Since last year, Miguel and I know that his cousin will get married in the US by 2019. We both have plans to visit the US to attend the wedding, but we only got confirmation until March this year. I can say that did not prepare soon, and we needed to rush our requirements for the US tourist visa application. I know all the horror stories about the US visa application—especially when you have the Philippines passport, so I felt uneasy that I only have less than two months to prepare.
Long story short, applying for a US tourist visa is a lot easier than the Schengen visa. Both Miguel and I got 10 years of validity in our US visa. I will share my US visa application experience in Stockholm, and Miguel’s US visa application in Manila.
US Tourist Visa Application
The US Embassy only requires a few documents necessary for your visa application. Depending on where you live & where you have strong ties, you can find detailed instructions about the visa application at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ then select your specific location.
Each country has different visa application steps and requirements, so it’s necessary that you know where you are applying. Prepare and pay $160 for your visa application. It’s quite expensive for a visa application, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Especially when they granted you a 10-year multiple entries visa!
Before you schedule an interview, you need to pay and submit the DS-160 application form. Review the form first before filling it out and submitting out. You only need to provide the correct information and answers to the questions. Here’s a sample DS-160 application form.
Interview at the US Embassy in Manila, Philippines
Miguel’s appointment is at 7:15 AM, but he arrived early at the embassy. You should arrive 15 minutes before your appointment. At exactly 7:00 AM, the guard called those with an appointment at 7:15 AM, and he checked the schedule confirmation.
There are a few steps you need to go through before the interview:
- Someone checks your passport and DS-160 form. He will add a bar code on your passport then you will receive a card. You then need to queue according to your visa type.
- Security check and preprocessing of your application. This is where they will verify your details and photo.
- Fingerprints are scanned, and you need to show the barcode from your passport.
- Relax and wait for your turn. Good luck!
Interview At US Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden
I scheduled an appointment at 9:45 AM. It didn’t say that I should be there by 9:30, but I still went early just in case. Luckily, the embassy is only 20 minutes walk from my apartment. When I arrived, there were only a few people at the queue. In the first security by the window, the guard will ask you to show your appointment confirmation and passport. Once inside the security area, they will check your bag and ask you to leave your cellphone or small devices in the small storage area.
When I entered the embassy, a guard asked what type of visa I am applying for and asked me to go to the first window to submit my documents.
The guy from the window asked for the following:
- Residence card & passport
- 2×2 photo (only if you want to change the photo you’ve submitted in your DS-160)
- Purpose of my visit
- Additional documents that I think would help with the visa application. I didn’t know which ones so I just gave my personbevis* & DS-160 confirmation page.
I had to wait more than 2 hours before my turn. For some reason, the number called is not in order. So, I don’t know how they decide which to call first. It also took a while because there was only 1 or 2 consul doing the interview.
* Personbevis — Extract from the Swedish Population Registry (“120-personbevis med all relationer”) that you can order over the phone. Just call Skatteverket to order; I tried ordering online, but I didn’t receive any until I called.
Consul: What is your purpose of visit?
Miguel: I’m going to attend my cousin’s wedding.
Consul: *saw his Schengen visa* what did you do in Sweden?
Miguel: I visited my girlfriend.
Consul: Is your girlfriend Swedish?
Miguel: No. She just got a job there.
Consul: Are you going to see each other in the US?
Consul: What is your girlfriend’s work?
Miguel: Test Automation Engineer.
Consul: Is your work in Sweden too?
Consul: Your visa is approved.
Miguel got fewer questions than I did when we had the interview. The questions that the consul asked me was similar to Miguel’s consul. Mine only had additional questions about my work and residence here in Stockholm.
He had an interview 2 days before me. I got excited when I found that Miguel got an I got excited when I found out he was granted a visa and hoped that I will be granted one too! We both received our passports two working days after the interview, and ta-da! 10 years visa to the USA! ❤️
I can say that all the worries I had before the interview was gone right away. At least I didn’t have to wait for a few days just to know the result.
- Don’t embellish.
- Give a direct answer. Don’t give too much information, and don’t give too less information as well.
- Be consistent & confident. They would know immediately if you’re not telling the truth.
- Prepare for their questions, and don’t get nervous.
- Don’t get intimidated by the people around or people that might overhear your conversation with the consul.
- Make sure you have strong ties to your country — a strong reason that you will come back
While preparing my documents, I read a lot of stories about their experiences with their visa applications — denied a visa, granted a visa. Nonetheless, all those stories got me worried. So, I couldn’t help but prepare all the documents I might need. My coworker even asked why I prepared lots of documents if I am only applying for a visa. Well… we’re different!
Now that I experienced applying for a US tourist visa, I am more confident. I think it also helped that I am living and working in Sweden, even though I don’t have a strong history of travels.
Good luck on your US tourist visa application! Being confident and providing only what is needed can help you with your US visa application experience. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to prepare lots of documents just in case.
Social Media Presence
From the recent news, when you apply for a US tourist visa, you now need to provide your social media presence. I tried to start a new application just so I can see this, and, look! Now there’s an option to include the social media platform you have used for the last five years.