Aaah, the almighty US visa. Without you, applying for visas to other countries would have been so much more difficult.
We don’t have any immediate plans of visiting the states but my 10-year US tourist visa expired just last March. That powerful piece of paper made it a lot easier for me to get visas to other countries so I knew I couldn’t go too long without it. In spite of having a third world passport, I’ve never been denied of a tourist visa anywhere, and I have a good feeling that US visa had a lot to do with it.
We have big travel plans for next year, much of which requires hard-to-get visas, so I was thrilled to have a shiny new US visa to facilitate our goals. If you’re looking to visit the states, then here’s what you need to do to apply for a US business/tourist (B1/B2) visa in Manila.
Step 1: PAY THE VISA FEE
When I applied in October 2016, the visa fee for a business/tourist (B) visa was USD 160 or PHP 7,840. But be sure to check this visa fee page to confirm the cost. There are 2 ways to pay this fee.
1. Any BPI Branch
You can go to any Bank of the Philippine Islands branch to pay the fee. Before you go, visit the US Embassy website and scroll to the “Cash at Bank” section. This post assumes you’re applying for a B1/B2 tourist visa so click on “Deposit Slip – $160 MRV Fee”. Print out this deposit slip and take it with you to BPI. Take note of the expiration date because you’ll need to pay the fee before your deposit slip expires. If you can’t pay in time, then just go back to the US Embassy website and print a new deposit slip.
After you’ve paid, be sure to KEEP THE RECEIPT because you’ll need it to schedule your interview. You’ll need to bring it to the actual interview as well.
Step 2: COMPLETE THE DS-160 FORM
Once you’ve paid the visa fee, you can start filling out the DS-160 form. Before you do, it’s important that you carefully read the guidelines for completing the DS-160 form. Please be advised that this is a looooong form so do it only when you have enough time. The good thing is that you can save it along the way so be sure you do that after filling out each section. The form times out after 20 minutes or so of inactivity so it’s important that you save after each completed section so as not to lose your progress. You’ll get log in credentials when you register so you can stop and continue filling out the form at any time.
You’ll be asked to upload a digital passport photo at the end of the application. Many passport photo services can give you soft copies of your pictures in addition to prints so be sure to ask for them. You’ll need to bring one passport photo to the interview anyway.
Step 3: SCHEDULE YOUR VISA APPOINTMENT
After you’ve completed the DS-160 form, you can now schedule your appointment. Follow this LINK to create a profile, then click “Schedule Appointment” on the left. You’ll need the following information to schedule an appointment:
- Passport number
- BPI or BancNet receipt number
- 10-digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page
NOTE: Even after completing the DS-160 form, the earliest you can schedule an appointment is 4 hours after paying the visa fee at the bank. If you paid online, then you’ll have to wait until the next banking day. You can go to THIS PAGE and scroll to the bottom for more information.
Step 4: GO TO THE US EMBASSY FOR YOUR INTERVIEW
The US Embassy is located at 1201 Roxas Blvd in Ermita, Manila. It’s right next to Museo Pambata. If you’re driving, then you can park at the Manila Ocean Park complex and just walk to the embassy. Be sure to arrive at the embassy at least 15 minutes before your appointment. You’ll need to bring the following documents to your interview:
- Printed appointment letter (all pages)
- Original visa fee receipt
- Passport with at least six months of validity beyond your intended period of stay in the US
- Printed DS-160 confirmation page
- 2″ x 2″ color passport photo
NOTE: It’s important that you bring all documents listed above otherwise they won’t grant you an interview. You can bring any old passports as well though they didn’t ask to look at mine. Also, they won’t allow you to bring any type of electronic device into the embassy, not even your mobile phone, so be sure to leave it at home. Again, DO NOT bring your mobile phone to the interview.
Once inside, the interview happens in 3 stages:
- Pre-interview — A Filipino consul officer will quickly look at your documents to check if everything’s in order.
- Fingerprint Scanning – They’ll scan all your fingerprints from both hands.
- Actual Interview — An American consul officer will conduct the formal interview. I know it can be nerve-wracking for many but try to answer as calmly and confidently as possible. They just want to be sure that you won’t stay illegally in the US if you’re granted a visa. If you don’t have anything to hide, then there’s nothing to worry about. Just be as honest and straightforward as possible when answering their questions.
You’ll know right away that your visa was approved if they keep your passport. If you chose “home delivery” when you scheduled your interview, then you’ll get your passport with visa in 3-5 business days. If they hand your passport back to you, then that means your visa was denied. The woman in front of me was denied and the reason they gave was that a B1/B2 visa wasn’t the right type of visa for the trip she was planning to take.
Many people are probably wondering what type of questions they ask during the interview. It’s different for everyone but here’s how mine went:
Why do you want to visit the US?
To visit relatives. I have a brother in Georgia and my wife has a brother in California.
Are you traveling alone?
No, I’ll be traveling with my wife.
Does she have a visa?
She’s an American citizen.
How long have you been married?
Have you ever filed a petition?
Why did you choose to live in the Philippines?
We’re from here.
It looks like you stayed many years in the US…
Yes, for school.
When was the last time you were in the US?
In 2009 if I remember correctly. I attended by brother’s wedding.
How long did you stay?
Ok, you’ve been approved. You can expect your passport with visa in 3 business days.
Ka-ching! Thank you Uncle Sam! 😉
That’s about it. The whole thing was pretty quick and organized. Filling out the DS-160 form was the hardest part I thought. I was at the embassy for just a little over an hour. There were a lot of people there but the entire process went very smoothly.
Unlike visa applications to other countries, the US embassy doesn’t ask for supporting documents like bank certificates, an ITR, or COE, so the interview is a critical part of the process. Understandably, that can make the whole thing so much more nerve-wracking, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay calm and answer honestly at all times. I don’t have any strikes on my record and Ren’s an American citizen so I didn’t really have anything to worry about, but I was still nervous as heck! The environment probably has a lot to do with it. Take deep breaths and calm yourself as much as you can. Don’t lie, don’t embellish the truth, and don’t act unnaturally. Just be yourself and hope for the best.
Good luck and I hope your US visa application gets approved!
Embassy of the United States of America
1201 Roxas Blvd, Ermita, Metro Manila, Philippines 1000
Tel: +632 301-2000
Fax: +632 301-2017
Email: [email protected]
Office Hours: Mon-Fri, 8AM-6PM
HOW TO GET THERE:
The US Embassy is along Roxas Blvd right beside Museo Pambata. If you’re driving, then you can park your car at the Manila Ocean Park complex and walk to the embassy.
I’m not an expert on US tourist visas. Like you, I’m just a traveler. I’ll try to help as much as I can but please understand that my knowledge is finite and limited to my experience only. Unless otherwise noted, all requirements listed above were valid at the time of my application. Please be sure to check the embassy’s WEBSITE for updates. If you need answers to any pressing issues, then it’s best that you call the embassy directly.
JB and Renée are the Traveleaters behind Will Fly for Food, a travel blog for the gastronomically inclined. They enjoy experiencing food from different cultures so they’ve made it their mission to try every country’s national dish. Read more about them and their National Dish Quest here.