The US Tourist Visa: 10 Points to Consider When Applying
Gil was shocked, frustrated and angry. The officer did not even bother to look at the supporting documents he brought with him to the interview. He was only asked a couple of questions in which Gil confidently answered. However, the officer told him he was refusing him a tourist visa because he did not believe Gil would return to the Philippines after attending his sister’s wedding. He was given that dreaded blue paper that stated he did not qualify for a visa. The interview had ended before he could even begin to grasp what had actually happened. As Gil wiped the sweat from his forehead as he walked out of the US Embassy compound in the Manila heat, he began to feel as if he was floating from this world out of confusion. If you haven’t experienced this yourself, you almost certainly know someone that has.
This article is not intended to be a “how to guide” on obtaining a tourist visa. Rather, it is meant to help clear up some of the confusion and preconceptions we may have when applying for a tourist visa at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines. I believe the more knowledge we have on this issue, the more grounded our expectations will be in this process. Below is a list of 10 points that I think we should consider when applying for that tourist visa.
- A Few Minutes To State Your Case: The U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines is one of the busiest in the world. The large volume of visa applications they handle each day prevents lengthy interviews or discussions in determining whether an applicant is qualified for a tourist visa. A single consular officer regularly processes around 150 visa applications in a day. This means that the applicant will generally only have a few minutes at most to convince the officer s/he is qualified for a tourist visa.
- You Have The Burden of Proof: In a way, the cards are already stacked against the applicant. By law, the consular officer is ordered to presume the applicant has no intention of returning back to the Philippines (or wherever s/he may be residing). Therefore, they are ordered to deny the applicant’s application unless s/he can prove to them s/he will return to the Philippines after a temporary visit to the States.
- Ties To Your Residence: To prove to the officer the applicant will return after a trip to the States, the U.S. Embassy in Manila has stated that s/he should be able to demonstrate sufficiently strong familial, social, professional and economic ties to a country outside the United States that would compel return after a temporary stay in the United States.
- Ties are various aspects of one’s life that bind one to his/her country of residence, like one’s profession, employment, social and family relationships, and properties. In the case of younger applicants, who may not have had an opportunity to establish such ties, interviewing officers may look at educational status, grades, the situation of their parents, and the applicant’s long-range plans and prospects in the Philippines. As each person’s situation is different, there is no set answer as to what constitutes adequate ties. All of these factors are considered in the process, and U.S. Immigration Law requires that the visa application be refused if these strong ties are not apparent.
- Usually Will Not Review Your Documents: Generally, consular officers will decide whether to grant a tourist visa solely based on a review of the information in the application form and the applicant’s responses to the officers’ questions during the interview. Although an applicant is required to bring supporting documents, consular officers usually do not review these documents unless the information in the application form or the applicant’s responses to the officers’ questions call for more clarification through document review. Therefore, it is crucial that the applicant properly prepare his/her application form and adequately responds to the officer’s questions. Remember, an applicant is still required to bring his/her supporting documents to the interview.
- Types of Documents To Prepare: According to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, the following supporting original documents may or may not be requested from the applicant and are only required at the discretion of the consular officer:
- Bank statements for the last three (3) months and both current and former bank account passbooks;
- Employment certification including salary, tenure and position;
- Form W-2;
- Income tax return with Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) or bank stamp;
- Audited financial statement with BIR or bank stamp;
- Pay slips for the last three (3) months;
- Credit card statements for the prior three months;
- Vehicle registration with official receipt;
- Land titles (no certified copies);
- Pictures of family, home or business;
- Wedding photos;
- Marriage certificate printed on the Philippine National Statistics Office security paper, if applicable;
- Birth certificate printed on the Philippine National Statistics Office security paper; and
- Certification of membership to legitimate organization(s).
- No Fake Documents: Never buy fake documents to present at an interview. Consular officers are trained in detecting questionable documents and attempts to misrepresent facts. If such actions are discovered, the application will be denied and the applicant may, in certain cases, be ruled permanently ineligible to enter the United States.
- Adequate Funds: The applicant must have adequate funds to avoid unlawful employment and to complete the purposes of the proposed visit. However, according to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, affidavits of support generally of any sort from relatives or sponsors will be of little value to an applicant for a tourist visa.
- Reasons for Refusal: Consular officers refuse visas based under sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). When refused, the officer will give the applicant a letter stating which section(s) s/he was denied under.
- If an applicant is refused under Section 221(g) of the INA and is requested to provide additional information or supporting documents, s/he will receive a 221(g) letter with instructions on how to proceed. S/he will not need to make another appointment or pay another application fee. S/he has one year within which to comply with the requirement of the 221(g) letter.
- However, if an applicant is refused under Section 214(b) or any other section, s/he may reapply as soon as s/he can pay the application fee and make an appointment through the call center or the online appointment system. While on a second interview s/he will meet with a different officer, be aware that s/he must still demonstrate strong ties to his/her country. In most cases, it is better to wait until his/her personal circumstances have changed significantly before reapplying.
- Officer’s Subjective Point of View: Sometimes, fortunately or unfortunately, a decision to approve or refuse a tourist visa application is based too much on the subjective and personal perception of the particular consular officer. This problem is compounded by the fact that the officer only has a few minutes to make a decision and not afforded the time to thoroughly review one’s circumstances and evidence objectively. Furthermore, the lack of judicial oversight creates the potential for arbitrary decisions by consular officers.
- Filipinos Are Being Approved: Despite the prior nine points, many Filipinos, young and old, single and married, are in fact getting their tourist visa applications approved. We just have to put the process into context so that we are not overwhelmingly shocked by the result.
I hope this is helpful to you.
Disclaimer. The above article is intended only to give you a general idea of the topic. It is NOT intended to be legal advice nor does it cover all the specific aspects, detailed requirements and procedures. Everyone’s goals and situations are unique as they apply to the law and they all cannot be covered in a simple writing such as this.