#IssaShares: How to Apply for a US Tourist Visa
I got interviewed for a US tourist visa last Feb 12, 2019 and just received it!
So I want to share my experience for those who want to get a gist of what to expect (and it isn't as scary as I thought hehe).
1. Before the Interview
When applying for a visa, submit your application here. Take note you'll need a soft copy of your 2x2 photo and to know your passport/work/personal details.
Pay for your visa fee via BPI or BancNet, using a receipt generated here.
After you've submitted your application and received confirmation, as well as paid for your visa fee, visit this page and create an account, scheduling your appointment date/time. You'll need your confirmation number, passport details, and receipt number.
Prepare for the appointment and bring the following:
- Current passport
- Old passport (not required but better to bring especially if you plan on renewing your visa)
- Confirmation from
- Appointment letter
- 2x2 photo (one or two pieces is enough)
- Black pen
- Any supporting documents (usually, they won't look through it, but it helps support your case if ever)
2. On The Interview Day Itself
First of all, there's no plus points for being earlier than your appointment time! However, it's better to be around 15 minutes before your appointment (a practice that should be made for ANY meeting or event).
Our appointment time was at 7:00AM (as my sister had classes at 8:40AM and I had a lot of things to do before meeting her after her afternoon class). We went in a few minutes after we arrived (around 6:15AM?) and began the first steps prior to the interview.
Step 1: You enter and given a green card (color depending on the visa you're getting), and a sticker with a barcode on the back of your passport. Next up, you're checked for ANY prohibited items (no gadgets or what). Afterwards, you're in and waiting in an outdoor area before heading inside the embassy building itself.
Step 2: When you enter, you might have to wait a bit, which is why I liked my 7AM slot as we were one of the first for interviewing. You'll go through pre-screening first, where they'll ask a few questions (where you're going and some basic info). You go to another window where they ask for your name and birthday, then take your fingerprints.
Then you head on to Step 3 of the appointment: Your interview!
3. The Interview
During the days leading up to my interview date, I was EXTRA EXTRA anxious (imagine already being anxious naturally and being thrice more of that). I checked blogs, blogs, asked friends, strangers, kept talking to my family and loved ones about it to release the stress. For me, 8,640 PHP wasn't a joke and I didn't want to feel like I wasted it.
Once we were waiting in line before our turn, I couldn't feel my heart for a second there to pass the few minutes before my sister and I were interviewed, I listened in to others (since it was pretty loud).
I noticed one was denied after mentioning she didn't have family or friends in US, with the intention of simply exploring. Another two were given a visa, having better... "ties" to the PH, with their own businesses and properties. Another one was rejected, but before I found out why, it was our turn.
Be polite and not over-confident. Smile and treat it like any interview, may it be for jobs or what. It helped that the one interviewing us was fairly young and very nice. After greeting us, he asked us a few questions:
What's your purpose of traveling to the US?
We're going to take a vacation and visit relatives.
Who are you going with?
We're going with our mom.
Does she have a US visa already?
Yes, she does.
Does she have a US visa already?
Yes, she does.
Who's financing your trip?
My parents will.
Have you been issued a visa before?
Yes, but my sister hasn't been issued one. (I gave my old visas and he even commented on how cute I was hehe)
You had a US/CA/AU visa, why didn't you use them?
I actually don't know with my parents, but I guess it's cause my mom couldn't handle me when traveling.
How old are you?
I'm 23... In August. (my sister mentions she's 20)
Where do you study?
I study in Polytechnic University of the Philippines. (my sister mentions where she studies)
(To me) So, you're still taking your bachelor's degree? Why is it taking so long?
(inside, natamaan ako dito HAHAHAHA time is not a measurement of my college life char)
I actually used to study accountancy in PUP San Juan for two years before I shifted to broadcast communications.
You think your mom can handle you now?
Yes, I think so? Hahaha
Okay, approved. Enjoy!
You'll be surprised with how simple the process is. But I guess it depends on your situation and the person interviewing you. For us, it took less than five minutes and it wasn't as nerve-wracking when you're in front of them. As long as you don't have anything to hide, there really isn't anything to be scared of.
It only took an hour for everything and once I came out, relief! The planning can now begin!
There are only a few tips to take note of, all for the interview itself (as the steps before that have its own instructions provided online and by the staff):
It doesn't help stammering or shaking, because it shows hesitancy with your replies. Things can get mixed up and you need to think and respond quickly, with a leveled head. Prior to the interview, I prepared myself for any questions they might ask and just let out all my nervousness before the interview rather than on the date itself. My logic: be very nervous before anything, to the point you lose the feeling when the time comes.
Right before the interview, I was just amusing myself without a phone and talking with my sister or balancing my pen on my head (which dropped and made a huge noise, that was a bad mistake haha). Breathing exercises help a lot, too!
b. Be Polite
This is a must for anyone you meet, in and out of US Embassy! But I think a lot of people forget that you aren't just talking to a consular officer, you're talking to a human being, too. Be nice, greet them warmly, address them as ma'am/sir. Don't be rude and arrogant, or display bad behavior because this affects your visa approval now and in the next time/s you may need to renew.
Also follow what they say and treat them with respect. If they don't ask you for supporting documents, no need to give it. If they have to reject your visa application, don't act out. They're just doing their jobs.
c. Answer Directly
No need to say a whole long story about who you're visiting or what, especially if it wasn't asked for anyway. I like answering straight to the point, no BS. Why prolong the interview or mention something that prompts a follow up question that you might not be able to answer?
BUT, don't be so curt, replying with just one word or what. You'll know the balance of your answers.
d. Tell the Truth
Duh. They'll base their questions and your answers on the application you provided online. So as long as everything in there was the truth, there's no need to act sketchy or shaky. When I went in, I treated it like any other immigration officer when I arrive in countries. Let them know you won't do anything illegal and whatever your purpose is, it's a good one that also positively impacts their country.
Wrapping It Up
That's pretty much it! I picked up my visa via 2GO in two business days. Like what a lot of people say, it's not really magic, nor is there a secret, to obtaining a visa (of any country). If ever you were denied one, hopefully you can try again in a few months, getting input from your interview and seeing what you can do to improve your case.
Wishing you luck!! If you have any more questions, comment below!