My US Visa Interview Experience

On the early morning of May 3, I found myself on the side walk outside the US Embassy in Manila, bewildered by the number of people waiting to enter the embassy. It’s not the number that shocked me actually (I know there’s always hundreds of people lined up outside the embassy), it’s the suits and business attire worn by the applicants, as if dressing to get that job they’ve always aspired for.


US Ambassador to the Philippines at the inauguration of NOX1. Photo by Jane Tenefrancia Uymatiao, used with permission.

The time in my confirmation says 7:15, but I was there an hour ahead, even if the instruction was to be there 30 minutes before my schedule. I walked away from the hoard and found a quiet spot facing the Manila Bay. Distracting myself from the unappealing aroma wafting from the water, my mind wandered back a month when I first learned that I need to apply for a US Visa.

I had just walked back to our table at the Camsur Watersports Complex after taking pictures of wakeboarders showing off practicing. The first thing I did was to check my iPod if there are new e-mails. There were several, but one particularly stand out: an invitation to visit Guam. As excited as I was about this opportunity, I knew that a US visa is required for the tiny US territory, and that’s one thing I don’t have, and frankly, something I never thought I’d ever apply for. I quickly fired off a reply, explaining my predicament, and they assured me that they will assist me in getting a visa. A meeting was set with the Guam Visitors Bureau (GVB) a day after my return to Manila, and in the meantime, I filled out the online application form.

I had to snort at my (now) apparent stupidity, printing each page of the questionnaire, not knowing that I can view and print it in its entirety at the end. It took me more the alloted 20 minutes to complete and print each page, giving the Internet shop owner in Bulusan a headache with my crazy request to print and scan each page. After it was all over, I was toting a 26-page pile of documents that I now use as scratch paper. Filling out the form made it somewhat real: that I’m really applying for a US tourist visa.

They gave us pointers during the meeting. Be confident, don’t fidget. Don’t be afraid because there’s nothing you should be afraid of, specially if you’re not planning on doing anything illegal. I pestered them and friends who has been through this before and got the same advice. With the advice comes their assurance: you’ve been to plenty of places already. That shows you come back to the Philippines every time you travel.


Outdoor waiting area. Photo by Jane Tenefrancia Uymatiao, used with permission.

I look at my watch and saw that it was already 6:45am. I stood up and made my way back to the embassy’s entrance. I lined up with the rest of the applicants for a non-immigrant visa, wondering just how am I going to appear confident and nonchalant when I feel the opposite inside. I sneaked a peek at the documents that the applicants ahead of me are toting and I was startled to see a document that I do not have. I timidly ask what that paper was and was told it’s the confirmation page for the appointment. All I had with me is the other confirmation page and the bank slip as proof of the payment.

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When the GVB said they’ll offer assistance to my visa application, I wasn’t exactly sure how they will assist me. Never did I imagine that they will pay for the visa application fee, set the interview appointment and provide the formal letter if invitation from Guam, as well as a guarantee letter.

The line slowly moved and I quickly realized the difference in the lines. One on the left is for non-immigrant visa application, the middle one for immigrant visas, while the right most and the longest are for seafarers. US citizens can just walk right up to the entrance and enter. Security, was as expected, tight. Electronic gadgets are not allowed inside. No mobile phones, no mp3 players, no iPods, no laptops, not even USB thumb drives and bottles of water. Once through the security, we wait at the outdoor holding area.


Inside NOX1. Photo by Jane Tenefrancia Uymatiao, used with permission.

I got the e-mail shortly after Easter. My interview was set for 7:15am on May 3. My heart suddenly started beating fast. Now it’s real. I knew I had to go for an interview, but now that the date has been set, it completely sunk in that I am doing it. I have to face what I’ve always been too happy to avoid. The first thing I did was to message the accountant… is she finished with my business registration? I need the documents for the embassy ASAP.

