Here is the continuation on how to apply for a US Tourist Visa.
Do you believe that there are more visa applications denied than there are approved?
Do you think there’s a secret to having your visa application approved? Do you think you need a lawyer to help you through the visa application process? That you have to dress really well, or that you have to know someone “on the inside” (wink, wink), that you have to be a frequent traveller, etc.? Well, worry no more! Those are just myths! If you follow the process and do your research on the correct documentation to present, you’ll go home from your visa interview with a smile, instead of a frown.
According to U.S. Embassy statistics, more visa applications get approved than are denied every year. All applications are adjudicated separately and by its own merits. This means that it’s possible for one twin to be approved and the other to be denied. Why? Because no two applications are ever exactly the same! Just like no two individuals are exactly the same – not even twins.
Moving on… there are basically seven steps to the nonimmigrant visa application process (we’ll cover immigrant visa applications in a later article). Nonimmigrant visas are temporary visas to the United States. These are commonly visitor or temporary working visas. For this article, we’ll focus on the visitor or tourist visa (B2).
Here are the seven easy steps to follow to apply for a US Tourist Visa:
Before anything else, you’ll have to pay the application fee. You’ll need to print the visa fee deposit slip and bring it to any BPI branch with the appropriate visa fee. As I write this, the current fee for a non-immigrant visa is 160.00 USD. The actual amount in pesos would depend on the current rate at the bank at the time of payment. For the most current visa fees, see the Embassy’s page on visa fees. If you’re the techie type and like to do everything online, you can also pay your visa fees that way through a BPI Online or a BancNet Online account.
Next, fill out the online application form DS-160. Make sure all the information is accurate, correct, and 100% honest.
TIP: Make sure there’s no need for corrections by the time you print out your DS-160, as you won’t be interviewed if there’s even a little bit of inaccuracy or incorrect information there. Pay attention to the spelling of names, addresses, and previous travel dates. You’d think nobody would get their own names misspelt, but typos can happen, yes?
Once done, take note of the ten-digit barcode number on your DS-160 confirmation page, as you’ll need it for the next step.
TIP: Plan to schedule your interview well in advance of your travel date (probably 3 months is enough lead time), as you may have to wait for an available schedule slot that’s also convenient for you. Remember that summer and Christmas holidays are always “high season” for visa applications.
Attend your visa interview on the date and time you scheduled.
TIP: You don’t have to be in line outside the Embassy at the crack of dawn on the day of your interview. According to the Embassy, 15 minutes lead time is all you need! If you show up too early, you’ll just end up waiting outside until it’s 15 minutes before your scheduled interview. Still, we’re Filipinos, and we always want to show up early for important days like a visa interview, just so we don’t miss anything! So if you don’t mind waiting outside on the Baywalk between Roxas Boulevard and the Manila Bay, go for it and show up as early as you like.
Once you’re inside the gate, you’ll go through security inspection. Avoid being surprised, harassed or offended during the security inspection – prepare for it is as if you’re going through airport immigration security. Here are some of the items you cannot bring inside the Embassy:
- All types of electronics – these include (but are not limited to) cellphones, tablets, electronic readers, pagers, chargers, mp3 players, etc.
- Food and beverages – these are available for sale inside the Embassy
- Objects that can easily be used or misconstrued as weapons
On the other hand, here are the items you absolutely MUST bring with you on the day of your interview:
- Print-out of your appointment confirmation
- Print-out of your DS-160 confirmation
- Your 2″x2″ photo that meets technical specifications
- All passports, current and old
Okay, so now, you’re through the Embassy’s very strict security inspection. What’s next? Well, there are three more steps!
It’s time to meet the Embassy Pre-screeners and Greeters! They’re the ones who will guide you to the interview waiting areas. They’re also the ones who will double-check and confirm that all the information in your DS-160 are true and correct.
TIP: Again, make sure your DS-160 has no errors. I can’t stress this enough, as you may end up having to go out, correct the error, and either come back later in the day, or completely reschedule your interview! The pre-screeners will also check if your 2″x2″ photo meets the Embassy requirement. TIP: If your 2″x2″ photo doesn’t meet the technical requirement, there’s a photo booth inside the Embassy you can use to take your photo, so you won’t have to go out of the premises.
Next, the Greeters will ask you to either wait or queue up for Biometrics or Fingerprint collection. Once it’s your turn, an Embassy personnel will ask for your name and date of birth, and proceed to take your fingerprint scans. Listen closely to the instructions given by the fingerprint scanner on which hand or finger(s) need(s) to be scanned. Usually it’s the four fingers on each hand first, and then both thumbs at the same time.
TIP: Very dry skin on hands generally don’t scan well, and the Embassy personnel will not quit until they get a good quality scan. So if you have very dry hands, make sure you hydrate with any type of moisturiser. In some cases, wounds or allergies right on the fingertips may cause a delay in the visa approval.
Note: Only applicants between the ages of 14 and 79 years are required to have their fingerprints scanned.
And now, for the most-awaited part of the day – your interview with an American Consular Officer. You can troll the net for tips on the usual questions asked during a tourist visa interview and you’ll get a host of possible questions:
- What is the purpose of your trip to the United States;
- How long do you plan to stay and what is your itinerary;
- Who are you traveling with;
- Do you have relatives in the United States, and if so, what is their immigration status (how did they get there);
- How will you finance your travel, or who will finance your travel;
- What is your source of income / occupation;
- Travel history outside of the country – what type of visa(s) were you given, and how long did you stay abroad;
- … and many more possible questions!
The succeeding questions really depend on your answers to the first few questions listed above. Don’t be surprised if the Consular Officer only asks you a few questions, doesn’t look at your documents, and then denies your visa. The DS-160 is a comprehensive form in itself – it’s possible the Consular Officer’s decision is based on the information in your DS-160 alone, or from your previous visa application(s), if any.
In any case, due to the sheer number of applications, nonimigrant visa interviews don’t last all that long – sometimes, 3 to 5 minutes (if that) is all they have at the interview window per applicant. No worries, Consular Officers don’t deny visa applications just because they didn’t have enough time to spend on the interview. If your application warrants further review, the Consular Officer will tell you this up front and will advise you of when you can expect a determination on your visa application.
If your application is denied despite all the documents you’ve presented and the seemingly innocuous and short interview, it means they found something in your current or past application(s) that made them believe your visit to the United States isn’t temporary in nature.
If your tourist visa application has been approved, the Consular Officer will tell you at the window. All you have to do then is wait for the delivery of your passport with the approved B2 visa inside. This generally takes 5 business days.
TIP: It’s good practice to mark (put sticky notes or paper clips) on the pages of your passports with visas and immigration stamps. It’s not required, but I’m sure the Consular Officer will appreciate it. Also, if the Consular Officer happens to ask you about your previous travel to whichever country, you’ll be able to find the appropriate page(s) easily, because they’re already marked!
TIP: During the interview, be open and honest. Just relax. Remember that everyone at the Embassy – including the Consular Officers – are just people too, so there’s no need to be nervous about speaking with them during the interview.
So there you have it – all 7 steps! I hope you find the tips useful. The very best of luck to you!
Watch out for Part 3 in the U.S. Visa Series!
Note: This series is written with the Filipino U.S. tourist visa applicants in mind (Philippine passport holders), but applicants from other countries may also find these articles useful.