Applying for a Tourist Visa for the United States
For many Filipino travel bloggers, a tourist visa to the United States (and a Schengen) is considered the Holy Grail of travel documents. A tourist visa, also known as the B2 visa, allows one to travel to a port of entry of the United States for touring, visiting friends and family, and social and fraternal conventions. B1 is the business equivalent of the B2 and a B1 application may be given a B2 as well.
Before I got one I always thought that the process of applying for one was scary. I've heard of all the (inaccurate) horror stories about people getting denied on their visa application just because of the whim of the consular officer. Admittedly I was nervous when I applied for one, but the process is not a labyrinthine as others would want you to believe. I prepare a sort guide to help demystify the process.
How to Apply
1. Pay the application fee. For B1/B2, the application fee is $160. The fee can be paid either in cash in any BPI branch, online through BPI Online or Bancnet. Note that visa application fees are non-refundable and non-transferable. Keep the original validated bank charge slips for visa fee payment or print the online notification (MRV payment receipt). For more info on payment, click here.
2. Prepare all the required documents before making the personal appearance appointment.
- DS-160 online nonimmigrant visa electronic application, the website can be accessed here: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/
- Passport with 6 months validity from the date of departure from the United States. Also include expired and previously issued passports.
- 1 piece 2x2 white background photo
- Evidence of ties, including bank certificates and statements. Not all may be required by the consular officer, but might be requested as needed.
- bank statements for the last 3 months
- employment certification including salary, tenure and position
- Form W-2
- Income Tax Return with BIR or bank stamp
- Audited financial statement with BIR or bank stamp
- pay slips for the last 3 months
- credit card statements for the last 3 months
- Vehicle registration with official receipt
- Land titles
- Pictures of family, home or business, wedding photos
- Marriage certificate printed on NSO security paper
- Birth certificate printed on NSO security paper
Note that all documents must be original and authentic. Submit photocopies only when indicated that you can.
3. Book an appointment by calling the call center, at 02.982.5555 and 02.902.8930. The call center is open from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday. You may also book the appointment online, at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph.
4. Go to the personal appearance interview on the appointed date and time. Be at the embassy gate at least 15 minutes before the appointed time. I arrived in mine about 45 minutes early, before 8am, but the holding area inside where the applicants were were already packed. I waited until my number came up, then it was a breeze from there.
Bring all the basic application requirements, including the interview appointment letter, DS-160 confirmation page, MRV fee payment receipt number, valid and prior passports, photo, and evidence of ties. These documents are submitted to the officer during the interview.
Note that electronic devices are not allowed inside the embassy, so leave them behind. There are no lockers or booths where to leave them inside, and you will not be allowed to enter the embassy if you are carrying any.
The Non-Immigrant Visa section is open from 7:30am to 4:30pm Mondays to Fridays, except during US and Philippine holidays.Cour
5. The interview is usually short. During the interview, just relax. be confident and forthcoming. Answer all the questions truthfully, and do not attempt to make any misleading statements or conceal or misrepresent facts. Presenting fraudulent documents and making false or misleading statements on the form or to the officer can damage your credibility to the officer and can result to a visa denial and permanent ineligibility to enter the United States.
During my interview I tried to make it jovial without being patronizing to the officer. She asked me a little about my work, my family, where they are, where I am staying, and a bit about my finances. I answered them straight and succinctly but at the same time supplying her with the information that she needed.
After the interview the consul would let you know if you are qualified for a visa. My face lit up when she told me that I am qualified for one. After wrapping up the interview I was told to go to another section where I gave my mailing address to the courier. It was sent to me after about a week. It was a B1/B2 with 10-year multiple entry.