Discoveries, Discoveries and Travels, Travels
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How To Get The (Seemingly Elusive) US Tourist Visa – Part 2

In Part 1, I talked about the emotional and physical preparation, the ways to lodge your application, and the documents needed. Now in Part 2, I recount what happened on the day of the interview appointment and tips on how to manage yourself while waiting for your turn.

Few Days Before the Interview

You need to prepare what to wear and what to bring few days before the interview so you’ll be relaxed and calm on the big day.

Your clothes need to look a bit professional and comfortable at the same time. Think of it as if you’re going for a job interview. Whether heels, flat shoes, or boots, as long as they look work-worthy and comfortable while sitting down and standing up is good.

I heard many people say you need to wear clothes that usually give you good luck. What that actually means in reality is that you need to choose and wear clothes that both make you look good and feel confident in. I have a collared striped buttoned formal shirt and black pair of pants I always choose when going into job interviews and almost every time I get the job. It’s not too formal but not too casual either. Of course it’s how you present yourself overall that matters, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a set of professional clothes that are bought within your budget to increase your chances.

Also, wear according to the weather for ease in getting through the day. Black is the default color of most office wear, but if you feel too hot in them, it would be much better to have colored ones that still work.

The Big Day

I woke up early on the day of the interview, Tuesday 2nd June 2015. Went over my documents for the last time, had breakfast, and went on the train to the city. When I arrived at close to 8:00 AM at the entrance to the US Consulate, a queue was already forming outside. At least one camera was situated nearest the elevator entrance of the office and so I quickly stood up properly. I panicked a bit because I chose the 8:00 AM appointment, but when two officers started scanning applicants’ things and bags through a luggage machine usually seen at airports and a body scanner, some of them mentioned their appointment times the same as mine and so I breathed a sigh of relief. The officers requested for all our mobile phones and other devices to be turned off while we’re inside the premises and reconfirmed it with each applicant. Those who had bags, the officers placed them inside the wooden lockers in the front area where they stood and gave the locker number tags to the applicants.

It was then my turn to have my things checked. I pulled out a folder with all the documents from the compendium. At that moment I prayed that hopefully the officer will not ask for my interview appointment confirmation letter because I didn’t print it. Luckily, I had the receipt number, the date the visa fee was paid, and another number sequence which I now don’t remember written on the confirmation letter for the already-lodged online application. He then asked for my passport and signaled another officer behind the window on the right corner of the office and she then typed something on the computer. He then requested for my shoulder bag, my coat, and the compendium to be left behind, placed them all in a big locker, and handed me the locker number tag. By that time, I had thought I should bring my wallet with me, but then knowing it would be safe there, I didn’t mind.

When I went inside the Consulate, there were three windows for “Non-Immigrant Visa” applicants and one window for “Immigrant Visa” applicants. Another queue formed on the right corner of the office, while other people sat on the chairs at the left corner. Two cameras were situated on both end corners of the room, and so had to be mindful of my actions at all times. On one of the shelves beside the third “Non-Immigrant Visa” window were brochures of Discover America, an organization that lists all tourism-related websites of the US states. It said “Free Brochures” so I grabbed one, thinking of it as mine and leafed through pages while waiting for my turn. It’s always good to have something to read while waiting to help calm down and take your focus away from the upcoming interview for a while.

These were the actual US Visa documents I brought with me on the interview appointment, including the Discover America brochure I got to read while waiting

These were the actual US Visa documents I brought with me on the interview appointment, including the Discover America brochure I got to read while waiting. Due to security reasons I prefer to not show in this picture what specific documents I had; suffice to say I did bring those with me.

There were few people who didn’t proceed to the next corner and instead walked out of the office. At this stage, negative thoughts swirled in my head that maybe I will not be able to get the visa. But I held onto my confidence by simply ignoring those negative thoughts, breathing in and out constantly without looking like I’m nervous, and also rereading the brochure. There was even one applicant before me, a guy, who had the printout of a Jetstar flight confirmation ready with his other documents, but still I didn’t let those fears surface. This is the key here when negative thoughts come, because there will be negative thoughts while waiting for your turn, while looking at your surroundings and at other people. Simply thank the Universe for the opportunity to show your good intentions and prove to the immigration officer that you deserve to be approved a visa. Then there were a few who had their fingerprints done through biometrics. That’s the time I chose to think that I will have my fingerprints taken and will get on to the next stage. I also saw many more applicants queuing up behind me, one of the a fellow Filipina based on the color of the passport she brought with her.

