Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How to apply for a US Non-Immigrant (Tourist) Visa

I woke up really early today, actually I hardly had a good night sleep as I was so afraid that I might not wake up in time for my US Visa Interview.


US flag

Yes, dear readers, I am finally heading outward Asia and will soon explore the beauty of the West. :) I learned about the trip last month and given that I am scheduled to travel by next month, I basically have two months preparation time. However, thanks to the power of the internet, applying for your US Visa can be pretty easy and quick.

First things first : Check your passport

Be sure to have the brown covered Philippine passport and not the green one. If ever you still carry the green passport, have this renewed ASAP. Visit this website to schedule an interview and read this first in case you're wearing contact lens.

Step two: DS-160

Next step is to visit the Official website of the US Embassy here in Manila to go through the rules and procedure on how to secure a US Visa.

After this, fill up the online DS-160 form. This is the most important form that you'll need as they will be asking you for this in almost every step. Note that you have limited time to fill up the form. Better to have your passport and other documents (past US Visas) on hand.

As soon as you have completed your DS-160, you will be led towards your confirmation page and the same form will be emailed to you. Print it out preferably in colored or laser printer as the barcode will also be included in this form.

Step three: Visa payment

In order to secure your interview appointment, you have to pay the visa fee first. The current amount is $140 (that's depending on the current peso-dollar exchange rate). Head to any BPI outlet and state that you will be paying for your US Visa Application. Present your DS-160 Confirmation Page. Keep the deposit slip at all times.

Step four: Schedule for your interview

Go back online and visit the US Visa Appointment Website, have the following ready:
- Passport
- DS-160 confirmation form
- BPI deposit slip

You will be led to a calendar where you can choose your date and time. You will also be asked for the delivery address of the place where you want your passport/visa to be delivered.

As soon as you have made a reservation, print the interview form.


us visa

Step five: THE BIG DAY

Be sure to go early. By this I mean 45 minutes to and hour before your schedule appointment. Head to the US Embassy in Manila (Roxas Boulevard, across Bayview Hotel/Starbucks Coffee/Yellow Cab/Emerald). Ask the guard on duty where you should stay, most likely he will lead you towards the open waiting area.

Be sure to bring the following:
- Passport
- Visa ID picture
- DS-160 Confirmation Form / Application Form
- Proof of employment (if employed), School documents (for students)
- Proof of income (eg: bank certificate, ITR, other investments)
- NSO certified Birth Certificate / Marriage Certificate
- Photocopy of the first page of your passport
- Other assets (eg: land titles, car registration, etc)

Reminder: Cellular phones, all electronic devices, iPod/iPad, laptops, USB, lighter, weapons and food/drinks are NOT allowed inside the embassy. Better to leave them with your companion or in the car.

Exactly thirty minutes before your schedule time, you will be called in towards the tent area for inspection. This happens in two steps:

- Outside inspection : show your passport, DS-160 confirmation form, receipt and interview form

- Inside inspection : bag check

After which you will be asked to line up in the first counter where the officer will check your essential documents. She/he will be asking you basic questions which was pretty easy (eg: reason for going, your mom's maiden name, etc). At the end of the inspection, the officer will attach a number slip on your form. This will be your guide for the next two steps.

Heading towards the air-conditioned room, take notice of the digital board on the wall. It will flash your number and will direct you to which counter you should go to. It will flash twice, the first is for you to have your fingerprint scanned and the second is for your final interview.

Fingerprint Scanning

Upon arriving at the counter, give the officer your documents (passport, DS-160, number slip) and clearly state your full name and birthday. He/she will then guide you through the scanning process. First put the first four fingers of your left hand on the scanner followed by the first four fingers of your right hand and lastly to scan your two thumbs together. Easy peasy! :) Now, head back to your seat to wait for your number to be called again.

The grand finale: Interview

As soon as your number flashes on the screen, head to the counter to meet your interviewer. Present the same essential documents and wait for him to ask you questions. It's important to just simply answer what is being asked and to be truthful at all times. Have your supporting documents ready just in case he/she asked for it.

At the end of the interview, the officer will then tell you if you will be granted with a Visa or not.

Should you be granted with a US Visa, your passport will be delivered to your mailing address a week or so. Click here to track where your passport is already.

For those who were denied visa to the US, here's some guidelines to take note of:
If an applicant is refused under Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and is requested to provide additional information or supporting documents, s/he will receive a 221(g) letter with instructions on how to proceed. S/he will not need to make another appointment or pay another application fee. S/he has one year within which to comply with the requirement of the 221(g) letter.

If an applicant is refused under Section 214(b) or any other section, s/he may reapply as soon as s/he can pay the application fee an appointment through the call center or the online appointment system. While on a second interview s/he will meet with a different officer, please be aware that s/he must still demonstrate strong ties to his/her country. In most cases, it is better to wait until his/her personal circumstances have changed significantly before reapplying. Quick re-applications based largely on the hope of finding a consul more inclined to issue may result in a second refusal.
*source: http://manila.usembassy.gov/wwwhniv5.html
There you go folks! :) 5 easy steps on how to apply for a US Visa! :) Thank God for the power of the internet as everything is literally just a click away! Best of luck to all! :)

*US VISA UPDATE: I got a call from 2Go last Saturday, 3 days after my US Visa Interview informing me that my passport is ready for delivery. Thus, no need to wait for a week or so! Thanks to their new courier service, you'll get your visa/passport in no time! :)

photo credits:
http://stockwatch.in/files/Non-Immigrant-Visa.jpg
http://gkitch.blogspot.com/
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