Friday, January 3, 2020

How I Got My First US Tourist Visa as a Philippine Passport Holder


United States of America is was one of my dream countries to visit since I was a child. My grandparents (from my father side) had lot of stories about this country. While writing this blog entry, I am was a bit teary-eyed because I really missed them. 

At first, I was hesitant to apply for a tourist visa. Even though I have sufficient money to pay for it and I know that I can pay for my travel, I have had that fear of rejection. Everyone also feels the same, right?

Without further ado, here are the steps on how I got my FIRST US tourist visa.

» Determine Your Visa Type «

There are various types of US Visa that you can apply for: business/tourist visawork visastudent visaexchange visitor visatransit/ship crew visareligious worker visadomestic employee visajournalist and media visatreaty investors and tradersCNMI-Saipan visa, and so on

Do note that it is best to go to the visa type that best matches to your application. Never lie.


This guide is only applicable for B1/B2 classification only.


» Register «

Once you have determined your visa type, register at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs to create your applicant profile. Here's their website. You can use this to keep track of your application, verify your payment as well as check and book your interview dates.


If you're in a group, you can all register under one account. 

Once you already have an account, head on to the next step.

» Ready your 2x2 Photo «

Head on to your nearest photo printing shop and have your 2x2 photo. You will be needing this when you fill-out your DS-160 application form. Request to have a soft copy of it in a CD or a USB flash drive. I had mine at Photoline in SM Dasmariñas (Cavite). Please make sure that your photo is in corporate attire with white background.

Take note that if you will pass the US Tourist Visa, this 2x2 photo will be shown on your visa so make sure that it's pretty decent. You can smile but don't show your teeth. Make sure also that your hair is not covering your ears and other parts of your face.

» Complete the DS-160 Form «

Here's the website on where you will fill out the DS-160 application form. Take note the Application ID that will flash on the screen because you will be needing this one on the next step. Get ready the soft copy of your 2x2 photo.

Then, ANSWER THE FORM WHOLE-HEARTEDLY. I'm not kidding. The form consists of:

  • Personal Information
  • Address and Phone Information
  • Passport Information
  • Travel Information including purpose of travel, travel plans, intended date of arrival and length of stay in the U.S., US contact number(s) and address
  • Travel Companions Information (if there is any)
  • Previous U.S. Travel Information (if there is any)
  • U.S. Point of Contact Information (contact person in the U.S. if there is any)
  • Family Information (father's name, mother's name, immediate relatives (siblings), and birthdates) 
  • Spouse Information (if there is any)
  • Employment Details
  • Educational Background
  • Security Questions and Background
  • Upload your 2x2 Photo

Update (June 2, 2019): The United States has begun requiring visa applicants to submit social media profiles as part of the online application. It must be at least 5 years old.

It's very lengthy and it took me 2 hours to fill out the form because I have to gather my passport and other personal details. Answer everything completely and put N/A or not applicable if doesn't apply to you. 

By the way, I used Google Chrome browser when I answered the DS-160 application form. Once you're done, save this one to your desktop. The consul will based almost all of his / her questions on this form. 


Save also the DS-160 confirmation page. It includes the application ID and other personal details. It is also one of the requirements to bring on your visa interview.


» Pay the Non-Refundable US Visa Fee «

As of May 2018, the visa fee costs USD 160 with exchange rate of USD 1 = Php 53 so it costs Php 8,480 in Philippine currency. Take note that it's non-refundable and non-transferable whether you are accepted or rejected.

You can't schedule or view an appointment unless you payed your visa fee. There are two ways to pay for it:
  • Online transaction
  • Over-the-counter transaction

I chose to pay online via BPI because it's hassle-free and to avoid long queues in the bank. Here's the link if you want to pay online via BPI. Take note of your reference number because it serves as your receipt number in booking for your appointment. For the detailed BPI instructions on how to pay online, click here.

If you will pay online via BancNet, click here. Same as above, you have to take note the reference number. For the detailed BancNet instructions, go to this link


In case you will go for over-the-counter transaction, go to this link and print this page. The page consists of bank copy and customer's copy. It includes the amount to pay, expiration date and receipt number. Take note that it is one of the requirements and you have to pay for it.


» Confirm your Visa Fee Payment «

Go back to U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website and login.  Click New Application / Schedule Appointment and choose Nonimmigrant visa > Manila > Business/Tourism > B1/B2. Fill out your personal data. Get the DS-160 confirmation number on the DS-160 confirmation page that you answered above. Next, put your current address on the delivery address portion. Note that the delivery fee is inclusive on your visa fee.

Then, head over this link to confirm your payment. Don't forget to enter your receipt number.