When it’s my turn, I immediately handed over my documents by slipping them through the hole at the bottom of the glass window. The lady on the other end of the window leafed through the documents and chose the most important ones. She then asked me few questions about why I applied for a visitor visa and a few others. When she returned the other docs, I realized she didn’t open the envelope where inside was the letter of employment. After she requested for my fingerprints to be scanned onto the machine, I knew I will go to the next stage but it was then too late to give the letter to her so it would be included with the others. This was when I realized the real interview is about to come up as soon as I sat on one of the chairs in the other corner of the office. I saw two windows labeled “Interview” and one window for “Immigrant Visa/US Citizens.” Also noticed that both immigration officers in the Interview windows happen to be male. Pondered about this for a few minutes as to why they chose men instead of women.

While waiting, this same Filipina applicant saw me and decided to sit beside me on my left. We introduced ourselves a bit, then she revealed she was nervous. I asked her why. She’s anxious what the immigration officer will ask her. I then asked her what she’s applying for. She’s currently a tertiary student for 6 months and she’s visiting the US for a few weeks. I advised her that as long as your intentions are good and that you do intend to come back to finish your studies, you don’t really have anything to worry about.

As time dragged on, a few people who arrived a bit later than me were the ones called to the interview windows. I began to wonder what’s going on. A few people who waited longer before me also noticed the discrepancy. Then I decided to observe this lady who’s now been interviewed by a male immigration officer. She looked impeccable in her long light brown winter coat, leggings, and ankle boots. She was confident in telling the officer her intentions of coming to the US.  That’s when I decided to adopt her way of being confident, and also started thanking the Universe that they will call my name soon and that it’s a great opportunity to finally tell them why I wanted to visit the US.

After what seemed like only a few minutes, I heard my last name being called to Window 2. With the rest of the documents in my hand I said “Hello, how are you?” to the male immigration officer. “I’m good, thank you,” came his reply. I then handed him the letter of employment that the lady missed while sorting through the documents. His first question was why I wanted to visit the US. How long I’m planning to stay; how much I’m planning to spend. If I’m going there by myself or with someone. Why I’d like to visit the US now than later. The way he asked the questions seemed to be informal and conversational, rather than insinuating which was really great. I told him it’s been a long time coming, I’ve always wanted to visit the US for a long time. Blah blah blah. He even asked me, because I mentioned I wanted to visit my aunt who just recovered from a kidney transplant operation done last year, if I’m gonna be the main caretaker. I said not necessarily. I can still help her out when she needed it while I’m there. The whole time I explained myself, I remained calm and at ease so the officer can see that.

After that, he said that I’m now approved for a visa and will receive my passport within the next few days. I said my thank-yous to him for that and got out of the office as quickly as I could. I didn’t even bother to say goodbye to the Filipina applicant I’ve spoken to earlier just. Hopefully that was enough to show her that it is possible to get approved and I do hope she gets one for herself.

In total, I was at the consulate for an hour and a half, just in time to go to work. Because of security reasons also, I prefer to not show you the actual US tourist visa label on my passport. You will be able to Google this online if you really want to know what it looks like.

In summary:

  • Make sure to schedule the interview at least an hour and a half if you need to go to work or another appointment after.
  • Choose the right clothes for the interview.
  • Eat well because of the waiting time.
  • Take advantage of any brochures and magazines available for reading inside the premises, to take the stress away for a while.
  • Always whisper your thanks to the Universe for the opportunity, even when you’re tempted to complain or listen to the negative voices within your head. This will help you focus and keep yourself calm while waiting for your turn.
  • When it’s your turn for the interview, smile and greet the immigration officer, even when it’s not your usual way of approaching people. Show your good intentions by remembering to stand straight, being confident in explaining your purpose of the visit, avoid any Ums or Ahs as much as possible.
  • When you do get approved, be gracious in saying Thank You to the officer and leave quickly. Otherwise, there’s always a next time.

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