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How to Apply for a Business/Tourist US Visa for Philippine Passport Holders
The much-dreaded visa application
A lot of people get really excited about travelling, especially to places like USA, Japan, Paris, Australia, and others which require a visa for entry. What hinders them from going though, apart from the fact that going to these countries is really expensive, is that they would also have to apply for and obtain a visa before they could actually go.
Most people dread this part. They think it is such a hassle to fill out forms and gather the requirements and other possible supporting documents. They get nervous at the thought of going through an interview with the consuls. They hate the long lines and the tedious process. They loathe the expensive fees. Despite all these, I can assure you that applying for and actually obtaining a visa is a very easy process if you do your research.
Available Visa Classes
There are various visa types available depending on what you intend to do at your destination. Here they are with their corresponding meanings.
- A & G: Representatives of foreign governments
- A-3 and G-5: Personal/Domestic Employee of representatives of foreign governments
- B-1/B-2: The visitor visa, which is issued to aliens for several purposes:
- B-1: For personal/domestic employees of B, E, F, H, I, J, L, O, P, and Q visa holders and U.S. citizens temporarily assigned to the United States
- B-1/OCS: For crewmembers working on Outer Continental Shelf (B-1/OCS) and yachts (B-1)
- B-1/B-2: For general business purposes (e.g., meetings, short-term training); for tourism, visit to relatives and friends, or similar reasons
- B-1/B-2: For Medical or Emergency Situations
- Medical Examinations
- B-1/B-2: For business travel in the Priority Interview Program (PIP)
- C-1: People transiting through the U.S.
- C-1/D: Crewmembers
- Seafarer Manning Agency Accreditation Policy
- Seafarer Visa Reissuance Program (SeaVRP)
- CW: Transitional Workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)
- E-1 and E-2: Treaty Traders and Treaty Investors
- E-2C: Treaty Investors to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)
- E-3 (Australian Citizens in Specialty Occupation)
- F: Students in academic or language programs
- H: Temporary workers and trainees, including H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, and H-4
- I: Journalists and members of the media
- J: Exchange visitors
- K: Fiancé(e)/spouse of a U.S. citizen
- L: Intra-company transferees, including L-1 and L-2
- M: Students in vocational or other non-academic programs
- O: Temporary workers of extraordinary ability
- P: Athletes and entertainers
- Q: Cultural exchange visitors
- R: Religious workers
- TD: NAFTA Derivative
Pick wisely to avoid confusion during the interview.
** Directly lifted from https://cgifederal.secure.force.com/
How to apply for the visa: first steps
Before everything else, ask yourself this: where do i want to go?
If your heart tells you to go to France to see the Eiffel Tower, then you'd need a French or Schengen VIsa for that. If you dream of seeing the Big Apple in NYC, then a US Visa is required. If you need to visit a family member in Saudi Arabia, a visa for that country is also needed. You can check online which countries require a visa prior to entry depending on what country you are from.
The next question is when you'll go. You must decide on this because a lot of factors, especially visa interview appointment schedule, can affect your travel dates. Plan ahead.
GOOGLE IS YOUR FRIEND
Once decided, immediately search the internet for the official websites of the embassy of each location. In my case, I looked for the US Embassy website in my city and the official website for online visa application which can be found here: https://cgifederal.secure.force.com. There are various information written there and be sure to read the important information.
IDENTIFY THE VISA TYPE YOU NEED
You also need to decide on what kind of visa you must obtain. If you are going for pleasure and tourism purposes, you must apply for a tourist visa. If you plan on studying at the place, then a student visa is for you. If you are attending to something for work, a business visa is required. If you were offered a job in the country, then it is a work visa you need. Check out the bar on the right for the visa types and classes for US.
PAY THE FEE
Now that you know which visa type you need to apply for, you can now pay the visa application fee and start filling out the forms. The payment varies per country and per visa class so remember to check the embassy website for details regarding application fees. US Non-immigrant Visa (Tourist) application cost me P 7,360.00 ($160.00 at 46 php / usd conversion rate) and it is non-refundable. This means that whether your visa application gets approved or denied, they get to keep the fee and you can't do anything about it. LOL. Seriously though, the fee covers courier for when your visa gets approved so cheer up! Anyway, if you are from the Philippines and also applying for the US visa, you may pay the application fee through any Bank of the Philippine Islands branch. Make sure you print the corresponding deposit slips before visiting the bank. Deposit slips may be found here: DEPOSIT SLIP PER VISA CLASS.
