U.S. Embassy Manila’s New Nonimmigrant Visa Interview Process

Applicants may not know that U.S. Embassy Manila has recently changed its nonimmigrant visa interview process.  Here are four important steps to keep in mind on the day of your visa interview:

1. Please arrive at the U.S. Embassy no earlier than 15 minutes before your appointment
Contrary to popular belief, applicants DO NOT need to be at the Embassy hours before their appointment.  Sure, you may hear stories about applicants waiting in long lines outside the Embassy, but those stories came from applicants who chose to come early and stand in line.  Remember, the only one that will decide if you wait in line is you!

2. Bring the required documents
You may be surprised to know that the DS-160, also known as the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, often has sufficient information for an interviewing officer to determine if an applicant qualifies for a nonimmigrant visa.  Because of this, consular officers may not always look at supporting documents or ask extensive questions, unless there are points in the application form or interview that need further clarification.  For this reason, it is important that each applicant reads and fills out the information accurately on their visa application form.  It is okay to have assistance in completing the form, but applicants should ensure that the information is true and correct since the applicant is attesting to the facts within their application through its submission.

Remember, the only required documents for your visa application are:

  • Interview appointment letter
  • DS-160 confirmation page
  • Valid passport
  • 2” x 2” photo
  • All expired passports and U.S. visas, if applicable

Please be aware that other visa types require additional documents.  For details about each visa class, visit http://manila.usembassy.gov/nivisatype.html.

3. Go to pre-screening and finger scanning
Upon arriving at the U.S. Embassy, applicants will pass through security and enter inside the waiting area.  Embassy greeters will direct applicants to the pre-screening windows where staff will verify each applicant’s information in the DS-160 and confirm who filled out the form.  After that, applicants will undergo electronic finger-scanning before moving to the final step.

4. Be interviewed by a consular officer
The final step, perhaps also the most intimidating step for many applicants, is the interview with a Consular Officer.  Applicants will be guided by Embassy greeters from the fingerprint area to the nonimmigrant visa interview area where they will wait to be interviewed.  Unlike before, applicants will not receive a number that will decide when they’re interviewed.  Instead, applicants will wait in a line until they are directed to an open interview window.

As for the actual interview, each applicant’s case if different.  There’s no trick to getting approved for a nonimmigrant visa; just make sure that you answer the questions truthfully and relax.  Remember, the Consular Officer may not need to see supporting documents during the interview; however, once an officer has made their determination, he or she will inform the applicant at the window if the visa is approved or denied.  Regardless of the outcome, applicants will always be treated with respect.

We hope this guide helps to explain the new visa process at U.S. Embassy Manila, but don’t worry if you can’t remember all the steps!  Embassy personnel are always ready to guide and assist you on the day of your interview, especially those with special needs and the elderly.

For more information on nonimmigrant visa application procedures, please ALWAYS refer to our official website: http://manila.usembassy.gov/nonimmigrant-visa.html

Things not to bring to the U.S. Embassy

Many of our visa applicants find themselves wondering what items are allowed inside the U.S. Embassy when applying for a non-immigrant US visa.  Will there be storage for my things?  Can I bring my cell phone?  Can I listen to music on my mp3 player?  These are some of the questions that are frequently asked at the U.S. Embassy gate.

Please be aware that for the safety and security of all non-immigrant visa applicants, visitors, and employees, the following items are NOT PERMITTED:

  • any kind of electronic and battery-operated devices (mobile phone, digital camera, laptop, music player, portable game consoles such as PSP, USB thumb drive, mobile tablet, etc.)
  • lighter or any flame-generating device
  • sharp objects
  • any device with an On/Off switch
  • food and drinks

Applicants who bring such devices will be denied entry and will be requested to book a new interview appointment.  Please note that there is no storage at the U.S. Embassy for personal items, so please make arrangements to leave prohibited items in a safe location off Embassy grounds BEFORE your interview appointment time.  Remember, a timely applicant is an applicant who left their prohibited items at home!

