16th Apr 2013

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Applying for a US tourist visa is not as burdensome as it was before. Gone are the days when one has to camp outside of the US Embassy just to apply for a visa. At present, the US Embassy has employed a systematic appointment system.

The usual types of US visa are the B-1 and B-2. B-1 visas are for business, including such things as a need to consult with business associates, negotiate a contract, buy goods or materials, settle an estate, appear in a court trial, and participate in business or professional conventions or conferences. On the other hand, B-2 visas are issued for general pleasure/tourist travel, such as touring, visits to friends and relatives, visits for rest or medical treatment, social or fraternal conventions and conferences, and amateur/unpaid participants in cultural or sports events. In most instances, consuls will issue a combined B-1/B-2 visa, since most business travelers may also wish to travel for tourist purposes.

The first thing that you need to do is to fill up the application form or DS-160. The DS 160 can be filled up online at https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/. Have your old passports with old US visas and current passport on hand as well as a scanned copy of your photo (2×2 with white background) in your computer. This is in view of the fact that you will need to upload your digital photo to form part of your application. The US Embassy has the following specifications for the digital photo:
• In color
• Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (22 mm and 35 mm) or 50% and 69% of the image’s total height from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.
• Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
• Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background
• Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
• With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open
• Taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis
o Uniforms should not be worn in your photo, except religious clothing that is worn daily.
o Do not wear a hat or head covering that obscures the hair or hairline, unless worn daily for a religious purpose. Your full face must be visible, and the head covering must not cast any shadows on your face.
o Headphones, wireless hands-free devices, or similar items are not acceptable in your photo.
o If you normally wear glasses (without tinted lenses), a hearing device, or similar articles, they may be worn in your photo.
o Dark glasses or glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable.
o Glare on glasses is not acceptable in your photo. Glare can be avoided with a slight downward tilt of the glasses or by removing the glasses or by turning off the camera flash.

Please note that the system will reject the digital photo if not in accord with the required specification.

Once you have logged in to the website, you should click on the button “Start a New Application”. You will be assigned an Application ID which you will need to continue your application if you wish to finish your application at a later time. If you do not plan to complete your application within the next 30 days, you can save your application to your computer and upload your application when you are ready.

In filling up your application, you must answer all questions, otherwise, the application will not be accepted. The language used is English.

At the end of the application, you will be affixing your electronic signature to the application by clicking on a button. Please ensure that you are honest will all your answers in the DS-160 since any falsehood will not only cause the rejection of your visa application, but may also result in your forever being barred from securing a visa.

After completing your application, you will receive a confirmation number. Print this out as you will need this in future transactions.
The next step is the payment of the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) Fee. The MRV Fee is US$160 (before it was $140) or its peso equivalent. There is an expiration date on the payment slip since visa fees are valid for scheduling an appointment for one year from the date of payment. It must be emphasized that each slip has a unique receipt number. Applicants will not be able to schedule an appointment without the receipt number. If you are paying for more than one applicant, do not make a lump sum payment for all the applicants because a receipt number is required for each visa application fee payment for each applicant for scheduling an appointment.

To pay the fee, the applicant must have his or her passport number available. The applicant’s passport number will be tied to the MRV fee paid at the bank. The payment will be activated four hours after the time the cash payment was made. There are three ways to pay the MRV fee:

1. Pay in cash at any branch of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI)
2. Pay through online bill payment option provided by BPI for their customers
3. Online payment through Bancnet
When paying at any BPI branch, bring with you the confirmation slip, U.S. visa application deposit slip, passport and US$160.00.

Approximately four (4) hours after your payment, you may schedule an appointment in two (2) ways: by calling the US Embassy’s call center or booking online.

All basic documentary requirements must be ready before an appointment can be made. The basic documentary requirement is your passport. If you are applying with a child or spouse, there must be proof of your relationship such as the original marriage certificate issued by the NSO or Original birth certificate of the child issued by the NSO. It is important to note that an authenticated birth or marriage certificate from the National Statistics Office (NSO) is not accepted because the US embassy only allows NSO certificates on security paper.

Additional documents may be required by the Consular officer, to prove evidence of ties of the Applicant to the Philippines. Under US laws, “Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the officer, at the time of the application for a visa… that he is entitled to nonimmigrant status…” Thus, the consular officer needs to see that the applicant has compelling reasons to return to the Philippines.

The following supporting documents may be requested from the applicant to prove these ties:

1. Bank statements for the last three (3) months and both current and former bank account passbooks
2. Employment certification including salary, tenure and position
3. Form W-2
4. Income tax return with Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) or bank stamp
5. Audited financial statement with BIR or bank stamp
6. Pay slips for the last three (3) months
7. Credit card statements for the prior three months
8. Vehicle registration with official receipt
9. Land titles
10. Pictures of family, home or business
11. Wedding photos
12. Marriage certificate printed on NSO security paper, if applicable
13. Birth certificate printed on NSO security paper
14. For students, certificate of school registration
15. Certification of membership to legitimate organizations

According to the US Embassy, the following documents are not considered helpful:

• In general, affidavits of financial support will be of little value to an applicant (exception: a student visa application must have an affidavit of financial support). The affidavit of support is a requirement only for immigrant visas.
• Letters of invitation (except for business travel).
• Purchase of airline ticket.

It bears great emphasis that the US Embassy does not accept documents before the interview for tourist visa.

After you secure the necessary documents, you may book an appointment by calling (02) 982-5555 and (02) 902-8930. The call center is open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on U.S. and Philippine holidays. Appointments can also be booked online by logging athttp://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph.

After securing an appointment date, you just have to wait for your slated appointment in order to appear before the US Embassy. For more information, visit the US Embassy’s website http://manila.usembassy.gov/.

Nicolas & De Vega Law Offices is a full service law firm in the Philippines. You may visit us at the 16th Flr., Suite 1607 AIC Burgundy Empire Tower, ADB Ave., Ortigas Center, 1605 Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines. You may also call us at +632 4706126, +632 4706130, +632 4016392 or e-mail us atinfo@ndvlaw.com.

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