Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Our U.S. Tourist Visa Application & Interview Experience (2019)

I don't know why, but applying for a U.S. Visa has always been met with apprehension and dread for most people. I guess it's because there's an actual interview, which of course can be quite nerve-wracking. Plus all the horror stories you hear of people getting denied with no explanation.

I got my first visa before but I was still a kid then, and the last time I went to the States was when I was a teen. I never bothered applying on my own after that. But of course, now that I have my own family, having a U.S. vacation is something we want to do. Plus, my in-laws migrated to the States two years ago so they've been pressuring us to bring the kids there lol. So anyway, sharing with you how we applied for our Tourist or B1/B2 Visitor Visa.


Anyway, first step is to fill out the DS-160 form. Make sure you take note of your Application ID since you will need this when scheduling an appointment and if you want to save and complete the form at a later time.

The form was probably the easiest to fill out, compared to past application forms I've done like UK, Australia, or Canada. Very basic questions, plus they didn't even ask for past travel history to other countries, no need for an itinerary, no questions about educational background or financial stuff either!

After completing the form and uploading your photo, just print out the confirmation page. No need to print the entire application form.


I took our 2x2 ID pictures myself at home, following these photo guidelines. I just made sure we had a white wall as the background, and took the photos outside in a well-lit area.

Then I had the photos printed since you have to bring a copy. They will ask for it in the pre-screening, scan it and give it back to you. If it doesn't meet their requirements, they'll have you take another one in their photo booth.



Click HERE to know more about the visa fee and where/how to pay. The tourist visa fee was $160 each, which was converted to P8,640 (depending on the current exchange rate). I paid at BPI and you have to print the applicable visa application deposit slip which can be found in their website. You must have a unique deposit slip for each applicant. The bank teller will tell you to write the name of the applicant, address, and contact number on the back of each slip.

The visa fee is VALID FOR A YEAR, so you can definitely pay first even if you haven't completed your DS-160 form yet.

I brought the deposit slips with me in the U.S. Embassy, but they didn't ask for it.


After you've paid and submitted the DS-160 form online, you can now schedule your appointment HERE.

You will need to create a profile, then provide the following:
- passport information
- payment fee receipt number
- DS-160 confirmation number
- contact details

There is also an option after if you need to include family members in your desired appointment schedule so you'll all be together.

For our appointment, I was lucky enough to get a slot on February 5 which was Chinese New Year. I knew this was a holiday so the kids wouldn't have school. And I made sure to check if the US Embassy will be open on that date (they follow American Holidays so kebs sila sa Chinese New Year haha). The only time available was 10:15am so I booked it.


I was applying together with my 3 children (hubby already has a visa). Here were the stuff I brought on the day of our interview:

- DS-160 confirmation page
- appointment confirmation
- payment deposit slips
- current passports
- old passports
- 2x2 ID pictures
- birth certificates of the kids
- our marriage certificate
- husband's ITR and Certificate of Employment (since I'm a housewife)
- bank certificate plus passbooks
- house title
- OR/CR of cars
- kids' school IDs, plus the receipt for school reservation for next year
- ballpen

I placed all these in a long, clear envelope with handle and this was the only thing I brought inside the US Embassy.


We were able to park near the overpass/footbridge at the service road accross the US Embassy. There's an Army Navy and a Coffee Bean nearby. There's "parking attendants" there and one of them waved us to a spot. It would cost P120 daw and then bahala na kami sa tip niya pang kain lol (gave him P50).


Our appointment was at 10:15am so we left the house before 9am to be sure. I guess since it was a holiday, there was no traffic so we were already there by 9:20am. They will only accommodate you 15 minutes before your appointment so you can't be there super early as well. Anyway, we had a snack first at Army Navy while killing time.

We then proceeded to the U.S. Embassy just before 10am. I don't know the normal amount of people on a regular day, but there were only a few people outside in line when we arrived. Like we didn't even wait 1 minute, it was our turn na.

