Wednesday, January 18, 2017

7 Day Challenge: My U.S. Tourist Visa Application Experience

Here it is. My first post as I return to blogging.  I've stopped blogging for about eight years due to work related demands.  Well, the demands are still there but I promised myself to do this on one very specific condition - once I find the drive to apply for a U.S. Tourist Visa and it gets approved.

You guessed it right. Today, was my interview and it was successful. ๐Ÿ˜

I would like to share with everyone my experience.  It was rather a spur of the moment challenge to myself and I prepared for it in only 7 days. Yes, 7 days. ๐Ÿ’ช

Here's a quick timeline of how it transpired:

Needless to say, my passport is still valid for at least 6 months from date of application.

January 11, 2017 Wednesday
Eureka! I will apply for a U.S. Tourist Visa! *over hot brewed coffee*

My profile:
37 years old
Single Dad
Employed with a 7+ year tenure
No Immediate Family in the US
Been to 5 Asian Countries - Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Macau, Singapore

I assessed myself to be qualified. Claimed it! ๐Ÿ‘Š

I proceeded to the websites and started filling out the forms. This where it will all star, just click to start your journey: ustraveldocs.com. You also need to fill out the DS-160 form. 

Please print or write down your Application ID. You need that just in case you will need to retrieve your file.



This is what the DS160 Confirmation looks like.

I also went to Great Image for the required 2x2 photo.  Their U.S. Visa package costs PhP370 and consists of 4pcs 2x2 photos, 4pcs 1x1 photos, and a CD for soft copy (which you need to upload at the websites during application).  They are very strict with photos, click here for details.

January 12, 2017 Thursday
This was documents completion day.  I decided to prepare the following:

Certificate of Employment - Requested via email from our Human Resources Division.  I'm glad we have a very efficient HR team as they promised to have it out in 5 working days but actually produced it in 3 working days. Kudos HR! I ๐Ÿ’™ You! 

Owned Property Documentation - I brought the Certificate of Registration of my vehicles (photocopies only since they are still mortgaged with the bank) and Certificate of Turnover and contracts of the condominiums.

Financial Documents - I went to PS Bank and requested for a Bank Certificate (costs PhP100) and got it in ten minutes.  I also requested the same from BDO (also PhP100 per account).  However, for BDO , you can't wait for it. I was asked to pick it up the next banking day.

January 13, 2017 Friday
I went to BPI to pay the US$160 or PhP8,160 (this varies on the currency conversion rate).  It was fast and easy, it took me around 15minutes for the entire transaction. Click here for more details on the Bank and Payment Options.

Here is what the payment confirmation looks like. I paid Over The Counter.



I also requested Bank Certificates from BDO (also PhP100 per account).  However, for BDO , you can't wait for it. I was asked to pick it up the next banking day.

I was able to complete all the forms and get an appointment schedule.  Here's where you get the Appointment Schedule.  Fortunately, I chanced upon a January 18, 2017, Wednesday, 7:45AM slot.  ๐Ÿ’ช

The Appointment Confirmation looks like this. Please make sure your DS-160 Confirmation Number is correct when you enter it. They will not let you in if even one digit/character of your DS-160 Confirmation Number is entered inaccurately as you schedule an appointment.

January 14 & 15, 2017 (Saturday & Sunday)
These were days of agony and anxiety. Two very long days. ๐Ÿ˜ก

January 16, 2017 (Monday)
I was able to get my BDO Bank Certificates and Certificate of Employment.  All is set. Documents complete! ✊

January 17, 2017 (Tuesday)
I did a quick run through of what I can bring and should not bring.

Here is the set of documents / requirements I prepared:
Valid Passport
Company ID
2x2 Photo
BPI Receipt
Appointment Confirmation
DS-160 Confirmation
Vehicle Certificates of Registration under my name (photocopy only)
Condominium Certificates of Turnover under my name (original)
PS Bank Bank Certificates
BDO Bank Certificates
Certificate of Employment

What documents you should not bring:
Print out of your DS-160 details

You can't also bring the following to the U.S. Embassy:
Any electronic gadget and battery-operated devices (this covers cellphones, tablets, laptops, e-book readers, all the way to USB Drives)
Lighter or any flame-generating device
Sharp Objects including army style multi-tool accessories
Crayons and Markers
any kind of food and drink
any device with On/Off switch

Oh, and I barely slept on this night.

January 18, 2017 Wednesday
This is it, pansit!!! ๐Ÿ’ฃ

I can tell you about the entire experience (which was really pleasant!) but I would rather get down to the details most people are curious of: What did the consul ask? Here it goes. Note that my answers are as verbatim as I can remember.

