I don’t know how many times I heard and read so many stories from my relatives, friends, and people online of people applying and getting denied a US Tourist Visa, that’s why applying for this visa was really nerve-wracking as hell for me. Though I was granted a UK Visa the other year, I was still a bit traumatized after being denied a Schengen one at that time since we wanted to go to that part of Europe as well. But then, getting a UK visa was relatively easy for me since my aunt lived there, I was traveling with my sister, and my intended travel there was in the middle of my 3rd and 4th year of college.
Compared to applying for a UK and Schengen Visa, what made the application for the US one easier was that it required lesser documents (applying for UK and Schengen visa literally required so many documents that we had to bring 2 fat envelopes of documents during the interview/application). And though applying for a US Visa’s easier, it was the riskiest one I applied for since the application fee cost $160 (during the time I paid was equal to ₱7,680). I also fit almost all of the criteria that the embassy usually look out for (TNTs) —
✓ Applying alone
✓ Aged 20
✓ Graduating in the summer of 2016
So I was a little scared of having a large amount of money go to waste if I’d be denied a Visa. But then again, a huge pat on the back for me for going along with the interview and just going with what my gut told me to.
THE APPLICATION PROCESS + INTERVIEW
Step 1. Fill out and pay for application
To see all the steps and information on applying for a non-immigrant visa, visit HERE.
In order to fill out the application form, you will be required to pay the application fee first. There are different fees for different types of visas so make sure you know which category you belong to. I found it convenient that they had the option to pay online through BPI, which lessened the hassle of having to go to a bank. Paying online also allowed me to get a schedule almost right away. (Note: Make sure you keep a copy of your deposit slip/receipt after paying as you’ll be needing this once you go to your interview. For those paying online, take a screen cap of the payment confirmation)
After paying, you can now fill out your DS-160 Application form and then print the confirmation and appointment page after.
Step 2. Set your preferred interview schedule
After filling out everything and paying for the visa fee, you can now schedule an interview appointment (dun dun dun). I filled out and paid for my application around December 2? or 3? and then I was deciding on whether I should get an appointment date before or after Christmas and the New Years day. I decided to get the one before Christmas (hoping that if I do get approved, it would be a perfect present for myself lol). I also decided to take an early appointment – I took the one scheduled at 7:15am – which was a good decision since I was able to get over with the nerves right away and I didn’t have to wait too long in line.
Step 3. Prepare necessary documents
Get a 2×2 picture taken. A lot of photo studios offer photo packages for visa pictures, which makes the process a lot easier since they already know the specifications of the size and look of the photo you’d need for the application. As mentioned earlier, the visa application doesn’t require you to bring a lot of documents, but it’s also best to come prepared since it is possible for the consul to ask you for documents related to you and your trip.
The documents that they’d only require you to bring are – your passport, DS-160 confirmation page, appointment confirmation page and proof of payment (receipt/mrv/deposit slip).
Other documents I bought along with me were my birth certificate, previous passports (a must esp. if you’ve traveled abroad before), proof of enrolment and, my parent’s bank statements (since I don’t earn my own income yet). If you think you’d need to bring other documents, better to bring them as well than to be sorry later.
Step 4. Go to the interview
Remember to dress your part. You don’t need to look too formal when going to the interview, especially if your purpose is only for touring/vacation. I wore black jeans and a striped polo shirt during the interview. I arrived around 30 minutes early for my interview and had to line up outside the U.S. Embassy. There were people helping out the guards (tho I think they weren’t officially working for the embassy) make people line-up per appointment schedule. Our driver drove me to the embassy so I was easily dropped off outside. If you’re the one driving, I suggest going a little earlier since parking is on the other side of Roxas Boulevard (across the Embassy). Note: Leave your gadgets in your car or where ever since they won’t be allowed inside.
Then outside, we had to go through 3 people – the first one checks if you have the right appointment schedule and form, the second rechecks your schedule and then gives you your number, and then after passing through security check, the third person checks your passport and DS-160 form and tells you which area to go next (depending on your visa type). In the waiting area, we were called again per batch (this time according to the number given to you) and was instructed to proceed inside the interview area. Inside, we had to to go through 3 different areas again – first was the screening, where they recheck your documents. Second was the biometrics where they scan your fingerprints. And last, was the interview.
While waiting for my turn, I wasn’t really able to listen to the other interviews that took place before me since I was seated far away from the windows, so I took that opportunity to just relax and get rid of my anxiety (lol). The numbers showing up the board were at random and I probably waited around an hour or 2 before I was called. When my number showed up, I took a deep breath and just hoped for the best. Here’s how my interview went:
Me: Hi, good morning.
Consul: Hi, what is the purpose of your trip?
Me: For vacation/touring
Consul: Where do you plan on staying?
Me: In California
*types on computer*
Consul: Do you have relatives there?
Consul: How long do you plan on staying there?
Me: For around 2-3 weeks
*types on computer*
Consul: Who will be paying for your trip?
Me: My parents
Consul: What do your parents do?
Me: They run a computer business
*types on computer*
Consul: Okay! Your visa is apporoved. Wait for it to arrive in about a week.
Me: Thank you! Happy holidays.
Step 5. Wait for your passport + visa / Retry next time
My passport just arrived December 29 via 2Go (5 working days after the interview) and I’m so so happy to share that I got a 10-year multiple-entry visa! In case you apply and don’t get approved, don’t lose hope. Reapply again when you’re ready again and just hope for the best.
So there! That’s how my interview went. I hope this post would at least help those of you who are hoping to apply for a US Visa soon. I’m super thankful that I was granted one since I personally know a number people who have been denied visas even though they had huge bank accounts, had past travels and had all the documents with them. So here are a few things to take note of that I personally learned on applying for a US Visa:
- Be confident and be honest. If you have no intention of overstaying or becoming a TNT, there’s nothing to be worried about. Just answer all the consul’s questions truthfully and you’ll be okay.
- Bring documents that you think would be necessary, but note that the consul almost never asks for them.
- Every situation is different. Like I mentioned earlier, there are people who get denied even when they’ve shown all possible documents. Sometimes it really depends on the consul and the way your interview went.
- Don’t be scared of the consuls. During my Schengen visa interview, I was a little bit traumatized on how the consul there spoke to us since I think at that time he wasn’t in a good mood or something, haha! But keep in mind that every consul is different and all of them are only doing their job, so don’t be too nervous when they seem a little grouchy.
- If it’s meant to be, it will be. HAHA. But seriously. If you don’t get approved, it won’t hurt to try again.
Definitely getting more excited for next year. Fingers crossed that my plans go according to plan so I can share with you guys here the places that I hope to go when I visit the US!
Main photo from here.