Obtaining American visa not difficult, but applicants must be ‘honest’
Ever wanted to explore Los Angeles’ Hollywood Walk of Fame? Breathe New York City night life or enjoy wild, carefree nights in Las Vegas?
First, you need a visa.
However, some those who have tried said that getting a US visa is as difficult as passing through the eye of a needle.
The United States Embassy in a press conference Thursday dispelled misconceptions that it is difficult for Filipino travelers to obtain an American visa, saying approval rate for the Philippines is “quite high.”
At a press conference, US consular officials said only a small percentage of applications in the Philippines are denied because applicants fail to provide the required documents, have not shown strong economic and personal ties to their country of residence, or they have declared false information.
“There’s no secret to getting a US visa,” said Kimberly Kelly, deputy Consul General of the US Embassy in Manila as she advised Filipinos to be clear and honest about the purpose of their visit to the US. “We welcome qualified legitimate travelers to the United States.”
“You want to go shopping in the United States, you want to go to Disneyland, you want to go visit family members, you want to go to a conference, you can apply for a B1/B2 visa. The US law states that an applicant needs to be able to convince the consular officer during the visa interview that they intend to abide by the terms of the visa,” Kelly said.
Applicants, she noted, should be able to prove that they have strong social, family and economic ties to the Philippines that will compel them to come back after their short trip to the US.
In 2018 alone, the embassy, which houses one of the largest consular sections in the world, has issued a total of 204,137 visas. On the average, the embassy receives 1,200 to 1,500 application a day.
Due to false perceptions, misinformation and several cases of fraud committed by visa applicants, the US Embassy launched in 2012 its Walang Sikreto (No Secret) campaign to warn people of the scams and risks of using visa fixers and to encourage them to be honest when applying for visa and where to find accurate information.
“Weeding out fraud helps us to streamline our consular operations, facilitate legitimate travel, promote people to people exchanges, increase trade and investments and improve our mutual security,” Kelly said. “We want to protect all of our applicants from becoming victims of scammers and fraudsters.”
Leon Gendin, the embassy’s Fraud Prevention Manager, warned of “severe consequences,” such as permanent ineligibility from going to the US if an applicant is caught providing fake documents.
“Success rate is high in recognizing fraud during visa application,” Gendin said.
Embassy officers, he said, are well-trained to recognize fraud and fraudulent documents, adding that the US has partnered with Philippine government agencies to easily verify authenticity of documents.
Gendin said there is no particular need to go to a travel agency to seek visa service although applicants are free to do so if they wish.
However, problems arise when so-called agencies or individuals promise to expedite “documents” that will guarantee instant approval of a US visa, a claim debunked by the embassy.
“That is patently false,” Gendin said.
Most of the time, unscrupulous individuals or agencies provide fake bank certificates and other financial documents and employment certificates to unsuspecting applicants, Gendin said. These documents, he said, are not necessarily required.
“It is a waste of money to do that. So we certainly don’t recommend anyone to get services of visa fixers to provide additional services,” he said.
To Filipinos applying for any type of visa, including the most popular B1/B2 or visitor’s visa, Gendin has this advice: “Be honest throughout the application process. Honesty is still the best policy.”
He also strongly urged applicants to go directly to the source of information – the US embassy Manila website.
“Go to the US embassy website to obtain true and accurate information on the visa application process and services we provide. Do that first.”