US VISA for Filipinos: How we got our Multiple Entry VISAs, Tips and more
To tell you the truth, we weren’t really aiming to get a US VISA this year as much as our friends and relatives in the US are telling us to get one. First, because being denied sucks. Second, the VISA Application fee is no joke. A non-refundable fee of $160 is a lot of money for us common people. Multiply that by two for me and my wife, that’s $320! You can already start up a small business with that money! But one fine day, I just woke up and decided that we try to get a US VISA. I don’t know what got into me, but I told myself; ‘What the heck, let’s just try it’. Next thing I know, I was logged in my laptop and entering our details in the US embassy’s website.
Now before you continue reading, please note that this blog post is not a step-by-step guide that you can copy and apply it on your application but consider it rather as something like a friend telling a story on how he got approved. What worked for us may not work for you. I hope you get what I mean. If yes, please continue reading. This will include a guide on how to apply online, our profile, encouraging tips for increasing your chances of getting approved and some of the questions the consul might ask you.
Please note that we applied for a Non-Immigrant B1/B2 Business/Personal (Tourist) VISA so I don’t have any idea how it goes for other types. Prepare all your documents, contact details (and relatives’ details if any) including your passport with you. With that being said, let’s get started.
- Register here.
- Once registered, log in the site and click New Application at the left side menu. Then click Nonimmigrant Visa -> B1/B2 – VISITOR FOR BUSINESS AND PLEASURE–> Fill out all the details.
- IF you’re applying as a family (like us), add the name of the family member (not including you) in the Dependents section.
- Save all what you’ve entered and you can log-out if you like because now you have to complete the DS-160 application form. You cannot proceed with the payment and interview schedule if you haven’t completed the DS-160 form.
- Click here to fill out the DS-160 form. Enter your country, the code then click ‘Start an application’.
- Fill out the DS-160 form with all honesty! Please don’t put anything that might get you into trouble later. If you have immediate relatives in the US then indicate them there. Get their contact details (phone and email), work, company, home address, resident status. You also have to put the details of your contact person in the U.S. This can be a friend, relative or organization in the U.S.
- Filling out the DS-160 form can take a long while so have patience. Also, if you can’t type fast, have someone type it for you because the webpage times out if there is no activity or interaction from you (like clicking the buttons). My advice is to click Save every time after filling out a page to save your progress. It’s a pain in the ass to encode all the details and not get saved because of the time out. You can always retrieve the DS-160 form using the Application ID and a security question and start where you left off. That application ID is also the confirmation number that you will input in the application website you registered earlier (see step 1).
- Once finished, remember to send the confirmation page to your email and print the confirmation page and the DS-160 application form (for your personal copy and review purposes).
- It’s payment time. In our case, we paid online through BPI Express Online. For a guide, click here.
Please note of the reference number. This is the reference number that you will use in enrolling your US VISA payment in BPI online. This is also the MRV.
Important! For those applying as family, you have to enroll EACH family member for a US VISA payment. So one MRV is to one family member. One MRV = $160. So for example, you are three in the family, enroll three online bill payments with each unique MRV as reference number. Don’t enroll one MRV for all the 3 of you with total payment of $480. Rather, enroll 3 bill payments with $160 each. I hope that’s clear enough.
Please also note that after you’ve made the payment, you can’t immediately use the MRV and schedule your interview. There’s a waiting time for it. Please check at the bottom part of this page. After that, you can input the MRV and proceed with your interview schedule. Please print out immediately the acknowledgement receipt BPI sent you in your email and don’t delete it! The embassy may or may not ask you for it so don’t lose it. In our case, they didn’t ask for it.
Now since we paid online, I don’t have an idea how to go through over the counter payments. Kindly check this page for the guide.
- You can go through this page regarding scheduling your appointment. Just a tip, get the earliest time available and be there at least an hour before. Our time of interview was 8:30AM but we got inside and processed by 7:35AM and finished by 8:30AM! So efficient and fast!
What to Bring in your interview
Below are the required documents to bring in the interview:
- Valid Passport
- Appointment confirmation printout (all pages)
- DS-160 confirmation page
- 2×2 pictures (white background, colored photo)
- Bank Deposit slip of your MRV fee receipt
Below are some of the documents you can bring in the interview as supporting documents but are NOT required.
- Old Passport (important)
- Certificate of Employment
- 3 months of latest payslips
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate (if married)
- Bank statement/certificate
- Latest credit card statements / photocopy of front of the card(s)
- Mutual funds and stocks portfolio
- Insurance policy
- OR/CR of own vehicle
- Real property documents like TCT and contract to sell
- Business registration, business permit for business owners
- Any document that you feel can prove you’re able to travel to the US
Things you should NOT bring:
- any kind of electronic and battery-operated devices (mobile phone, digital camera, laptop, music player, portable game consoles such as PSP, USB thumb drive, mobile tablet, etc.)
- any device with an On/Off switch
- cigarette lighter and any flame-generating device
- any kind of sharp objects
For the complete and updated list, click here.
Every individual is different be it status in life, job, civil status and many others. Again, what worked for us may not work for others simply because we have different profiles. But don’t fret and lose hope. There’s always hope and a big chance of getting approved. Don’t get discouraged and don’t listen to others that you’d get denied. Instead, listen to yourself and if you are just planning to get a VISA, think deeply if you’re ready. Our profile:
We applied for a B1/B2 Business/Personal (Tourist) VISA.
Me: Employee (12yrs), Married (almost 4yrs), has not been issued a US VISA before, has real properties, has visited 7 countries, has a ME VISA in South Korea.
Wifey: Housewife but previously employed in the Middle East, Married (almost 4yrs), has not been issued a US VISA before, has real properties (conjugal), has visited 10 countries, has a ME VISA in South Korea.
