Got plans of applying for a US or Schengen visa soon?
As a Philippine passport holder, it is a bummer to travel to most countries in the world without a tourist visa. And it is even harder to obtain one just for Europe and the US alone.
I suppose it is even a different process when you're an OFW living abroad to apply for these visas, just like me. I know a lot of you wanted to do it but never took the courage to do it--- because you think it is too difficult to apply.
Well, yes, it is. And quite stressful, in fact. But if you're lucky enough, it's really self-fulfilling.😍
Here's the thing if you're an OFW--- as long as you're with legal working status in the country you're residing right now, you're very much eligible to apply for these visas. You don't need to go back to the Philippines just to apply there.
On that note, I would like to share my experiences of applying for these visas while living away from the Philippines.
For a US (B1/ B2) tourist visa application & guidelines
I was working in Beijing, China at that time. And I was referred to a travel agent by my good friend, Maricel who has also helped her with her own US tourist visa application.
Basically, I have to prepare all the documents to be presented, while the agent did the whole application on my behalf. But the whole processing steps are pretty much the same in all US embassies around the world.
HOW TO APPLY
*The steps below were taken from the US embassy-Philippines website. Check out the official US embassy website in the country you're residing/wanting to apply, for complete details. This is just to give you an example of the whole application process:
Pay the visa application fee. $160.00
Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.
Schedule your appointment on this web page. You will need three pieces of information in order to schedule your appointment:
Visit the U.S. Embassy/Consulate on the date and time of your visa interview. You will need to bring a printed copy of your appointment letter, your DS-160 confirmation page, one recent photograph, your current passport and all old passports. Applications without all of these items will not be accepted.
- Your passport number
- Your MRV fee payment receipt number
- The ten (10) digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page
*I was on a working visa in Beijing, China. All documents I presented were all supported by my employer when I applied. So you should have a kind boss to help you comply with the following documents...
- Current proof of income, tax payments, property or business ownership, or assets.
- Your travel itinerary and/or other explanation about your planned trip.
- A letter from your employer detailing your position, salary, how long you have been employed, any authorized vacation, and the business purpose, if any, of your U.S. trip.
- Criminal/court records pertaining to any arrest or conviction anywhere, even if you completed your sentence or were later pardoned.
- Bring an employment letter from your employer and pay slips from the most recent three months.
- Bank statements to support your financial capacity for the length of your trip.
In my case, my travel agent advised me to print out pictures of Frenchie and I, and his passport copy to support my reasoning that I was traveling to the US with him. Which was ironically, the only thing they looked into my documents.
Dinhs' TIPS for the US visa interview
- Schedule the interview early in the morning. I believe the visa officer are 'nicer' as compared with the 'grumpy' ones in the afternoon. 😉
- Come in presentable clothes and less valuables. They are super tight with the security that you're only allowed to bring your documents in the embassy premises. No mobile phones and any bags allowed inside.
- File your documents in an organized folder. Don't place them in an envelope.
- Stay cool and keep your calm, no matter how nervous you are. Trust me, it's one of the most nerve-wracking interview of your life--- but just smile and relax!
- Interviews can vary from two minutes to an hour long. In my case, the officer grilled me for the purpose of my trip-- for almost 30 minutes. This was back in 2014, so I told him that my boyfriend and I wanted to go to Brazil for the World Cup and since it's going to be a long trip, we decided to have a stop over in the US for a few days before moving on.
It was then he decided to ask me questions about Frenchie, and if I have supporting documents about him. In other words, he's just making sure I'm not making up an imaginary boyfriend who wanted to go to the US and Brazil with me. So I showed him the passport copy and several pictures of us on our trips together. He also asked me about my job and what was my plan after I come back to Beijing or how long do I still have to stay in the foreign country, which I considered home for eight years already. I was so confident with my answers that I felt like I'm Miss Philippines for the Miss Universe 2014 beauty pageant! He never once looked at my other supporting documents but he did step out of the window and ask his colleagues about my case while showing them my papers. I guess, they're trying to weigh in the possibilities of me becoming yet another illegal alien in their country. 😋
- My best interview advice: give them enough reason that you don't want to stay in the US, illegally.
After what felt like an eternity, he came back and handed me a piece of paper and said the magical words at that moment, "Congratulations, you can pick up your passport in seven days. Here are the details. Have a nice trip!" I said my 'thank you' with a huge grin on my face.