Electronic WHITE_new graphics_resized

Nonimmigrant Visas: The Interview Waiver “Drop Box” Program

We are pleased to introduce our Interview Waiver “Drop Box” Program.  Under this program, repeat travelers to the United States may, under some circumstances, renew their visas without appearing at the U.S. Embassy for an interview.  Applicants who meet the Interview Waiver “Drop Box” Program qualifications will be able to drop off their visa application at a 2GO courier office location.  There is no need to schedule an appointment for an interview at the U.S. Embassy.

Who is qualified for Drop Box?

A visa applicant who can answer “yes” to all of the following eligibility criteria may qualify for the Interview Waiver “Drop-Box” Program.

  • I have a previous B1/B2 visa that I wish to renew.
  • My visa was issued after July 1, 2007.
  • My prior visa was valid for at least five years.
  • My prior B1/B2 visa is still valid or expired within the last 48 months.
  • I am a citizen of the Philippines.
  • My prior visa does not say “Clearance Received” or “Travel with Employer”.
  • I have my passport with my B1/B2 visa in my possession.
  • My most recent visa was issued on or after my 14th birthday.
  • The last time I applied for a B1/B2 visa it was approved.

If the answer is “yes” to all of the questions, applicants must follow this link to begin the Drop Box application process: http://manila.usembassy.gov/interview-waiver.html

If there is a “no” answer to any of the questions, applicants must follow this link to schedule an interview: http://manila.usembassy.gov/niv-application.html#3

If an applicant answers YES to the eligibility questions but is found to be ineligible for the Drop Box service, the application will be returned to the applicant via courier.  The applicant will be required to schedule a visa interview.  In some cases, the Embassy reserves the right to call an applicant for interview even if the eligibility criteria were met.

For more information and questions about the Drop Box program, please visit http://manila.usembassy.gov/interview-waiver.html or send an e-mail to ConsManilaNIV@state.gov.

Nonimmigrant Visas: Please Arrive ONLY 15 Minutes Before Your Interview

Applicants may not know that U.S. Embassy Manila has recently changed its non-immigrant visa application process.

Changes in the non-immigrant visa application mean shorter wait times for applicants and an overall easier application process, so unlike before, applicants will be allowed into U.S. Embassy Manila only 15 minutes prior to their appointment time.  The Embassy has no waiting area for applicants who come earlier than 15 minutes, and, more importantly, arriving hours earlier than your scheduled appointment DOES NOT provide any advantage or affect the outcome of your visa interview.  Don’t believe everything you read on unofficial blogs or sites that say you need to wait outside the Embassy for hours — the only one that will decide how long you wait in line is you!

Again, the next time you have a visa interview appointment, keep in mind that you need to arrive at the Embassy only 15 minutes before.

Fifteen Minutes

Tips for an acceptable visa photo

Unsure if your photo is acceptable for a U.S. visa? To ensure quick processing of your visa application, take time to check out the following criteria for an ACCEPTABLE vs UNACCEPTABLE photo.

Photo Basics


  • A clear, well composed photograph.  Photographs should be clear, focused and clearly identify the subject.
  • The subject should be facing the camera, with a neutral expression and both eyes open



  • Subject not facing forward and not looking directly at the camera, shadows on face and background, expression not neutral

original 2

Size & Position


  • Photo should be 2”x2” (51 x 51 mm) with the head centered and sized between 1” and 1.4” (25 and 35 mm).
  • Camera should be at least four feet (1.2 m) from subject; head size from chin to top of head should be between 1” and 1.4” (25 and 35 mm)

original 3


  • Camera too close to subject, causing fish-eye distortion; head size too large
  • Head is not centered properly

original 4

Pose and Expression


  • Subject is directly facing camera with a neutral expression; eyes are clearly visible

original 5


  • Subject is looking down, head is tilted forward

original 6



  • Pupils and irises are clearly visible; no glare on glasses

original 8


  • Any glare on the glasses or any shadows on the face caused by the glasses are not acceptable; tinted lens also are not acceptable

original 7

 Shadows and Lighting


  • Photo is clear and in color, reproduces skin tones accurately, and is properly exposed with no shadows

original 9


  • Photo is overexposed (too light) with shadows on face and background
  • Photo is underexposed (too dark)

