Since my visa posts are usually my top posts and my friend, a fellow blogger from Eats in Baguio just recently got her US visa. I asked her to write a blog post about her experience so I can share it here on my blog. If you ask me questions about it, I probably wouldn’t know the answers since I didn’t experience it myself. Mine was more than 10 years ago. ^.^
How I Got My US Tourist Visa in the Philippines
(Thanks More Fun With Ems for Inviting me to share my visa story. There was no way in the world this would be appropriate for my food blog. haha)
Take note of “I” and “My”. This is MY story. It’s important to note that while I’m sharing my experience, there is absolutely no guarantee that you doing it the way I did will yield the same results. Each applicant is unique.
So here’s my unique background that (I think) mattered in the application. I highly doubt someone will come up and say he or she has the exact same circumstances as me. Hehe.
- I was issued an F1 student Visa in 2001
- I attended Brigham Young University Hawaii ( Mormon University) and returned to the Philippines after graduation
- I intend on visiting a friend in Utah (Mormon Mecca ) and scheduled it around a big Mormon event
- I followed the provisions of my Visa- ergo- I did not overstay
- I have two jobs- one full time and one part time – I am a full time virtual assistant- my employer is based in California and I’m also a part time Radio DJ
- I have no family – immediate or otherwise who live in the US
- I’ve got a couple of stamps on my passport
- I speak pretty good English! Haha
- I have a dog
- Most of all, I absolutely did not have any intention to migrate to the US
I followed the steps on the official website: http://manila.usembassy.gov/niv-application.html
Here are the steps according to the official website.
- Payment of Application Fee
- Required Documents
- Schedule an interview
- Go for the Interview
- If Issued a Visa
Here’s how I did it:
Complete the D160 Application Form – I started with this. I was given a unique reference number that I used for the other online forms I filled out. I did not complete this process in one sitting. I was able to save my work and continue at a later time since I did not have a 2×2 picture handy when I started filling this form out.
Start here: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/
Pay the Application Fee- Back in the day, you had to physically go to the bank and pay at the counter. What I did was just use my bpiexpressonline account. So what I did first was get a receipt number from this website: http://ustraveldocs.com/ph/ph-niv-paymentinfo.asp. I selected the BPI option and it gave me a reference number. I then logged onto my bpiexpressonline account , looked for the US Embassy Visa Merchant and plugged in the reference number. Tadaaa.
Wait: Take note of payment process times. Mine took 24 hours before it was posted.
Schedule an Interview: Go to this site to schedule an Interview:http://cdn.ustraveldocs.com/ph/index.html?firstTime=No
They will ask for the D160 application/ reference number and the receipt number I plugged into my bpiexpressonline payment.
My Visa stars were aligned. I started this process on January 7th , and booked for an interview on the 14th at 7:30AM. I thought what the heck – might as well not prolong the agony of waiting and wondering if I get a visa. So I took the first available appointment.
Go for the Interview: This is the most nerve wracking. It was for me, VERY. NERVE.WRACKING. for many reasons. Here were my concerns about my application:
- I felt that I have NO strong ties to the motherland- I am single and employed BUT my employer is based in the US.
- I don’t have a big fat bank account – but still I gathered the statements from my 2 lean bank accounts. Haha!
And so I went. I arrived at the embassy at 6:30AM and was done at 9:30AM.
Here’s what I brought with me
- The D160 confirmation print out
- The appointment page
- 2×2 ID picture
- Bank statements
- Employment Certificates
- My insurance/ investment policy
- My old passports ( I have 2)
- An invitation letter from a friend to visit her in Utah
Here’s what they asked from me
- Passports – Old and new
- The D160 confirmation print out
I went alone because that’s how I roll. I left my cellphone at the hotel and I only had a small pouch with my make up and mini Toblerones. (Take note: No electronic stuff are allowed to be brought in- except if you have a pacemaker or hearing aide 🙂 )
You’ll have tons of people tell you what to do when you get there. So here’s what to expect- you’ll be herded like sheep!