*after we exchanged Good Mornings*

Q1: Please state your full name.
A1: *blah*blah*blah* 

Q2:  What do you plan to do in the US?
A2: Tour and visit family

Q3: So you are working for [stated my employer] as [stated my position in the company]?
A3: Yes

Q4: For how long?
A4: Eight years this May

Q5: I see you have been all over Asia?
A5: Yes

Q6: How long do you plan to stay in the US?
A6: 3 Weeks

Then the big bang,

You Visa has been approved. Please expect it to be delivered to the address you indicated within a week.

๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž

As if the pressure wasn't enough:

Q7: But wait sir, if I may ask.
A7: ๐Ÿ˜ฑ Yes?

Q8: Just out of curiosity, what exactly do you do as [my position] at [my employer]?
A7: *couldn't help to let out as smile and with relief, I recited the introduction of my resume.*

And that was it!

No supporting documents were asked!

NOT. EVEN. ONE.

However, I guess having prepared what I prepared gave me the extra confidence to balance the shaking nerves and kabog ng dibdib.

I am expecting to receive my US Tourist Visa in three to five working days. 

As of now, I am already laying out my itinerary for the much awaited visit to the United States of America!

*daydreams of all the selfies I must take*

Oh but before I continue daydreaming, I must thank some wonderful blogs where I got a lot of helpful tips and insights. All my free time in my 7 day visa preparation was devoted to reading these blogs again and again, all the way to the comments! Salute to all of you!

Kach & Jonathan of twomonkeystravelgroup.com
Camie Juan of wild-spirit.net

Here are my personal tips:
1. Do not lie. They will smell your sin.
2. Be concise in your answer and answer only what is asked.
3. Dress and groom appropriately.  Its not Fashion Week but you must be decent.
4. If you are telling the truth (See Tip#1), then you would not have to think about your answers.
5. Smile. Think Mona Lisa not Joker, please. Just be pleasant.
6. Many say that you don't need the supporting documents because the consul will not even look at them. This is true in my case. I guess getting the value of having supporting documents was more for my personal confidence. Being confident can help lessen the chances of stuttering or spacing out during the interview because of kaba, which can easily be mistaken as lying.  And the consuls will look for these red flags and strike them out immediately. 
7. Pray. It works.
8. If you feel you are ready, go for it. You wouldn't know until you try. I know US$160 is a bit steep but it might just be worth it. ๐Ÿ’ช

That's all for now, and excuse me as I go back to daydreaming while waiting for my passport to be shipped back. Do comment for questions. :-)

===
Updates!

January 19, 2017 - Visa Status Check

24 hours after your interview, you can check the status via the CEAC Site.

Here is how it looks like:

CEAC Website


January 20, 2017- 2GO e-Trace
You can also monitor the delivery via 2GO's e-Trace online service.


2GO's e-Trace

January 21, 2017- Delivery Day! ๐Ÿ’“

I woke up today with this message on my phone, time stamped at 08.29AM. It was stronger than coffee!

SMS from 2GOExpress

At 12:11PM, I got an email from US Travel Docs that my document has been collected from the US Embassy.

E-mail from US Travel Docs

Then finally, at around 12:40PM, the anticipated knock came at our gate. I opened it (hurriedly) and the 2GO personnel greeted, "Good afternoon sir, ito na po yung US Visa niyo". I was all smiles. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ


Here how the package looks, take note of "Do Not Accept If Seal is Broken".

I opened it carefully, flipped the pages of my passport, and there it was on page 25:

A ten year, multiple entry, B1/B2 Visa from The United States of America. 

US B1/B2 Via

Quickly running it down my mind, I decided to apply for the US Visa on January 11, 2017; and by January 21, 2017, I already have it with me. The process took 10 days. Not bad, considering I didn't get the services of a travel agency.

There you go folks, that's my US Tourist Visa application story and I hope I was able to share some insights that would be useful to those currently going through the process or encourage those who are fence sitting on wether to apply or not.

When you feel you're ready, go for it!

Thanks for reading through and comment for questions! ๐Ÿ‘



20 comments:

  1. is there any required amount of money that you need to have in your bank so that you have more chances on getting the tourist visa ?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Reych, there is no specific required amount. Some travel agencies say its an ADB of PhP50,000, some say PhP100,000. In my case, it wasn't even asked. If i may, I would suggest you work establishing your ties here in the PH. The consul will usually ask about the data you entered in your DS-160 application form; so the data you will enter must be true and accurate so you won't have to "think" about uour answer. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

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  2. Hi TJ,

    Glad I finally found a much much recent blog post about US tourist visa application. So you mentioned you only prepared bank certificates, not the bank statement. I know it wasn't asked but just wanna double check it's just the bank cert with the balance alone, right? Not the whole account activity within a period of time? Haha. Sorry makulit yung tanong.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Lae, yes I just prepared the bank certificates which indicated the ff: (1) type of account; (2) date when account was opened; (3) average daily balance; and (4) ending balance as of date of request. Just to elaborate though, I went to bank and was asking for bank statements and they (BDO and PS Bank) told me that for VISA applications, i would need bank certificates and not bank statements. :-)

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  3. I'm glad I was able to stumble upon this detailed blog of yours! So me (25 years old) and my mom (61 years old) are set to fly to the US this coming June. I'll be accompanying her to visit a family friend. Is it possible for us to have our interview together or do we have to make an appointment separately?