You may also opt to pay online via BPI Express Online and Bancnet. Check the site for details on how to pay using the two online options. Make sure to not lose this deposit slip print out because it will serve as your receipt and you will not be able to schedule an interview appointment without it.
FILL OUT THE FORMS
This one is sort of tricky because not all places have online visa application forms. Some embassies require your actual presence and visit at the embassy for you to get the forms. For US embassy though, you can apply online and just go to the embassy for the interview. The link to the online application form is provided above.
When filling out the form (which is a few pages long), make sure you know the following information: your passport number, your travel funder's name and organization (if you are paying for your own travel, i guess this doesn't apply), and the name and address of person you will be staying with (if none, identify a hotel). The form will also ask you things like, "Have you ever been petitioned before?" Make sure you answer as truthfully as you can.
The form is divided into the following sections:
- Getting started - If you've started filling out the form and you had to leave halfway through, you can save the file on the database. Getting started is where you input your data for retrieval.
- Personal - personal information
- Address and phone - address and contact details
- Passport - passport number and validity
- Travel - when and where you're going
- Travel companions - who you're going with
- Previous US travel - if any
- US contact - name and address of contact in the US
- Family - family background
- Work, education, training - work and education details
- Security and background
After answering all the questions, you will be asked to review all the pages one by one so you can still edit the errors, if any. Then you will 'sign' and submit the document. A confirmation page will be shown and you will be given an option to either print it now or email it to your account for later printing. Take note of your Application ID because it is what you will be using in checking your visa status and in doing the next step: Scheduling The Interview Appointment.
Scheduling an Appointment
It is important to plan months away from your scheduled travel dates. This is because you will never know when the next earliest visa appointment will be scheduled. In my case, I only applied April 30, 2014 and I planned to travel by the first week of June. When I got to scheduling, the earliest appointment schedule available was in June 16 and my mom's wedding is scheduled June 24. It sucks, I know. But we really weren't able to anticipate that the wait would be that long. So learn from our mistakes and plan maybe 2 months ahead of schedule.
Anyway, scheduling an appointment is easy peasy. You just have to go to this site and create an account. Once created, you need to input your details. Click NEW APPLICATION/SCHEDULE APPOINTMENT and proceed accordingly. REMEMBER: You cannot schedule an appointment if you haven't yet paid the visa fee. Do not lose the code in your visa fee receipt. Once done scheduling, print out your appointment confirmation and then all you have to do is wait for the big day: The Interview.
Some people get really nervous during the interview but I think as long as you don't have anything to hide and your intentions are pure and all declared in your DS-160, you've got nothing to worry about and you're good to go. I guess this is why I never felt nervous for this interview. LOL.
Anyway, for the interview, you will need to bring your DS-160 confirmation page, your passport, your visa fee receipt, your appointment confirmation page and some supporting documents. The supporting documents can be any or all of the following:
- Proof of income (payslips and Income Tax Return)
- Bank statements
- Certificate of Employment
- College Admission slips and letters
- Proof of income, bank statements and certificate of employment of person funding your trip, if other than yourself (in my case, my mom's)
- Travel itinerary
- Wedding invitations, party invitations, scholarship acceptance forms, job offers, etc.
These are just some of the examples. Sometimes they don't even ask for any of these but it's better to come prepared in case they feel you're just fabricating things. LOL.
Check out the table below for the things to bring and NOT to bring. It will save you time, and stress, and money.
Things to bring
The lines are long and the sun is shining brightly, you're wearing formal clothes and you don't want them to get soaked in sweat. Do yourself a favor and bring a fan to cool you off.
file case/envelope/clear book folder
You prepared a lot of supporting documents for your visa to get approved. It will be such a shame if you can't find them all when you need them.
make up (powder and gloss)
Some people's confidence level depends on whether they think they look ok or not. Make sure you look your best to feel your best.
tissue paper or handkerchief
You might get hot and sweaty going through all the processes so something to wipe your sweat off will come in handy.
REMEMBER TO BRING YOUR PASSPORT. WHERE ELSE WOULD THEY PUT THE VISA? On someone else's passport, that's where.
DS-160 Confirmation Page
Just the first page is enough but better if you bring all. :) How else would they know that you're actually a visa applicant?
