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Frequently Asked Questions
 

Below are responses to many questions and situations encountered by the Nonimmigrant Visa Unit. Please read this section carefully prior to submitting visa questions to the U.S. Embassy.

 

Application Procedures

How do I apply for a nonimmigrant visa?
Please see the step-by-step procedures here.

Do I need to have a specific trip planned in order to apply for a visa?
One may apply for a visa even if s/he simply wishes to have the option to make a trip at some point in the future. Please make this intention clear to the consul during the interview.

May I mail in my visa application?
No. One must call to make an appointment for an interview, unless s/he is applying for a Diplomatic/Official (A/C-3/G) visa, other than A-3 and G-5 visas.

I called the Call Center or telephone appointment system but am scheduled two months from now. Is it possible to get an earlier appointment?
Early interviews will be granted in limited cases and under pressing circumstances. Please see the Expedited Appointments page for more information.

I would like to take my nephew or grandchild on a trip to the United States. Who must apply for the child's visa?
Visa eligibility for individuals aged 17 or below may be based in whole or in part upon the social, family and economic ties to the Philippines of the applicant's parents; further, consular officers must be convinced that such individual is permitted to depart the Philippines by one or both parents.  At least one parent should plan to be present for the application of any individual aged 17 or below.  Exceptions will be made only in cases where it is impossible for a parent/guardian to appear for interview. 

A person told me that I have a better chance of getting a visa if I pay a few thousand pesos for help in completing and processing the application. Is this true?
No. The application form should be completed by the applicant. Completing it should require no special assistance, and we recommend strongly that the applicant write it himself/herself. If an applicant cannot accomplish the form himself/herself, a representative may accomplish and, hence, sign the form. The applicant must review and sign the application form before submission to the Embassy during the scheduled interview.

How do you decide whether or not to issue a visa? What does 214(b) mean?
For business and tourist visas (B-1/B-2), each applicant must qualify under section 214(b) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which states:

"Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the officer, at the time of the application for a visa . . . that he is entitled to nonimmigrant status . . .”

Essentially, the visa officer is looking to see that the applicant has compelling reasons to return to the Philippines. By law, the burden of proof is on the applicant to show that he or she qualifies for the visa. This proof may come in many forms, but when considered together, it must be strong enough for the interviewing officer to conclude that one’s ties to the Philippines will bring him/her back at the end of a temporary stay in the United States.

What do you mean by "ties to the Philippines?"
"Ties" are the aspects of one’s life that bind him/her to his/her place of residence, including family relationships, employment and possessions. 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 parents, and an 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.

What constitutes evidence of income?
Please see the Demonstrating Ties section for more information.

Is it acceptable to submit an authenticated birth/marriage certificate from the National Statistics Office (NSO) in lieu of the NSO certificates on security paper? It takes a while before we can get these documents from NSO.
We only accept birth/marriage certificates from NSO issued on security paper.

If I present a letter of guarantee of return from a person of high stature, will I get a visa? 
A letter of guarantee is insufficient to fully establish an applicant's qualifications for a visa, or to establish the applicant's social, family, and economic ties to the Philippines.  U.S. law requires that each applicant qualify for a visa based upon his or her own ties. 

Will it help my application if I present a letter from my relative's U.S. Congressman or Senator?
Such letters will be considered. However, evaluation of the application will be made in accordance with Section 214(b) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. Visa applications are adjudicated based on individual merits, consistent with criteria specified in the Immigration Act, as amended, and the Federal regulations issued pursuant to it. Consular officers are required to deny visas to applicants who cannot qualify under the law, and to issue visas to those applicants who do qualify. Consular officers cannot issue visas based on the assurances of family members, friends or interested third parties.

