFO sticker placed in her passport however this should have nothing to do with her being able to re-new her current passport.
    In fact, if her current passport is about to expire what good would it be to have a CFO sticker in an expired passport.
    Someone has dropped the ball on this one.
    Elena needs to renew her passport first and then get the 2 seminars done so she has the sticker in her new passport.
    Good luck…

    • Marcel says:

      Don’t forget that validity of those CFO sticker is time limited and processing of Elena’s application to US will take many months therefore it would make a more sense to attend CFO seminar once she has got her visa already and will be departing for US soon.

      • Bruce says:

        Marcel,
        From what I read,if you go to the deminar before you get your visa, you just go back once you have your visa for the sticker.

        • Tom says:

          True we just did that. I am not sure how long the sticker is valid for so she might still want to wait.

          Are you aware that you can also apply for a K3 visa for her. This processes quicker and she can come to the US to await the processing of the spouse visa. We just finished a K2 which is for a fiancee and it took about 6 months start to finish. A K3 has a similar processing time.

          • Bruce says:

            Tom,
            Yes I know about the K3. I will do everything to get Elena here as fast as I can.

    • Bruce says:

      Randy,

      We are trying to straighten this out.

  11. Marcel says:

    http://www.cfo.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=297&Itemid=77

    For Filipinos leaving the country with an immigrant VISA

    As a Filipino emigrant, or those who have been granted an immigrant-class visa, you are required by the Philippine Government by virtue of Article 19 of Presidential Decree No. 442, , to register with the Commission on Filipinos Overseas before leaving the country to settle in a foreign land. An emigrant who has properly registered with the commission will have in his passport the CFO sticker which will be inspected by the Bureau of Immigration upon departure.

  12. Leon Andrews says:

    Hi Bruce,

    GR8 your doing well back in the States and it’s also GR8 your going to give a running account on getting Elena to the States to be with you.

    Should be very educational to read your posts as you go through the proces of being reunited with Elena and over coming the hurdles and frustrations in achieving your goal.

    Cheers Leon…

  13. roy says:

    Hello Bruce, I skipped reading the rest of the comments so I don’t know if what I am about to comment is rendered moot by earlier comments.
    First of all, you know that I am an immigrant myself. & getting that CFO sticker is not as difficult as you think it is except that yes, it’s in Manila only (& Cebu as you said). I lived w/n walking distance to the US Embassy so the CFO distance was not a problem to me which is Quirino Ave, I think. Second, CFO sticker is only for those migrating. Not every one is migrating or not everyone will get a visa. But you have a passport at the very least. You want to go Hongkong, you need a visa but you don’t need a CFO sticker. Third, I was required by the US Embassy to have a CFO sticker after my medical exams, or before I was to receive my visa.
    But before I could get a slot for my interview at the US Embassy it took me years for my name to be called in. I have had about 4 passports before I was called by the US Embassy.
    My point is there is nothing that the Phil can do about it. CFO only educates those people who are in pre-departure stage. At this point, you have to have passport already. It is the US that has the control over how fast the application is.

    • Bruce says:

      Roy,
      Since I will file for a spousal visa, it is not like someone just immigrating. This should not take too long. The problem when you need two things that each needs the other to obtain. IE need VISA to get CFO and cannot get visa unless you have valid passport.

      • roy says:

        Hello Bruce, sorry I don’t understand your first sentence. A spousal visa is one of several methods by which one can immigrate to the US. To leave the country whether for immigration or just for travel, you need a passport. Depending on the country you are entering you need a visa. Depending on your visa, you need a CFO sticker. If you have a tourist visa, of course that CFO sticker is not needed & can even bring you trouble. CFO sticker is a requirement of the Phil govt and should only be given if one is given the visa to migrate.

        It is a very simple process in perfectly reasonable steps. The problem that you have pointed out did not happen to us. But then you are of the view that “spousal visa is not like someone is immigrating.” So maybe your wife’s case is so special.

      • Tom says:

        Bruce for whatever reason a spousal visa takes two to three times longer than a fiancee visa (go figger)That is why they allow you to apply for the K3 at the same time. They explain it on their website.

