My US Tourist Visa Interview

Sunday, August 28, 2016

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Hello everyone! Today's post is about my US Tourist VISA application experience. I thought of sharing it with you here in Q&A form hoping you can get essential tips from what I went through that can help ease your worries about the interview.

How early should I get to the US Embassy?

You're only allowed to enter the embassy 15 minutes before your scheduled interview so arriving hours earlier is not a good idea because there's nowhere else to sit outside but on the rented chairs offered by sidewalk vendors. Yes, you got that right, monoblock chairs are being rented out for Php 100 each.

Where can I stay if I arrive early?

If you're like me who lives far away and couldn't risk being late due to traffic, you can stay in nearby establishments. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is my top choice because aside from its close proximity to the embassy's main entrance, it also opens as early as 6:30 in the morning.

Should I go alone or can I bring a non-applicant with me?

Only applicants are allowed inside the premises (unless you're a minor) so if you're with a friend or relative they will have to wait for you outside. In my case, I opted to go alone and my biggest dilemma was leaving my phone at home. I even thought of staying in a hotel near the embassy the night before so I can have access to my phone immediately after the interview but good thing I didn't because everything turned out quite well.

What should I bring during the interview?

As of August 16, 2016 the US Embassy requires its applicants to bring the following:
1. Valid passport in good condition
2. Printed Form of the DS-160 confirmation sheet
3. 2" x 2" ID picture if your uploaded photograph doesn't appear on the Printed Form of your DS-160 confirmation sheet
4. Application fee payment receipt

What additional documents should I bring to the interview?

Other supporting documents that one needs to bring during the interview may vary depending on several factors. If you're married and have a passport that still bears your maiden name, it's best to bring your marriage certificate. If you're employed, you may bring an employment certificate and your latest Income Tax Return. If you're retired, you may bring proof of your assets like house or land titles and proof of investment. Although I didn't have one during my interview, I think it's best to bring a bank certificate showing your savings account to prove that you are capable of financing your trip. Rule of thumb is, better safe than sorry.

Can I bring an umbrella?

Believe it or not, I browsed online to find out whether bringing an umbrella is prohibited because it's been raining for days before my interview. You can actually bring one but if you prefer not to, the sidewalk vendors are there to your rescue just in case it rains, selling umbrellas in different colors and sizes priced at Php 150 to Php 200 each

What happens before the interview proper?

Appointment & Passport Validation
This step happens outside the US Embassy where you will be ushered to an inspector to validate your appointment form and current passport. At this time, an officer will attach a pre-printed label showing your name on the back of your passport.

Bag X-ray
After passing through the gate's entrance, your bag will be x-rayed and you will be instructed to pass through an electronic metal detector.

Manual Bag Search
The manual search occurs after you go through the building entrance. This step is very crucial because it determines whether you still have prohibited stuff in your bag like cell phones, charger, USB and other gadgets that can be switched on and off. I saw one applicant who had to go back outside and leave her phone charger to a companion so please triple check your bag.

What are the steps to follow to get to the interview process?

Step 1: Appointment & Passport Validation
A second validation of your appointment and passport is done on the first window. At this point the officer inspected my passport and the printed copy of my appointment confirmation. She asked me to state my name and date of birth but was mostly focused on her computer screen. She then looked at me intently and asked why I'm travelling to the US. I have to admit I got a little rattled because I thought no questions will be asked until you get to the consul.

Step 2: Fingerprint Scanning
On to the next window, the officer looked at my passport and appointment confirmation. I was again asked to state my name and date of birth afterwhich I was told to scan my fingers on the digital pad.

Step 3: Interview with the Consul
This was the only step where I encountered a long line but the waiting time before my cue only took less than 15 minutes. I was assigned to a consul in one of the windows and got to see the lady ahead of me approved. When it was my turn, the following questions were asked.

Why are you going to the US?
Have you been to another country? Where?
What's your job?
How long have you been working there?
How much do you earn?
Where will you stay in the US?
Where did you graduate and what year?
Where do you work?
Do you have relatives in the US? Where are they?
Has anyone petitioned you?
How long do you plan to stay in the US?
Are you allowed to miss work for that long?

As advised by my other friends who passed their respective interviews, you need to answer the questions directly without elaborating unless you're asked to. In terms of other supporting documents, wait for the consul to ask for them. I also remember being asked twice by the consul of my purpose for visiting the US so you have to be consistent and confident with your answers. The consul who interviewed me was actually focused on his computer and was glancing briefly at me at the start of each question. The interview lasted for less than 5 minutes and the consul looked at me directly saying my visa has been approved and that I will be getting my passport back in the next 7 days via courier. Mine arrived in the mail 3 days after my interview and I'm over the moon for being granted multiple entry for 10 years!

That concludes my post, feel free to leave your questions and I'll get back to you the soonest I can. Thank you for visiting my blog and have a wonderful week ahead!

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