B1/B2 US visa – helpful tips from my experience

You must have stumbled upon my page because you were looking for some tips on how to get a US tourist visa. I’m going to share simple and helpful tips based on my experience. As you can see, I am a OFW working in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, obviously, my B1/B2 US visa was granted in this oil rich country.

There are a lot of hearsay and misconceptions about acquiring a US tourist visa. They say that it’s hard to get a US visa in the Philippines but easier when applied in another country. WRONG. I have a handful of friends who tried their luck for the US visa but ended up DENIED even if they have all the necessary requirements, documents and mind you, with fat bank accounts.

I was afraid to apply for a US tourist visa when I was in the Philippines because the thought of getting denied is emotionally draining not to mention the financial side of the story. Manila is an hour flight from Cebu and that means I need a place to stay during the interview, meaning, aside from the application and visa fees, I have to spend for my plane tickets, food and accommodation in Manila. As I am not familiar with Manila, I need to bring somebody with me to help me around and that would mean added expenses. In short, US tourist Visa is just a dream.

All I had during my interview were handwritten letters from my daughter which she gave me before I left for Saudi Arabia, pictures of me, my daughter and mom, malnourished bank account from the Philippines (print out), ATM card and Credit card (just in case of emergency), print out of the last billing of my credit card, an invitation letter from my aunt in Las Vegas sent thru email (as they say I need an invitation letter as one of the supporting documents) my passport, passport size pictures ( 4 copies) and the very most important thing, certificate of employment from my employer (or a company employment certificate from where you are working). I have no land title/s, house or car under my name or fat bank account. I don’t even have the statement of account of my aunt to support my stay in the US as it will take 3 weeks for them to get a copy of the document from their bank. In short, I am taking a big risk.

So you want to visit the US for tourism, right? Foreign nationals who want to enter the US temporarily for business or tourism purposes must apply for Non-immigrant visa with a valid passport.

What is a B1/B2 Visa?

B1 Visa is for business purposes, meaning, you can go to the US for the purpose of business. When you say business, it’s not that you are already allowed to open your own business in the US but only transact business, procurement of materials, attend trade shows, etc.

B2 Visa is for tourism, travel for leisure and medical treatment in the US.

What is a Visa?

A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter the United States (U.S.) generally must first obtain a U.S. visa, which is placed in the traveler’s passport, a travel document issued by the traveler’s country of citizenship. Certain international travelers may be eligible to travel to the U.S. without a visa if they meet the requirements for visa-free travel. The Visa section of this website is all about U.S. visas for foreign citizens to travel to the U.S – (from travel.state.gov)

Here is a sample of a B1/B2 US Visa.  (pic from travel.state.gov)

How to apply for B1/B2 Visa.

First, you have to apply online and fill up the application form before you can make an appointment through their website. Detailed application if you are in Saudi Arabia in this site. http://riyadh.usembassy.gov/visas/b1b2.html.

If you are in the Philippines, one has to make an appointment thru call center. Please click the link for details, http://manila.usembassy.gov/wwwh3024.htmlhttp://manila.usembassy.gov/wwwh3024.html.

Now, you have already filled up and submitted your online application form, paid the corresponding visa fee and is waiting for the schedule of your appointment. Waiting time is the hardest time because of so many negative thoughts coming in to your mind like what if I get denied, what shall I do? Can I still apply again? Or, you are already very excited of the trip and plotting out your itinerary. Planning for a trip is stressful, isn’t it?

When filling up the application form online, keep in mind to be always honest with your answers because this will be asked to you again by the Consul, randomly. If you lie in your application, one lie will give you a big trouble if discovered, worse, you might get banned from entering the US because of fraud. The Consuls are trained to read facial expressions and mannerisms of a person that is why, your fate and hopes lie with these people.

I was doing my research to get tips on how to better answer the Consul during my interview and what should I bring to get the Visa. I read blogs and tips that sometimes I get discouraged because I don’t have some of the most required documents like financial capacity (enough money in my name) to support the travel, land titles etc. Then I told myself, even if I don’t have all these documents, all I will do is just be honest with myself and to the Consul, do the best that I can do during the interview and leave everything to God, at least I tried.

The day of my interview came. I chose the 8:30 am schedule so I was already at the US Embassy in Riyadh by 7:30 am. As the sun was getting hotter, the people queuing were increasing too. My heart was pounding fast and had butterflies in my stomach. I did not have enough sleep and was praying all night for guidance from God. If it is His will that I shall travel to the US, thank you, if not, then so be it.

The guy in the window asked for my appointment paper and bank receipt. My mobile phone, perfume and hand sanitizer, all metal things were left at the counter. I passed by the scanner and so my bag too. After all the security check, I headed to the office. While waiting, I tried to comfort myself, kept my composure because this will affect my interview if the Consul will see me shaking and nervous, I might get denied without any word at all.

