I am applying for a B1 US visa for the fourth time, and although I got approved on my second and third attempts, I still feel nervous for this one.
I was denied on my first try because based from the feedback, I was just on my second month with my company at that time. Two years later, I applied again and was given a B1 visa which was valid for three months. Unfortunately, I was not able to use it because the meetings that I was supposed to attend in the US got cancelled. In 2015, I once again found myself lining up along Roxas Boulevard for another B1 visa. It was approved, and although it didn’t come with the 10-year validity that I was hoping, it was more than enough to be grateful for. I was admitted in the US for a two-week business trip. That was my first international travel, and I felt privileged that it happened in the United States!
This time, I’m ready for my fourth visit to the US Embassy in Manila in the span of five years. Knowing how unpredictable the process is, I still am not assured of another B1 visa.
UPDATE: I got my third B1 visa. Amused that I still am not eligible for a 10-year visa.
So, how do you pass a visa interview?
You may have already read other articles about this and found out that there really is no concrete or sure-way hit to get a visa. The following are the usual tips, along with my personal comments about them:
1. A good balance in your savings/bank account – in all four occasions, I’ve been advised to bring a copy of my bank account statement. However, in my three interviews, they never bothered looking at those documents. The case may be different if it were for a tourist visa application.
UPDATE: I did not bring a bank account statement during my most recent interview.
2. Your properties – such as a car, house and lot, or land titles. I was also never asked about these by any of the consular officers who interviewed me.
UPDATE: I brought with me a photocopy and the original copy of my condominium CTS (contract to sell) in my last interview, but the consul did not ask for it.
3. International travel history – this is one of the questions during my first and second visa interviews. At that time, I have never been out of the country so the answer was a direct “no”. Does it count? It didn’t seem so for a B1 visa. But it definitely strengthens your profile especially if you are applying for a tourist visa.
UPDATE: This was one of the questions to me again this time.
4. Employment – I was denied in 2012 supposedly because I was not a regular employee in my company yet. But it is interesting to note that a co-worker was given a 10-year multiple entry visa despite having been in the company for only over a month. He is also single and at that time has never traveled abroad. This also happened to several female colleagues with a comparable profile who applied in 2010. So this should give hope to those who have similar background. Nonetheless, years of employment in the same company obviously gives you an edge. Your company’s record and reputation is also a factor.
5. Letter of guarantee (LOG) – in relation to number 4, the LOG is the single most important document that you should bring with you to the interview for a B1 visa. In this letter, your company declares that it holds responsibility of you and any untoward activity that you may do in the US should you be allowed to enter. So if your company has a history of sending employees to the US who never came back (read: TNT), that may affect your chances.
UPDATE: In all my four personal appearances, this is the ONLY document that I was asked to submit while inside the embassy.
6. Civil status – they say, the chances of getting approved are higher if you are married with kids. Well, I am single with no kids.
UPDATE: Consistent to my previous applications, this is again one of the questions in my recent interview.
7. Other public records – I don’t really know much about this, but I guess a pending case in court may affect your chances of getting a visa too.
8. A pending petition. My co-worker was denied twice – first when she applied for a tourist visa, and second for a B1 visa. We suspect that her pending petition is the reason. But this may not be the same for everyone.
So what documents should you bring to the interview?
I’d say, ALL available documents. You’ll never know which one they will need, and it is always best to be ready. Keep them handy but do not give them to the consular officer unless he or she asks for it. Do not even suggest that you have those documents with you! Just relax, and enjoy the experience regardless of the turnout. Approved or not, there’s always a lesson to be learned.
Here are the questions that the officer asked me during the visa interview, and my answers. It was quite long compared to the previous ones which didn’t last longer than 3 minutes.
Consul: Good morning!
Me: Good morning! (I gave him my old and new passports, and LOG)
Consul: Why do you want to go to the US?
Me: Well, I was invited to attend meetings and trainings.
Consul: How long?
Me: One week.
Consul: So you’ve been to the US before?
Consul: That was in March 2015, what did you do there?
Me: I also attended a training.
Consul: A training for two weeks?
Consul: So who’s inviting you this time?
Me: (mentioned the name of our company)
Consul: They’ll be hosting you?
Consul: What makes this visit different from the last time? (I feel like this is the clinching question, which I was quite prepared to answer. However, my nerves made me quickly jump from my first point to the next.)
Me: Before, I attended a sales training with a group of sales persons from the US. It was more of a technical training; it was held in Minnesota. This time, I will be attending meetings with my counterparts in Colorado, and they are also bringing in our colleagues from Costa Rica (I mumbled about “planning” at the end. I was not satisfied with my answer; that was a missed opportunity knowing that there was more to discuss).
Anyway, for first time B1 visa applicants, you might be asked about why you need to fly to the US to attend meetings when you can just do conference calls and web meetings.
Consul: Aside from that trip to the US, have you been to other countries?
Me: I was in Hong Kong in 2016.
Consul: Are you married?
Consul: Have kids?
I thought that ends the interview but he seem to have spotted something on his monitor, and asked:
Consul: Have you been to Canada?
Me: I applied for a visa for Canada in 2015. (I immediately realized that my “record” is showing him my tourist visa application for Canada. It was denied but I didn’t go there anymore assuming that he already knows. He, in return, did not ask if it was approved or denied).
Consul: (While typing) Your visa is approved. You will receive it in 3-5 business days.
Me: Thank you!
Consul: Enjoy your trip.
Me: Thank you!
I just arrived from my trip to the US, and decided to update this post. My ultimate tip? Be VERY HONEST on the information that you declare on your DS-160. I actually think that I was denied the first time not because I was a new employee in our company but because I initially selected “no” to the question about having a relative in the US. I had to change my DS-160 when I realized the error, and that might have raised a red flag. During this recent interview, I did not think twice about mentioning my visa application for Canada when he asked if I have been there. It would have been more convenient to just say “no”, but I thought telling him directly that I actually applied conveys the message that I have all the right intentions.
On all four appearances, I felt that they already knew all about my background before I even got there. The interview is just a formality, and to test your honesty. So don’t lie!
I wish you the best of luck on your visa application!