US tourist visa application guide: Tips and reminders
Hi! I’m Jacklynne, 21 years old, not a millionaire, and I have no relatives in the States. Yet, the U.S. Embassy granted me a 10-year multiple entry visa. How? This is my detailed guide.
It has been my dream to go to New York City ever since I was a child. I want to try their famous dollar hotdogs, visit their museums, and watch a Broadway show. However, I wasn’t born rich, I don’t have a relative in the U.S., and I know that getting a visa will be hard. I have heard a lot of horror stories on getting their visa rejected even when they presented millions of pesos as a “show money.” Because of this, I already accepted the fact that it would take me years to go to the US.
As time went on, I forgot about my NYC dream, focused on another one and that was to visit Europe. Luckily, because of my hard work and dedication, I achieved it at the age of 21. I traveled Europe for 65 days without quitting my 9-6 job. I blogged about How to travel without quitting your job on my website.
Getting a Schengen visa which allowed me to travel Europe was hard because of all the strict requirements. I am fortunate that I was able to get a multiple-entry visa despite having graduated college less than a year at the time, and a also as a single female. I had all the red flags but I was still granted that visa.
The moment I came back from my Eurotrip, I decided to face my fear and apply for a U.S. visa. Best risk ever as I arrived at the Embassy at 8 in the morning and exited it with an approved visa at 8:45 am! Just 45 minutes to get a 10-year multiple entry U.S. Visa!
Note: This guide is focused on how to get a U.S. visa as a tourist. The process is different for work, immigrant, and any other type of visa.
1.) Register at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs
Here, you can fill out your information as an individual or as a family/group, check the available interview date, and verify your payment.
a.) Click New Application/Schedule Appointment and answer the visa type, post, category, and visa class
For the visa type, choose Nonimmigrant visa >> Manila >> Business/Tourism >> B1/B2.
b.) Fill out your personal data
For the DS-160 confirmation number, refer to the latter part of this post.
c.) You can also add your family members if you’re applying together
d.) Finally, choose how you would like to receive your passport.
In this page, you can now see the earliest appointment date. However, you can’t book that unless you’re already paid and you’ve already completed the DS-160 form.
2.) Complete the DS-160 application form
Click this link for the DS-160 form.
a.) Start a new application and take note of your application ID. Be sure to also have a soft copy of your 2x2 photo as you need to have it uploaded here.
Copy this one and paste it on your Consular Affairs form stated above.
b.) Answer the form
The form consists of your personal details, address and phone, passport travel, travel companions, previous US travel, US contact, family, work / education / training, and security and background. It’s super lengthy but answer it as completely as you can. This is where they base their questions on.
If you can’t answer it in one go, save it and retrieve it once you’re available. Be sure to read your answers more than once before confirming it as once you’ve hit the submit button, you can no longer edit it.
c.) Print the application confirmation
After submitting, you will be directed to this. Print this is at is one of the requirements.
3.) Pay the non-refundable U.S. visa application fee ($160)
One of the things that set people off in applying a US visa is the fee. This $160 or P7,840 (conversion at the time of writing) is non-refundable whether you got approved or denied. It was P7,680 when I applied months ago. Payment depends on the conversion so always check the link provided below for accurate payment.
It’s a risk to take but it will be worth it if you get a 10-year multiple entry visa!
To pay, check first if you are fine with the earliest appointment date. Please take note that the earliest appointment date doesn’t mean that it’s the only option for your interview. You can choose a date different from the one in the sidebar and can only be visible after you paid the fee.
You can pay in cash at a bank counter or do online transaction.
a) Over-the-counter transaction
Go to this link and print the page. Present this to a BPI bank teller and keep your copy. Make sure that it’s in a safe place because it is one of the requirements for the interview.
b.) Online transaction
I paid the fee online as this was easier. You can do this through BPI or Bancnet online payment.
After that, all you need to do is to enroll the U.S. visa for your online bill payment.
Here’s the detailed PDF file on how to do that.
You will receive an email confirmation once this has been completed. Print this as this will act as your receipt to be presented at the U.S. Embassy.
4.) Confirm your payment
a.) Go to this link and enter your receipt number as soon as you paid.
b) After confirming your payment, you will need to wait a minimum of 4 hours depending on your payment process to book an interview date. Here’s a table on how soon you can book the date:
5.) Choose your appointment date
a.) Go to the bottom of this link to schedule your appointment. You will see a calendar when you book your appointment. Choose a time and date that you prefer.
b.) You will receive a confirmation of your appointment on your email. Print this as it is also one of the requirements on your interview.
6.) Prepare your documents
Here are the requirements to bring on your visa interview.
- Passport valid for another 6 months
- DS-160 confirmation page
- Visa fee payment receipt
- Appointment confirmation
- 2x2 photo
You can bring additional documents that you think could help. Some bring land titles, proof of business, bank statement, and other documents that could prove their tie in this country.
They rarely look at these documents but if you like it could help, then do it. I only brought the requirements along with my Certificate of Employment and Income Tax Return. They didn’t ask for it.
7.) Show up to your interview 15 minutes before your scheduled time
Note: Phones, tablets, MP3 players, USB, and other electronic device are prohibited inside the Embassy.
On your interview date, will have to line up outside the Embassy and there’s no shed or chairs for you to wait so make sure not to arrive too early. There are coffee shops near the place for you to kill time if you prefer. The additional 15 minutes is used for security checks so be on time. Outside the embassy, you will see signage of different interview schedule. Fall in line on the signage that indicates your time.
After that, here are the next steps:
a.) A staff member will ask for your passport and DS-160 form
b.) You will be instructed to go to another staffer where you will presentyour appointment form, passport, and 2×2 picture. They will also attach a sticker on your passport for tracking purposes.
c.) You will then be asked to put your belongings in a conveyor belt
d.) You will be directed to a shaded part with chairs and also snacks. We were instructed to sit there but in less than 2 minutes, they asked us to go straight inside the Embassy.
e.) Get your bags checked manually by the security inside the Embassy
f.) Fall in line for pre-screening. You will just be asked here about your visa type, name, birthday, and marital status.
g.) Finger scanning
This is the most important part of the application process. The interviewer will base his decision on the answers on your DS-160 form and your answer in the interview. Everything went so fast that I was called to go to the booth. Only 5 questions were asked: why I was visiting the US, my work, course in college, the university I attended, and countries that I’ve been to. You can take a look at my story about the interview on my blog, here’s the link.
In less than 2 minutes: “Approved!”
I arrived at the Embassy around 8:00 am and exited it with a smile around 8:45 in the morning. I read a lot of blogs and they said that they had to wait at least 5 hours to be interviewed. It’s really nice to hear that the US Embassy has a faster process now. In less than 45 minutes, I was given a 10-year multiple entry US visa! As they said, don’t knock it until you try it.
Just prepare your documents that could prove your rootedness here and answer the questions honestly. Smile and don’t be nervous. Besides, if you’re not planning on going there illegally, there’s no reason to be nervous!
Good luck! – Rappler.com
Jacklynne Lambino is a digital marketing head for a financial technology company. She uses her vacation leaves to travel, and she documents it on her blog, jacklynne.com.