We were given a number as we entered the embassy. I watched the board with fascination, wondering why 2286 was being called the same time 2304 was flashing on the screen. Now I understand why a friend told me she was too preoccupied watching the numbers to read the book she read. Jasper Fforde likewise spent the entire day inside my bag.

The business registration papers were waiting for me when I got home from making the rounds at my banks, picking up the bank certifications I requested for. I heaved a huge sigh of relief and set about arranging my supporting documents in my clear plastic envelope. I checked and double checked each item in the checklist I was provided with, hoping that the consul won’t ask for documents that I do not carry.

At last we were called. I realized that the numbers on the board were for those already being processed inside the new NOX1 building. For those waiting outside, you need to listen to the staff calling out numbers by batches. After another round of security checks, we were finally inside the US Embassy’s newest consular services facility.

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Right after I got news about my visa appointment, Yogajane published the photos she took during the NOX1 inauguration. My eyes glazed as I took in each detail, wondering how I’d feel once inside that shiny new building.

We were told to line up and I blindly followed the people ahead of me. Seeing that our line was too long, a staffer pulled the guy ahead of me and told me to follow them to another window. Before I knew it, we were standing in line window 15 and we heard the consul asking the guy ahead of us for the purpose of his travel. Is this it? It’s interview time already? I’m not ready for this! It seems it was a preliminary check, verifying the information in our application form and confirming that it was us who actually filled out the form.

“What did they ask you?” I asked my friend Kaoko.
“Just the things that are in the application form. Then they asked about my job and what I do.”
“That’s it? Did you put your documents in a clear book?”
She replied, “my documents are just in an envelope, but I realized then that using a clearbook would have been more efficient since you can easily find specific papers. Not that it mattered to me anyway, since the consul didn’t ask for any document.”


Consul windows. Photo by Jane Tenefrancia Uymatiao, used with permission.

After leaving the window unscathed, I realized that there really *is* nothing to be scared of. I faced what I’ve been worrying about head on and I felt that I can take whatever else that is coming my way. My butt hardly touched the seat before my number flashed again and I rushed off to Window 12. There was a burly guy with a warm and friendly voice who was taking finger prints. Despite my newfound confidence, I floundered and stared stupidly when he asked me to state my name and birth date. He was patient as I fumbled with the contraption that scans my fingerprint, assuring me that behind those (I assume) bullet-proof glass are humans that are only doing what they’re trained to do. And that they don’t bite.

“The consul I got assigned to was friendly,” Kaoko relates. “He even chatted with the kids of the couple ahead of me in line.”
“Really? Hmmm,” I muttered. “I hope I get him as well. Is he cute?”

I ended up sitting with two other girls who were ahead of me in line at the entrance to the embassy. We chatted about the purpose of our trips and shared horror stories about friends who got denied, even with extensive travel histories. One by one we were called and soon I was on my feet, standing in front of Window 5.

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“What’s the purpose of your visit,” the consul asked.
“I was invited by the Guam Visitors Bureau to attend a festival towards the end of the month.”
“Why did they invite you?”
“I’m a travel blogger,” I replied. Upon her blank stare, I continued despite warnings not to talk too much. “They are inviting media outfits from all over the world for the festival. I’m one of the delegates from the Philippines.”
The consul flips through my passport and sees my Myanmar visa. I stifled my groan; I knew I will be asked about Myanmar. “What did you do in Myanmar,” she finally asked.
“I went around the country to Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan.”
“Why?”
“Myanmar is part of my bucket list of places to go before I turned 30.”
“What do you do for a living?”
“I have my own business. I write content for websites, design and create blogs.”
“Okay. Your visa is approved,” the consul finally say.
“…” I stare at her, not knowing what to say.
When she saw my eyes flick to my passport, she continued, “we’ll send the passport via courier.”
“Oh wow, thank you!” Screw being formal, I need to express my joy!


Seriously, I think bad passport and visa photos are the norm around here.

