Thursday, January 23, 2014

Obtaining a US Visa: My Story

   ​An opportunity to travel in Kentucky, USA for training (a company sponsored trip) has been offered for me and to be able to grab it, still need to apply for a US Visa.
This means going to Manila to personally apply at the US Embassy which is located along Roxas Boulevard.
 
   Application processing was easy for me since the company's HR team (assigned to travel-related matters) helped me with the application. That means, I only need to ensure that my passport is valid, have 2 pcs of US Visa photos, get Certificate of Employment from HR, and completely filled-up the DS-160 form (link here: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/). By the way, you need to have your photos taken first before you fill-up the DS-160 form. You need to attached the scanned photo in the form. Once done, I submitted my Appointment Confirmation to the HR, for them to make a visa application payment and set interview schedule.

   True enough, I was advised that my interview is set on a Tuesday and since I was based in Cebu, I have to be there the day before the appointment schedule. I was able to get a Monday morning flight, checked-in at noon (it is recommended to lodge in a hotel near the embassy to avoid hassles (still airfare and hotel expense are from the company). I enjoyed a great night over sumptuous dinner at The Aristocrat Restaurant with a wonderful friend Jimmy, who came all the way from Ortigas Center. Thanks for the company Jim though it was short but worthwhile :D.
   Back at the hotel, I reviewed again my documents and ready for bed by 10:30PM. Woke-up at 3:30AM, I can't sleep I miss my kids who co-sleep with me and my hubby. I am so worried that I might be sleepy and give unsatisfactory answers during the interview. Freshened up at 7AM, had my breakfast 30 minutes after. I had to drink coffee to keep me awake and praying so hard that I will not faint (I only have 5 hrs sleep plus I really am nervous).

STEP 1: APPOINTMENT VERIFICATION
   By 8AM, I started my walk towards the embassy through the pedestrian overpass. As I reached the other side of the street, I see many people staying outside the embassy for reasons I do not know. I went straight to the guard informing him that I have an appointment and asking him what to do. He led me to the line where the staff advised us to prepare our passport and the DS-160 Confirmation page. When it was my turn, I handed out to her. She checks something and pull out a sticker and placed it on the back of my passport. She advised me to get inside and get a queue number.

STEP 2: GETTING A QUEUE NUMBER
   As I was about to get inside, the guard informed that water bottles are prohibited inside thus advised me to throw it. However, I did not see any garbage container, thus he advised me to throw the contents and just get a refill inside the building. After the security check, I went straight to the lined windows for the queue number. My number is 2280 and currently called is 2232! Not to worry as there are chairs in the waiting area.

STEP 3: PRE-SCREENING
   When the officials called numbers 2276 to 2285, I got up and join the line and inside the building was another security check. Security checking is much faster if applicants don't bring bags. I was asked to line in front of the assigned window. When it was my turn, the staff asked for my complete name and middle name when I'm still single. She asked if the first letter of my middle name is H. I mistakenly thought she asked for my age.
STAFF: H?
I answered and give her my age

STAFF: H po?
I again answered with my age information

STAFF: What is the first letter of your middle name?
ME: Its J

STAFF: Z or S?
ME: Its S. S-O-N
Boooo...effect of no sleep! :-(
She then asks for the guarantee letter from my company and attached to my DS-160 Confirmation page. (Guarantee letters contains assurance that I shall come back to my country after my training period). Once done, she advised me to wait for my number for the next step.

STEP 4: FINGER SCANNING
   As I wait for my number to be flashed in the LED board screen, I can hear the interview questions from the other windows thus makes me so nervous. As number flashed in the LED board, I make my way to the indicated window, the official (this time its a Westerner). She seems nice and asked my full name and my birth date. Again I make a mistake, instead of July 6, I said July 7... 
Waaahhh!! another no-sleep effect! :-(
Anyways, I corrected myself and apologize. She smile and comments that sometimes being jittery happens. I just smiled back with confidence level down to zero.

STEP 5: CONSUL INTERVIEW
   Come to the most challenging part of the application. I was assigned to the young Westerner Consul. He's also nice (I think! :D)

CONSUL: Good Morning! Sorry to keep you waiting.
ME: Good Morning. (I smiled and then handed out the documents I have with me: passport, DS-160 Confirmation page, guarantee letter, certificate of employment, training invitation letter, training outline, PIP letter, flight itinerary)

CONSUL: (Checks the papers then ask) So which part of Kentucky are you going?
I answered.

CONSUL: What do know about of Kentucky?
ME: Hhmmnn. Lots of horses? (I answered with a laugh)

CONSUL: Yeah, yeah horses!.. And whiskeys too!
ME: I smiled

CONSUL: Kentucky is a nice place. You'll gonna love it.
ME: Yeah. But I think its kinda cold there nowadays.

CONSUL: Nah! I think not really. How long have you been working in your company?
ME: Almost 5 years, in fact I'll turn 5 this coming May.

CONSUL: How much is your current salary

I answered

CONSUL: Congratulations. Your application has been approved!
ME: Thank you! (With a big smile)
CONSUL: Your welcome!

Yeah! I'm done. Not bad at all but I tell you I was scared out there.
Take a flight home in the afternoon :D

This is me after the interview (already with big smiles)!


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