August 8, 2013
Thank God I woke up when the alarm sounded at 2:45 AM. No matter how I’d like to sleep more, I needed to get up and prepare for our 6:30 AM appointment at the Manila U.S. Embassy in Roxas Boulevard.
Fast forward. I parked our vehicle infront of the Emerald Garden at around 5:30 AM. The U.S. Embassy was just across the street. However, Mama and I learned that the entrance was not at the main gate of the U.S. Embassy but at the Annex. Hence, we walked around 10 minutes towards the annex, where I saw a long queue of applicants both for the immigrant and non-immigrant visas.
“Bawal ang cellphone, gadgets, etc., kaya kung may dala kayo, iwan nyo na sa amin…Php 100 lang, (Cellphones and other gadgets are not allowed inside the embassy so leave it to us for safekeeping for Php 100.),” said one of the many “entrepreneur/racketeers” outside the embassy.
The woman was holding a list of gadgets that are prohibited inside the embassy. I left my cellphone, cosmetics at the vehicle but when I checked my bag, I saw my usb and a portable cord. Hence, I was forced to leave them to the woman for Php 100.00. She gave me a number corresponding to the plastic where she placed my things.
We lined up at the back only to find out that we should be infront. Thank God, I asked the guards of the embassy where the line for the 6:30 AM appointment was. Fortunately, it was the line where the tents were. So we were ahead of the others. Yes, it’s indeed better to get the earliest schedule so as not to queue longer outside of the embassy.
Each line is dedicated per type of applicant: Non-immigrant, immigrant and seafarers. The Staff of the U.S. Embassy in blue uniform asked us to take out our DS-160 confirmation page along with our passport.
VERIFICATION OF APPOINTMENT:
As soon as it was my turn, I handed out my passport and confirmation page while the staff searched for my name. She then pulled out the sticker corresponding my appointment and sticked at the back of my passport. After which, the gates were opened and the applicants started entering the U.S. Embassy complex passing by the tight security checks.
GET QUEUE NUMBER
After the first security check, we again lined up infront of three windows where we got our queue number. It was fast so we proceeded to the Consular Section Building as soon as we were verified with the queue number.
Another security check was done upon entering the Consular Section building. It was new and pleasant. The immigrant applicants went to the right corner while the non-immigrant and seafarer applicants went to the left side.
We took our seats along with hundreds of other applicants. The staff of the U.S. Embassy were efficient enough guiding us in every step of the way.
FIRST STEP: PRE-SCREENING
We listened carefully as the staff called out numbers 2000-2005 and so on. We were holding queue #2016.
When we were called, we gave out our passports and confirmation page. In this stage, we were just asked about our full names and birthdays. The 2 x 2 picture was also asked at this point. Most of the staff at this point are Filipinos.
We then returned to our seats and waited for our queue number to flash on the LED Display Board.
SECOND STEP: FINGER SCANNING
The staff of the embassy at this point is still a Filipino with a ‘twang accent. She was nice and jolly while she was instructing us to press our fingers firmly on top of the scanner.
Again, full name and birthday were asked at this point.
THIRD STEP: THE INTERVIEW WITH THE CONSUL
This was the most exciting and nerve-wracking part of my trip to the Manila U.S. Embassy. I was advised to relax and smile. So that’s what Mama and I did. We smiled as soon as it was our turn with Mr. Consul, a Caucasian.
WE: Goodmorning Sir!
CONSUL: Goodmorning! Are you mother and daughter?
WE: nodded and answered affirmatively.
CONSUL: So why are you going to the U.S.?
MAMA: It’s a company incentive trip to Hawaii.
CONSUL: So you won a contest?
WE: Yes. (At this point, I was ready to hand over the endorsement letters that we got from our company, PRU LIFE UK. But the consul didn’t ask for any.)
CONSUL: What do you do?
MAMA: I’m a branch manager of the company: manage people etc.
ME: I’m a financial consultant of the company. I give financial advice and do financial planning.
CONSUL: How many clients do you have?
MAMA: about 1,000.
CONSUL: Wow. Who are your clients?
CONSUL looks at my new passport and asked: Have you been to other countries? What countries have you been to?
ME: Yes. I’ve been to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hongkong, Macau.
CONSUL: What’s in Vietnam?
ME: I was on a tour.
CONSUL: I mean, what’s to see there?
ME: The Cuchi Tunnel etc. (I then took out my old passport and handed it to him).
CONSUL browsed my passport and saw my South Africa Visa.
CONSUL: So what did you do in South Africa?
ME: It was for an assignment at a travel magazine where I used to write before.
CONSUL: What magazine?
ME: Experience Magazine, a local magazine here in the Philippines.
CONSUL: Congratulations! Your application has been approved. Enjoy your trip!
Whew! It was such a relief and a great feeling. The interview took less than 10 minutes. They said that the U.S. Visa application was one of the most difficult visas.
The two others who lined up before us were denied of their applications. I will write more about this on a separate post. The interview ended without the consul looking at all the documents that we’ve prepared. These were the documents that I was ready to present:
- Old Passport
- Company Endorsement Letters
- Bank Certificate
- Stock Investment Certificate
- Variable Life Insurance Certifications
- Income Tax Return
- Business Permit
- NSO Birth Certificate
The interview with the consul dealt with personal questions. It differed from one applicant to another but the most common questions were: WHY ARE YOU GOING TO THE U.S.? And WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING?
We were told that our passports would be delivered to us within 3-5 working days. We were finished by 8:00 AM. I didn’t feel bored. The U.S. Tourist Visa application was a breeze. The Php 6,880.00 visa fee that I paid for didn’t go to waste.
Now, praying and crossing fingers that I get a Multiple-entry visa. I’m grateful to God and also to my mom, who made me as her official companion for her company incentive trip to Hawaii.