US Visa is a travel document issued by the US Embassy that will allow a citizen of a foreign country to possibly enter and stay in the US permanently or temporarily.  To obtain one, an interested foreign national must undergo US Visa application.

There are certain countries, though, that are included in the Visa Waiver program. This means that the citizens of qualified countries may enter the U.S. without U.S. Visa just as long as they get an authorization from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to their travel to U.S.[i]  The Philippines is not on the list.

Applying for a U.S. Visa is a challenge to many Filipinos. The process can be quite arduous and time-consuming, but as long as you follow the steps and make sure you have all the requirements needed, applying for a U.S. Visa will be quite easier. Your chances of having an approved U.S. Visa application will be higher.

U.S. Visa Application types

Before jumping into the steps and requirements, you have to know first the type of U.S. Visa you need to apply for. Being clear with your purpose for traveling to the U.S. will determine the type of U.S. Visa and the requirements you need to comply with. [ii]

In general, there are two types of U.S. Visa you can apply for. These are the immigrant and the non-immigrant visa. The immigrant visa is for those who wish to permanently stay in the U.S., while a non-immigrant visa is for those who wish to visit and stay in the U.S. temporarily.

Immigrant Visa

To be eligible in applying for the U.S. immigrant visa, the candidate needs to have a sponsor and an approved petition for immigrant visa from the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS). The sponsor may be a spouse or family member, who is a U.S. Citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. He or she may also be petitioned by a US employer who intends to employ the candidate permanently.

Other candidates in this category include religious workers, fiancés of U.S. citizens who wish to marry and live in the U.S., and orphan children who are to be adopted by U.S. citizens.[iii]

Non-immigrant Visa

Non-immigrant visa candidates generally include those who wish to visit, do business, work, or study in the U.S. for a certain period of time. Common examples of non-immigrant visas include Business /Tourist Visa, Work Visa, Student Visa, Exchange Visitor Visa, Transit/Ship Crew Visa, Religious Worker Visa, Domestic Employee Visa, and Journalist and Media Visa.[iv]

Steps in applying for a U.S. Visa

Immigrant Visa

Step 1. Sponsor files immigrant visa petition

In behalf of the candidate, the qualified sponsor shall file an immigrant visa petition to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) in the U.S. or at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate overseas.  [v] Form I-130 shall be used when the sponsor is a family member and the Form I-140 when the sponsor is the employer of the candidate.

Step 2. Wait for the National Visa Center (NVC) to contact you

Once approved, the petition will be forwarded to the Department of State's National Visa Center (NVC) for pre-processing. NVC will then contact you when your case becomes current and when you can already start processing your requirements.

Step 3. Choose your agent to represent your visa processing

Using the Choice of Address and Agent (DS-261) form in the Consular Electronic Application Center, you need to formally choose an agent to represent your visa processing. That agent could be yourself or any other person you trust, such as a family member, lawyer, or immigration professional.

Step 4. Pay the processing fees online

After about three weeks of processing your DS-261 form, you may now pay your fees online at the Immigrant Visa Invoice Payment Center. The fees, which should be paid one at a time, include the Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee and the Affidavit of Support Fee.

To log in to the online payment center, you will need your NVC Case Number and Invoice ID Number. You will also need your bank routing number and a checking or savings account number from a U.S. bank to complete your payments.[vi]

Alternatively, you may pay your fees at the Embassy’s consular cashier either in U.S. dollars or Philippines Peso using the current Embassy exchange rate. You may pay in cash, major credit card, traveler’s check, or U.S Postal Money Order.[vii]

Step 5. Complete and submit the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration form (DS-260)

Wait for about one week for the Embassy to complete the processing of your online payment.  After that, you may then proceed to completing and submitting the Form DS-260 that you can find in the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). In order to access CEAC, you will need the NVC Case Number, Beneficiary ID Number, and Invoice ID Number from the NVC Welcome Letter.

Print the confirmation page and keep it for the interview.[viii]

Step 6. Gather Civil documents and Financial documents and submit to NVC in one package

To be documentary qualified for the application of immigration visa, you need to submit the necessary civil and financial documents, as well as forms. These commonly include the following:

• Valid passport Birth certificate issued by the NSO NBI Clearance Police Certificate

• Applicable Marriage records, such as marriage certificate, annulment decree, and death certificate of spouse

• CENOMAR or Certificate of No Marriage for those who have never been married

• Military records if applicable

• Supporting documents to further establish identity and/or relationship with petitioner, such as six or more photographs with family members together, proof of joint property, bank records, baptismal records, and medical records.

