Upcoming Virtual Talks on Visas

Join us for the following online events all about Visas on the following dates:

Facebook Chat: “Anything you ever wanted to know about U.S. visas”

Date: Monday, February 9, 2015 3:30pm – 4:00pm
Title: Facebook Chat: “Anything you ever wanted to know about U.S. visas”
Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/860840843966661/

Daniela Zadrozny currently works for the Visa Office as a post liaison officer. She joined the State Department in 2004 and has served in U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Mongolia, China and Germany. Daniela will be answering questions posted on the Facebook event page during the 30 minute Facebook chat.

To post a question, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/860840843966661/

LIVESTREAM: The Visa Hour: What You Need to Know About Visas to Study in the United States

Date: Tuesday, February 10, 2015, 9:30am – 10:30am
Title: The Visa Hour: “What You Need to Know About Visas to Study in the United States”
Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/756628481103182/

Join U.S. Senior Advisor for Consular Affairs David T. Donahue and special guests for a live edition of “The Visa Hour,” featuring a moderated discussion and question-&-answer session about visas to the U.S. for study, cultural exchanges, and on-the-job training under the J-1 Intern & Trainee and Summer Work Travel Programs.

Tune in to the US Embassy’s Visa Hour on Tuesday, February 10, from 9:30-10:30am(Philippine Standard Time) and watch the livestream on the Embassy’s various social media platforms:

You may start posting your questions on Twitter using hashtag #TheVisaHour.


Travel, Love, and Visas

Date: Saturday, February 14, 2015, 2:00am – 2:30am
Title: Hangouts at State present “Travel, Love, and Visas”
Link: https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cfhcsdt5k4610b2j2d3a3uq768c

What happens if you fall in love abroad and you want to bring your foreign spouse or fiancé(e) to the USA?

Join the Bureau of Consular Affairs for a Google+ Hangout on moving your loved one overseas. We’ll talk with a newlywed about her experience with the process, a fiancé visa expert from the Bureau of Consular Affairs, and a UK-based immigration attorney who helps couples navigate the fiancé(s) visa process.

Submit your questions at https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cfhcsdt5k4610b2j2d3a3uq768c and follow the conversation online by using #TravelGovLove .


 “Can we take our personal or domestic employee on the family’s trip to the United States?”

 A personal or domestic employee is a person who works within the employer’s household. They perform a variety of household services for an individual or a family, from providing care for children and elderly dependents to cleaning and household maintenance, known as housekeeping. This includes, but is not limited to, cooks, butlers, chauffeurs, housemaids, valets, footmen, nannies, au pairs, mothers’ helpers, gardeners, and paid companions.

 A personal or domestic employee who is accompanying or following his/her employer to the United States may be eligible for a B-1 domestic visa.

 You may apply for a B-1 visitor visa to work in the United States as a personal or domestic employee for your employer in limited situations. You may work in the United States on a visitor visa if your employer is:

  • A U.S. citizen who has a permanent home or is stationed in a foreign country, but 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.

 Please check the requirements outlined here, and note the new requirement. 

 To apply, please check the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Procedures page. In addition to application procedure Step 2, you must also submit the required documents listed on our website on your appointment date.

 If you are accompanying or following to join an employer who is a foreign diplomat or government official, you may be eligible for an A-3 or G-5 visa, depending upon your employer’s visa status.

 Learn more about your rights in the United States and protection available to you by reading the Legal Rights and Protections pamphlet. This includes information on the illegality of slavery, peonage, trafficking in persons, sexual assault, extortion, blackmail, and worker exploitation in the United States.

Important Note:

Please read the pamphlet in English or in Tagalog prior to your visa interview. You will be asked if you have received, read, and understood its contents.

For more information about A-3B-1, and G-5 visas, you may visit the Department of State’s website.

For more information, please check our blog posts:

B1 domestic employee? Bring your employer!
Human Trafficking: Rights, Protections & Resources
Non-Immigrant Visa FAQ

Studying in the United States through the Philippine-American Education Foundation

An undergraduate student, graduate student, and mid-career professional share their experiences

by Sonya Schoenberger

Studying in the US can seem daunting, but the experience is often life-changing. This post will profile three Filipinos—one undergraduate student, one graduate student, and one mid-career professional—who pursued degree and non-degree studies at US Universities. Each hoped to expand his or her worldview by taking time off from studies and jobs in the Philippines to explore the resources and cultural diversity of American institutions. Jhesset Enano, an undergraduate journalism student at the University of the Philippines Diliman, pursued one year of non-degree studies at the University of Mississippi through the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program. Missy Maramara received a Masters Degree in Drama from the University of Arkansas over a three-year period. Atty. Arnel Bañas pursued one year of non-degree study and professional development opportunities at the University of Washington as a Hubert Humphrey Fellow. All were supported by the Philippine American Education Foundation (PAEF), the Fulbright Commission in the Philippines. While these three fellows had distinct academic experiences, they all found that their studies in the United States not only enlarged their worldviews, but also influenced the way they perceive and approach their lives back here in the Philippines.

Jhesset Thrina Enano, who will begin her senior year as a journalism student at the University of the Philippines Diliman this August, recently returned from a year of non-degree studies at the University of Mississippi. Jhesset’s overseas experience was supported by a grant from the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program, which is administered by the Philippine-American Educational Foundation and funded by the US Department of State.