Appointment Confirmation Page
They might think you're not actually scheduled on the day and are just trying to get inside the building. Just bring it.
multiple copies of a 2x2 photo, teeth not showing
You need this because they might not find the photo in your DS-160 appropriate. You'd have to submit another one. Multiple copies because they're really picky. If one is scratched at the neck, you'd have to give them a new and smoother one for scanning.
A smile, respect and courtesy
Your best accessory is your confidence and your manners. Take them with you wherever you go.
Things to NOT bring
snacks (bread, biscuits, drinks)
Yes, you left really early and didn't have time for breakfast. You can eat while waiting in line outside the embassy but once inside, you must have no food with you. Nothing at all, because they will either make you throw away your food or look for your colleague waiting outside and give it to him or her. It will save you time after the x-ray scan. And they sell food inside anyway.
sharp objects or explosives
Why would you even want to do that? JUST, NO.
large bottle of ethyl/rubbing alcohol
It's suspicious in the scanner. Looks like water. LOL.
Comfortable shoes or slippers for after the interview
I wore high heels and all the standing killed my feet, but I had a pair of slippers going for me which is nice. LOL.
What to expect during the interview
The interview process isn't really just one shot where you line up and wait for your name to be called and then answer a few questions. It's actually divided into three, sometimes, 4 or 5 parts. They are explained below.
- The pre-processing/validation - here they check your DS-160 and passport, and your photo. If everything is in the right order, then you get to proceed immediately to the next step. Sometimes, glitches in their system occur when they check or pull out your file. Don't worry, they will fix it. The lady at my window said there was a problem with my file and told me to just sit and wait for my name to be called. I thought it weird but I waited. But it was fixed eventually so there's no reason to be nervous. Even computers breakdown sometimes. LOL.
- The fingerprint scanning - This step is what it is: they just scan your fingerprints on those thingamajigs. You state your name and date of birth and then place your four left fingers on the scanner, from index to pinky, and then the right hand. And then the thumbs. Then you're done. Sometimes when you're too nervous, your hands get clammy, they will ask you to rub them together to scan them better. They didn't ask me to do this but they did make me press on my fingers harder. Yes, you have to press really hard for the fingerprints to scan properly.
- The Interview 1, 2, 3 - I only went through one which lasted about 5-10 minutes long but others had to go through maybe 2 or 3 interviews. I still don't understand why but I'm happy I had to go through only one. HEH. Questions were more like basic information, "where do you work? what do you do? how much do you earn? where are you going? what are you doing there? who's funding the trip?" Stuff like that basically. Sometimes, the consuls aren't so convinced with your answers that they give you a number and you'd have to go through a second or third interview. I don't know exactly what they ask but I did see one having to take an oath and swear that she'll be saying the truth. Whew. Glad I didn't have to go through that.
When you do manage to get approved in one round, the consul will tell you that your visa is approved and that it will be mailed to you in a week (depending on which option you chose). By then, I was so confused, and happy, I began running to the hotel. LOL. But that was actually because I didn't know what time it was. I went there probably at 6:15 AM and was done by 9:00 AM. Not a bad time, right? :)
What do you think of the online visa application process of the US Embassy?
Additional tips for a stress free visa application
- Stay true. Don't fabricate stories just because you think it will give you a better chance of getting approved. It won't. It might even get you banned from going at all.
- Wear formal yet comfortable clothes. Wear something you will wear to a job interview. Keep it classy. Avoid going in jeans and a t-shirt. If you can avoid wearing heels, do it. You'll be standing most of the time so it will only kill your feet. Windows only reach your midrib so the interviewer won't even see your shoes. Save yourself the trouble. I should have.
- Be prepared to provide supporting documents for most of your answers.
- Relax. The night before the interview, sleep early. Do not over think. Rest well.
- Wake up early. Eat your breakfast.
- Don't get too nervous. If you are, chat up your seatmates or those next to you in line. You'll be doing both of you a favor. :)
- If you live far away from the place and would have to commute, I suggest just getting a room in a hotel or inn near the area. There are a lot to choose from. It'll save you the stress.
The US Embassy is very near the Bayview Park Hotel where we stayed overnight for the 6:30 AM interview appointment. :)
Well, that's all I have to say. Keep in mind that each interviewer and interviewee is different. In the end, it's all up to you. Just do your best and be your best. I wish you luck! Let me know how your interview went in the comments below!