Part of the burden of having a Philippine passport is the need to apply for visas for some countries you intend to visit. This includes Japan, South Korea, and of course, the United States.
A U.S. visa is one of the most sought-after visas among Filipino travelers and also the hardest to get. Not only do you need to submit an application and secure supporting documents, but you are also required to appear before the embassy for an interview, which will determine whether or not you'll be able to step foot on American soil.
The key is to not get intimidated. If you're determined to get your hands on a U.S. visa, all you need to do is read on and follow the steps and tips below.
Note: The process below is for the U.S. tourist visa application. Visit this link from the U.S. embassy for other types of visas.
First things first!
Before you start your application, you must first obtain these basic requirements:
- Philippine passport
Your passport should be valid for at least six (6) months before your intended date of travel to the U.S. If it's due for a renewal, this article will guide you on how to do it.
- Digital photo
Make sure that your photo follows the specifications set by the U.S. embassy.
Once you've gotten your hands on these requirements, you are now set to start the application process, which can be broken down into two parts. The first one is the online application.
Step 1: Accomplish the DS-160 form
The DS-160 form is the application form for Non-Immigrant Visas like tourist visas, working visas, and so on and so forth. Once you start your application, you will be assigned a unique application ID. If you're unable to finish your application in one go, you can just save it then retrieve it when you're ready to continue. Be sure to remember your application ID because you'll need it to access your application again.
The form is fairly easy to answer. You just need to input your personal information along with your address and contact number/s, passport details, your family and work background, and your travel details ranging from your visa class, travel companions, previous U.S. travel, and your U.S. contact (if any of these apply). Since you're applying for a tourist visa, your visa class is B1/B2 (Business & Tourism - Temporary Visitor).
After inputting your details on the DS-160 form, you just need to upload your digital photo to your application. Review your information before you submit to ensure the information is accurate and correct. Once everything is set, print your application.
Step 2: Pay the visa fee
The tourist visa fee costs $160, which, at the time of writing, is equal to PHP 8,160. It's non-refundable, whether you get approved or denied. You can either pay online using your Bancnet or Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) account or over-the-counter at any BPI branch.
For over-the-counter payments, you can download the visa fee deposit slip or MRV deposit slip in this link. Bring a printout of the slip and bring it to the bank when you pay. Remember to pay for your visa before the expiration date stated on your deposit slip. Once payment has been posted, wait at least four hours after your payment has been made before scheduling an appointment at the embassy.
Step 3: Schedule your interview appointment
Appointments are scheduled at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph. First, create your account and once you sign in, you can schedule your appointment. Your visa payment is only valid for a year so make sure your appointment falls within that time frame.
Make sure that you have your DS-160 form and MRV receipt because you will need to input your application ID and your receipt number when scheduling an appointment. If you're traveling with other people like your family, you can opt for a group visa appointment. Choose a time and date for your interview and confirm your appointment. And of course, don’t forget to print a copy of your confirmation.
Step 4: Prepare your supporting documents
The following are the documents that you are required to bring on the day of your interview:
- Old and current passports
- DS-160 confirmation page
- MRV receipt
- Appointment confirmation
- 2 x 2 photo
While these are the basic, you are free to bring additional documents that you feel will help your application process. There may be a chance that your consul will not ask for them, but it's still better to be prepared. Depending on your employment status or purpose of travel, you can check out this list of recommended documents. Usually, these are proofs that will show your ties to the Philippines like land, house, or vehicle titles, or proofs of your employment such as a certificate of employment or form 2316 from the BIR.
Once you've accomplished all the steps in the online application, all you need to do is wait for your appointment day to arrive.
On the day of your interview, be at the U.S. embassy at least 15 minutes before your appointment since you'll have to line up and get through security check before you can get inside. You can find the embassy at 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Ermita, Manila. Make sure that you leave your gadgets such as your phones and tablets at home because they are not allowed inside the embassy.