I gave our passports to the lady and then she looked through her sheets with different barcodes. They didn't even ask to look at my appointment confirmation. After finding our barcodes, she placed the corresponding sticker on the back of each passport.

Now, hubby already had a visa but he came with us since I read in some forums that they'll allow him inside naman since he's also the parent. Plus I figured I myself was an applicant and we had 3 minors so he would automatically be the companion of at least 1 of our kids. Well, turns out NOPE, they only allow 1 parent/guardian inside now (unless of course, both of you are applicants).

Anyway, I was given a yellow card with the letter E on it (for expedite lane) and was assured that the process would be quick. And it was!

Here's what happened when we went inside:

1. Security check - put your belongings in a conveyor belt and pass thru metal detector

2. There was a shaded part with a snack area nearby where some people where seated. But since we had the E card, we went straight inside the Embassy at once.

3. There was a line for the Pre-Screening, but we were directed at once to an available window with a Filipino guy. He got our passports and asked where we were going in the U.S. He then asked for our 2x2 ID pictures which he scanned and returned back to me. He did a lot of typing then after, he told us to proceed to finger scanning.

4. Again, we were directed at once to an available window (thank you E card!!!) this time with an American guy. He told me it was just me who needed to have the fingers scanned since the kids were still young. He asked me to hold up the back of my passport with the barcode to the window which he scanned. He then asked for my name and birthdate. Then, proceeded with the finger scanning. After that, it was the interview na!


I swear, everything was moving so fast I was glad we had a few minutes to sit down before the interview because all the windows were filled. There was a lola near me who I noticed had the blue paper (denied) and she was just sitting there. One of the staff went to her and said "Lola, tapos na po, kailangan niyo na po umexit." Awwww.

Anyway, we were then directed to a window but someone was still being interviewed (baby and mom). The consul was an American guy in his 40's. There was a lady consul to our left who was interviewing a family and she seemed masungit lol. Glad I wasn't assigned to her window!

The baby and mom in front of us were given a blue slip, denied! Gulp, now it was our turn. Here's how I remember our Q&A:

Me: Hi! (as I handed our passports)

Consul: Hi guys! So why are you going to the States?

Me: For vacation during their summer break.

Consul: Where are you going in the U.S.? (but he was looking at the kids)

Sabe answers: L.A. and Texas!

Consul: Who's in Texas? (type, type, type)

Me: My brother-in-law.

Consul: How long are you staying? (type, type, type)

Me: A month

Consul: Who else will be going with you? (type, type, type)

Me: My husband.

Consul: What does your husband do? (type, type, type)

Me: He's a __________ (secret, sorry private si hubby hehe)

Consul: How long has he been with his job? (type, type, type)

Me: 12 years

Consul: So where else have you travelled? (asking the kids)

Kids: Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia... (then Sabre says "Philippines")

Consul: (laughing) Philippines! I only want to hear about the exciting places you've been! 

more typing then...

Consul: Ok, you'll get your passports back in a couple of days.


That was it! He didn't ask for any documents or look at our old passports (all our passports were recently renewed just last month so no stamps or anything). He didn't even ask me what I did (well wala naman talaga akong job haha). Sabi ko kay hubby, siguro kasi mukha naman akong kagalang-galang lol! Siyempre, I made sure to dress nicely and look classy! ;p

We entered the Embassy past 10am, and we were out of there by 10:20am! Super fast! Buti na lang, coz hubby was waiting for us outside haha. That E priority card was a lifesaver!

Went to MOA after and had lunch at Shakey's to celebrate!

After all that, I wonder why I was even so nervous in the first place! Anyway, UPDATE, we got our passports back after 3 days (applied Tuesday, was delivered on Friday). And all 10 YEARS Multiple Entry! Thank you Lord! Can't wait to finally bring the kids to the States this summer yey!

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