A step-by-step guide to US non-immigrant visa application in the Philippines
UPDATE as of Feb. 10, 2011: I originally published this blog post last April 2007 when I applied for a US visa. The procedures have changed dramatically since then.
1. Go to http://manila.usembassy.gov/wwwhappo.html to see the next available appointment date. This should give you an idea of when you can schedule your interview.
2. Go to http://evisaforms.state.gov/ and fill up the online DS-156 form. Your form will be converted to .pdf format after it's filled up so you can choose to save it if you don't have a printer, or print it right away. Either way just make sure you print it out before you set your interview schedule. Glue or paste a recent 2x2 photo with white background to the form, that is the only picture you'll need -- and stapling the photo is not allowed. If you're applying as a family you'll need one form per member.
Important: You can only accomplish the D-156 form if your PC has Adobe Acrobat Reader / Adobe Reader versions 5 to 7. The latest version for download at the Adobe website is version 8, and Adobe Acrobat 8 is totally incompatible with the DS-156 form. I had version 4 installed, which was upgraded to 8, so I experienced this firsthand. I almost went nuts looking for Adobe Reader 7. Anyhow, you can download Adobe Reader 7 here, it's about 20MBs so you need a broadband connection.
3. Go to either the Citibank or Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) branches specified here to pay the application fee of US$100 per person (or the peso equivalent). You will be issued your your DS-157 form along with your payment validation. Again, if you're applying as a family you'll need one form per member.
4. There are two ways you can schedule your visa interview:
a. Call Center - PLDT subscribers call 1-909-101-7878, Bayantel subscribers call 1-903-101-3456 (either way it's 53 pesos per minute charged to your phone bill). Sorry I don't know the Globe counterpart but yes, there is one. Using the call center entails a lot of waiting until someone is available to assist you, and you can call only on weekdays 8am to 6pm. When the person starts reading to you all the guidelines you can find at the US Embassy website interrupt her and tell her you already read all those online, or else it's gonna take a looong time. Anyways she will ask for the bar code of your DS-156 and the bank validation code of your DS-157 before you can request for an interview date.
b. Visapoint - Go to https://www.us-visaservices.com/philippines/securedefault.htm and pay the US$10 fee via credit card. After your payment is confirmed, you will instantly receive an email with your PIN number. You will use this PIN to login to Visapoint and set your interview schedule yourself. The PIN is good for a family of up to five members. Sometimes the Visapoint goes down and you can't get in but it will usually be up again within 24-48 hours. Once you've set an interview schedule, print out the confirmation because you'll need to show it to the US Embassy guard before they let you in. Take note that the Visapoint site is incompatible with Mozilla Firefox, and can only accomodate MSIE 5 and 6. No MSIE 7!
5. After you've set your schedule, make sure you prepare all the necessary documents as specified here. Note that all documents must be original.
6. Let's fast-forward to interview day. Be at the US Embassy at least one hour before your appointed time. Make sure you bring all the required forms, you will need to show your passport, DS-156, DS-157, and appointment confirmation to enter the US Embassy. Please leave all your electronic devices at home -- your cellphone, Palm Pilot, Gameboy, Tamagotchi... there is NO depository for these items in the embassy and they won't let you inside if you don't get rid of them pronto. Prepare to queue up for your applicant number and wait for that number to be called for fingerprint-scanning, then it's off to the interview area with you. If you're approved, you'll have to pay for passport delivery at the Delbros counter so make sure you have cash. There is no option to pick-up your visa.
It's not as fast as it sounds. Our schedule for interview was for 8:30am but we got to talk to the consul at about 11am, and we were there at 7:40am. Thank God I brought a coloring book and crayons for my toddler. That helped keep her calm and occupied during the long wait.
Some extra information:
- Applicants of all ages are required to appear. Yup, from 1 day old to 1000 years old.
- Kids below 14 years of age are exempted from fingerprint-scanning.
- There's a Kodak photo booth at the US Embassy, as well as snacks and drinks for sale.
- Wear comfortable clothes, the waiting area is not air-conditioned. Only the interview area is and you'll spend very little time there.
- If you can, go there at least 1.5 hours before your interview sked. One hour before is cutting it close.
- Be prepared to answer very detailed questions about what you do for a living.
- If applying for children, it's best if both parents show up for interview although only one parent is required to.
Check out a friend's more recent experience at the US Embassy (circa August 2008), there are also some helpful tips -- http://mrsmartinez.multiply.com/journal/item/64
P.S. If there are any changes in the procedure please don't hesitate to let me know so I can update this accordingly. Thanks! :)
Going to Japan? Check out my Japan visa application guide.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A skincare-obsessed 40-something mom who refuses to look it. I eat, I shop, I conquer! Game on!