How to get to the United States
|September 20, 2011||Posted by ness under Personal, Real Life, Stories, Travel|
Filipinos consider the U.S., the “promised land.” Almost everyone dreams of stepping foot in it whether to migrate or visit. In this article, I discuss how I ended up going to the U.S.
I wasn’t rich or privileged or anything. I myself grew up wondering what U.S was like.
I wondered how the cold weather and the snow would feel. I thought of having imported goods within my reach. I imagined being in places that I only see on TV (think Empire state building, Golden Gate bridge, Hollywood and Las Vegas). Visiting the U.S was part of my bucket list.
But, it wasn’t really my ultimate dream. I think I didn’t felt as strongly about it compared to my other friends who really planned out their life to eventually end up in the U.S. After all, everyone and everything for me is and was in the Philippines. My entire family is there; my job afforded me an average life; and all my friends used to be there.
However, certain circumstances along the way pushed me and motivated me to get a visitor’s visa. The best part is I was able to obtain a 10-year multiple entry visa at the young age of 23 and with a single-never married-no kids status.
People say I was lucky but I consider it as more than just luck. Looking back, I definitely think that it was the right combination of luck and preparedness. So, to all of you who have the desire to visit the US but do not have a tourist visa yet, I am sharing with you what I did to get my visa.
1. I Started Travelling
I got my passport November of 2008 and I started travelling in January 2009. I visited three Asian countries between the months of January to April and applied for my visa in July of the same year. During my visa interview, my travel information really helped because it was one of the things the consul asked about. I think my travel history proved to the consul that I just want to see other places.
I bet you are now thinking that this one alone is difficult because it needs funds. But, airfares to Asia these days are very affordable especially when you buy them as promo fares. This is where planning comes in. Cheap airfares are usually offered one year before the flight dates so you really have to be diligent in watching out for those fares and purchasing them as soon as they are available. Once you have your tickets ready, you have at least one year to prepare for other travel expenses.
2. I Built Up My Savings
This did not take just a year to prepare. I started working at age 20 exactly one week after my college graduation. My take home pay was just ok. But, I made sure to save at least 20% of my net income for each payday. I did this to have emergency money and not so much for my visa. My three years worth of savings just came handy by the time I decided to apply for my visa. Of course, since I planned to get a visa by 2009, I kept some of my Christmas bonus in 2008 and I had to wait for my mid-year bonus in April of 2009 so I can put more to my savings. The point is you have to save.
Many Filipinos believe that you need to have a lot of money in the bank in order for a consul to grant a visa. Actually, in my case, it was not about the amount of money I had. It was more of having a realistic amount of savings and showing a record that the savings was built up for quite some time. I made sure my bank statements proved that and I prepared all of it.
3. I prepared all necessary documents even if I did not have much
I was lucky to know a lot of people who had obtained a tourist visa for themselves. So I asked them what I needed to prepare and the common advice they gave me was to bring all documents that will show my strong ties in the Philippines. These include my employment certificate and all properties that I own. My job certificate was not a problem. But, my challenge was not having any property. After all I was only 23 and I think it was normal not to own any.
Well, I had a car but it was under my father’s name. I have a life insurance policy but I was only on my 2nd year of payment and I still had 8 years to go before I fully pay it. And of course I have 5 pure bred dogs! I was hoping at that time that my dogs would qualify as my properties. After all they were not cheap!
So, what I did was, I compiled my insurance receipts and I brought pictures of my dogs to the interview. It was insane but that was all I had!
4. I Outlined the Possible Questions and Rehearsed my Answers
Well, I did not know what they’d ask beforehand so I assumed most of their questions. Of course, they will always start with “what’s your purpose of travelling to the US?” They asked where I will stay, if I have a family in the US, how long I will stay and who’s travelling with me. These were the only questions from the list I outlined. Of course there were still other questions that filled a minute of interview.
In all the consul’s queries, I just answered them straightforwardly. When they asked me what I’d do in the US, I just said “I want to take a vacation”. That’s it. I did not explain or elaborate further. I did the same for all the remaining questions. I guess that it helped me appear truthful and honest to the consul. I even surprised the consul with my answer when he asked me how much I was willing to spend in the US. My exact answer to the question was “if I have to spend all my money in the bank for this trip, I will.” Sounds desperate? Yes it did! But, I think the consul took it as a very honest remark.
Yes, I was very honest. I wanted to get the visa so badly but I did not pretend or faked any of my answers. I even prayed before the interview that I will only be asked questions that I can answer truthfully because I am not really good at lying.
I advise you to be honest as well. You can never go wrong by just being honest. The consuls are very well trained and I think they really see and feel their interviewees’ motives.
5. I scheduled an early interview
I am not sure if this is true but I heard somewhere that the consuls have a quota on the number of visa they can issue daily. So, if you go in the afternoon and the consul you end up with has already reached his quota, then you will surely be denied. On the contrary, I also heard that being on the early batch of interviewees is difficult because the consuls are still in the mood to ask questions.
Well, I guess I just followed my gut and took the risk of setting an early interview appointment. I was on the 7:00 AM batch, the earliest group of interviewees. I decided to set my interview at this time because I would rather that the consul ask me plenty of questions and give me a chance to prove myself worthy of a visa than be totally shut off right from the very start because my consul has already met his quota for the day. Plus, I imagined that the consuls will be more stressed in the afternoon after interviewing thousands of applicants and I did not want that to get in the way of my consul’s sound judgment.
Definitely, I was bombarded with questions. But, my consul was very relaxed. He was sitting back on his chair during the interview, he was smiling and he seemed to be in a good mood. My risk paid off because I got my visa after just one minute of interview.
My final Point…
If stepping foot in the US is one of your dreams, do something about it!
Prepare for it! Do not rely on mere luck. Do not even justify to yourself that those of us who obtained a visa are just lucky or rich. Believe me, not all of us are. I was a young lady who dreamt to see the world. I wanted it so bad so I worked hard for it and got it!
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