Questions the consul asked us are the following as far as we recall:
- How are you two related?
- Where are you going?
- Do you have relatives in the US?
- What is your work? Same company? For how long?
- Do you have kids?
- Have you been to other countries?
- How much is your total income?
You see, all the questions are just validations of what we input in the DS-160 form. They just need to check if you are answering truthfully and we did answer truthfully. Once approved, the consul will tell you that you’ll receive your passport after a week by mail.
So what are my chances of getting approved?
It all depends on the interview, how honest is your DS-160 application form, how honest you answered them, your economic and family ties in your home country and the assurance that you will return back home. Home here doesn’t mean you have to have your own home under your name (though it helps if you have real properties) but you simply are residing in a home in the Philippines.
If your work is contractual, don’t be discouraged. Though being a regular employee in a company helps especially if you’ve worked for that same company for many years, still lots of people with contractual jobs got approved. I for one have worked as contractual and have jumped from one company to another and still got approved. I also came across blogs and forum threads saying that they are freelancers but still got approved.
Don’t get tensed! Keep calm and answer the questions confidently and truthfully. The consuls are well trained to detect if you are lying. When we were lined up for the interview, I can see some nervous faces in the line. They really looked tensed especially young girls. We are a little tensed too but what my wife and I did was we cracked jokes and didn’t think about the interview and just kept on smiling. That helped us remove our worries.
Now, even if you are super rich or someone who has travelled the globe it doesn’t guarantee you an approved VISA. The same goes to someone who has little money and hasn’t travelled outside the country; it is not a guaranteed denied VISA. Again, be honest and reflect on your profile. Ask yourself the same questions the consul might ask. Ask yourself ‘If am a US consul, will I reject my application? Do I have strong economic and family ties in my home country? What is my assurance that I will go back home?’
Also, don’t worry about the Political noise currently happening. I don’t think it affected the consuls’ decisions. Your honesty is more important to them. Though, I’m just not sure what will happen after this US election. But of course, always hope for the best.
Accept being denied beforehand – I know I want you to think positively but it’ll also help if you accept whatever decision may be handed to you. Tell yourself; ‘If I get denied, that’s ok. I still have a chance to get one someday’ or ‘I’ll just go somewhere else for vacation’ or ‘That’s great! More savings for me! I don’t have to spend a lot for airfare and pocket money! I think I’ll go to Japan or Europe instead’. This way, it’ll be much easier to accept it and move on.
The consul is your friend trying to help, not an enemy – They will help you as much as they can. While waiting for our turn for the interview, we can hear some consuls asking the applicant to explain his cause further. I think they want to help you prove your claim rather than scrutinize like you’re in a police interrogation. Always think the other way positively.
Supporting documents – It doesn’t hurt to bring it with you. Some consuls ask for it, some don’t. Just be prepared is all I can say.
Choose the earliest time for an interview – People are usually in a good mood during mornings. Consuls are human beings too, they have moods. So it’s best to get the earliest time for an interview. And besides, you can do lots of things after the interview – like celebrate hehe.
Wear presentable clothes – For men, I suggest Business attire, but it doesn’t have to be a suit or anything too formal… I just wore a short sleeved polo and slacks. For girls, uhmm you know what to wear right? Don’t wear anything too sexy coz the male consuls might lose their focus (even co-applicants).
Parking – We parked near Bayview Hotel. It cost us P100 for a flat rate parking for a day. I think it’s expensive. I just don’t know on other parking areas here.
Chairs outside the embassy – You can sit there for P30 while waiting for your turn to get inside. But I don’t know, a little walk and you can sit near the bay for free. Or just stand? We’ve been sitting too long in our office cubes so why not stand for a change this time?
Honesty and confidence – I have to reiterate this again. Nothing beats honesty and confidence in applying for a US VISA. Just answer what is asked of you and expound further when they ask it. Always answer with a smile. Trust me it helps.
Some sample common Questions the consul might ask:
- Purpose of visit – Vacation / visit relatives
- Relation with each other (Family application)
- Do you have kids? (Husband and wife)
- Have you been to the US before? – I think they’ll ask you this if you indeed have been there before just to validate.
- Where in the US you are going? – You can be specific
- Do you have relatives in the US? – If any, only say Yes. If they ask you who, don’t tell their names just yet, just tell – My Aunt, Uncle, Grandfather, Mother, Sister, etc. They might also ask what are they doing there and their immigrant status.
- Are you going to visit your relatives?
- What is your work/business? What company? How long?
- Your income. For husband and wife, they will ask you for the total combined income. You can tell them your gross and net salary.
- Have you been to other countries?
- How long will you stay in the US?
- When do you plan to travel?
- Where will you stay in the US? – They can ask their addresses, phone, email but I think this is rare?
- How can you assure me that you will come back home? – If your parents are living in the Philippines you can tell them that you don’t want to leave them or you still want to travel to more places in Asia and other continents. You can also tell them of your stable job, your properties, investments and businesses that needs to be looked at, etc.
- What did you finish in college? Where?
- Who will shoulder your expenses for the trip? – If you tell them that others are sponsoring for your trip, be prepared to tell them their job, salary, work location, etc.
- If you tell the consul that you will be travelling with someone that is not with you at the time of interview, they will ask you if they have a US VISA.
So I guess that’s it! You can ask me questions but it will only be limited to our experience. Again, what worked for us may not work for you as our profiles are different from each other. Don’t be discouraged when others tell you you’ll fail or you have a red flag or because there are just too many people denied of VISAs or Pres. Duterte cursed the U.S. again… Just think positive and asses yourself. Best of luck and remember, honesty and confidence is the key from start (online application process) to finish (interview with consul).
PS: An approved VISA is not yet a guarantee that you can enter the U.S. The Immigration officer still has the final say if you can enter their land or not.