Friday, September 10, 2010

Tips and Lessons Learned in Applying for US Visa

The day came.  Applying for US visa can be exhausting, heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to catch my early morning flight to Manila.  We arrived at the US embassy thirty minutes past eleven in the morning for our 130pm appointment.  (Note: Cellphones and other electronic equipments are not allowed inside and there's no concierge to leave it with.)

Step 1:  At the gate, present appointment confirmation with DS-160 submitted online, passport and blue copy of visa fee payment.  Time of appointment doesn't necessarily follow anymore; one will be given a priority number on a first come first serve basis.

Step 2:  Proceed to the Pavillion (non-airconditioned waiting area); food and drinks are available for sale here.  Fill up the pink form given at the entrance and make sure you know the following details (my father completely forgot these details, luckily they did not make a big deal out of it):
  • Applicant's full name (surname, given name, middle name/maiden name)
  • Father's full name and birthday
  • Mother's maiden name and birthday
  • Spouse full name and birthday
Step 4:  Wait for you number to be called; the blue copy of payment form will be verified and you'll be given a new priority number.

Step 5:  Groups of 4 and up were called separately and documents are checked ahead.   However, it wasn't such a good idea, in our case, it took longer.  1 group is assigned a priority number after every 20 individuals.

Step 6:  Once you get your new priority number, you will proceed to the room where the consuls are.  Wait for your number appears on the board; looking at those red colored numbers makes me dizzy.

Step 7:  Your number will be called for ten printing.  Ten printing means, your fingerprints will be scanned.

Step 8:  After ten printing, you have to wait again til your number is flashed on the screen, for the interview with the consul.

Step 9:  If disapproved, you'll be given a notice for the reason of denial.  The passport will no longer be stamped as denied.  On the other hand, if approved, you'll be asked to proceed to Air 21's booth and pay for courier.  On several occasion, the courier will update you via text message the following:
  1. tracking number of the passport (at midnight on the day you paid the courier)
  2. when the passport is dispatched out of the consulate
  3. status in transit
  4. estimated delivery time (I got mine after three working days)
All interview appointments will be done by 4 in the afternoon.
    Here are my personal tips in applying for a US Visa.

    Although no documents were asked during our interview (some applicants were asked), bring a birth certificate and/or marriage  certificate, and prepare documents that will establish your ties in the Philippines and proof of capacity to finance your travel, like:
    • original income tax return
    • original land title
    • passbook with significant transactions for several months (a bank certificate may not be sufficient)
    • significant credit card billings
    • original business registration/stock certificate or employment certificate
    • license issued by professional regulation commission, where applicable
    Make sure you know by heart what you  have written on the DS-160 (application form).  The consulate doesn't have a database to verify your application.  The consul will ask you questions and will verify whether the same information is on your application; any discrepancy will be construed as if you're lying.  Questions raised in our case were:
    1. What do you do (for a living)? - when having your own business, the consul did not like hearing answers like "I'm the manager of A Corporation";  For them, it's pretentious to claim as if you work in a corporation recognized worldwide.  He wants an answer as simple as "I have my own business" or "I work for my father".
    2. What is your position (at work) and compensation?
    3. How old are you?
    4. What is your profession? - undeniably there is discrimination against certain profession.
    5. What is you longest stay in America?
    After the first question, the consul said, "you have enough ties, all of you are qualified".  Then he proceeded with the other questions and verifying our answers on our application form online (without asking any documents).  We did not realize that my brother answered incorrectly the last question.  While we all answered 3 weeks, it totally slipped my brother's mind (and us too) that he once stayed there for 5 months for an on-the-job training.  Looking upset, the consul looked into his previous visa and asked what he did there.  My brother explained that he was sent by his previous employer from the Philippines to "work".  With the wrong choice of word, the consul thinks that he should have gotten a H1 working visa instead of a B1 business visa and as such, he can be banned re-entry to the USA.  (However, that period has lapsed.)   The consul became ill-tempered and felt that he was lying and would not accept that he made an honest mistake.  All these were noted in his record; and so he asked further what his work was and asked if he received compensation in the USA.  He was paid in peso in the Philippines and only received training allowance in the USA.  This pacified the consul a lil bit knowing he was not paid in USA.  But damage has been done, he was denied for failure to establish ties in the Philippines and have not overcome a presumption that he will use the visa to immigrate or work illegally in the United States.   As such, he may reapply soon; no documents were required to rectify his status, his next application will depend on the next consul's judgment.

    With no further question, the rest of us remained silent, fearful that our application will be jeopardized, we were granted a visa.

    Technically, my brother had the correct visa, choice of words is very crucial, he could have used the word "training" instead of "work".

    Consular officers tend to focus on factors whether the applicants possess compelling ties to applicant’s home country:
    • If the applicants have traveled to the U.S. previously, how long did they stay? If they stayed longer than 6 months, did they have INS approval to do so? (Note: Please have the applicants bring their INS extension approval notices to their interview).
    • If the applicants have traveled to the U.S. previously, how long have they been back in home country?
    • How many children and grandchildren do the applicants have back in home country?
    • Have the relatives in the U.S. ever returned to home country to visit their families as is normal for foreign students, workers, and residents in the U.S.?
    • Are the applicant active professionally in their home country; if so, what is their income and the nature of their work?
    Looking back, more than anything else, presence of mind is key, one wrong answer will be construed as insincerity.  Be consistent and keep your answers simple: less talk means less mistakes.

