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Guest Post: How I Met Michell (1 of 2)

Posted on: March 15th, 2017 by RapidVisa Staff No Comments

Ned Kelly has lived in the Philippines for three and a half years. While there, he co-authored a book on living in the Philippines for those thinking of retiring, working or studying in that distant archipelago. Here’s an excerpt on how he met his fiancé, Michell.

Five years ago, I suddenly decided that I was going to move to the Philippines. I was pretty free at the time and didn’t have any real commitments – after living and thriving for 45 years in the good old US of A, I had never been married, never had children, was a bit burnt out on my career path and was looking for a change. And not some pedestrian midlife crisis sports car type of change– something really significant. Something like moving outside of the United States and my usual comfort zone. Towards that end, I had been researching inexpensive foreign countries to move to. No matter what site I visited, the Philippines was invariably mentioned. Photos from Google painted the country as a sun-swept, tropical paradise full of white sand beaches and gently swaying palm trees. Peering outside my window at yet another crippling winterscape of towering snowbanks dwarfing passing cars, that sunny tropical weather held more than a little appeal.

So, being the studious internet geek I was (and am), I joined a Philippines expatriate forum and learned all I could. Most of the guys there (the vast majority were male) were married to and/or had Filipina significant others. Along the way, one of the forum members recommended joining one of the may free dating websites in order to meet someone. Although I wasn’t really interested in a relationship, I was keen to learn more about the Philippines, so I took up that advice and ended up the free Date in Asia website. And for those of you in the know, yes, I am referring to that Date in Asia – the nefarious hangout of underhanded Filipina scammers with no shortage of sick grandmothers and pretty gals with prominent Adam’s apples and suspiciously large hands.

Not knowing this at the time and eager to talk to a bonafide Filipina, I set my account up and hopped headlong into the vicious foray that is just about any online dating site. Shortly thereafter, I was chatting with two women, both of whom seemed to be genuinely nice souls. One was a business manager in Manila and the other was studying for her nursing exam after completing university. It was all platonic, and it was all very nice – I let them know that I was just looking to learn more about the Philippines and wasn’t really looking for any in-depth relationship. For their part, they were apparently fine with that.

And then I ran into Michell’s profile, and all those reservations flew right out the proverbial window.
First off, her photo was amazing. Michell is a very attractive woman, and she has yet to meet a camera yet that doesn’t clearly adore her. Secondly, unlike many others on Date in Asia, she had actually taken the time to write a very nicely worded profile, talking about her love of reading, travel and a very real appreciation of the great outdoors (known locally as “the jungle”). Finally, even though she was 26 at the time (I was 45) she was a college graduate (business finance) and seemed very down to earth. Being possessed of such a nice profile, I sent her a rather lame private message “Hey, I really like your profile. Don’t get married until I get there!!”

Michell’s response was lukewarm at best. Neither of us can remember her exact words (and our DiA accounts have been deleted), but it was something along the lines of “Thanks for the message. I am actually heading to my family’s home in the province (country). There is no internet signal there, so I will talk with you when I return.”
Sigh…. So much for my expectations of immediate gratification.

Michell visited her family home in the country for four or five days and – true to her word – replied to me when she got back. This made for a very happy me. After messaging back and forth on Date in Asia, we switched over to Yahoo Messenger. Yahoo was great as we could simply chat back and forth as we pleased. Then came the day for our first Skype video call and my initial introduction to Philippines internet.

Now, keep in mind that Michell was living in Pagadian at the time, a small city located on the southern edge of Mindanao. Renowned for redolent dried fish, the city’s internet stability couldn’t claim the same amount of fame.

Skype ring….Skype ring……Skype ring….

Click-boop.

A fuzzy indistinct blob formed on my monitor, “Hello?”

“Hello, Michell!” I blurted, whacking the edge of my monitor and wiggling the cable, all to no avail.

“Blurble wazzle are you?

“Am I what?” I asked, a bit baffled.

