US VISA APPLICATION IN MANILA
November 26, 2019
Date of application: March 2018
The US visa is perhaps one of the hardest visas to get, not only because you need a good travel profile in order to increase your chance of getting it, but also due to the dreaded interview with the US consul that you need to pass to obtain one. But fear not! If you are armed with proper information and enough preparation, then you will surely get it too. Allow me to share my experience when I applied for a US Visa in Manila, and also some of my tips in increasing your chance to have one.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO BEFORE YOU APPLY FOR A US VISA IN MANILA
I’ve already heard a lot of hearsays surrounding the US visa even before I applied – You need to be a millionaire, you need to have lots of properties, a fixer can help you acquire one, the US consuls are heartless – all baseless rumors that got famous after so many applicants were denied.
Truth be told, there are indeed some things you can do to increase your chance of being granted one:
- Read forums – I scanned Pinoyexchange’s US visa forum 2 months before my application, and I highly suggest you do so. It is a goldmine of information regarding the approval and denial experiences of former applicants. I got so many tips there and it helped me ease my visa-related anxiety prior to my application.
- Strengthen your travel credibility – I recommend visiting non-visa or other OECD countries with easy visa requirements first before attempting to apply for a US visa. This will show the consul that you have the capacity to travel and that you return to the Philippines after your journey.
- Improve your rootedness to the country of origin – It is important to establish this before you apply for a US visa in Manila as it shows that you will have something to return to. Some ways to do it are: to be employed in a company for a couple of years, studying, owning properties, owning a business, having kids, and many others.
THINGS TO TAKE NOTE OF BEFORE APPLYING FOR A US VISA IN MANILA
- They have ways to track if you have an illegal close family member in the US. If you do, declare it and try improving your approval chance by enhancing your rootedness in the Philippines. NEVER EVER LIE! They will know if you do.
- As of 2019, you need to declare your social media account when you apply for a US visa.
- You don’t need to buy a confirmed flight ticket before your application. So don’t! It’s a complete waste of money if your visa gets denied.
- Being sponsored by your company is not a 100% guarantee of visa approval. A week before I applied, my colleagues went to the embassy to apply for a visa for training at our client site in Georgia. One of them got denied even though he had complete requirements. The consul insisted that his training can be done remotely, so in the end, he received the green slip, which signifies visa refusal.
HOW TO APPLY FOR A US VISA IN MANILA
These were the steps I followed when I applied for a US visa in Manila last 2018. Please take note that this information is only for B1/B2 visa (business, tourism, and medical purposes). For other types of visa, refer to this link.
- Fill up the DS-160 form – This is where you need to input your personal information, travel date, contact person in the US, countries visited, and other additional information. You can always go back to the application if you need time, just save the code to log-in again. Make sure that the information you put is 100% correct, as this will be the basis of your interview with the consul. You also need to upload a digital photo to proceed. Take note of the Confirmation number for the interview.
- Pay the visa fee ($160) – You need to pay this in local currency. I paid my application at the BPI branch closest to our house in Manila, but you can also pay it online. This fee is non-transferable and non-refundable, just so you know.
- Book your appointment online – You need to create an account on this site first before you can reserve a slot. Once done, you need the following documents: The ten-digit code from your completed DS-160 form, MRV receipt number from when you pay the visa fee, and your passport number
I suggest you get an early time. I scheduled mine at 08:15 and there were already lots of applicants ahead of me. You don’t want a later schedule, or else you will face tired, grungy consuls who already interviewed a lot of applicants by then.
WHAT TO DO AT THE US EMBASSY
Show up at least 30 minutes before your scheduled interview. It is not permitted to bring any electronics inside, and there is no baggage counter at the embassy. You can risk it and leave it to the ladies outside who will guard your items for a hefty fee.
Make sure you have the following documents with you:
- Printed copy of your appointment letter
- Printed DS-160 confirmation page
- Recent 2″x 2″ picture
- Visa application fee
- Supporting documents
- Old and current passports
You need to wait outside the embassy until they call your allotted time. The usher will check all your documents and will give you a heads up when it’s time to enter. Once inside, you will be lined-up by rows, and be called by batches.
It only took me 30 minutes before they let me in the building. Inside, there will be a pre-screening wherein they will ask your purpose of travel and the cities/states you will visit. They will then check your picture, if you forgot to bring one or if it gets rejected, no worries! There is an available photo booth inside the embassy itself that you can use. Once done, you will be lined up for the dreaded interview.
US TOURIST VISA INTERVIEW
I lined up on window 20 occupied by a jolly-looking consul who looks like Mr. Incredibles. He was nice but asked a lot of tricky questions. This was how the interview unraveled:
C: Purpose of travel to the US?
Me: It will be for a vacation.
C: Which places are you going to visit?
Me: New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC.
C: Who is (contact name in DS-160)?
Me: She is a friend that was at the same summer course that I took in Spain
C: Ok. Are you planning to visit her?
C: Are you sure? Why not?
Me: She lives in Missouri and it is quite far from the places I will visit.
C: But why did you put her?
Me: because we are still on constant communication and I can rely on her in case of emergency during my visit.
C: How much do you earn?
Me: *stated gross salary*
C: And net?
Me:*stated net salary*
C: Have you traveled outside the Philippines?
Me: Yes. I’ve been to a total of 25 countries already.
C: Really? And you traveled with family members?
Me: Most of them were solo travel. Whenever I travel abroad I travel solo.
C: Were all the countries you visited for vacation?
Me: No, I went to Spain for a summer class and Poland on a business trip.
C: So you’ve been everywhere except the US?
C: What course did you take?
Me: *states course*
C: And what is your job now?
C: So why did you not pursue your course?
Me: I would say that I am already earning good in my current job so no need to pursue it.
C: Fair enough. So you can speak Spanish? How did you learn it?
Me: I studied it after university
C: types pause* your visa has been approved. Wait for it to be delivered to your address.
I made a mini-scandal after the interview. I almost jumped and shouted out of joy after receiving the good news. Everyone looked at me but I didn’t care! I finally passed the dreaded interview and granted one of the most sought-after visas.
I received the visa via express delivery after 3 days. They gave me a 10-year ME Tourist visa! Fast forward March 2019, I finally entered the US (New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, California) and I also used the visa to enter all Central American countries.
Do you have any US visa story to tell? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!