    The B1 in lieu of an H1B

    In certain, limited circumstances the US Consulate may issue an employment-authorized B1 visa where the work to be undertaken would usually require an H1B visa. This provision is particularly applicable to situations where you may need a non-US company to send a member of staff to the US for a limited period in order to undertake specific projects for you, or where you wish to bring in an employee of an overseas subsidiary, affiliate or parent for a limited period. The requirements for acquiring a B1 in lieu of H1B are:-
    • The work to be undertaken in the US must be H1B level – i.e. the worker must be engaged in a 'speciality occupation';
    • The worker must permanently employed (i.e. not a contractor) and paid by the employer outside the US;
    • The worker may receive no compensation other than expenses from a US source;
    • The worker must have a degree relevant to the services to be provided– there is no provision for work experience to be considered equivalent to adegree, as there is under the H1B.
    While in the US as a (B1) business visitor, an individual may:
    • Conduct Negotiations
    • Solicit sales or investment
    • Discuss planned investment or purchases.
    • Make investments or purchases
    • Attend Meetings, and participate in them fully.
    • Interview and hire staff.
    • Conduct research.
    The following activities require a working visa, and may not be carried out by business visitors:
    • Running a business.
    • "Gainful employment".
    • Payment by an organization within the US.
    • Participating as a professional in entertainment or sporting events.


    Anonymous said...

    I have a question! When you filled up you DS-160. Did you have to write your middle name? I know in the Surname, you only need to write your Last Name. But where do you write your middle name? I heard it's after the First Name..Not sure..What if my name is Anne Marie Salazar Garcia..Do I need to write Anne Marie Salazar in the given name? Salazar is my middle name..It's confusing becasuse American see the second name (as in Marie) as the middle name.

    freeze said...

    your given name is Anne Marie
    your surname is Garcia
    or as it appears on your passport, it's important that it is exactly the same as what is written on the passport.

    if it doesn't ask for middle name then don't put it in. it will ask for your mother's maiden name anyway.

    Anonymous said...

    I do not see for mother's maiden name in the new ds-160.

    freeze said...

    i did not write mine and i did not have any problems.

    but if you're married, you may write your maiden name under "OTHER NAMES" the question goes...

    "Have you ever used other names (i.e., maiden, religious, professional, alias, etc.)?"

    hope this helps.

    Anonymous said...

    i just filled out & sent the DS-160 online when i realized that i didn't put my middle name in..precisely because it only said "given name." PANIC. i reread the instructions on the homepage & it does say that the format goes surname, given name, middle name. should i fill out another application? hope you can help.

    freeze said...

    i guess, there's no limit as to the number of ds-160 that you may fill out. just make sure the reference number that you attach to your appointment is the right one.

    Anonymous said...

    what if i wrote my father's surname on my mother's surname does it affect my application? im worried please help me..

    freeze said...

    although it may not necessarily jeopardize your application, change it if you can. when you get there, the lady (not the consul) will ask you again who your parents' name and birthdates. I guess, it's vital for them to know your parents' names. It's always best to be consistent.

    Anonymous said...

    hi i recently create a ds-160 form, then i answer all the informations on appointment interview. but when i download the interview confirmation letter it has a password protected, i tried all the password, including receipt # from the bank, my mother's maiden name and passport # but it didn't work. can you help me if you know this? thank you very much..

    Anonymous said...

    hi there. i have a question. i answer all the forms of Ds-160 then when i already to download the interview confirmation it has a password protect. can you help me if you know this. thank you very much.

    freeze said...

    i did not encounter that, when you save the file; it only ask for your birthdate and family.

    please check out the page, you can contact them for inquiries.

    Anonymous said...

    when i called the embassy it's busy. when i opened the file on adobe photoshop it has a password and i don't know what it is. i answered all this at it's saturday today there's no available agent to call. thanks for the info. :)

    freeze said...

    are you applying in Manila? the site you gave doesn't seem like the official one.

    please check out this link for application instructions:

    fill-up the DS-160 from here:

    hope this helps. good luck!

    Anonymous said...

    Hi there, i have just completed my ds-160 online application and confirmed my interview date already The problem is I was not able to put my middle name. For example first name is Juan; Middle name is Cruz, Last name is Lopez. I just put Juan Lopez. Did you put your middle name in your application? Thanks.

    freeze said...

    please see reply above. everyone else has the same issue.

    Anonymous said...

    Middle name is part of a given name. For Americans, a typical name would be John Mark Smith. Smith is the surname, "John Mark" is the given names. If the name was instead John Mark Burns Smith, Smith would still be the surname, and "John Mark Burns" the given names. Not putting all of your names is a bad idea. Hope this is helpful.

    Anonymous said...

    Hi,i have completed my tourist visa applicatio for US and have my confirmation paper also and is scheduled to have my problem is i typed the birthyear of my parents wrong what shall i do or not do?

    Anonymous said...

    I made a mistake with my parents birthyear in my visa application,i already has my confirmation what will i do

    kathy paguirigan said...

    I have question too. Im confuse of one of the question on DS 230, it says on the questions" Other names used or aliases (if married woman, give maiden name".Thats the question pls help me to answer this correctly. my full name when i was single is example Rose Bernal Torres, i got married now my full name Rose Torres Smith. So which one shoul be the answer to my question above. Tnx.

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