I was assigned a number. My number was flashed twice on the board inside the actual building. Once for finger print scanning, the second for the interview.
Finger scanning was fast, painless and easy. I was also asked to state my name, my DOB and the purpose of my trip. Then I was done.
Now to the most exciting part: The interview.
I sat waiting for my turn for maybe 1.5 hours total. Those with old US Visas on Old Passports were asked to get the old visas ready to be shown at the interview. I’ve witnessed so many interviews take place. I don’t remember all of them but I do remember that 90% of the time- the first question was- Have you been to the US? Followed by — What do you do (Anong trabaho mo)? And then what is the purpose of your travel.
So here’s my best recollection of my interview:
Steve Carrel Lookalike Consul: Hi, good morning. How are you?
(Stamps my old F1 visa as “Cancelled”)
Me: Hi, I’m good. And yourself?
Steve: I’m good.
Steve: Have you been to the US before?
Steve: When was the last time you were there?
Me: 2004. I went home after I graduated in 2004.
Steve: Where did you go to school?
Me: Brigham Young University in Hawaii.
Steve: Are you married?
Me: No. Just a dog.
Steve: Ah. Dog.
Steve: What do you do?
Me: I’m a full time virtual assistant and a part time radio DJ.
Steve: Do you have family in the US?
Steve: I’m sorry what do you do again? I only heard part time DJ.
Me: I’m a full time virtual assistant.
Steve: Is that a real job?
Me: Yes (getting ready to bring out my payslips if asked)
Steve: Do you think you qualify for a tourist visa ?
Me: 1- I don’t have family there. 2- I have good travel history 3- I don’t have in demand skills US is looking for
Steve: Hey, Skills? That’s not in the law. (Not having skills) That’s not going to qualify you. What did you study in BYU?
Me: Biology and I minored in English Language teaching. I don’t think I can teach English in the US.
Steve: Sure you can- like in California.
Me: Yeeeeah but … (did not rebut)
Steve: What is the purpose of your travel?
Me: I’m visiting a friend.
Steve: For how long and when?
Me: About 3 weeks. We scheduled it around the time of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints.
Steve: Church- is that the Church of the Latter Day Saints?
Steve: Looks at my passport. Have you been on a mission? (Lots of Mormon folks go on missions when they’re about 18 to 20 years old)
Steve: Shows me my Myanmar visa on my passport.
Me: I was there for 5 months as an academic consultant
Steve: Ah- academic consultant?
Me: It was a Singaporean owned school and we trained local teachers.
Steve: The conference – do you need an invitation or is it open to all members?
Me: It’s open to everyone.
Steve: Is it once a year?
Me: No. Twice- once in April and another in October.
Steve: Okay, well, then, enjoy. You’ll get your visa in a few days.
Me: Thanks, Steve. (I kid. I did not call him Steve).
And so I headed out with a smile on my face, relieved this was over and caught a cab back to the hotel.
Wait for the Visa: I was interviewed on a Tuesday and got a call from 2Goon Friday morning that I had mail.
So here’s my timeline: From the submission of the application to the Visa Approval- it only took me exactly 1 week. Just had to wait a few more days for my passport to be shipped back to me. I don’t know anyone who has gotten their Visa at the same speed as I did.
Jan 7th Tuesday- Accepted an Invitation to go to the US, Started filling out forms
Jan 8th Wednesday – Scheduled an interview appointment
Jan 9th to 11th Thursday to Saturday – Gathered and organized all sorts of documents
Jan 12th- Sunday – Went to church and offered my first born son if I get a Visa. (Ok, I kid. I did not. I go to church each week not only in times of pending visa applications
Jan 14th – Showed up for the interview
Jan 17th- Received my passport with the Visa label- multiple entry to the US for 10 years.
So there you have it! My US Tourist Visa Application experience. I really think that if you have a legit reason to go to the US and a strong reason to come back to the Philippines and can answer the interview questions with confidence, you’ll be okay. Again, each application is unique, each consul is unique. And believe me when I say every dog has its day.