The blob shifted about the screen. Given the fuzzy black strands topping the blurry mess, I figured it for Michell.

“No,” she clarified, “I asked how you are?”

“Oh, I am fine. How are you?”

“Buzzle crapple bling bop shoosh”

Oh, this wasn’t going well at all.

“Michell, it is a bad connection. Let’s hang up and try again.”

My fantastic future fiancé garbled a reply and hung up. After a few moments, we reconnected. This time, the signal was much improved and her image filled my screen.

“Hi!” she chirped, blasting me with a fierce Filipina smile.

“Hi yourself, Michell,” I replied, staring into the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen. “How are you?”

“Oh, I’m…..” Her response was drowned out by what sounded like a 747 passing overhead.

“Jiminy Cricket. What was that??”

“I said I was fine, how are you?”

“No, I was asking what that noise was.”

A gentle roll of the shoulders, “Oh, it’s just a tricycle. They have loud exhausts.”

Michell was Skyping from a small internet café owned by her family. Her computer station was set up amidst a sea of young Filipinos engaged in raucous horseplay. Added to this cacophony of background chatter was the intermittent roar of those mysterious passing trikes.

“Sheesh, it’s really loud over there.”

Another blazing smile, “It’s always loud here. My family runs a boarding house for local university students. There’s an internet café in our compound and it’s always filled up. That’s where I am right now.”

“Oh,” I replied, not seeing any baristas running around with mugs of steaming coffee. “What’s an internet café.”
I can remember Michell giving me an odd look, as though trying to fathom my ignorance – five years on, it’s a look I’ve simply had to get used to.

“Internet cafes are where people go to rent computer time. A lot of Filipinos can’t afford their own, so there are internet cafes all over the place.”

“They don’t serve coffee?”

Roll of the eyes, “No, Ned. They don’t serve coffee.”

Already trying to absorb this cultural oddity, I discerned a familiar sound.

“Is that a rooster?” I asked.

Michell looked off to her left, “Yep. That’s a rooster.”

“But it’s like 3 o’clock in the afternoon there. I thought they only crowed at sunrise.”

A slight rise of the eyebrows, “No, Ned. Roosters crow all the time. They like showing off.”

The rooster stepped up his local battle cry. I wanted to ask if the rooster was actually in the internet cafe but didn’t want to come across as rude.

This was all a bit much for my city dwelling self.

And then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any stranger, she hit me with something even more unexpected.

“Oh,” she said, those big brown eyes staring out from my monitor with great gravitas. “And just so you know, Ned – just so there’s no misunderstandings. I’m not a virgin.”

Whoa.

Talk about icebreakers…..

OK, that’s the end of part one on how I met Michell. Stay tuned for the next installment in which we explore why she was so quick to declare her virginity status, unique cultural challenges, the uncertainty of long distance relationships and where we’re at five years later.

This is a guest post by Ned Kelly.

Ned KellyNed Kelly’s ebook, Chasing Your Philippine Dream: An Expat’s Guide to the Philippines is 400+ pages of information for anyone thinking of retiring, working or studying in the Philippines. Covering the good, the bad and the occasional ugly of life in the island republic, the book comes with a 100 percent money back guarantee.
Order at the SSL secure Selz site:

Chasing Your Philippine Dream: An Expat’s Guide to the Philippines

Income Requirements for Fiancé (K1) and Spousal (CR1) Visas

Posted on: February 27th, 2017 by RapidVisa Staff No Comments

cost of the k1 process can be highWhether you are looking to sponsor a fiance (K1) or spousal visa (CR1), keep in mind that specific visa income requirements are required by the USCIS. These financial requisites are in place to ensure that the sponsored foreign national does not become a “public charge” – that is, to make sure that they are not financially abandoned and left to the welfare of the state and/or federal government.