» Schedule your Visa Interview «

Once you confirm your visa payment, you can schedule your visa interview. After you chose your desired date and time, confirm your visa interview appointment. After you receive the confirmation of your appointment on your email, print it because it is one of the requirements for your interview.

Here's the processing timelines for online payment:

  • BPI
    • If you payed between 12:01 am to 2:59 am, you may schedule your appointment four hours later the same day
    • If you payed between 3:00 pm to 11:59 pm, you can book after 11:00 am on the next day.
  • BancNet 
    • If you payed between 12 midnight to 11:59 am, you may schedule after 1:30 pm on the next day.
    • If you payed on weekends and bank holidays, you can also schedule after 1:30 pm on the next day.

For over-the-counter transaction, if you payed before 3:00 pm, you have to wait for four hours before you schedule your appointment. For payments after 3:00 pm, you have to wait around 1:00 pm on the next banking day before you schedule your appointment.

On my case, I payed online via BPI last April 11, 2018 in the morning and I scheduled it after lunch time in the afternoon.


At that time, the earliest day for visa interview was May 7, 2018. I booked that date and chose 8:45 amOthers said it's better if you will schedule in the morning than in the late afternoon. 

» Gather your Requirements «

Basic requirements are as follows:
  • Valid Passport
  • 2x2 digitized photo
  • DS-160 confirmation page
  • Visa fee payment receipt
  • Appointment confirmation

You can bring supporting documents such as employment or school certificate, bank certificate and so on. In my case, they never ask for it.

» US Tourist Visa Interview «

Show up 15 minutes before your scheduled time. All electronic devices are prohibited inside the Embassy so make sure you bring none. I just brought a small bag with my pocket money, a mirror, a lipstick and a tissue paper.

Once you reached the US Embassy (Philippines), asked the security guard on where to fall in line. Then, a staff member will ask for your passport and appointment form. They will attach a sticker on your passport for tracking purposes.


After that, you will be instructed to go inside where you will be asked to put your belongings in a conveyor belt. Once done, you will be redirected to a shaded area with chairs. I didn't spend much time there and was instructed to go inside the main building.


My bag was manually checked again inside the Embassy. The FIRST step was fall in line for pre-screening. They will asked your name, birthday and purpose of travel. The SECOND step was finger scanning. The FINAL step and the most important one was the interview.


This was the questions asked to me by the consul:


Consul:   What's your name and age?

Me:         I'm Ulyssa Elaine Reyes, 25 years of age.
Consul:   What's the purpose of your travel?
Me:         I will visit my grandparents and attend their 61st wedding anniversary celebration.
Consul:    Where in US are you traveling?
Me:          In Lynnwood, Washington state.
Consul:    Have you traveled outside the country?
Me:          Yes, many times.
Consul:    Where did you travel?
Me:          I have travelled to South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
Consul:    Who will pay for your trip?
Me:          Myself
Consul:    What's your work?
Me:          I'm a Mobile Applications Developer.
Consul:    How much is your salary?
Me:          Php **,***

After a minute, she told me that I should wait for my passport to be delivered on my current address.


I arrived at the embassy around 8:30 am and exited at around 9:10 am. It's really nice that the embassy has a faster process now. A day after I was interviewed, I received a text from the Embassy that my passport was ready to pick-up. After 3 days, my passport was delivered to my address. My passport has now 10-year multiple entry US tourist visa! I'm now ready to go to US and visit my grandparents!


UPDATE (January 1, 2019) : Unfortunately, I didn't go this June 2018 with my dad because of personal reasons. But, I will make sure to go late this year 2018 or early next year 2019 to visit them. I also didn't push through my plan trip last November because of roller coster emotions and personal reasons, too. 😞 


UPDATE (May 14, 2019) : Hurray! Today, I just booked my roundtrip tickets and I'm flying to USA! I'm now ready to conquer my fears and spread my wings. I will spend holidays: Christmas and New Year with my grandparents as well as my aunt's family. 😃

UPDATE (December 16, 2019) : I arrived at USA. I just accomplished my bucket list. I'll share my experience on my next blog post. 😃

» US Embassy (Philippines) Information «

Address:                        1201 Roxas Blvd, Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila
Website:                        https://ph.usembassy.gov/
Nearby LRT Station(s):   United Nations or Padre Faura. Then, take a jeep or a cab going to the embassy.

2 comments:

  1. wow, that was a fast process from the US embassy. I hope I have the guts to try to apply again for a visa, hmmm. probably someday. Hehehe! Can't wait to see your travels in the US.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Rejoyce! Yes, the process was pretty fast. It's a nerve-racking experience and everything is worth it. Give it a try soon. I'm pretty sure you'll face a smooth process because you've been there. :)

    Regards,
    Ulyssa Elaine ❤ https://www.iamulyssaelaine.com/

    ReplyDelete