The secret in getting a US Visa

I had a really good week last week.  After some encouragement from a friend, I filled out and filed my application for a B2 US Visa at the Manila Embassy this June 27.  She encouraged me to be brave and so I scheduled the interview that very Monday, June 30.

The DS-160 application is pretty straightforward.  Name, address, occupation, purpose of visit.  But just as any single working under 40 Filipina, I am quite afraid of the MOB stereotype (I can’t even bear to spell out the meaning of that acronym, but feel free to message me so I can share it with you privately.)

The appointment confirmation only required five (5) things:

  1. All pages of the appointment letter
  2. DS-160 confirmation page with photo printed on it
  3. Valid passport
  4. 2”x 2” color photo, against a white background
  5. Original machine-readable visa fee receipt

At the time, I paid for my visa application fee of US$160 at BPI.  They have a flat exchange rate, so payment was for Php7,200.  You will generate the receipt number here, and you will need it before filling out the application form online.

Anyway, just to be sure, I also prepared the following documents.  It’s quite funny actually, as if fate is pushing me to get the application, because all these documents I managed to collate and complete on the same day I applied.  Which very rarely happens in government.

  1. Employment certificate
  2. Statement of gross annual income
  3. BIR Form 2316
  4. Bank statements of the one with significant holdings
  5. Old passport, which contains my previously issued visa 10 years ago (I am old fuckit)
  6. Birth certificate

I left the office at around 11am for my 12:45pm appointment.  The line wasn’t long; there’s a line that will attach a bar code to your passport upon presentment of the DS-160 confirmation page.

You will be given a number and asked to wait.  I really liked their waiting lounge, even if it’s the open air.  Despite the fact that it was nearing high noon, the space was well ventilated.  I cannot imagine waiting during the peak of summer though; that must have been a completely different case.

An embassy personnel will call out a batch of numbers for the initial screening.  You will then be led inside the embassy, and the first window you will encounter confirms all the details you filled out in the DS-160.  Mind you, they’re quite particular with the photo you’re supposed to submit.  If they do not approve of your photo, there’s a photobooth by the waiting are for you to retake your photo.  Click here for the photo standards.

If you have any changes or errors in the DS-160 application, say it at this portion so they can correct it accordingly.

You will then be asked to line up for the finger scanning.  This took a while.  I think our batch had about 200 applicants.  I noticed that the interviews will be conducted on the same floor.  The consulate officers are prolly still on break at the time.

After the finger scanning is the anxious wait.  One by one, the windows for the interviews opened and I noticed that there are no more people coming in the hall.  We must be the last batch of interviewees.

I noticed that there was one window for work- and sympathy-related applications.  There was this one consulate that processed those asking for a quick leave to bury a relative and he was also the one who handled the flight attendants.

I was so anxious, because I can hear the other consulate officers denying each applicant.  And so I had to tune out and looked around the room.  There was an AVP playing and it kept saying that there is no secret in getting a US Visa.

You can be a college nursing student, with minimal savings, a pending petition, and bad luck that can go on for days and still get a visa.  Because they are only looking for one thing:  your ties to the Philippines.

When it became my turn, I went to my assigned window and saw that one applicant is still being interviewed.  It was horrid, for him.  It went like this, or at least the ones I heard.

Applicant:  I will go to California to buy supplies for my business
Officer:  What is your business?
A:  I own an electric cooperative in the province.
O:  What are you buying?
A:  Materials for the electric cooperative.
O:  Like…?  Give examples.
A:  Pliers, copper wires, cables…
O:  You need to go to California to buy pliers?
A:  These are specialized equipment, it can’t be any run of the mill equipment.
O:  Can you show me a list of the supplies that you will buy?
A:  (looks through stuff) I’m sorry I did not bring it with me.
O:  Where will you buy these supplies in California?
A:  In Company X, Store Y and Company ABC.
O:  May I see your appointment letters with these companies?
A:  I have not contacted them yet.
O:  Where are you staying?
A:  At my brother’s wife’s house near Santa Monica.
O:  Where is your brother?
A:  Here in the Philippines.
O:  Why can’t you buy your supplies in China?  Taiwan?  Europe?  Why the US?
A:  Because those are of poor quality, not like the US.
O:  Who will be paying for your trip?
A:  I am.
O:  It’s for your company right?  Why is the company not paying for it?  Why you?
A:  I can afford it, no need to bill my company.
O:  (types stuff) I regret to inform you that your application for a US visa has been denied because you cannot establish the purpose of your travel.  You may reapply when you have a firmer purpose and itinerary of your visit.  Thank you for your time.

This took about 7 minutes.  And they’ve already started the conversation before I even fell in line.

The guy could not do anything!  He just stepped back and thanked the consul and the next thing I know, it was my turn.  Here’s how my interview went:

Me:  Good afternoon! (smile, but not the overeager kind lol)
Officer:  Good afternoon, how are you today?
M:  I’m good, and you?
O:  I’m well too, thank you for asking.  So why are you traveling to the US?
M:  To visit my relatives… (slightly awkward pause and then stammered) and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
O:  I see.  Diagon Alley is about to open.
M:  Yes!  I think next week!
O:  Have you been to the US before?
M:  Yes in 2004.
O:  How long did you stay there?
M:  2 months.
O:  What is the work that you do?
M:  I’m a bank officer at the GHFK Bank.
O:  How much do you earn every month?
M:  Phpxx,xxx
O:  Who will be paying for your trip?
M:  I am.
O:  (types) Thank you for your time.  Your visa will be ready in a week.  Enjoy your trip.
M:  Thank you.  (backs away slowly, starts internal happy dance)

My interview was 3 minutes long.

I have read blogs and other experiences about their visa application and I can say there is only one secret to getting one:  be honest.  It is also the message they have played over and over in the screens that you can view while you wait for your turn.  Honesty (and a good dose of confidence) will really show during the interview, and firmly establish your ties in the Philippines.

I received my visa last Thursday.  10 years.  Multiple entry.

I was very blessed last week.  Perhaps rewarding my honesty.  But seriously, those who say that they have a quota, that they are profiling applicants, those are just suspicion and opinion.  Just be honest.  When you have nothing to hide and no intent to deceive, it really shows.

And who knows?  Maybe it would work out for you as well as mine did. :)

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