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US Visa: Do-It-Yourself Procedures

Department of Tourism
Region III



In view of the recent spate of complaints lodged against unscrupulous travel agents for victimizing visa applicants to the United States, the Department of Tourism – Region III deemed it appropriate to issue a travel advisory on the proper procedures in securing a visa without paying a hefty sum for non-existent expenses.

Regional Director Ronaldo Tiotuico advised the public to heed the call of the US embassy not fall prey to the insinuations of travel agents that they have inside influence on consular officers at the embassy to effect the issuance of a visa. Any offer of visa assistance in exchange for a huge sum of money is illegal and fraudulent, Tiotuico said.

In fact, he said that the embassy has posted on its website the right procedures in applying for a visa. Just visit their site at and click on “How to Apply” on the left-hand menu to learn the procedures all by one’s self.

Here are the basic dot-it-yourself procedures in applying for a non-immigrant visa (e.g. tourist visa) according to the U.S. Embassy website:

Step 1. Fill-up Application Form Online (DS-156 and DS-157). The non-immigrant visa application form (DS-156) must be filled out ONLINE on the Internet and printed using laser or inkjet printers only. The printout is three pages in length and includes a two-dimensional barcode page.

The other non-immigrant visa application form (DS-157), however, is provided at the bank where fees are paid. Applicant must ensure that the back of the form is machine-validated with check-rite. All non-immigrant visa applicants (e.g. B-1 and B-2) must pay the machine-readable visa application fee. Effective January 1, 2008, the application fee for such a visa has been increased from US$100 to US$131. Visa fees may be paid at any branch of Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) or Citibank. It must be paid in Philippine currency at the official exchange rate prevailing on the day of payment.

The bank will issue an official receipt and DS-157 Form where payment is machine-validated by check-rite. Visa application fees are non-refundable though. The application fee is valid for use for one year after the date of actual payment. The interview schedule must fall within the one-year validity. The fee cannot be paid outside of the Philippines or at the US embassy.

Step 2. Prepare Documents. It is important for an applicant to have all basic documentary requirements ready BEFORE an appointment can be made. All documents must be original. Photocopies will not be accepted unless specified. The applicant must submit these documents to the interviewing consular officer during the interview.

Here are the basic requirements to be submitted to the consular officer during interview:

Passport – Signed passport must be valid at least six months from the date of intended departure from the United States. The passport must be in good condition free from any tampering. Applicant must also submit all previously issued passports or notarized affidavit of loss, if applicable.

Application Fee – Proof of payment of visa application duly issued by the bank.

Application Forms – Both completed application forms (DS-156 & DS-157) are needed for each person, regardless of age. All questions must be filled out with high level of accuracy to prevent any delays in processing.

Photo – One 2” x 2” standard, full frontal face position color photo against a white background taken within the last six (6) months is required and must be glued or stapled on the application form where specified.

Additional Requirements – In addition to the basic requirements mentioned above, applicants are required to complete the following documents:

1. Evidence of ties and financial status of the applicant, or the applicant’s parents, if minor, in the Philippines.

2. A vast majority of non-immigrant visa applicants received at the US Embassy are for business travel and tourism, otherwise known as B-1 and B-2, respectively. In most instances, consuls issue a combined B-1/B-2 visa as most business travel would also include tourist activities. If the purpose of travel is for business, a letter from the U.S. organization indicating the purpose of the trip, the intended length of stay, and the firm’s intent to defray costs, if applicable. If the purpose is for pleasure, documents concerning purpose and length of the trip and ability to cover the costs of the trip. For emergency medical cases, an up-to-date statement from a U.S. physician indicating the condition of the patient, including contact information of the physician is required.

3. Proof of travel medical insurance of applicants who might be at risk of requiring medical care while in the United States.

All documents must be original. Photocopies will not be accepted unless specified. The applicant must submit these documents to the interviewing consular officer during the interview. Please note that the presentation of documents will not guarantee visa issuance.

The following documents are not considered helpful:

1. In general, affidavits of any sort will be of little value to an application (except for student via application). The affidavit of support is a requirement only for immigrant visas. The interviewing officer is less concerned about how the applicant will be supported during his/her stay in the United States than in whether he/she has reasons to return home.

2. Letters of invitation (except for business travel).

3. Purchase of airline ticket. This should not be made UNTIL a visa has been issued and the applicant is in receipt of the visa-ed passport.

The drop-box privilege for non-immigrant visa applicants has been discontinued. All applicants, regardless of age, are required to appear at the embassy for an interview.

Step 3. Book an Interview Appointment. Applicants must book an interview by scheduling an appointment ONLINE through VisaPoint or thru the embassy’s CALL CENTER to obtain a confirmation number. The VisaPoint system allows applicant to schedule an appointment at any time of the day or night and see all the available dates and times on the computer screen. The Call Center system enables applicant to schedule an interview appointment thru telephone any day from Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., except on U.S. and Philippine holidays. Applicants may use Tel. No. 1-909-101-7878 to schedule an appointment. Calls made on this number cost P53 per minute, plus applicable provincial charges. This number is ONLY for subscribers of PLDT and SMART telephone touchtone landlines with national/international distance dialing features.

Step 4. Check-in for Interview. The check-in process at the entry gate still remains the same. After check-in, applicants should proceed to the Pavilion where they will submit their documents for data entry. Each applicant will receive a number. When their numbers are called, applicants should proceed to the appropriate window for finger scanning. Under the new procedures, application documents will be returned to the applicant after finger scanning.

Applicants will then maintain possession of all their documents, including the DS-156 application for a non-immigrant visa, and their passports for presentation to the interviewing officer.

Please note that applicants should only present their DS-156 and passport to the interviewing officer. If additional documents are required, the officer will ask them.

Step 5. Decision of the Consular Officer. The U.S. Embassy does not pre-qualify an applicant. Only an adjudicating consular officer AT THE TIME OF THE INTERVIEW can determine whether an applicant is eligible for a non-immigrant visa.

Upon the conclusion of the interview, the applicant will be advised whether he or she qualifies for the visa. If at the end of the interview the decision of the consular officer is to issue the applicant a non-immigrant visa, he/she will be given a yellow slip. He/she should take this slip to the courier service desk in the American Embassy Pavilion, where he/she will need to arrange for delivery of the passport and visa by courier. If an application is denied, the passport is returned to the applicant after the interview.

Visa processing time after the interview usually takes at least one week, depending on the volume of visa issuances at the time. After the one-week visa processing time, the receipt of a passport with a visa may take longer, depending on the applicant’s delivery address.

Step 6. Receipt of Visa-ed Passport by Courier. Upon receipt of passport with stamped visa by courier, applicant may now have the option to proceed to a travel agent for issuance of airline ticket and payment of fees like travel tax, insurance, among others. Please take note of the validity period of your visa. Travel time should be within this period.


Knowing the right way to do things seamlessly will keep the criminals away!

For further details, call:
Consular Section
U.S. Embassy
1201 Roxas Boulevard
Manila, Philippines 1000
Tel. No. : (632) 301-2000 ext. 2555/2246
Fax : (632) 301-2017


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