After going through the security check and falling in line, you can now proceed to the first step of the process.
Step 1: Pre-screening
An embassy personnel will request for your passport and ask you some questions such as the purpose of your trip to the U.S., marital status, and travel history among others. He or she may also ask to see the 2 x 2 photo you brought. Should you forget to bring one, there is a photo booth in the waiting area of the embassy where you can have your picture taken. Once everything has been cleared, you can line up for step two.
Step 2: Fingerprint scanning
Another staff member of the embassy will assist you in getting your fingerprints scanned.
Step 3: The interview
The final step, and the most important one at that, is the interview. The fate of your visa application rests on the hands of the consul, so it's up to you to convince him/her that you are worthy of your visa. Once you are called to the window, hand over your passport. The questions that will be asked are based on your DS-160 form, so make sure that your answers are consistent with the details that you've provided. The consul may also ask for some supporting documents so have them ready just in case.
If you're lucky enough to get approved, the consul will keep your passport and the embassy will have it delivered to your mailing address, usually after five (5) working days. Meanwhile, if you get denied, you will be handed back your passport along with a blue slip explaining why you got denied.
Want to make your U.S. visa application easier and less nerve-wracking? Follow these simple tips:
1. Don't believe in application myths or hearsays
You might hear a lot of stories about people getting denied because of a quota from the embassy or they got matched with a Filipino consul. These are mostly speculations so don't let them get inside your head. They will just confuse you and keep you out of your focus. People have varied versions of the truth, but they don't necessarily apply to you.
2. Dress decently
There may be no dress code for your appointment, but that doesn't mean you should be too comfortable in what you will wear. You don't have to come to the embassy in a suit or in corporate attire either. Something that is decent and proper should be okay.
3. Bring a companion
If you can't afford to leave your phone at home, bring someone to look after your gadgets. While your companion may not be allowed inside the embassy without an appointment, there are plenty of convenience stores or cafes nearby where he can wait for you. There are many street vendors outside the embassy offering to look after your gadgets for a fee, but do not be tempted. It's better to leave your valuables with someone you know and trust.
4. Arrive earlier than your scheduled time
As mentioned in the interview part of the application process, be there at least 15 minutes before your appointment. This will give you plenty of time to prepare.
5. Be confident
It's important to be confident when faced before the consul. If your intentions in visiting the U.S. are pure, then there's no reason to be nervous. Being jittery may put off the consul and he might think that you've got something to hide.
6. Do not lie
The consuls are trained to spot if you're lying or not. Be honest about your intentions of visiting the U.S. and answer the questions as truthfully as you can.
Will you get denied?
According to the U.S. embassy, you need to have strong and concrete proofs that you will come back to the Philippines for you to be granted a visa. With that, here are some factors that could affect your chances.
1. Travel experience
If you’re well-traveled, it will be easier to prove that your intention of going to the U.S. is just for tourism. The more countries you’ve visited in the past, the better.
2. Established career
Having a great job in the Philippines is another compelling reason to prove that you will return home and you will not be tempted by the possible opportunities in the States (it's not called the land of opportunity for nothing). Your chances of getting a visa are better if you’ve had a stable job for a considerable amount of years.
3. Financial capability
A trip to the U.S. is expensive, and you definitely need to prove that you can afford it. If you have a sponsor, make it clear as to who will pay for your trip and have supporting documents to back that up.
4. Be truthful
We cannot stress this enough: Always tell the truth. The U.S. embassy will review your application thoroughly and any discrepancy they find will be a red flag. Be honest about everything that the consul will ask you, be it about your relatives in the States or your itinerary. Applying for a tourist visa means that you’re planning to visit the U.S. for tourism and not for anything else.
Have you tried getting a U.S. visa? How was your experience? Share it with us in the comment section below!
*This story originally appeared on Travelbook.ph. Minor edits have been made by the Preview.ph editors.