Visa Tips for Filipinos Visiting the U.S.

Written by Stephanie Sy

Rumor has it that Filipinos have a hard time applying for a visa to visit friends and family in the United States.  But you need not worry, by understanding the process and documentation needed for a visa application, your family member/s or friend/s will be traveling to the U.S. to visit you in no time at all.

There are many different kinds of visas to enter the United States.  This article will focus on the B-2 visa, which is issued for general pleasure and tourist travel.  A B-2 visa is needed to visit friends and family in the U.S.; to come to the U.S. for vacation or for medical treatments; or to visit for a cultural, music, sporting, and educational event.

First, advise your future visitor to follow the procedures laid out by the U.S. Embassy in Manila. This includes filling out the standard visa application form, paying the required visa fee, and setting a visa interview time.

•    The visa form is called  DS-160, and it is filled out online at this website: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/

•    At the time of this writing, the application fee for a B-2 visa is $160.00 U.S.  The U.S. Embassy in Manila accepts payment through the Bank of Philippine Island and BancNet.

•    Once a person makes the payment for the visa fee, he or she will have 365 days to schedule a visa interview.  Scheduling is done through this website: http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph/. 

Second, your future visitor must secure and have all documents ready.  For the B-2 visa, they will need:

1)    DS-160 confirmation page – This is the page with the barcode on it.

2)    One 2x2 photograph.  As of November 1, 2016, one cannot wear eyeglasses in the photograph, unless one needs glasses for corrective vision.

3)    Original passport valid for at least 6 months.

4)    Application fee receipt.

5)    Appointment confirmation letter.

6)    Supporting documentation for a B-2 visa – This will vary based on the reason for visiting the U.S., but generally , the following will be needed:

       a.    Documents that support the reason for visiting the U.S. (invitation letter from friends and family, brochure about sporting event one is attending, etc.).

       b.    Bank books and certificates as evidence of having enough money for the trip.

Proof of sufficient ties to return to the Philippines, such as certificate of employment and approval of vacation leave, and/or a copy of a current and ongoing rental lease.

Do not bring any electronics when visiting the U.S. Embassy – no cell phones, cameras, MP3 players, calculators, or USB flash drives.  Do not bring snacks or water either.

Third, let your future visitor fully understand that the most critical part of getting a visa is the visa interview.  As such, urge him or her to prepare accordingly.  The U.S. Embassy in Manila processes hundreds of applications each day.  Visa interviews are therefore only a few minutes, and it is your future visitor’s job to use that time to convince the visa officer that he or she has enough home ties to the Philippines and enough reasons to promptly return to the Philippines at the end of his or her visit.  Here are some tips for a successful interview:

1)    Be ready to go through security.  When one gets to the Embassy, there will be multiple lines. First order of business is to find the line for one’s time slot.  Once the slot is called the first checkpoint will ask for the  DS-160 and passport.  The second checkpoint will attach a bar code to the back of one’s passport for tracking.  The third checkpoint will be a security scanner looking for unauthorized items.  After passing all these checkpoints, one will join the line for a Tourist Visa, and will be given an Interview Number.  Once the Interview Number is called, one will be let inside the U.S. Embassy to speak with a Consular Officer.

2)    Always tell the truth.  Consular Officers are trained to ask questions that uncover whether one has other motives besides coming to the U.S.  for vacation.   

3)    The less said, the better.  Only answer the questions being asked. There is no need to unnecessarily elaborate on one’s answers.

4)    Speak English.  The English language maybe used throughout the interview.

5)   Respond confidently.  If one does not understand a question, ask the Consular Officer to repeat the question.  It’s better to ask and respond with full understanding rather than   guess if one is answering the right question.

6)    Be professional.  Dressing appropriately in professional clothing demonstrates politeness and courteousness to the Consular Officer and all staff.

7)    Be ready to answer the following questions: 

       a.    Why do you want to come to the United States?
       b.    Have you been to the U.S. before?  When was the last time?
       c.    Do you have immediate family in the U.S.?  Where do they live?
       d.    Do you have friends in the U.S.?  Where do they live?
       e.    Where will you be going during your visit to the U.S.?
       f.     How long will you be in the U.S.?
       g.    What is your job in the Philippines?

Your future visitor will be told at the interview whether his or her visa is approved.  If it is approved, your future visitor will be asked to leave his or her passport and will be instructed to pick it up from a 2GO center.  If it is denied or if one islacking documentation, your future visitor will receive something in writing.  It is best to examine this document with a lawyer, to see where your family member or friend went wrong and what he or she can do better next time.
 

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Resources

U.S Department of State. Consular Electronic Application Center: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/