I am finally back with a new post! If you’ve been following me on instagram, you would know that I still have posts left unpublished about my recent trips in Zambales and Boracay. And now the sudden visa post. I always hit the like button on instagram whenever I see a photo of Beverly Hills or the streets of New York. “Maybe someday”, I told myself. Scroll down. That’s it for me. Then one day, I finally decided to start and finish the US Visa application and asked my parents if they’re also interested, they are. Tadaaa! Today our passports finally arrived and I’m so happy we got approved.
So read on if you’ve been dreaming to visit U.S. for vacation or just to visit your dear family and friends. This is not going to be a detailed step by step guide on how to apply for a U.S. visa since there are already tons of accurate articles about that. What I’m going to share with you are tips that I think worked for us in applying for a U.S. visa as a tourist.
- DS-160 Form. To be accomplished online.
- Passport valid for 6 months from the date of arrival in US.
- 2×2 photo. Neutral face expression. Ears should be visible.
- Receipt for the visa fee.
These are the only required documents from the US Embassy. Other supporting documents that you can bring just in case the consular officer needs to verify some information are;
a. Old passport – this would be helpful if your old passport shows your travel history. That you’ve been in and out of the country. That you always come back to your country.
b. COE/ITR/Business Permit – anything that proves that you have a responsibility left in the Philippines.
c. Bank Certificate/Bank Statement – to show that you can afford to travel in the U.S. within your chosen duration of stay. It’s 2017 people. No need for “show money”. You won’t be needing millions for a 2 week holiday.
Note: these are supporting documents and are NOT required by the US Embassy. I brought my old passport, a proof that I work, and a bank certificate. Just in case. None of them were asked.
OVERVIEW OF STEPS
- Create an account here
- Fill out the DS-160 online application here. Take note of your application number. You will be needing it if you want to retrieve your unfinished online application. You can fill out and edit your online application within 30 days.
- Log in back to the account you created in Step 1 here then pay for the visa fee (USD160) via online banking or over the counter.
- Once payment has been verified, log in again to your account and set an appointment. If you’re applying as a family, make sure each member has his own filled out DS-160 form. You can add family members when you click set an appointment and you will be asked for your family members’ details including their respective DS-160 application number.
- Arrive 30 minutes before you appointment time with all the required documents. (passport, ds-160 confirmation page, appointment confirmation page, 1 pc. 2×2 photo, deposit slip/payment receipt)
Here’s a detailed step by step guide on how to apply for U.S. visa in Manila from the US Embassy itself. It is quite time consuming but if you have all the requirements, you’ll definitely finish the application in no time.
Now that you have an overview of the requirements and steps, here are some tips.
We don’t have immediate family in U.S.. We applied as a family. We do not have loads of money in our bank accounts. We did not seek assistance from any travel agency.
- Fill out the DS 160 Form yourself. If you can read and write in English and you’re computer literate, you can fill it out easily. No one knows you better than you do. It’s just like signing up for a facebook account, with more details ofcourse. If you’re paying through over the counter, make sure to print the MRV Fee form in a long bond paper.
- Honesty will get you a U.S. visa. Be honest in filling out the DS-160 Form as well as during the interview. Tell them if you have or don’t have immedite relatives in U.S. Tell them your real agenda. If you do not have a contact person, you can indicate the hotel where you intend to stay. That’s what I did.
- Come to the US Embassy with a positive attitude. If you’re not that comfortable in shelling out USD160 for a visa fee, accept from the beginning that applying for US visa is a risk. You never know if you’re going to be denied or approved. Be positive whatever the result is because everything happens for a reason.
- Dress simply and decently. The interview is not a pageant so no need for the 4 inches heels, the sleeveless, and the oversized jewelry. Your answers are what dictates the result of your visa application, not your appearance. Here’s what I wore.
- Do not bring your mobile phone, usb, hard drive, anything with an on/off switch or could store data. I felt bad for the girl in front of me during the x-ray. She had to dispose her phone charger and earphones.
- While there’s no difference in the application of an individual and a family, I believe a family going on a holiday has more chance of getting approved rather than an individual planning to visit family/relatives/friends in US. Why? There’s a smaller chance of families going on an illegal stay than of an individual. So try to talk in you parents/siblings/grandparents into getting a U.S. visa, if they’re interested.
- Duration of stay can also give the consular officer a heads up. 2 weeks looks more like a holiday than 1 month stay. Should you wish to plan a holiday longer than 2 weeks, make sure you can justify it with your itinerary and fund.
- Do not use safari as your browser. I initially used safari and everytime I click Save or Next “Session Timed Out”. Wth. I then switched to Chrome and experienced no problem. You may still experience “Session Timed Out” on chrome but most probably it’s because of the poor internet connection. So always click SAVE everytime you finish a page to avoid starting from the beginning.
- Smile to everyone. From the pre-screening up to the interview, smile. Smiling will help you lessen the nervousness just in case you have any during the interview. An applicant looking confident and friendly is what you want to be, not the applicant who’s so serious and focused thinking about how to answer.
- Take the application seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously.
Our interview lasted for about 5 minutes and as I can remember, these are the questions asked;
“Good morning! Do you have any relatives in US?”
“What’s the purpose of visit?”
“Where are you planning to have a vacation?”
“What do you do?”
“So you’ve been to the Middle East, all of you? Where exactly? How long?”
“Your visa is approved. You will get your passports in the middle of the week.”
The consular officer was really nice. He was smiling back at us during the interview and he never cut any of us while answering a question. I finished the DS-160 form on a Friday and set the nearest appointment which was Tuesday the coming week. After our interview on Tuesday, we got our passports the next Friday with a 10 year multiple entry visa. So that’s a total of 7 days in all! Such a happy feeling when your passport arrive with a new visa! So it’s not as hard as you think it is, or how others perceive it. Don’t let other’s experience disocurage you from getting one if you don’t have a U.S. visa yet. Make your own story! It’s an adventure after all.