My US Tourist Visa Interview

I was in Malaysia last August for a bloggers trip when my mom started bugging me on Viber, asking me questions about my job and my monthly salary (something I keep secret from her because I don’t want her to know how much I’m really making hehe). Turns out that she got tired of waiting for me to fill out my US tourist visa application form and decided to do it herself. To be fair, she just put the form on the shelf where I leave my house keys without telling me that they were for me! All along, I thought they were documents for my brother.

I’m pretty lucky that my mom and her travel agent did everything. All I had to do was take a 2×2 photo (which I took in our office stockroom because I kept putting it off and mom was getting mad) and email things to her travel agent who scheduled the interview for us. The US visa application fee is PHP7000+ and I believe the visa assistance fee her agent charged was PHP4000. You can do everything on your own, of course, but this was my mom’s choice.

Our interview was scheduled on October 19 at 11AM (same day as the protest that turned violent at the Embassy) and we arrived there at 9AM. We grabbed breakfast at a Starbucks nearby and headed to the US Embassy 20 minutes before our scheduled interview but because of the protest, the 11AM batch was let in early. I got nervous because it took Camie over 4 hours when she was “late” by a few minutes! Luckily, we were a small batch and we didn’t have to wait long; we were out of the US Embassy by 1130AM.

We came with our supporting documents; I had my certificate of employment, ITR, bank statement and certificate, and an invitation letter from my tita. My mom had the same documents plus her marriage contract. I was very worried because my name is spelled differently on some of my documents (Gabrielle vs Gabriele) but Karlo assured me I just needed to show the consul I had reason to come back to the Philippines. In the end, we only had to give our passports but it still pays to be prepared!

My mom and I were interviewed together. This is how it went:

Consul: How are you related?
Me: She’s my mom.
Consul: So mother and daughter. Benilda, are you married?
Mom: Yes.
Consul: What does your husband do?
Mom: He’s retired.
Consul: What did he use to do?
Mom: He used to resell organic rice.
Consul: How many children do you have?
Mom: Two.
Consul: Where’s the other one?
Mom: My son is in Abu Dhabi.
Consul (to me): You’re the youngest?
Me: Yes.
Consul: Where do you work?
Mom: I’m a real estate sales director at ******
Consul: Do you earn commissions on top of your monthly salary?
Mom: Yes.
Consul: How many employees work at your company?
Mom: Oh, lots.
Consul: Yes, but how many?
Mom: Hundreds!
Consul: So what will you be doing in the United States?
Us: We’re visiting family in ******.
(We explain that my mom’s mom and siblings live there.)
Consul: How long have they been there?
Mom: My sister has lived there for 33 years while my mother, 20 years.
Consul: And your other siblings? When did they move there?
Mom: In 2005.
Consul: Have you traveled outside the Philippines before?
Mom: In Asia, I’ve been to Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Bangkok, and Japan. I’ve also been to Europe.

Consul (to me): What do you do?
Me: I’m a copywriter at an ad agency.
Consul: How long have you been with your company?
Me: Since 2013, so that’s 3 years.
Consul: Are you married?
Me: No.
Consul: Do you have kids?
Me: None. Unless you count my cats.
(My mom and the consul laugh.)
Consul: How long are you planning to stay in the United States?
Me: Three weeks.
Consul: Have you traveled outside the Philippines before?
Me: I went to Bali and Malaysia this year and I’m going back to Hong Kong next month. I’ve also been to Singapore.
Consul: All right, you’ll be getting your US visas next week.
Us: Thank you!

My mom and I walked away with my mom quietly squeeing beside me. I was overjoyed and couldn’t wait to get my phone back and tell Karlo and my friends.

Honestly, I was a little surprised at how short our interview was! I was ready to talk about my job (I create digital ad campaigns for brands such as ****), my hobbies (I blog and post a lot on Twitter and Instagram so you know I won’t TNT in the US! Also, I’m into indoor cycling and rowing), my salary (I make **** BUT!~ I just got a raise this month! So tiny though because there’s a lot of us in this cycle and man, do I wish this one guy would resign), and my aspirations (I wanna see Big Sur and go hiking in California; there’s this outdoors blog I follow and it’s just *sigh* Instagram goals). I even had my tita’s home address memorized, just in case they asked.

While waiting for our turn, I tried to eavesdrop on other people’s interviews but so many things were going on that I couldn’t focus on one. Only two stood out: first, a frustrated consul who started raising her voice at a woman and someone who was denied JUST TWO WEEKS AGO coming back for a second interview. I felt so bad for the first woman, who couldn’t explain her reason for visiting the US. It went something like this:

Consul: Ma’am, I cannot give you a US visa if you can’t tell me what you’ll be doing there.
Woman: *says something we couldn’t hear*
Consul: Ma’am, please help me understand. Nothing makes sense. What are you going to do in the United States?
Woman: *says something we couldn’t hear*

And it went on and on like that. We were at our window for our interview when the consul said “I’m sorry, I cannot give you a United States visa” and I think the woman still tried to reason with her. From the little I could hear, the woman’s husband is a seaman and they plan to meet in Miami, Florida next month. I think she just panicked and wasn’t able to express herself clearly.

As our interview was wrapping up, I overheard this conversation at the next window:

Consul: It says here that you were denied a United States visa two weeks ago. What changed in the last two weeks?
Applicant: *says something we couldn’t hear*
Consul: There isn’t enough reason to give you a United States visa.

All I could think was “Daaaaamn, what a waste of money!” If you’ve been denied a visa, you can re-apply after six months.

Our visas arrived on the 24th. We were granted 10-years!

Notes: no electronics of any kind (not even headphones/earphones) are allowed inside. I also had to throw out my lighter and cigarettes.

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