        Glad you made it to Las Vegas ok. I’ll be glad to tell you about what all we did if you are interested. E-mail me and I’ll give you my number. I am in Phoenix.

        Good luck.

        • roy says:

          Hello Tom, once a spousal visa is approved, the spouse under petitioned gets a green card immediately within 3 weeks she/he sets foot to the US. A fiancee however receives a conditional status, meaning certain requirements & restrictions come into play, i.e, among others, marriage must take place w/n 90 days or else the fiancee becomes out of status.

        • Bruce says:

          Tom,
          I have looked at everything and see what has to be done on my end and Elena knows about the mdical and embassy interview.

  14. roy says:

    Ops ….wrong example, you don’ t need a visa to HK. My point is why would CFO sticker be a requirement when not everyone is migrating. To get passport, you need a birth certificate only. CFO is a pre-departure seminar for would-be immigrants. Sort of a send-off seminar for those intending to live permanently elsewhere. I want to shop in Bangkok, why would I need a CFO sticker?

  15. Randy says:

    If you notice on the CFO website, one of the requirements to register is as follows:
    Photocopy of Immigrant Data Summary for USA-bound emigrant (must not be detached from visa packet)

    I believe this is a Photocopy of the “Visa approved” form Elena will receive after the spousal visa has been succesful.

    It would be a bit of a catch 22 if she needs to CFO sticker in her passport to get it renewed but she cannot get a CFO sticker unless she has her visa approval papers to get the CFO sticker.

    I dont think Canadian immigration is that much different from the USA and my wife was able to renew her passport without ever needing a CFO sticker. She did however require the CFO sticker before she was able to get in the Manila airport to come to Canada. We simply went to the Manila CFO office about 3 days before boarding the plane for Canada and she took their seminars and got the sticker put in her passport.
    The rest is history….

    • Bruce says:

      Randy,
      This is something told to Elena by DFA. She went back and told them she is planning to visit Hong Kong for a week vacation with me and needs her passport.

  16. Marcel says:

    Bruce, If she was told the same thing by same DFA officer, she needs to go higher up the food chain there and talk to supervisor, manager, etc.
    That sticker is only needed by Filipinos leaving country long term. Since at present moment they have no prove that that is her intention (she does not even have a visa to US yet), they should not treat her any different than regular Filipinos that are not leaving country. I think that Elena should not volunteer extra information initially.
    At this point she is either dealing with someone incompetent there or someone who enjoys making her life difficult out of envy. (Filipino crab like mentality).

    • roy says:

      Marcel, under no circumstances that CFO sticker is a requirement for applying (first time and renewal) passport. People in the DFA handling passports do not know the CFO sticker. They do not encounter them. CFO sticker is pre-departure requirement. It is the airport officials that require them. You may have the requisite visa but if you do not have the CFO sticker, you should not be allowed to fly. You are quick to attribute it to incompetence or even Filipino Crab mentality because it is easier to blame them. Yes, we get that a lot when it could be a simple case of people, not just the bureaucrats are only misunderstanding the steps.

      • Marcel says:

        Roy,

        this is what this whole discussion is about. Here, we know exactly what CFO sticker is about, yet DFA officer keeps asking Elena to get it for simple passport renewal…

        • roy says:

          Ok Marcel, yes, you know what’s the CFO sticker is all about. It just boggles my mind how a CFO sticker can be required in passport application when every Filipinos dreaming of leaving the country knows that a duly authenticated birth certificate and an application form duly filled up and an application fee is all that it takes to get a passport. Just yesterday, DFA spokeswoman said so in the light of a prospective Filipina representative for the Ms Universe.

      • Bruce says:

        Roy,
        At the DFA, they re saying anyone married to a foreigner needs to take the seminar. I think this is just another thing the government is doing to get money and waste time.

    • Bruce says:

      Marcel,
      I have given up. Elena says she knows what they said and the requirements and I will let her handle it. I am tired of arguing.

  17. Jade says:

    Oh my gosh I can remember the stress I had to go to when I was applying for a US visa from the Philippines to join my husband who was working there…I am glad I am over that 😛

    • Bruce says:

      Jade,
      I just hope the process does not stress Elena too much. She gets upset and angry with everyone when she gets stressed out.