• Financial support evidence like the I-864 Affidavit of Support (AOS), I-864EZ Affidavit of Support (AOS), or the Form I-134 Affidavit of Support (AOS).

• Three (3) colored visa photographs printed according the specifications indicated by NVC. Wearing eyeglass is now not allowed.

• Additional requirements for Employment-based applications, including official job offer; Visa Screen Certificate for nurses and physical therapies; and old and current professional identification cards.

Photocopies of passport and civil documents, such as birth, marriage, and divorce certificate shall be submitted, but you should bring the original copies during the interview for verification. Be sure to submit all requirements to avoid delays. You may email or mail your requirements to NVC.

Step 7. Wait for the interview appointment letter from NVC

It may take up to 11 months for NVC to review the documents and check files of the candidate. Once qualified, NVC will coordinate with the U.S Embassy in the Philippines for the schedule and they will send an interview appointment letter to the candidate.

Step 8. Undergo medical examination at St. Luke's Medical Center Extension Clinic (SLMCEC)

Interview notices are usually set a month before your schedule. During this time, you need to have a Medical examination conducted at St. Luke's Medical Center Extension Clinic (SLMCEC), along with complete record of vaccinations. You may go SLMCEC between 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. As of writing, the fees are Php11,300 for adults and Php 8,600 for children 14 years old and below.

Don’t forget to bring appointment letter from the NVC, medical examination payment, valid passport, three (2x2) colored photos with white background, and immunization records. The results are usually submitted by SLMCEC to the U.S. Embassy[ix] or handed to you in a sealed envelope that should not be opened until the interview.[x]

Step 9. Review and gather documents and other requirements

Gather the original documents of the requirements you submitted to NVC, including the civil and financial documents, photographs, and other forms. Review other requirements you need to bring for the interview to avoid delays. Make sure you read the Interview Preparation notices set by the embassy to properly prepare for your interview.

Step 10. Attend the Visa Interview

Along with complete requirements, go to the U.S. embassy on the scheduled date and time of interview. You will be interviewed by a consular officer who will also determine and inform you whether your immigrant visa has been approved or denied.

If approved, the officer will further inform you how and when your visa and passport will be given back to you. If denied, he or she will explain the reasons why you are ineligible to get an immigrant visa.

This ends the process of US visa application under immigrant category. If approved, you will have to wait for your passport and visa. Once you receive them, review the information and details on the visa and check for spelling errors. The embassy will also send you a sealed immigration packet that contains documents you need to show to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the airport once you arrive at the U.S. Do not open the sealed packet.[xi]

Non-immigrant Visa

Step 1. Identify the type of non-immigrant visa you will be applying for

Identify whether you will be applying for a tourist/business visa, work visa, or student visa, among many others.

Step 2. Pay the visa application fee

Before you can apply for a non-immigrant visa, you need to pay for the non-refundable and non-transferable visa application fee depending on the type of visa you are applying for. For example, you need to pay $160 when applying for a business/tourist, student, or journalist and media visa.

While the amounts are in U.S. Dollars, you will be paying in local currency. Payments may be made at the Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI), whether over-the-counter or online. Simply fill out a printed U.S. visa application deposit slip with your payment.[xii]

Step 3. Complete the DS-160 online form

After paying the visa application fee, fill out and submit the DS-160 form online. Make sure to read the instructions carefully and ensure all information are accurate and correct. Take note of the 10-digit barcode number on the confirmation page.

Step 4. Create a profile in the U.S. Visa Information Service system and set an appointment

Go to the U.S. Visa Information Service website. In the homepage, click Apply for a Visa under the non-immigrant visa application. You will find a link on Step 4 on How to Apply that will direct you to the page where you can create a profile in their visa system and set an appointment for interview.

To be able to schedule your appointment, you are going to need your passport number, the payment receipt number from BPI, and 10-digit number from your confirmed DS-160 form.

Step 5. Prepare necessary requirements for the interview.

The documents usually needed for the interview include the following:

You may also prepare other documents, such as bank statement, land titles, proof of business, and other papers that could establish your ties in the Philippines.[xiii]

Step 6. Attend the visa interview

Go to the U.S. Embassy on the date and time of your scheduled visa interview. It is advisable to arrive there earlier than your scheduled time. Bring all the necessary documents you prepared in Step 5. A consular officer will conduct the interview and will inform you if your specific type of non-immigrant visa has been approved or denied.

If your US visa application has been approved, the visa attached to your passport will be delivered at the location or address you indicated when you schedule your appointment in Step 4.[xiv]

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