Sponsor income requirements are based on the latest federal poverty guidelines published by the US Department of Health and Human Services.  For K-1 fiance visas, the sponsor’s income must be at least 100% of that guideline; for CR1 spousal visas, that requirement increases to 125%. Keep in mind that  in addition to what type of visa you are applying for the state you live in and the number of dependents in your household also contribute to specific amount required.

RapidVisa offers a free Income Requirement Calculator to help you determine if you meet the monetary requirements. We’ve also compiled the most recent tables (current as of 2017) which you can find at the bottom of this article.

Stable, US-Based Income

The USCIS mandates that declared income must be both US-based and stable:
US Income: The reported income must be US-based, with some exceptions being made for military or government personnel based overseas. Proof of income is presented through the last three years US tax returns (gross income), pay stubs displaying “year to date” summaries and a letter from the current employer noting position, date of employment and annual salary rate.

Stable Income:  “Stability” plays a major role in the USCIS decision process. Income derived from active employment, Veteran Administration benefits, retirement pensions and Social Security are all stable forms of income, but income gained from unemployment is not. If the sponsor’s income is determined to not be “stable” by the USCIS, there is a good chance that the visa request will be denied.

Utilizing Assets

House

Do you have a paid-off house? It may qualify as an asset.

For spousal visas or those seeking to adjust status (green card), cash or assets which are readily liquidated can be applied towards the income requirement. Typically, the assets must be worth at least three times the amount required from the poverty guideline. That is, if you are required to earn $30,000 per year, you may be able to utilize $90,000 in assets to meet that criteria. Cash, certificates of deposit, stocks, mutual funds, life insurance policies and home ownership/equity are all examples of readily liquidated assets.

Specific Challenges

Self Employed

Sponsors who work for themselves face additional income requirements. Since they are not on a “traditional” career path (and usually can’t get a letter from their employer), those who are self employed must show bank account records going back at least six months and copies of their IRS 1099 forms. This is on top of the requirements for conventionally employed sponsors to provide US tax returns. For those with their own businesses, a commercial rating concern report from Dun and Bradstreet can also be utilized.

Expatriates and Domicile

Another challenge at this stage of the visa process also faces American sponsors who have lived outside of the US for an extended period of time. For those who are self-employed (common among this demographic), the US tax returns and bank account forms noted previously are still required as is proof of residency (domicile) in the United States. Best practice in this case is to have the sponsor return to the US and establish a residence. Proving domicile can be tricky, as according to US law, the sponsor must possess a primary address in the United States and show that they intend to permanently maintain it.

Income Requirements for Fiance (K1) and Spousal (CR1) Visas

As noted previously, the annual gross income of K-1 fiance visa sponsors must be equal to or greater than 100% of the federal poverty guideline. For individuals seeking to secure CR1 spousal visas or adjust their status to lawful permanent residency (green card), that threshold increases to 125%.  Also note that living in Hawaii or Alaska increases the threshold over and above those required for sponsors in the contiguous 48 states.

Contiguous US

(including Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam and Mariana Islands)

Household Size

K1 Fiancé Visa

CR1 Spousal Visa or Adjustment of Status

2 $16,240 $20,300
3 $20,420 $25,525
4 $24,600 $30,750
5 $28,780 $35,975
6 $32,960 $41,200
7 $37,140 $46,425
8 $41,320 $51,650
Per Additional +$4,180 +$5,225

Alaska Residents

Household Size

K1 Fiancé Visa

CR1 Spousal Visa or Adjustment of Status

2 $20,290 $25,362
3 $25,520 $31,900
4 $30,750 $38,437
5 $35,980 $44,975
6 $41,210 $51,512
7 $46,440 $58,050
8 $51,670 $64,587
Per Additional +$5,230 +$6,537

Hawaii Residents

Household Size

K1 Fiancé Visa

CR1 Spousal Visa or Adjustment of Status

2 $18,670 $23,337
3 $23,480 $29,350
4 $28,290 $35,362
5 $33,100 $41,375
6 $37,910 $47,387
7 $42,720 $53,400
8 $47,530 $59,412
Per Additional +$4,810 +$6,012

All About Trump’s Travel Ban Executive Order

Posted on: February 7th, 2017 by RapidVisa Staff 7 Comments

This post is regarding President Trump’s January 27, 2017 Executive Order: “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry in the United States

In order to proactively address inquiries regarding President Trump’s travel ban, RapidVisa offers the following:

                                             What It Is

The travel ban bars entry to the United States for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations. The executive order also places a 120 day moratorium on refugee resettlement programs.