  18. BrSpiritus says:

    I told Venice about this and to be honest, she doesn’t believe me about it. It’s so frustrating. Few people realize how the Philippine government screws over A) Anyone trying to work OFW and B) Any citizen trying to make a better life for themselves with a foreign spouse.

    • Bruce says:

      BrSpiritus,
      Have Venice call Elena or visit her so she can explain. And as we know, the PI Government wants their fingers and charge fees wherever they can. They also need to make sure all OFW’s send their remittances home to the country can survive.

  19. Steve says:

    Bruce,
    My wife just went through this process two weeks ago in Cebu. To get here passport in her married name she had to attend the seminar given by the SMEF-COW and get the completion form then go to DFA to get passport. The CFO sticker is not required until she has her visa and is ready to depart the country. Hope this helps. Good luck with you visa efforts. I am going through the same IR-1 visa process.

    • Bruce says:

      Steve,
      Elena has it figured out now, the pain is the costs of all the flights back and forth to Manila and/or Cebu.

  20. Rizza says:

    Hi Bruce,

    Geez! that simple renewal of Elena’s passport made the beginning of your K-3 visa application process complicated..
    All that i can say about this is she could have renewed her passport online with just a physical appearance for about 15 minutes at the designated DFA center only if she was just renewing it and no info on the passport are gonna be changed but since she should changed her maiden name to her married name, she really needs to undergo the long process and endure the long lines at DFA. And i wish she haven’t told anyone else at the DFA she needs to renew her passport because she’s immigrating soon…but still it doesn’t make any sense at all coz as what everybody has said here, CFO stickers are acquired after you get your visa stamped on your passport..I am happy for both of you moving back to the US. I find your website while i was trying to find out what’s the significance of this CFO for our K-1 visa application which i think i don’t need one coz K-1 is classified as non-immigrant visa..Good luck on everything!!!

    • Bruce says:

      Rizza,
      You might need it anyway. It is not something the American Govt requires, it is something the Philippine Govt requires from any Filipino moving to another country including OFW’s.

  21. celyn says:

    hi i went at dfa cagayan de oro to renew my passport using the surname of my foriegn husband,but they told me it cant be renew because were not 1 year marriage yet so they told me to go to Cebu to attend the seminar and get cfo sticker, so what i did, i did not go cebu for that cause im not using the passport yet,so i decide i will wait till our first anniversary will be done and thats the time i will go back and renew my passport.i will be needing that new passport this january 2011.

    • Bruce says:

      Celyn,

      I talked to my wife about your situation. She told me a friend of ours, a Filipina, married to an American less than one year went to get her passport changed to her married name. She needed her old passport, a NSO marriage license, NSO birth certificate and a copy of husbands passport to apply.

      They will not release passport to you until you complete the CFO seminar. After the seminar you will receive a document proving you attended the seminar. Once you receive your VISA the CFO office will put the sticker in your passport. If you already have a VISA, you will receive the sticker after the seminar.

  22. celyn says:

    thank you for your reply, but in our case we will apply the visa later maybe takes a year before we will be granted the visa im renewing my passport cause i will live with my husband that station in south korea and he will be staying there for 3 years. we will not going state or america yet. and my passport surname should be the surname of my husband so that they will let me enter in the base.

    • paeng says:

      CFO certificate is one of the pre-requisite requirements for issuance of Philippine passport for Filipinos who are fiance or married to a foreign national. CFO registration sticker is required to Filipino who are leaving the country with fiance, spouse, immigrant or long term resident visa. @ Celyn, it will be depend on type of visa that Korean embassy will issue to you. If they will issue you a permanent resident dependent visa, you will need a CFO sticker. The good thing about this, is you can do this at the airport as CFO has desk at Manila International Airport. Just make sure that you have the CFO certificate with you when doing this. You may also want to check their website: http://www.cfo.gov.ph for updated and accurate information. hope this will help.

    • Bruce says:

      Celyn,

      I see Paeng above answered it better.

  23. anne says:

    My mum got her immigrant visa going to USA. ( my sister petitioned her.. tomorrow shes gonna attend her PDOS kind of seminar i think.. What id like to know is Can she cometo HOnkong and visit us for a week and fly from HK to USA instead without any hassle?? Cheers, Anne

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