It wasn’t until last week that I heard news about my visa. Actually, the day after the interview, I got a call from the embassy that I need to submit a new picture, as the picture I submitted doesn’t meet the guidelines. I had to send it via courier at no additional cost. I felt naked without my passport and kept wondering when it will be returned. An excited call from Niel woke me from my reverie one afternoon. My passport was delivered to their office bearing a new stamp: a 10 year multiple entry visa! Seriously Just Wandering, what would my life be without you?

[UPDATE] The U.S. Embassy Manila often hold a Visa Hour, where their consuls answer visa-related question. Here are two that might answer your questions:
The Visa Hour: Summer Travel Edition (Part 1 of 2)
The Visa Hour: Summer Travel Edition (Part 2 of 2)
There’s also the VISAtisfied Voyager, their official visa blog.

Great hotel deals in San Francisco via Agoda


Article by Nina Fuentes

Nina doesn't aim to travel to every country in the world -- she just wants to travel to the places that means the most to her. She started traveling in 2006, and hopes to travel for as long as she can. Her travel blog, Just Wandering won the Best Travel Blog in the 2010 Philippine Blog Awards and in the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards.

This Article Has 146 Comments
  1. Weee congratulations Nina! 😀 I think it truly helps if in a way may visa ka na from other countries and if you’re honest. Having the complete requirements is also a plus. 😀

  2. khursten says:

    OMG! You got pa a multiple!

    They’re actually quite generous with a multiple visa nowadays! Congratulations on your visa! o/

    I also got mine years ago. I got a young (cute!) consul who ended up asking me more about my previous job than the current one because my previous job was about gaming reviews. Hahahaha!

  3. Weee! Congrats! They asked me more about Sherv because he was born in Iran, lol.

  4. Galing, congrats Nina, baka nung nakita nya ang sankatutak na stamps sa passport mo di na nagduda pa 🙂 Buti na lang wala ng personal appearance sa Oz, kakabahan din ako ng todo siguro.

  5. ella says:

    Congrats, Nina! Have fun:-) Be sure to oil up the gorgeous surfers.

  6. gita says:

    congratulations on your visa, nins! paangkas naman sa byahe! LOL!

  7. Congrats! I think they’re now more inclined to give multiple entry to tourist visa. I applied twice before, got approved twice, but was never given multiple entry. Super inggit tuloy ako, hehe

  8. jaydj says:

    Congrats Nina ! I’ll share the good news too. 🙂

  9. Peter says:

    The embassy looks prettier now. 🙂

  10. ivan man dy says:

    Now you can visit the Statue of Liberty na!

  11. Joel says:

    congrats,i hope that the US embassy will still grant me a visa

  12. flip says:

    congratulations for the 10 year visa 🙂

  13. kaoko says:

    Ha! Board watcher ka rin pala! 😛

  14. Congratulations!!!! I am so happy for you! I also felt that way before–the first time I applied for a US visa.I felt so nervous, my hands were cold and my heart was pounding as ever. That was more than 10 years ago. Have been to the US several times with my family. Two years ago, my visa expired. I have not gone back to renew my visa bec I have no plans to go there in the near future. The fee is expensive–what if I suddenly get denied?..well, perhaps I will apply when I have definite plans to visiting the US again. Happy Travelling!!!

  15. Char says:

    Congrats!!! awesome! If you can visit San Francisco!! one of my fave cities in the world!

  16. Lois says:

    Congratulations Nina! My own US visa interview experience was scary at first but pretty breezy after the first few seconds. And you’re right about the perks of travel blogging, there have been so many ‘little miracles’ in our lives as well. It’s a great way to encourage other travelers to blog too..

  17. BPS says:

    congrats Nina! kelan kaya ako makakakuha ng ganyan =D

  18. nel says:

    Exciting! Congratulations! 😀
    Seriously, travelers like you are inspiring.
    Cheers on your new visa!

  19. Anna D says:

    10 years, like w000000000000000000000t!!!!!!!!