Whoa! Nailed it!!! I was granted with a 10-year multiple entry visa. 😍
Fact: I was denied on my first visa application because of my reasoning (that I was traveling with Frenchie to the US) and I didn't bring any documents or whatsoever about him. The officer didn't even look through my files. He just said, "I'm sorry, I can't give you a visa right now due to lack of supporting documents." I wanted to reason out that it was ridiculous that my application has nothing to do with Frenchie and his existence. Yet, of course I didn't say a word about it. It was less than 10 minutes! But I re applied a week later and the one I wrote was in reference to my second try. So in a way, I was a bit more confident. 😉
For a SCHENGEN (FRANCE) Tourist visa application & guidelines
I applied for a short-term visa in October of last year. For a SCHENGEN tourist visa, this will basically give you access to most European countries that are part of the EU (except the UK). Which means that you have to pick a European country/embassy to apply with. In my case, I choose France for a very obvious reason. Unlike US visa that you can apply anytime before you decided on your travel dates, Schengen visa requires you, at least 1 month and no longer than 3 months before your travel trip to apply.
Since I live in Brazil, that's where I applied. But Brazilians don't need a visa to travel to France, so the consulate in Rio de Janeiro are only dealing with few foreigners who are applying for a visa on a daily basis, that they don't have another agency for visa applications just like the set up in the Philippines and in China.
How to apply
*Check out the French embassy website in your country/region for specific details and required documents. The application steps below are based from my own processing experience while in Brazil.
Step 1: BOOK AN APPOINTMENT
Frenchie did the online application on my behalf because everything was in French.
Step 2: FILL OUT THE APPLICATION FORM AND PREPARE DOCUMENTS
Download the visa application forms and fill out two copies. Prepare all supporting documents.
Step 3: GO TO THE VISA CONSULATE/EMBASSY ON YOUR APPOINTED TIME
With all your supporting documents, arrive at least 15 minutes before your appointed time. Keep in mind that the security check could take some time. Look presentable and respectable.
Step 4: SUBMIT APPLICATION, PAYMENT DOCUMENTS AND PHOTOS AT YOUR APPOINTMENT
Make sure of your passport validity or expiration date. Prepare the 60 euros processing fee or the equivalent of the sum in local currency. Be ready to have your biometrics done.
Step 5: WAIT FOR THE RELEASE OF YOUR PASSPORT.
Waiting is approximately 2 to 3 weeks to receive a short-term visa and approximately 2 months to receive a long-term visa. But it may take longer if they ask for additional documents.
*All the following documents were organized in two separate folders (one folder for original copies and the other folder for the photocopies). Make sure that you organized them in the order they were asked (with big paper clips). These documents were also in accordance with my Brazilian work status visa.
- Foreigner's ID card, Carteira de Trabalho, and CPF card
- Work contract
- 3 months salary slip
- Passport (and photocopy of each pages)
- Hotel reservation or Letter of Invitation from a French national (I opted for the later)
- Flight ticket (The travel dates should coincide to the number of days of your stay)
- Holiday declaration from your employer
- Application form (filled out but don't paste your picture on it)
- ID picture (passport size)
- Travel insurance (covering at least 30,000 euros)
Please note that before setting up your visa appointment all documents are ready and in proper order. Check out www.skyscanner.com for flight tickets; check out www.booking.com for hotel reservation; and checkout April International Assistance for the travel insurance package.
Dinhs' tips on Schengen visa
- Unlike the US visa application, Schengen visa don't have a thorough 'interview' with the applicant, or at least that was in my case. The visa officer only asked me about the purpose of my trip. When I answered I was going to spend my Christmas holiday to visit my French boyfriend, he didn't inquire anymore. Ahh, the French way! 😉
- Always listen to the officer's instruction very clearly. I had a 'grumpy' one, so I was so nervous of him that I could barely hear his voice from the other side of the window.
- When in doubt, don't be afraid to ask questions politely.
- Just relax and smile.
- And the most important detail: The officer WILL NOT TELL YOU, a ''Congratulations'' or ''I'm sorry'' speech because you will only know if you were granted a visa or not when you finally received your passport. Reason for this is, they have a different person that conducts the thorough investigation on your documents and who will grant you a visa.
- So all you need to do is wait for instructions on your e-mail and pray for one stressful month until it arrives! 😉
The visa officer gave me a piece of paper like a receipt that he received my application. He only instructed me to submit my additional documents through email.
So imagine me as I danced my celebratory moves when I received and learned that I got a 40 days stay, multiple entry visa for six months to Europe. Yoohoo!!!