Converting to Islam to “Legally” Divorce in the Philippines

25 Apr 2017


The Philippines is the only country other than the Vatican that outlaws divorce. That’s why it’s no surprise that so many of our customers are surprised to find out that their Filipina fiance cannot qualify for a K1 fiance visa and be with them in the United States due to a previous unresolved marriage. While she may be living completely separated from the first husband for many years, under the eyes of the law, she’s still married.

There is one exception that some may think is a viable loophole – “Convert to Islam and be able to legally divorce.” Unfortunately for them, it’s not that simple. According to Presidential Decree No. 1083, there are divorces allowed in very specific circumstances under Shari’a District Court, subject to the provisions of the Rules of Court. But in terms of obtaining a U.S. visa, bear in mind that it’s a U.S. issue, and the consular officer still has the final say.

Most previously married Filipina(o)s find that the only way to be legally free to marry is to secure an annulment. With thousands of dollars, a few years, and a good lawyer, many of them are able to pull it off. However, it is rarely, if ever, a smooth or easy process, and isn’t achieved by all who attempt it.

IR1 Spousal Visa Denied After Sharia Divorce

Redacted version of the actual denial letter. Click to enlarge.
Redacted version of the actual denial letter. Click to enlarge.

In this example, an IR1 spousal visa was denied at the embassy phase for the following given reason:

“Your first marriage was not solemnized under Muslim law or Article 13 of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines (MPL). Philippine law does not recognize the validity of your Sharia divorce because the Philippine Family Code is the first or sole legal basis of the underlying marriage. This is true even if one party to a civil marriage later converts to Islam. You do not qualify for the IR1 visa category.”

In this case, the embassy didn’t recognize the divorce, because the original marriage was solemnized in the Roman Catholic church, therefore doesn’t qualify as a legitimate Islamic divorce under their criteria.

Results from Congressional Inquiry

Excerpt of the Congressional Inquiry. See full letter here.
Excerpt of the Congressional Inquiry. See full letter here.

Another of our customers was denied for a K1 fiance visa from the Philippines for the same reason. The U.S. sponsor decided to issue a Congressional Inquiry to find out more about why he was denied. The letter he received was very cut and dry:

“The case filed by Mr. [U.S. Sponsor] on behalf of [Alien] has been refused and returned to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Ms. [Alien]’s [Date] marriage to [Alien’s prior husband] did not fall within the provisions of the law allowing for Sharia divorce in the Philippines and, as such, their subsequent divorce in [Month, Year] cannot be legally recognized. For this reason, Ms. [Alien] is not free to marry and does not qualify for the fiancee (K1) visa category.”

The conclusion is that if someone marries under traditional (Catholic) law in the Philippines, and then converts to Islam to attempt to divorce their spouse, they will not be eligible for any fiance or spousal visa.

It is best to not attempt this method, as it’s almost certainly a sure way to waste a lot of time and money only to be disappointed and let down in the end.

Disclaimer: The contents of this post were accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time of publishing. Immigration is constantly changing, and old information often becomes outdated, including procedures, timelines, prices, and more. Take note of the publish date. For archival purposes, these posts will remain published, even if new information renders them obsolete. Do not make important life decisions based on this content. No part of this post should be considered legal advice, as RapidVisa is not a law firm. This content is provided free of charge for informational purposes only. If anything herein conflicts with an official government website, the official government website shall prevail.

12 Thoughts on “Converting to Islam to “Legally” Divorce in the Philippines

  1. My husband is an iranian muslim, abandoned me and migrated to the US. Its been more than 30 years. Can i file
    a divorce under the shaira court?

  2. Can i talk u.. i want yo ask some questions.. I’ve been converted, i am Christian before and now i accept islam alhamdulillah.. i just want to know do i can marry again in Muslim man even i am married before in christian man??

  3. I’m from Pakistan and I married with Muslim philipina.as I visited in Pakistan last month she shift with another guy as partner.can I file case against her in shariah trial court in Philippines.
    Thanks in advance

  4. can u help me u have some questions about legality of marriage between muslim and non muslim can u reply in my email tnx

  5. Hi I’m a divorced woman under the Muslim law and now want to marry again by an american citizen. The only things found me is I still used my husband surname found on my NBI clearance even I change my status from married to divorced. They give a request letter to annotation for my marriage certificate acknowledging sharia court for my divorced certificate.
    My concern is there another option to be validated my visa. I went to Muslim affairs and they advise me to change my name bring back to my original name as my maiden name to be a single again..and make an affidavit to proof that I’m single and free to remarry again. Is that will be considered by the US embassy?

  6. Hi i want to ak..i already married and convetted to islam.is there possible way to register my islamic married in the philippunes although im married before.been seperate for 15 years already

  7. I think the best way for those with problems like that is: to get K3 visa instead. In K3 visa, the foreign spouse and Filipino spouse got married in the Philippines and submits their marriage certificate in the USA embassy. If obtaining a visa to get married in USA land is difficult, then do the marriage here and send the marriage certificate to the USA embassy for registration in USA database.
    My Sharia lawyer friend said, the divorce certificate from previous spouse shall be sent to Philippine Statistics Authority for annotation.
    ~went to law school so i know

  8. I want to ask how and where can i file a divorce in the Philippines since i converted to islam 3years ago.
    Please i need a serious reply.

  9. Were married in Muslim marriage and have a PSA certificate we both want to divorce each other. Coz always figthing not understand each other. Pls what is the process for us to have each freedom.

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