Isn't it better not to disclose that I have close relatives living in the United States, that I have an immigrant visa petition on file, or that I have previously been denied? What are the consequences if I conceal or misrepresent information or submit fraudulent documents?
You should always be honest with the consular officer, and answer any questions posed to the best of your ability.  We understand that many people have relatives in the United States but intend only a short visit, or have immigrant visa petitions on file but do not plan to immigrate at this time.  Having family in the U.S. or having an immigrant visa petition on file does not automatically disqualify you from getting a visa.  Failure to disclose these facts, many of which are already known to the interviewing officer can irreparably damage an applicant's credibility with the consular officer and result in a denial.  When an interviewing officer uncovers any attempt to conceal or misrepresent facts, the application will be denied and the applicant may, in certain cases, be found permanently ineligible to enter the United States.

I don't have an original copy of my land title because it is mortgaged with the bank. Should I buy a substitute title so I can present something at the interview?
Never purchase documents to present at an applicant’s interview. The genuine documents in one’s possession provide him/her a better chance of qualifying for a visa, whether now or in a future application. When an interviewing officer uncovers any questionable documents or attempts to misrepresent facts, the application will be denied and the applicant may, in certain cases, be ruled permanently ineligible to enter the United States.

Can I mail in information about my application in advance of my interview?
Due to the large number of applications we receive, it is impossible for us to match up correspondence with applications. The applicant should bring any information relevant to his/her application to the interview. The Nonimmigrant Visa Unit does not accept documents before the interview. Any documents received will not be returned and will be destroyed.

What are the allowable uses of a B-1/B-2 Visa?
The B-1 visa allows for temporary visitors to conduct business in the United States. This includes such things as a need to consult with business associates, negotiate a contract, buy goods or materials, settle an estate, appear in a court trial, and participate in business or professional conventions or conferences. This visa does not generally allow for gainful employment. The B-2 visa is issued for the purpose of touring, visits to friends and relatives, visits for rest or medical treatment, social or fraternal conventions and conferences, and amateur/unpaid participants in cultural or sports events.

Can I go to the United States to work?
While a person may go to the United States on a B-1/B-2 visa on business, working for a short time for a foreign employer, he/she may not be employed or paid by a U.S. party. To be employed in the United States, s/he must have a working visa (E, H, or L).

Can we take our domestic helper on the family's trip to the United States?
Please see the B1 Domestic Visa page. Domestic employees may accompany their employers on temporary visits to the United States – during which time they must be paid according to U.S. prevailing wage rates.

We wish to attend a wedding in the United States. Should we bring a copy of the invitation to the interview? 
The applicant may bring any documents to the interview that the applicant believes necessary.  However, the officer may not review the invitation, or any of the applicant's documents, before reaching a decision as to admissibility.  This is because the interviewing officer elicits the information they need to make a decision largely through the nonimmigrant visa application and the interviewing questions.  Personal documentation is rarely requested or required.  Always keep in mind that the interviewiing officer is more concerned with whether the applicant will return to the Philippines than why the applicant wishes to visit the United States.

Interview Process

Why are the visa interviews so short? I was asked only a couple of questions and the interviewer hardly looked at my documents.
In a typical 8-hour day, a consular officer may need to interview 150 applicants or more, which allows about 3 minutes per applicant. The application form, if completed thoroughly, contains most of the information needed to adjudicate the visa. Additional documents are examined only if the consular officer needs to obtain further clarification of the applicant’s situation.

I presented all the documents I had, but my application was turned down anyway. What else could I bring?
When an officer conducts an interview, he or she references the application forms, and may refer to supporting documentation if necessary.  However, most visa interviews are conducted based on information provided in the application and the interview questions.  While the officer may ask for some documentation, the heart of the interview is the applicant's responses to the officers' questions.

Eligibility

My spouse is a U.S. Citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident. Can I obtain a nonimmigrant visa?
Every applicant must qualify on his/her own merits.  To that end, certain spouses of U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents may qualify for a nonimmigrant visa under certain circumstances.  However, due to the bonds of marriage and the presumption by the interviewing officer that the U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident's spouse will want to permanently reside with the citizen in the United States, spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents or U.S. citizens that reside in the United States may find it difficult to qualify for a nonimmigrant visa. 

