Important Note: I applied for a NON-IMMIGRANT B1/B2 (Business/Tourism) CATEGORY VISA; so anything different from this particular subject will not be covered.
A number of bloggers have shared their personal US Visa stories online; and they’ve been really helpful to me. I promised myself that if successful, I will pay it forward and share my story as well. Hopefully, my own experience will help someone out in successfully obtaining a US Tourist Visa.
First, a little about myself just so you have an idea of my profile:
- no children
- 31 years old
- no immediate family in the US
- applying alone
- working in the same company for almost a decade
- 5-figure monthly salary
- traveled to a number of countries within Asia: Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea, Japan
For the first five details I shared, I am someone usually categorized as a “high-risk” candidate – one who is most likely to go TNT and not come back to the Philippines. However, the last three details prove my strong economic ties to the country and my love for travel. What’s not on paper, though, is that I genuinely just want to go to the US for sight-seeing. I believe this is a big part of what made my application result in an approval. I will elaborate on this more once I share my interview experience.
To be as comprehensive as possible, I will start from the beginning… from deciding to apply all the way to picking up my Visa/passport. In between, I will share some tips or insights I picked up along the way.
Deciding to Apply
During early May, my brother mentioned an exhibition he’s planning to attend in Las Vegas late this year. He also mentioned wanting to visit Silicon Valley during that same trip. I suddenly became very interested. I’ve been wanting to go to the US for a long time – Hollywood, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Golden Gate Bridge, Grand Canyon (the list goes on and on)… and that’s just in the west coast! Why don’t I tag along? I certainly feel like I could set aside enough money in time for the trip. I also felt like I’m not getting any younger, right? It’s time.
After a quick Google Maps search, a trip from San Francisco (Golden Gate Bridge, Silicon Valley) to Los Angeles (Hollywood!! Harry Potter!!!) to Las Vegas (main reason for the trip where the exhibition will be, near Grand Canyon) is very feasible. The idea just sounded better and better the more I thought about it. My head just kept on thinking, “Why not? Just take the plunge. Try to apply for a tourist visa. The worst that could happen is that I would be denied and the money I could potentially save will go towards a different trip.”
And with that, I decided to apply for that infamous and allegedly elusive US Visa.
Doing My Homework
First things first. Research!
Go to primary sources of information. Of course, that would be the US Embassy website for the Philippines. Here’s a direct link to the basic overview of the application process: http://manila.usembassy.gov/niv-application.html
Needless to say, you must read the instructions carefully and thoroughly. Make sure you understand the step-by-step procedure; so that you don’t miss anything.
Pay Application Fee
- Make sure you have the money to pay for the application fee. As of this writing, the application fee is at $160 based on $1=Php48, which is Php7680.
- Go to this link: http://ustraveldocs.com/ph/ph-niv-paymentinfo.asp
- Under Fee Payment Options, select the link with Deposit Slip – $160 MRV Fee.
- The link will lead you to a site, which will generate a US Visa Deposit Slip with a Receipt Number specifically for you. Print this out.
- Deposit the fee (in cash) in any Bank of the Philippine Islands branches. Be ready with your full name and passport number just in case the bank asks for it. If you opt to pay online, refer to the Fee Payment Options section for details about online payment.
I M P O R T A N T !
- Keep the fee receipt and don’t lose it!
- The Receipt Number is a very important requirement in securing an interview. Take note of this number.
- Note that the deposit slip has an expiration. If you fail to deposit the fee within the given period, you’d have to go back and get a new deposit slip from the website.
Prepare Your Photo
- You will need to take a recent 2×2 photo (“recent” meaning in the past 6 months). A digital copy is required for the online application; and you will be asked to bring at least one hard copy during the interview.
- There are a number of rules that need to be followed for your photo to be “accepted” into the system (ears are shown, no expression, white background, etc.); so the easiest way to accomplish this is to just have your picture professionally taken. It usually costs less than Php100; and most of the time, you could just ask for a digital copy at no extra charge.
- What about my outfit for the photo? Any casual outfit would do. You don’t have to be wearing a collared top or blazer.
Fill Up the DS-160 Application Form
- Go to this link: https://ceac.state.gov/GenNIV/Default.aspx
- Under Get Started, select PHILIPPINES, MANILA. A code will be generated. Enter it in the blank space and wait for START AN APPLICATION to be clickable.
- Select START AN APPLICATION.
- The system will assign an Application ID to you. Take note of this as it will be required if you need to come back to your online application (using the RETRIEVE AN APPLICATION link on the page). Personally, I didn’t finish the form in one sitting. I had to go back to it a couple of times; because I lacked certain information asked of me.
- Fill up the form as truthfully and as completely as you possibly can. You will also be asked to upload the digital copy of your photo at this stage.
- After accomplishing the form, you will be asked to digitally sign the document.
- A DS-160 Confirmation Page will be generated. Print this out. You may also have a copy sent to your email address.
I M P O R T A N T !
- The Application ID is the one other very important reference in securing an interview. Don’t lose this!
- You are allowed only 30 days to come back to the site and retrieve your application; so make sure to fill everything up before this grace period is over.
T I P S !
- For FAQ about filling up the form, go to this link: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/forms/ds-160–online-nonimmigrant-visa-application/frequently-asked-questions.html
- For National Identification Number, people usually leave this blank since we don’t have a national ID system in the Philippines. After some research, I learned that it wouldn’t hurt to put in your TIN Number. It’s a form of national identification, plus it has all the details needed by the US Embassy to prove your financial capability.
- Be ready for these following information to be asked of you: when and where you will stay in the US, how long you will stay, contact in the US.
- So does this mean I have to have a plane ticket, a complete itinerary and hotel bookings ready? It is never recommended to book a ticket before getting a visa. Estimations of your planned trip (arrival, length of stay, any hotel you might be looking at) and a rough idea of the places you want to go would be fine. Just make sure you are consistent with the details from the application form to the interview.
After all these, get ready with your Receipt Number and Application ID. It’s time to Schedule Your Interview.
Next Post — My US Visa Experience: Part 2