original 11   original 12   original 10



  • Background is uniform, plain, white or off-white, and free of shadows

original 13


  • Background is not plain

original 14

Resolution, Print Size & Quality


  • Photo is sharp without any visible pixels or printer dots

original 15


  • Photo is blurred; face is not in focus
  • Photo displays a visible printer dot pattern (image appears grainy/noisy)
  • Photo displays motion blur – camera or subject moved during exposure

original 16     original 17



  • No other person is in the photo; the child is facing the camera with his eyes open

original 18Unacceptable

  • Another person is in the photo; background not uniform; pacifier obscures portion of the face
  • Background is not uniform; head is too low; head is not sized between 1” and 1.4” (25 and 35 mm)

original 21    original 20    original 19

Obstructions to the face


  • Full face is visible and free of shadows

original 22Unacceptable

  • Hair obscures a portion of the face
  • Strong shadows on the face; background is not clear
  • Subject’s hair obscures portion of her face

original 24     original 23


Please remember, an UNACCEPTABLE photo may significantly increase the amount of time you will spend at the Embassy since you will have to get a replacement photo.  So for a hassle free interview, make sure to come with an ACCEPTABLE PHOTO!


No Secrets – Walang Sikreto (UPDATED)

If hearing the words “Your visa has been approved!” is your goal at the end of your visa interview, then the saying, “honesty is the best policy” should be your mantra — keep no secrets.  And that’s the aim of our “Walang Sikreto” campaign.

Contrary to popular belief, there really is no perfect formula when it comes to being issued a visa.  The outcome of each case varies due to  individual circumstances and requirements.  Unfortunately, visa applicants continue to be victimized by “visa fixers,” people who charge applicants unnecessary fees and give false promises that they can “help” with the visa process.  Don’t be a victim! WalangSikreto

If you have access to the Internet then you don’t need anyone’s help to complete a visa application.  Just be honest when filling out the DS-160 and truthfully answer the consul’s questions during your interview.  Never attempt to purchase or present fraudulent documents and don’t lie on your application form or in your interview.  If you’re unsure about the process, you can always refer to the U.S. Embassy’s official website: http://manila.usembassy.gov/.

Remember, any step or payment not consistent with the information on our official website is NOT a genuine procedure.  Truth is, the real “secret” when it comes to applying for a visa to the United States is not having any (secrets) at all.  It’s as simple as that.

Nonimmigrant Visas: Afternoon Interview Slots Open in October 2015

It is a widely known fact that scheduling an interview appointment for a visa requires planning. It is one of the most important steps in acquiring a visa, because choosing your interview appointment can make or break your travel plans. Well, good news is coming your way this October! Aside from looking forward to Oktoberfest and Halloween, you’ll now have an opportunity to book for your visa interview during a limited number of afternoon openings being offered in October.

However, please take note that more slots in October means fewer slots in November because of the upcoming APEC meetings in Manila. There are no assurances that we will be able to process applications in November, so if you fail to book in October, chances are you’ll be staying in the Philippines for Christmas!

So, if you are planning to leave in December or celebrate the holidays in the United States, NOW is the best time to schedule an interview appointment. You may do so by calling our call center at (02) 976-8500, (02) 976-8501, or (02) 976-8502. The call center is open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, Manila time, except on U.S. and Philippine holidays. You may also book your appointment online by visiting http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph.

As they say, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And when it comes to scheduling your visa interview appointments this time of the year, we’d like to think that you would prefer to plan wisely!

Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Workers

Temporary nonimmigrant workers are individuals who seek to enter the United States temporarily for a specific work purpose. The US Embassy in Manila processes many applications by persons seeking to work in the United States, Guam, and Saipan.   Once granted a visa, they are restricted from being involved in work activities other than those approved in their petition.

Temporary Worker Visas

Temporary worker visas are for individuals who want to enter the United States for employment lasting a fixed period of time; they are not considered permanent or indefinite workers.  These types of visas require the prospective employer to file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Once the petition is approved, an individual may apply for a work visa.