  20. dyanie says:

    Wootwoot!!! Congrats teh!!! Sa dami ba naman ng mga tatak mo ng immigration sa passport mo eh walang duda na approved na yun! 🙂

  21. freeze says:

    wow, no sweat!

    the embassy looks new! got my visa last year and it didn’t look like this.

  22. wow naman! congrats nina!
    parang thriller pagkasulat ah hehe

  23. chyng says:

    wow naman! one minute youre here, tapos nasa guam ka na! =)

  24. cory willson says:

    wow that was a little bit much wasn’t it? Very insecure thoughts? Do all Filipinos worry so much when around Americans? Would explain many of the actions I see

    • nina says:

      It’s mainly because there’s a huge denial rate among all the applicants in Manila. Even people who has traveled to so many countries still got denied. My fear stems from the pressure to get that visa so I can join the tour any my own insecurity because I always screw up my interviews.

  25. cory willson says:

    anyways, congratulations I hope you have fun

  26. Christine says:

    Wow!!! Congrats Nina! 🙂 i guess it’s about time for you to travel the mainland (USA) after Guam. 🙂

    My family (parents & siblings) & I got a RENEWAL multiple entry last 2009. 🙂 we were interviewed as a family… we were ask about our jobs, schools, purpose of travel. (nothing to be scared of)… Since i am a nurse and NCLEX (US Licensure Exam) passer, the consul ask me if do i intend to work in the US. With confidence, i said NO, since i just shifted in becoming an entrepreneur. 🙂 So for those nurses out there who’s bound for an interview, you just have to show & prove to the consul, you’re not gonna stay there and work with a Tourist Visa. 😉

    Kudos Nina!

  27. Niel says:

    wow, nina. may special mention pa pala ako sa blog mo hehehehe.
    thanks girl, I hope you enjoy your stay in the US.

    I am so glad to have assisted you in ways I can.

  28. MbaegbuGoodluckobinna says:

    Congratulations NINA God has blessed you more with that and for it you should not stop shouting HALLELUYAH……REMEMBER me in your prayers so that i will GET THERE SOON .LOL

  29. Mark says:

    Well done Nina , look forward to reading about Guam. And as Char said one day get to San Francisco , which is also one of my favourite cities!

  30. CON-GRA-TULA-TIOOOONNNNN!!! 🙂

  31. Victor Neri says:

    congratulations Nina! nice one!

  32. Anna says:

    congrats, nina!! 😀 luckily your consul is nice! mine kept asking me if i’m meeting my bf in the US. -___-;;

  33. jeylin says:

    Congratulations! Visit Hawaii and the mainland, too.:) Lookin’ forward to cool Guam pics.

  34. at ako nlng pala ang d pa nakabasa neto. anu ba pinagagawa ko at d ko na visit ang page mu. hehe
    kinabahan din ako sa mga nababasa ko, galeng mu mag narrate,, nadala tlga ako. hehe
    teka lng, baket ganun agad tanong about Myanmar? dahil ba bi-noycott ang tourism dun date ni Aung San?

  35. ace says:

    Wow, so they do really ask about the Myanmar visa.
    I was wondering about the same thing, because I also have one and soon, I am planning to get an Iran visa as well.

    Good to know that it’s not an issue after all!

    • nina says:

      My friends told me they generally ask about previous travels. I guess it just happened because the Myanmar visa is the first thing you’ll see when you open my passport.

