Wednesday, March 14, 2012

us embassy interview

tomorrow morning.

habang palapit ng palapit, kinakabahan ako. wala naman akong balak mag-TNT. pano pa kaya yung mga nag-a-apply na yun ang main reason?

feeling ko may nagawa akong kasalanan na malalaman nila pagpindot nila sa computer nila. sinasadya ba nila maging intimidating?

good luck to me.

(update: i'll post my embassy experience here to give an idea to other future applicants.)

my appointment was at 8:30 but i was already there by 7:30am. i didn't bring a bag, just a plastic envelope with all my documents in it but i saw women wearing shoulder bags which was supposed to be prohibited according to the notice that came from our travel agent :(

anyway, i got in after the lady put a barcode at the back of my new passport.  then i entered the building and got through the X-ray machine, was given a ticket number and was told to wait in the waiting area.

i noticed the embassy has changed since the last time i went there in 2006.  it's larger, more organized and crowd control is better. when i finally got inside there are more windows to accommodate the applicants. and it's separated in two. i think the other side is for immigrants, fiances and nationals.

by 8:30, i was finished with the initial interview (where the lady behind the window only asked me my name, my birthdate and if i filled up my application online myself) and the finger scanning by a nice American guy.

while i was at the first window, i heard a Visa Officer (VO) talking loudly on her mic in Window 10. she was denying visa to a family due to their weak socio-economic ties in the Philippines. the elderly father and the younger wife kept on asking her for the reason and she just kept on repeating what she said. i even heard her tell the father not to argue with her about the law. almost everyone near the window can hear everything. i was only a few meters away.

i cringed. i thought they looked desperate for a visa and it further weakened their case. kahit kulitin mo yung mga VO, they won't change their minds unless you present a document to try to convince them otherwise. oral arguments won't work here.

while i was waiting for my number 2156, i noticed other applicants getting denied in that window though there were also others who walked away with a smile. i thought maybe i should get another window just to be safe.

the numbers were now called in random. 2158 and 3022 were called before me. finally when it was my turn, it was in Window 10!

the family of 4 were approved before me. the father was a stockbroker. when i got nearer, i noticed the young curly-haired woman looked nice and approachable naman.

here's how the question and answer portion went:

Me: Good morning.
VO:  Good morning. How do you do?

I gave her my passports with my old US visa and my application form.
She typed on her computer.

VO: What do you do?
Me: I'm a writer for TV and film.
She said something and i didn't hear it.
Me: I'm sorry?
VO: Where do you work?
Me: GMA Network.

She nodded. Recognizing the name.

VO: So you write news?
Me: No. I write for TV and film (i should have rephrased it better: TV and film writer but anyway)
VO: Oh I thought you write news articles. (maybe she saw my issued Journalist visa in Japan in 2008)

At this point maybe she understood that i write scripts.
She kept on typing and looking at her monitor.

VO: Is your salary basically the same?
Me: Yes. Just average. (my answer doesn't make sense no? haha!)
She nodded and smiled.
VO: Average.

Back to her monitor. More typing. 

VO: What was your longest stay in the US?
Me: About a month.
VO: That long? Why?
Me: I was there for a film festival. I went to Sundance.
VO: Oh you've been to Sundance.

She nodded and typed again. She mostly looked at the monitor while interviewing me.
I wonder what she was reading there.

VO: And was that the last time you've been to the US?
Me: No. I was also there in 2009.
VO: For how long?
Me: About 2 weeks.
VO: What do you plan to do there this time?
Me: We're just going to Niagara falls and watch some Broadway shows.

VO: Who are you going with?
Me: My live-in partner.
VO: Does he have a US Visa?
Me: Yes. He has a 10 year multiple.

She looks curious as she turns to me.

VO: Are your parents Japanese? I hope you don't mind.
Me: My father is Japanese and my mother is from here.

She nodded. More typing. And then she stamped on my old US Visa and gave it back to me.

VO: Ok you're approved (not sure about this first line. maybe i just imagined it). We'll send it by courier.
Me: Thank you.

It took less than 5 minutes. She didn't even look at one single document i brought with me. Those documents made me paranoid especially the hotel booking (by the travel agent) at the expensive Marriott hotel and the company ITR which i didn't bring with me. That's always the scary part: when you're asked for a document which you don't have.

I was already on my way home by 9:30am. Quite fast.

On the way home, i was thinking why i wasn't denied. I don't know how she thought that i had enough ties here because i didn't present any job contract, not even our SEC papers for Origin8. She knows i'm single and don't have children. Bakit hindi niya inisip na magti-TNT ako? The socio-economic-ties thing applies to me!

I have a feeling that the questions were just to see if my answers would match what's in my record. I think they already pre-approved me even before i got there because the questions she asked me were so basic. I thought she would ask me more about my financial status and my ties in Pinas but she didn't.

I think these factors helped me get approved:

a. 10 is my lucky number. (the first time I ever gambled in a game at the school fair when i was in grade school, i chose no. 10. I won a liter of Coke and some chicheria ata. I was so happy and that was the beginning of my fascination to gambling.)
b. but seriously, my 5-year Japan visa helped a lot.
c. maybe my old 1-year Journalist visa in Japan too
d. my recently acquired Schengen visa.
e. my travel record. i travel regularly, every year since 2004. most of all, i don't overstay during my trips. I always come back.
e. during the interview, it also helped that I gave (very) short and concise answers. I didn't elaborate  because if they want you to explain they will ask more questions.

you also have to be lucky too when you apply. millions in your bank account won't help, extensive travel and properties here. i really have no idea how their system works.

if i can become invisible in a day, one of my first stops would be at the US embassy to see what they're reading in their monitors and to know what they are typing!


  1. congrats! pero di pa pala 10 year visa yung binigay sa yo. akala yun na agad e.

  2. wala pa. still waiting for my passport. dun ko lang malalaman kung anong visa yung binigay :D