A Guide to CFO Guidance and Counseling Program (GCP)

I thought long and hard on whether to do this post or not, but when I think about my struggles on this whole immigration process, I knew I had to share my personal experiences along the way. I don’t mean to discourage whoever is about to undergo the same process, but this is probably more stressful than planning our wedding. Joining the VisaJourney.com community has been a big help in understanding where we are currently at, and what we need to do next. On this note, let me share an overview of our immigration timeline:

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A little over two months after our wedding, Roan filed for two types of petitions: I-129F and I-130. Both petitions were approved simultaneously, hence the nonimmigrant K-3 visa case has been administratively closed. This ends our journey at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Our approved petition was then forwarded from the USCIS to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing in August.

We are currently falling behind our timeline due to the lack of supporting documents from my end. I know I should have done this since I quit work in August, but I must admit that I was too lazy to do so (my husband, at this stage, isn’t so proud). Since Roan used my married name in all documents he filed, I need to gather all records that reflect my new civil status. The most important of all these is my passport; however, since my husband is a US citizen, I cannot use his surname in my passport unless I get hold of a Guidance and Counseling Certificate of Attendance from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO).

Let’s get on it, shall we?

What: CFO Guidance and Counseling Program (GCP)

Where: Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), Citigold Center, 1345 Pres. Quirino Avenue cor. Osmeña Highway (South Super Highway), Manila, Philippines 1007

When: 21 October 2014, 9:00AM (Schedules are available here.)

Requirements: CFO provides a list on their website; however, I brought with me additional documents such as original and photo copies of our birth certificates, NBI clearance, valid passport, valid IDs, print copy of our approved petition, email/chat logs, and photos of us together for good measure.

Fee: Php 400.00 (as of October 2014)

Steps:

  1. Secure an online appointment from the website. Please refer to the available schedules mentioned above. The number of available slots is reflected when you click on a specific date for your convenience.
  2. Upon arrival, head straight to the reception area where a staff will validate your appointment schedule. A valid ID must be presented because each appointment corresponds to a specific type of ID you would wear at all times while inside the facility. I was given a pink ID with a letter F on it. I’m not sure what it exactly signifies for, though.
  3. The lady guard at the reception area motioned me to proceed to the 3rd floor. In the room next to the elevator, a lady handed me another form to fill out. Once done, the same lady requested for my documents. Now this may be a case-to-case basis, but she only took my online appointment form, photocopies of my valid IDs and marriage certificate.
  4. The lady had my picture taken digitally, and explained that it will appear in my certificate later on. She then motioned me to the room with a “U.S.A.” label on its door. There were about a ten people already seated there when I walked in. Fifteen minutes into 9:00AM, another lady made a roll-call of all participants, and asked each one to transfer to the bigger room at the end of the hall.
  5. We were 15 in the actual seminar room with only one man in attendance; the rest were women. The lady who told us to transfer to the bigger room started calling out names from a handful of forms she was holding. I realized that a one-on-one interview was taking place when every time the last person returns, s/he calls for the next person in line.
  6. During my interview, the lady only asked for a few things: (1) How long have you been married?; (2) Do you already have kids?; (3) How long have you known each other?; (4) Where/how did you first meet?; and (5) Do you have relatives in the US?
  7. The seminar proper commenced at exactly 10:00AM. Apparently, the woman who interviewed us was the facilitator. She introduced herself, and told us that she is married to a foreign national herself, then she began with the presentation.
  8. The session took two hours, including a 15-minute sharing among small groups (we were divided into three with five members each). After which, we were asked to proceed to the payment and releasing area at the ground floor.
  9. Since we have registered beforehand, our documents have been forwarded to the cashier for further processing while we were attending the seminar. Once the fee is paid, and an official receipt is issued, wait for the Certificate of Attendance to be released. Please note, though, that this may consumer 30 to 45 minutes more of your time.

Tips:

  • Important notes to take: Do not laminate the certificate; otherwise, the immigration will consider this null and void, therefore making it unacceptable.
  • Note that this step is only for those who has not been issued a visa. You will need to return to attend a seminar on PDOS, but that is a different story.
  • Come in at least an hour earlier than your appointment schedule. This will give you enough time to fill out additional forms, and get everything sorted out before the actual seminar.
  • If you come with a car, you can park at Shakey’s or Jollibee across the CFO building. It’s only a quick walking distance away.
  • Most importantly, EAT HEAVY BREAKFAST.

That’s it. There goes my no-fuss experience at the CFO Guidance and Counseling Program. I hope this has been helpful, especially to those who are in a similar situation as mine. I completely understand how difficult it is to go through these things without much knowledge; I hope this experience makes things easier for you. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact CFO directly at the given details in their website.

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