  36. oh the holy grail of visas! congrats nina. now you’ve got your first 10 years to explore the u.s. 🙂

  37. JeffZ says:

    You really are destined to go places.. So lucky Nina! 🙂 Hope I had your luck when I had my interview a week after yours.. It really is nerve wracking (and not to mention intimidating) if it is your first time to apply.. especially when you know that you’re not good at interviews, the same goes with me.. and so intense if the purpose is to visit your family.. 🙁 hence, better luck next time to me…

    Mainland USA naman! 🙂

  38. June Cruz says:

    Hey Nina, i just wanted to tell you that I enjoyed this article very much. It was like, you were in my head, relating my own experience with the US Visa application. I was very “omg omg omg what if i get denied” to “wait, what that’s it?” as well. 🙂

  39. Grace says:

    Good job handling the interview questions. I do have to say though that during my recent visit there for my work visa I was disappointed that they were making everyone wait in the sidewalk! The only other choice was the very pleasant smelling Manila Bay. I thought they could have done better by setting up shaded benches as courtesy to applicants who came at the requested 30 minutes before the appointment.

  40. isay says:

    congratz!

    good to know that we have same birthday, same interest (likes to travel too), and same body type ..:) cheers to us

  41. Valerie says:

    Hi! I just stumbled across your page and I’m glad I did. I’m processing a tourist visa as well and it’s honestly horrifying to think about the interview. Unlike you, I don’t have any travel experience outside the country so I can only imagine the worst. 🙁 I know that no amount of positive thinking will ease the butterflies in my stomach until all this is over but your article did help me calm down a bit. Thanks for the run through. I’ll make sure to pay attention and try not to mess this one up. 🙂 Congrats by the way!! xx

  42. liza says:

    I remember the time I was interviewed in US Embassy. It was 2 years ago and I got 10 years M visa too. So sad, I haven’t used it until now. Anyways, still have 8 more years to go.

    I was invited by my boss to visit our office in the US and yes, unfortunately, plans changed and I’m still waiting for their queue. Atleast, I was able to get a Visa through them, though. I remembered, 3 questions and then I heard the magic word.
    The questions are:
    1. What are you going to do there?
    2. Do you have relatives there?
    3. How much is your salary?

    In less than 5 minutes, this anticipated event that scared me for weeks is over and I got what I wanted!

  43. Jess says:

    Hi Nina! Thanks so much for sharing your experience as I’m also planning to get a US visa soon. It really helps to know what to expect.

    Um, can I ask what time you finished your interview given that your schedule was at 7:15am? Just wondering if I should allot the whole morning/day for it. Thanks!

  44. MJ says:

    Hi Nina! How long did it take for you to get your passport back after submitting the picture?

  45. jennifer escanilla says:

    nina can i ask u?how long did it take for you to get your passport and visa after you finished your interview,kasi ako until now wala pren yung passport and visa ko.nov,17 ako na interview pero until wala paren yung akin..pls sana masagot mo yung question ko..maraming salamat..godbless you

  46. tessa bear says:

    congratz to you!!! so lucky u got it the 1st time. i got denied a tourist visa twice. bf ko kasi american and he’s here as a PC volunteer and he and his family invited me to spend christmas (apx 4 weeks) with them and then he’s coming back here to finish his last year as a PCV. i think i didnt really expl to the consul na babalik ako sa pinas. 🙁
    anyway…i got a call from the embassy, inviting me for another interview, di na daw ako magbabayad. ask ko lang…have u ever heard of such thing? kasi…i just dont know what happened bakit ako ininvite ulit for an interview.
    xxxx
    all the best!
    tessa

  47. kris says:

    congratulation to you!

    I’m glad to read this article I got some idea
    tomorrow early in the morning is my B2 visa interview this would be my 1st time and I’m so nervous right now :
    because I heard there’s a lot of applicabt got denied.
    my bf is american and he invited me to visit him for 3 months.
    I have all my supporting documents ready.
    hopefully I get lucky like you 🙂

    🙂
    God bless

    kris

    • Amy says:

      Hi kris, 2 weeks from now is my scheduled b2 visa interview, like yours is my case. Did they approve your application? What exact questions asked and your answer on them? please help. Thank you…

  48. Reon says:

    We have the same experience my friend its my first time and I was so damn scared,my interview lasted just under a minute. I was shocked I got approved so quickly after all the sleepless nights I’ve been thru.

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