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leerenah

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July 2016

Guilt stricken

Its 3 in the morning and I can still hear the kitten cries. Its been crying on and off the whole day, probably looking for its mother, which Kuya Cansio said, has died in the morning. He said he saw the mother cat very weak yesterday, and earlier the kitten unknowingly still breastfed over its dead mother.

I’ve been feeding the mother cat whenever we are at the big house over the weekends. I was wondering why she suddenly passed. I remember last week when I accidentally stepped on her while she was sleeping, I still have several scratches on my legs until now. But after that I said I was sorry and had given her food, she seemed okay. And it was almost a week ago. Has she gotten into a car accident? I sincerely hoped it wasn’t my stepping on her which caused her life, which left a poor, young kitten behind. For some reason, I was disturbed by my guilt. Sigh. Rest in peace now dear cat. 😿

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US Tourist Visa for Filipinos – My Personal Guide

Since we have bought our flight tickets during the last Travel Madness sale, at some point we would have to apply for the US Visa. I guess considering the numerous travels we had over the years, we’re a little (just a little) confident that we have an edge to be granted the most elusive visa of them all. Of course we did some research on the common questions to be asked for the interview. Nowadays, you can’t just complete your application and just head straight to your schedule at the US Embassy and thats it. You HAVE TO study your answers beforehand. While most of our answers are scripted, it meant positively on the consular officer, as we are answering in sync and know what we are going to say. It is still best to come prepared.

When I tried to schedule online, the earliest available is June 27. But when I called their hotline, the earliest is June 6. So I grabbed the June 6 as it will spare us the agony of waiting for so long. I guess it was better to just call the hotline instead, since they can accommodate us earlier because we have a small child. The MRV payment is needed to be able to schedule the appointment interview. We already paid this in BPI.

On the day of our interview, I brought all the docs we would be needing: (Standard Tourist Visa for Filipinos living in the PH)

1. DS-160 confirmation page

2. Appointment letter (sent in email by the US embassy customer service)

3. Original MRV receipt 

4. Passport

5. 2×2 photos 

6. All other docs (proof of financial capabilities)

Since I applied for the DS-160 online, I did not need the 2×2 photos anymore (I was wondering too why I still need to bring them). I already uploaded the digital copies during the application. As for all the other docs, the officer did not ask for any of them.

Our appointment schedule is 9:30am, and since the guards are strict about lining just 15 mins before the schedule, we walked from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (from the other side of Roxas Blvd., where my sis in law dropped us and would be waiting) just 10 mins before 9:15. We waited for just 5 mins outside, and come 9:15, we queued going inside. The first queue we were asked for the Appointment Letter, and the staff put barcoded stickers on the back of our passports. She also gave us a letter E yellow cardboard (express queueing for senior citizens, pwd and with small children), when she asked for Sophie’s age and I said she’s 2. 

When we got inside there’s a security checkpoint, and an x-ray machine for the bags and belongings. ANY electronic devices are not allowed, as in ALL, even USBs. So we did not bring our cellphones anymore.

Since we have the letter E, we bypassed long lines and headed straight to the first counter, where we were asked DS-160 confirmation questions by a Filipino staff. Next counter is the biometrics-taking, an American officer took my husband and I’s finger scanning. No biometrics for small children like Sophie.

The next queue is the Interview. We lined up with the seniors and with small children, and waited for around 40 mins before it was finally our turn. Since we were seated in the area where applicants passed by after the interviews, we have witnessed different reactions and expressions. Some fortunate ones were crying tears of joy, clapping their hands, shrieking “yes!” or just simply have joyful smile on their faces. The unfortunate ones however, have blue papers in their hands, returned passports and have disappointed, faraway looks. 

The feeling was nerve racking. I felt like I was going to get my IELTS results. (add: I was positive that I would fail my IELTS back in 2008, so when I went to get my results, I could hardly walk up the stairs going to the IDP office — I was a total nerve wreck!) It was so stressful I could not wait for our turn and get over it. When it was finally our turn, my husband carried Sophie while I gave our docs to the officer. Here’s how the interview went:

Us : Good morning.

Officer : Good morning. Hi Sophie, how old are you? (I was surprised she called Sophie by nickname)

Sophie quietly said “two” and raised her 2 fingers.

Officer : What’s your relationship?

I : We’re a family.

Officer : What’s your purpose of travel?

I : We would like to tour, go shopping and go to Disney World for our daughter.

RJ: We would also like to try different restaurants like the Pinks Hotdogs and Buffalo wings.

Officer : Buffalo wings (smiles) How long will you be staying?

I : Probably around 2 weeks.

RJ: We would also like to catch the Black Friday sale.

Officer : Right, so you can get good deals. (Smiles) Dad, whats your job?

Tabs didn’t hear this. So I nudged him and said, dad!

The officer was a little amused. She turned to Tabs, “You’re the dad, you’re the mom.” (To me) and laughed.

RJ: Sorry. I’m the Chief Technical Officer of a family-owned corporation. We have 3 *** gas stations.

Officer : How long have you been in the company?

RJ: Since its incorporation in 2007.

Officer : How many people are there in the company?

RJ:  In all 3 branches around 70 plus 10 accounting staff, so around 80.

Officer: How much do you earn?

RJ: I earn *** a month, excluding allowances.

Officer : And how much including your allowances?

RJ : Around *** a month.

Officer : Mom, what’s your job?

I : I’m a businesswoman. I have a *** shop in the ***.

Officer : How much do you earn including all allowances?

I : I earn more or less *** a month.

Officer : Which countries have you travelled?

I : We’ve been to London (nods her head when she heard London), Japan, Korea, China.. (she cut off, she didn’t seem interested with Asian countries)

Officer: Is Sophie always with you?

I : Yes, we always bring her with us.

After a pause and tinkering on her computer, finally she said.

Officer : Alright, you will receive your visas within 7 days.

The interview ended and we said our thanks and goodbyes. Of course we were elated after! The interview was short and concise, and we didn’t have to defend or explain further anything, like some of the applicants before us. The officer’s mood was light during our interview, very much unlike how I thought of her when we were in the queue. I thought she was scary and bitchy, but she was not. My nervousness quickly went away during the course of the interview.

In reality, getting the US Visa is probably one of the easiest to process. Since the officers face around 150 applicants per day, they do not have the time to ask for the docs to support your answers. They will simply depend on the DS-160 that you submitted and how well you answered the questions.  The DS-160 is more on personal details, but the most important thing here is that you study and know the answers to the frequently asked questions. If you will lie (unless you’re a very good liar),  they can spot in your answers as they give series of questions depending on how you answer them. They are trained to recognize your real standing and your purpose of application.

Since we passed our interview with flying colors (hehehe), we received our passports 3 days after, all with 10 year Multiple-Entry Visas! US of A, see you real soon! 🇺🇸

Get started with your application here.

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