I have an immigrant petition on file. Can I still qualify for a tourist visa?
There are so many different situations regarding persons who have been petitioned to immigrate that the best answer is "It Depends." While the existence of an immigrant petition is in one sense evidence that a person is an intending immigrant, and thus subject to refusal, we also recognize that s/he may not be intending to immigrate at this time. Having an immigrant petition on file is not grounds for an automatic refusal, but as an applicant, s/he will need to provide strong evidence that s/he intends to leave the United States after his/her planned visit.

I am a former Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the United States. Can I now obtain a tourist (B-1/B-2) visa?
You may apply for a B-1/B-2 visa. However, you may need to clarify your immigration status with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (Window 25, any workday, between 8:00 and 12:00 noon) before a visa can be issued.   The consular officer who interviews you will advise you if this applies to your case.

I am an H-1B visa holder. Are my parents included as my dependents?
The qualified dependents of H-1B visa holder are his/her spouse and unmarried children age 20 and below.

Can I go to the United States to give a performance?
The rules on this matter are complicated. Please see the page Visas For Entertainers and Performers

Issuance and Validity

How soon will I know whether I qualify for a visa?
The interviewing officer will inform the applicant of the outcome of the visa application at the conclusion of the interview.

Can I request earlier issuance of my visa?
The request must be made during the interview. The interviewing officer will decide whether it is meritorious request. Failure to have obtained an earlier appointment will generally not be considered a valid reason for expedited issuance.

How long can I stay in the United States?
The period of one’s stay is determined by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer at the U.S. Port of Entry, not by the consular officer who issues the visa. USCIS generally grants permission for the visitor to remain in the United States for the amount of time needed to accomplish the purpose of the visit. If one wishes to remain beyond the time granted, s/he must submit a request for extension to the USCIS. Failure to do so could result in his/her being ineligible to enter the United States again.

Other Questions

If refused, how soon can I apply again?
If an applicant is refused under Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act 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.

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 an appointment through the call center or the online appointment system. While on a second interview s/he will meet with a different officer, please 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. Quick re-applications based largely on the hope of finding a consul more inclined to issue may result in a second refusal.

I only want my fiancé(e) to meet my family...
While it is understandable that one might wish to do this, a foreign national engaged to a U.S. citizen must still prove that s/he is not an intending immigrant. This is usually difficult to do, however, as the fact that an individual is engaged to a U.S. citizen is usually considered evidence of intent to immigrate.

I was told by a travel agent that immigrant visas are hard to get, and my wife should go into the United States with only a tourist visa...
Unfortunately, there are people who, usually for a tidy sum of money, will offer inaccurate or bad advice. Such advice can waste time and distract one from the necessary paperwork. At worst, it can lead to fraudulent statements that can see one’s new spouse found ineligible for any visa to travel to the United States. It is always the type of travel -- a short visit or a new life living and working in America -- which governs what visa is appropriate.

Immigrant visas do require more time and preparation than a simple tourist visa, but in the end will allow an American citizen and his/her spouse to begin their new life in the United States without the worry and hardships that fraud can place on their relationship. If they begin early, and follow the instructions carefully, his/her new spouse can begin life in the United States with lawful permanent resident status that will allow him/her to live, work or study as desired. LPR status is also the first step toward naturalization, the process by which a foreign person becomes an American Citizen.

However, under the new LIFE Act, there are now some instances where spouses and children are eligible for a special nonimmigrant visa while waiting for their immigrant visa. For information on the new K and V visas, and to find out whether one qualifies for them, please see the Immigrant Visa Section.

Should I buy my plane ticket before getting a visa?
We do not recommend purchasing tickets before qualifying for a visa.  If your travel depends upon the issuance of a United States nonimmigrant visa, you should make no irrevocable travel plans until your visa is approved and your passport with the new visa affixed is returned to your possession.

I have a valid B-1/B-2 visa in my official passport. I will now travel using my regular passport. Will I need another visa in my regular passport?
Simply staple the official and regular passports together and one can travel to the United States anytime. However, s/he may apply for a B-1/B-2 visa in his/her regular passport. S/he will have to pay the application fee and submit completed applications as well as proof of income.

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