There are several reasons one might want to visit the United States of America: whether it’s visiting friends and family, seeing all the must-visit sights like the Statue of Liberty or the Grand Canyon, or people-watching in the city in the hopes of seeing a Hollywood celebrity on the street. The United States has always been a dream destination for many Filipinos, and there’s no surprise that the number of Filipino tourists has not gone down in the past years. The East Coast and the West Coast alone are almost completely different from each other, offering their own set of flavors and sub-cultures that are worth exploring.
With a country so wide and diverse, there’s an experience for everyone in United States. Here’s all you need to know about scoring a US tourist visa so you can visit the Land of the Free.
How to Apply for a US Tourist Visa
To apply for a tourist visa, you need to determine which visa you need to get. The B-1 visitor visa is for people traveling to the United States temporarily for business (B-1) or for tourism or medical treatment (B-2). Generally, the B-1 visa is for travelers consulting with business associates, attending scientific, educational, professional or business conventions/conferences, settling an estate or negotiating contracts.
The B-2 visa is for travel that is recreational in nature, including tourism, visits with friends or relatives, medical treatment and activities of a fraternal, social or service nature. Often, the B-1 and B-2 visas are combined and issued as one visa: the B-1/B-2.
According to the US Immigration and Nationality Act, every person applying for a B-1 and a B-2 visa to the United States is presumed to immigrate. As such, in your visa application, you need to convince the consular officer that you are qualified for a tourist visa and have no plans of illegally overstaying in the country. This means proving the following:
- Your purpose of visiting the United States is temporary, such as for business, pleasure, or medical treatment;
- That you will be in the US for a specific and limited period of time;
- That you have enough funds to finance the entirety of your trip to the United States;
- That there are other binding social or economic ties, as well as a residence outside the United States that will ensure that you will return to your home country at the end of your trip.
The US Visa application process requires an in-person interview. As such, you will need to complete the DS-160 or the Non-Immigrant Electronic Visa Application form and settle the visa fee of $160 before booking an appointment through this link. You will need three pieces of information in order to schedule your appointment:
- Your passport number;
- Your MRV fee payment receipt number;
- The ten (10) digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page.
These are the requirements when applying for a United States tourist visa:
1. A Philippine passport with at least six (6) months’ validity and with at least two (2) blank pages
Always remember to check the expiry date on your passport before submitting an application. Damaged or dilapidated passports will not be accepted.
2. An accomplished Non-Immigrant Electronic Visa Application form (DS-160)
Questions on the form will include information such as personal details, reason for traveling, travel history, financial capacity, your purpose of visit, and health conditions. You may visit the DS-160 form for more information.
3. A photo ID taken within the last six (6) months
You are also required to submit a recently taken 45 mm x 35 mm ID photo taken against a white background. Your name must also be written at the back of the photo.
4. Your birth certificate from PSA
You are also required to submit your birth certificate issued within one year from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA, formerly known as NSO) Main Office or Serbilis Outlet Center.
5. Previous and current travel visas
You will need to prove your travel history upon application. Scan all pages of valid and expired visas and stamps.
6. A receipt that proves payment of your $160 non-refundable nonimmigrant visa application processing fee, paid in local currency
7. An original copy of your bank balance certificate
You will be required by the embassy to furnish an original bank certificate. This must have been issued within the last three months, with the amount sufficient enough to cover your entire stay, including airfare and accommodations.
8. Your income tax return (ITR Form 2316)
The embassy will request an original and photocopied version of your ITR. They usually keep the photocopy with them and return the original on the same day of filing your application.
9. A certificate of employment or an employment contract
A letter from your employer is also strongly encouraged, detailing the details of your employment such as how long you have been working in the company, if you have any authorized leaves, and if applicable, the business purpose of your trip.
10. Your pay slips of the last three months
This is especially important for those working full-time in nine-to-five jobs.
11. An itinerary of your trip in the United States
Your case would be stronger if you can show an itinerary of your trip in the US, even if you haven’t planned everything to the T. A simple outline of your planned activities will do.
12. Court records
If applicable, submit any criminal or court records pertaining to any arrest or conviction anywhere, even if you completed your sentence or were later pardoned.
"What if someone else is paying for my trip?"
If you have a sponsor or guarantor living in the Philippines, you will need to provide the additional documents.
1. Guarantee letter.
This letter should be able to explain your relationship with the guarantor, and must also include their contact details.
2. Proof of relationship with guarantor.
You need to provide proof of relationship with your guarantor. If this guarantor is a family member such as a parent, a sibling, or a spouse, submit documents such a birth certificate or a marriage certificate.
If this guarantor is a friend, submit photos of you and your friend together, letters, and screenshots of e-mails and messages.
3. Bank Certificate and your guarantor’s Income Tax Return (ITR Form 2316).
Submit both the original and the photocopied versions of your guarantor’s bank certificate and ITR. This is to prove that your guarantor can shoulder your expenses throughout the duration of the trip.
4. Visa fees.
The application fee for the most common nonimmigrant visa is $160. This includes visas for tourists, business, students, and exchange visas.