Who it Affects

Foreign nationals from Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and Iran who do not have lawful permanent resident status are banned from entering the United States.

Why It Was Implemented

The White House contends that the travel ban was initiated to increase national security and promote the safety of American citizens. Legal opponents to the travel ban refute this by declaring that the executive order is a ban against Muslims, which violates the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution.

Is the Executive Order a Travel Ban?

Yes. Affected individuals from those seven nations are not allowed to travel to the US for that stipulated 90 day period.

Is the executive order a “Muslim ban?”

This question is central to a federal judge’s recent suspension of the travel ban. The White House states that the travel ban is not specifically targeted towards Muslims. Numerous state Attorneys General have challenged this claim by noting that President Trump has previously stated that extreme measures were needed to keep Muslims out of the United States. The question of the order’s intent will therefore determine whether or not the travel ban will resume.

Travel Ban Timeline

January 27:

President Donald Trump issues an executive order temporarily banning citizens from Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and Iran. The ban will extend for 90 days and also halts refugee resettlement programs to the US for 120 days.

January 29:

Following nationwide confusion as to how various government agencies are to implement the ban – and the “provisional revocation” of approximately 60,000 travel visas – the White House stated that the immigration decree does not apply to foreign citizens that already possess legal permanent residency in the United States.

January 30:

The Attorney General of Washington state –followed shortly by Minnesota and eventually fourteen other states – files suit against the executive order. The request that the travel ban be suspended is followed by dozens of other lawsuits from a variety of national agencies. A limited number of courts start temporarily suspending various parts of President Trump’s executive order.

February 3:

A US District Judge responds to the Attorneys General suit, temporality suspending enforcement of the executive order. The federal judge ordering the suspension states that further judicial evaluation is necessary. Responding to the judge’s order, the government informs the airlines that travelers from the seven banned nations are once again allowed entry to the United States. The State Department summarily reverses cancellation of the 60,000 travel visas halted by the initial executive order.

February 4:

The Department of Justice files against the suspension of the travel ban, stating that it will appeal the federal judge’s order.

February 5:

The federal court denies the Department of Justice request, citing the need for further judicial review.

February 6:

The federal court decrees that documentary filings from all concerned parties is due by the end of the work day.

February 7:

Testimony from both sides is scheduled at the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Oral arguments from the Justice Department and the involved state Attorneys General will be heard at 3 PM.

What’s Next

A protracted series of suits and countersuits is expected from both the White House and involved Attorneys General. If the ban suspension order is upheld, the President could ask the Supreme Court to intervene. If the ban suspension is lifted, citizens of those seven nations would again be barred entry to the United States.

Our Recommendation

Foreign nationals from the seven targeted nations already in the United States are advised not to leave the country until the legalities on the matter are concluded. Foreign citizens abroad who might be affected by the resumption of the travel ban are advised to return to the US as soon as possible.

We will continue to update this page as developments continue

USCIS Fee Increases Coming

Posted on: October 27th, 2016 by RapidVisa Staff No Comments

Today, the USCIS announced the specific fee increases that are coming in December. The last time these fees increased was in 2010, so it’s been a long time coming. The new increased fees will take effect on December 23, 2016. Any forms they receive that are postmarked on or before that day will be charged the old fees.

Fees that will affect RapidVisa’s customers

USCIS Fee Increase: Infographic

uscis-fee-increase

What does this mean for RapidVisa’s customers?