    I have been to Hong Kong, Macau and Dubai last 2016. I have confirmed flights to Malaysia and Singapore on the last week of March. We intend to accomplish the DS-160 form before these trips and will set an interview appointment on April third week. Is it okay for me to include my trip to Malaysia and Singapore in the DS-160 form?

    Hoping for your response. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Patricia, i think you can file the DS-160 separately then just get the same schedule. Although I believe there is a family application somewhere on the site.

      As for your upcoming flights, i would suggest not to include it if it hasn't happened yet upon your date of filing the DS-160. You can mention it if ever the consul would ask though. :-)

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  4. Hi TJ! I'm confused about filling up DS 160 form. I've seen DS160 form asking for previous travel abroad for the last 5 yrs but when i fill up the form it didn't ask for my previous travel. Ang lumalabas lang is previous us travel. Is that ok?What should i do? Hoping for your response! Thanks :)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Aamazing, if i remember correctly, there is a portion in the DS 160 that would ask you about the countries you have visited in the last 5 years. You might need to take a look at it again. :-)

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    2. Thanks TJ! Do you still remember on which part it is? Hndi ko tlaga sya makita sa DS160 form..thanks again :)

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  6. Hello TJ,
    Thanks for this blogs.,its a big help for me since i am applying for my Tourist Visa this year but not surely yet about the month since my employer ask me to returned back my passport bago mag end of August this year.(may passport will expired June 28,2018) Im currently working and living here in Malaysia for 4years in Resorts World..my Bf invite me to visit his place in california this July..pero nalilito po ako what best month kasi una Plano namin is June,pero nakukulangan ako sa month for me to prepare,so i keep reading some blogs and ask for those who have experience about visa process,and do i need to go back pa po ba sa Pinas?to apply my visa? Or dito nalang po sa Malaysia?hope u can help my question.,sorry for a bit ignorance.๐Ÿ˜ฌ๐Ÿ˜…

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi akomjetoh, i think you can apply via the US Embassy in Malaysia. Upon log in to the website, you will be asked which country you will apply in. I am just not sure if there are any additional requirements for a Philippine Passport holder residing / working in another country. Its best that you check out the website first and review carefully; and if you have the requirements, go for it. But take your time, don't rush into it. :-)

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  7. Hi TJ!
    Good day!


    Thank you so much for this blog, this is really helpful as I am planning to apply for a US tourist visa this month, but if may I ask what other ties would you recommend other than listed above? I am planning to visit my boyfriend and I am only 23 and trying to save as much as I can but the thing is, I do not have those properties yet that I can consider ties to prove that I do not have any plans of not coming back here. I have work but I am only working for this company for 9months. Any advice from you sir will be truly and greatly appreciated.

    thank you in advance and God bless!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, its usually a good, stable job and valuable properties (real estate, vehicles, etc) that can be good grounding ties. Having your family here in the PH is also good. Just be honest with your plans to the consul.

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  8. Hi Sir! Just want to ask, if there's a possibility po na ma approved sa US Visa Application even hindi ka pa nkakapagtravel outside PH? Or you really have to travel first sa ibang country? Thank you Sir TJ in advance! It'll be a great help.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mardie, yes I think there is good chance even if you have not travelled outside PH yet. As long as your ties to the country are strong and established.

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  9. Glad my blog post helped you out! I'm glad to hear they're not super strict even after Trump. I've heard of well off people getting rejected, including my cousin who has been vacationing in the US since he was a kid. He renewed and got rejected. Anyway, Congrats! Im happy for you!

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  11. Hi! I worked as a market researcher in a company based in the US for 1 year now. Now they want me to go there for a team building seminar. Should I put their address on my primary work occupation when I filled out the DS-160 form? On the contact information I put my clients address. I don’t have travel records right now but has money and investments in the bank. I am not based in Manila either.
    Looking forward to your reply and for anyone who can help me.

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  12. Thank you very much for this information. My interview comes up 8th march, 2018. I am more confident now after reading your post. I believe i will get it cos i was a bit worried about my bank statement cos its really scanty.

    I am from Nigeria and visiting a friend in America.

    Thanks once again.

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