My number was called. A friendly woman asked me few questions like what are you going to do in the US? She took some of my documents then advised me to have a seat and wait again for my number to be called.

A voice from the loud-speaker announced – Number so and so, English speaking please proceed to window 13. Nervous as I am, before I headed to the cubicle, I prayed, Lord God please be with me, Thy will be done. I approached the guard and asked again if what window shall I proceed to because I did not hear the voice clearly. The guard said, just go to either window 12 or 13. I went inside the 1st cubicle. The guy had a mean face that I started to tremble but still I wore my smile and said, Good morning Sir. The Consul, a bit chubby with a beard and without a trace of smile on his face responded, I did not call, you go to the next window. Whew! Thank God he’s not the one. I went to the next window and saw an approachable, small framed American guy. Again, I flashed a smile and greeted the Consul. He then asked me to pick up the phone so that we can talk properly. He opened the computer and was accessing my online application then started throwing questions at me.

Consul: What is your purpose of travel to the US?

Me: For tourism and I want to spend my Christmas and New Year in the US and hopefully to experience white Christmas.

Consul: So you’re going to Las Vegas, I heard there’s a lot of Filipinos there; do you have a relative in Vegas?

(My mind was having 2nd thoughts of the question because they said, don’t ever tell the interviewer that you have relatives in the US because chances are you will get denied as they will think you will not go back to your country again. Thing is, I am honest remember? I have written in my application that I have an aunt in Vegas and the address)

Me: Yes, I have an aunt, she is a nurse and I haven’t seen her for almost 15 years.

Consul: Do you have kids?

Me: Yes, I have a daughter; she’s in the Philippines now. (I took the pictures and her handwritten letters from my folder and handed it to the Consul as a support to my claim)

Consul: It’s ok, thank you. (He declined and did not took the papers and photos from me)

Consul: So, what is your work here?

Me: I work as personal secretary of a Princess.

Consul: That’s great. As her secretary, what is your scope of work?

Me: The usual clerical work, paper work that is, scout for manufacturers of furniture online, negotiate prices, buy items for her, make appointments, etc.

Consul: What is the business of your employer?

Me: She has a company that caters to the needs of women and children like spa, swimming area, gym, beauty parlor, furniture and home deco. She’s into interior designs now.

Consul: Do you have the financial capacity to sustain your travel?

Me: (Hmmmm tough question. Confident as I am I replied) Yes, I have cash on hand.

Consul: Why cash on hand? Why not put it in the bank? Don’t you have a bank account?

Me: Yes, I have but it’s a Philippine account, not in a Saudi bank. (Took my passbook and bank statement, handed it to him, but the Consul did not even bother to check my documents, again.)

Consul: Why not open one here?

Me: If I open an account in Saudi, it will be cumbersome on my part as I have to go to the bank, withdraw, and then go to remittance centers to transfer or send money to my family in the Philippines. For me, it’s better have my cash on hand. Anytime I need to send money, I can do so and straight to my account too.

Consul: Do you have a credit card?

Me: Yes, I have sir.

(Took me sometime to find my credit card inside the folder, the Consul then said, just give me your folder. When he opened the folder, the first page was the Certificate of employment from my employer. After reading the certification, he said, ok, you go to FedEx, pay and wait for your visa; you will have it in few days.)

Everything the Consul asked me were based on what I have written on my application form.

I couldn’t believe what I just heard. I passed the interview and will be heading to the US soon. I left the embassy with a smile. After 3 days, my passport arrived and guess what, I got 10 years multiple entry B1/B2 US visa.

Lessons from the interview:

1) Be transparent. As what I have said, the Consuls are individual who have years of experience and extensive trainings in their chosen field.

2) Be honest. As much as possible don’t lie. If you do so, tendency is you will forget what you have written on the application form and you may blow that chance of getting the visa. Whatever way the Consul will interrogate you, if you are honest with your answers, you will still give the same reply.

3) Be yourself.

4) Relax and be confident with all your answers. Never make unnecessary movements like twirling your hair or worse, biting your nails (as some unconsciously do) or make facial expressions that will distract the Consul.

5) Get as much information needed like the place you want to visit, jot down possible questions the Consul might ask you. If possible, practise in front of a mirror or with a friend.

6) One question, one answer. Don’t give too much information other than what is being asked. Keep the talkative side of you behind for a while as this may get you into trouble than good.

7) Have your presence of mind, stay focused and be attentive to the questions asked.

8) Have an eye contact.

9) Have faith in yourself.

10) Have faith in God.

11) As per my observation, the Consuls really don’t care of your financial status, what they care about is your strong ties to your country or work. That you have the intentions of going back to your country and NOT stay in the US as an illegal alien.

12) Being granted a visa is not because of the mood of the Consul during the interview as how we see it when things went wrong and denied of the opportunity. It is but by how you confidently answer and assures the Consul of your honest intentions as a tourist.

I was expecting a single entry but God gave me more than what I have asked for. Everything is according to His great plan and in His time, not ours.