Unfortunately, we have no control over the government’s fees and these fees are increasing for everyone, including non-RapidVisa customers. The good news is, you still have time to file under the old fees. RapidVisa will only accept old fees with petitions that are received in our office no later than November 30,2016.

Please check your signed RapidVisa agreement and note the excerpt:

I understand that the government occasionally increases its filing fees and that I am responsible to pay the increased amount if government fees increase after I have already paid RapidVisa but before my documents are filed with the government.

If you have any questions, give us a call. If you’re ready to lock in your prices, go here to check out and file your petition.

Divorce & Annulment Basics by Country

Posted on: April 6th, 2016 by RapidVisa Staff No Comments

If you are applying for a K1 visa or CR1 visa, you will need to prove that any of the petitioner’s and alien’s previous marriages have been legally terminated through annulment or divorce. All documents must be certified by the appropriate civil authorities.

Visa Memoirs Podcast #8 (3-31-16) Noelle & Ibrar

Posted on: March 31st, 2016 by RapidVisa Staff No Comments

Originally from Pakistan, Ibrar was working in IT in Dubai. Noelle was working in government contracts and met Ibrar online. Noelle and her child traveled to Dubai during Christmas time and were culture shocked to see some Europeans riding camels in a Speedo. After spending quite a bit of time together, they decided to get hitched and start a life together in Texas. Listen to their story and their advice to couples going through the same process.

Visa Type: K1 Visa

Country: Pakistan

Would you like to be on the podcast? Please go here!

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Some of the music used in this episode is used under a Creative Commons license. Attribution to CC songs used:

J.Lang / CC BY 3.0

Visa Memoirs Podcast #7 (3-24-16) James & Aprilyn

Posted on: March 24th, 2016 by RapidVisa Staff No Comments

James puts other guys to shame with his efforts to win over Aprilyn. Aprilyn came to Mississippi to settle with James on a K1 visa.

Visa Type: K1 Visa

Country: Philippines

Would you like to be on the podcast? Please go here!

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Music Credits : Mr. Wozzie by Robbero (c) 2015 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

spinningmerkaba / CC BY 3.0

Visa Memoirs Podcast #6 (3-17-16) Larry & Susana

Posted on: March 17th, 2016 by RapidVisa Staff 1 Comment

Larry and Susana met online and fell quickly in love. After Larry’s visits to Colombia, they decided to marry in the USA and used RapidVisa to petition for a K1 visa. They now are married and reside together in Pittsburgh.

Visa Type: K1 Visa

Country: Colombia

Would you like to be on the podcast? Please go here!

Larry & Susan

Some of the music used in this episode is used under a Creative Commons license. Attribution to CC song used:

spinningmerkaba / CC BY 3.0

Visa Memoirs Podcast #5 (3-10-16) José & Holly

Posted on: March 10th, 2016 by RapidVisa Staff No Comments

José was a casanova who enjoyed Bachata dancing as an instructor at Punta Cana. Holly was a Chicago teacher on a Spring Break trip with her friends. Listen to their story of meeting, falling in unexpected love, and joining each other in the U.S. with the use of a K1 fiance visa.

Visa Type: K1 Visa

Country: Dominican Republic

Would you like to be on the podcast? Please go here!

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Some of the music used in this episode is used under a Creative Commons license. Attribution to CC songs used:

Alex / CC BY 3.0
Jeris / CC BY 3.0
djolliej / CC BY 3.0
stefsax / CC BY 2.5
spinningmerkaba / CC BY 3.0

Visa Memoirs Podcast #4 (3-3-16) Dustin & Michelle

Posted on: March 3rd, 2016 by RapidVisa Staff No Comments

Singer and winner of the 2010 “Gensan Pop Idol”, a popular competition in General Santos, Philippines, Michelle Malabarbas met Dustin online while professionally singing in China. They quickly fell in love and filed for a K1 visa to be united in California.

Visa Type: K1 Visa

Country: Philippines

Would you like to be on the podcast? Please go here!
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