Individuals entering the United States to work, do so under different requirements, conditions, and authorized periods of stay, based upon their visa type. The most common work visas issued by the embassy in Manila are H1b (professional and skilled workers), H2b (non-agricultural workers), L (intra-company transfers), and CW1 (workers in Saipan), but there are many other classes of work visas. Please click here to view a list of nonimmigrant temporary worker visa classifications. To apply, please check the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Procedures page.

Important Note: 

  • The approval of a petition does not guarantee that you will be issued a visa. Do not make final travel plans or buy tickets until you have a visa.
  •  Spouse and Children
    • With the exception of Cultural Exchange Visitor Q-1 visa applicants, spouses and unmarried, minor children may also apply for the same visa category as the primary applicant. The primary applicant must show that they will be able to financially support their family while in the United States.
  • Unless canceled or revoked, a visa is valid until its expiration date.  Therefore, a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport is still valid. If you have a valid visa in your expired passport, do not remove it from your expired passport. When traveling to the United States, you must present a valid passport along with your valid visa in an expired passport.
  • If granted a work visa, it is important that applicants adhere to the terms of their petition; any violation may result in removal or denial of re-entry into the United States.

For information about employment and study, please review the Temporary Workers information and Employment Authorization on the USCIS website.

For more information, please check our blog posts:

Human Trafficking: Rights, Protections & Resources

Non-Immigrant Visa FAQ

B1 Domestic Visa (Updated)



In October 2014, the VISAtisfied Voyager featured a post discussing the requirements for bringing personal or domestic employees to the United States for a temporary visit.  Since then, the Embassy has made some changes to expedite the process.

To reiterate, a personal or domestic employee is a person who works within the employer’s household to perform a variety of household services for an individual or family.  This may range from caring for children or elderly individuals to performing tasks related to household maintenance or cleaning, also known as housekeeping. Other categories of work include, but are not limited to, cooks, butlers, chauffeurs, housemaids, valets, footmen, nannies, au pairs, mothers’ helpers, gardeners, and paid companions.

To apply for a B-1 Domestic Visa, your employer must be either:

  • A U.S. citizen who has a permanent home abroad or is stationed in a foreign country but who is visiting or is assigned to the United States temporarily; or
  • A foreign citizen who is in the United States on one of the following nonimmigrant visa categories:  B, E, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, P, or Q.

At least 10 business days prior to your appointment, you must send the required information to ManilaB1domestic@state.gov . The required documents are listed below for your convenience, but can be found online at the U.S. Embassy website, HERE.

  • The subject line of your email must be:


  • Include in the body of the email:

o   Applicant’s complete name including middle name and date of birth

o   Each city and state of intended employment in the United States

o   Employer and spouse’s complete names (including middle names) and the names of any family members with whom the applicant might travel

o   Employer and spouse’s date of birth and the date of birth of any family members with whom the applicant might travel

o   Employer and spouse’s nationality and the nationality of any family member with whom the applicant might travel

Please note, you can also send the requested information before making an appointment.  Maaaring ipadala ng mas maaga ang impormasyon na hinihingi. Maaari ring ipadala ang impormasyon kahit wala pang napipiling araw ng interbyu. 

When making your interview appointment time, please schedule for 7:10 a.m.  The Embassy requires that all B1 Domestics be seen at this time.

On the day of the interview, please bring a standard contract signed by both the employer and the employee.  A sample standard contract may be found HERE. While in the United States, employers are required to pay their employees the prevailing wage of their intended destination.  This wage must be accurately reflected in the contract.  Information on the prevailing wage for each state can be found HERE.

While working in the U.S., it is important that employees’ rights are protected.  Employees can learn more about their rights in the United States and the protections available to them by reading the Legal Rights and Protections pamphlet. This pamphlet is available in English or Tagalog and can also be found HERE in audio format.   Employees will be asked by the Interviewing Officer if they have read and understand its contents. Maaaring basahin ang pamphlet sa Ingles o Tagalog. Ang Interviewing Officer ay magtatanong kung nabasa at naintindihan ng aplikante ang nilalalaman ng polyeto.

The Embassy may cancel interview appointments for applicants who fail to follow the procedure for B1 Domestic visa application.

If you have questions or comments about this topic, please feel free to post below.