Jhesset, who loves travel, adventure, and academics, decided to study in the US because she wanted to experience an international education firsthand. At the University of Mississippi, Jhesset took classes in news and feature writing, multimedia production, photojournalism, and design. Jhesset also studied the history of journalism in the United States and found time to take Spanish language, American government, and documentary photography courses. Outside of class, Jhesset volunteered with the local public library, a respite day service, and a campus sustainability program. She also became involved with the University of Mississippi’s large international student community and shared Philippine culture, food, and language at international events.

According to Jhesset, studying at a US University is fairly similar to studying at an institution in the Philippines. One difference she did note, though, is the number of resources that US universities provide to support the academic and professional goals of students.

“From digital laboratories to extensive libraries, the US universities really foster an environment of learning for their students. It is only up to us to take advantage of these resources.”—Jhesset Enano

Jhesset found the diversity of her peers at the University of Mississippi one of the most rewarding aspects of her experience in the United States. She now has friends not only in the United States, but also in Egypt, Montenegro, El Salvador, Japan, Germany, Venezuela, Ghana, Algeria, Vietnam, and Pakistan. The experiences and perspectives Jhesset gained from this diversity, she says, have helped her to become a true global citizen.

During her nine months in the US, Jhesset traveled to nearly 20 states, experiencing many different American geographies and cultures. One of her favorite travel experiences was a spontaneous trip she took to New Orleans, Louisiana with a friend. After driving for six hours, they watched the sun rise over the Mississippi river and indulged in French beignets and creole jambalaya while listening to New Orleans jazz. Jhesset also gushes about Washington DC’s museums and the amazing architecture of Chicago, Illinois.

One challenge that Jhesset did experience during her year abroad was a bit of homesickness. Thanks to Skype, though, she was able to connect with loved ones back home. In terms of how her US study will influence her life and career back in the Philippines, Jhesset believes her nine months in Mississippi were truly formative. “My US experience has given me a stronger voice to stand for what I truly believe in,” she wrote. “It motivated me to be a better leader and to be of better service to the Filipino people . . . I am excited to pursue my final year in journalism and soon enter the journalism field with more perspective, more knowledge and stronger belief that I can contribute change in society, one story at a time.”

“It may be quite short as it was only for nine months, but the exchange program did not feel like just a slice of my life, but rather, a lifetime of experiences. Coming back, I can say that I have definitely become more confident. I feel that I have grown and matured more as a person, and in facing my life back here in the Philippines, I am more than excited to know what I can contribute to the table and to share the knowledge and experiences that I had with my friends and colleagues.”—Jhesset Thrina Enano

Jhesset has simple advice for Filipino students thinking about study in the US: “have an open mind and heart, and be courageous!” And, importantly: “Have fun!”

Missy Maramara earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Drama at the University of Arkansas (UofA) in 2014. During her three years in the United States, Missy became involved in the University of Arkansas campus community. She co-founded Kapisanan ng Mag-aaral na Pilipino, a registered student organization for Filipinos, Fil-Americans, and UofA students interested in Filipino culture, and served as founding Vice President of the UofA Fulbright Scholars. Missy also traveled around the United States and made frequent trips to New York. In the fall of 2013, she performed “Love, Liz,” a one-person show she wrote herself, in New York City’s United Solo Festival. Missy created “Love, Liz” as a satire of the quest for the American Hollywood dream from the perspective of a Filipino in a small American town—a script inspired by her own experiences in Arkansas.

While there are many cultural differences between Arkansas and Manila, Missy says she found her new community extremely warm and welcoming. She joined UofA’s Friendship Family program and celebrated holidays with a local American host family.  One of the biggest differences between university study in the US and the Philippines, Missy says, is the relationship between students and teachers, which is much more informal in the United States. Missy also noted that the American universities give students a tremendous amount of resources and support services, including a Safe Ride program that brings students to their doors at night.

 “Professors also have a different approach to teaching. I’m used to fearing Filipino Professors in the same Filipino way we revere our elders; they really work us to the bone and outwardly demand excellence. My professors in the UofA treated me like an equal. I felt that the work load was much lighter than I was used to and that I had enough time and space to accomplish the work load, which had the same effect in the sense that I HAD to give nothing less than excellence.”—Missy Maramara

Missy found the experience of teaching in an American classroom as a graduate student particularly rewarding, and enjoyed observing, and bridging, cultural differences between her students and herself. She also took pride in her dual-identity as both a Filipino and a student of the University of Arkansas—a rich duality she showcased in her performance on a New York stage. And as for how her experience in the US will shape her career back in the Philippines?

“I have a slightly different approach to my career now, whether it be teaching or acting. I’m still me and my personality is the same, but my “dual” perspective and wider, field-specific vocabulary give me a clearer way forward that I confidently pursue. My fear of failure has been replaced by an eagerness to explore different possibilities having the proper tools to forge my way forward.”

Missy encourages other Filipino students considering US study to fully explore the possibility, as overseas study experience plays an important role in developing the skills of global citizenship. Missy also has practical advice for any students preparing to apply to US programs:  “Make sure to fully explore the program, the professors, the university and the state, because those will determine how you will grow—find the right fit!”

In 2007, Atty. Arnel Jose S. Bañas decided that he wanted to go back to school. As Deputy Secretary for the Administration and Financial Services at the Philippine Senate, Atty. Bañas recognized that taking time off from his senior position would be a surprising career move, but he was eager to pursue educational and professional development opportunities overseas that would enlarge his perspective on his work in the Philippines. Atty Bañas already held a BS in Tourism and a Bachelors and Master of Law at the time, so he decided to apply for a year of non-credit, non-degree study funded by the Hubert Humphrey fellowship. Today, he says that the fellowship was both a very positive and happy period of his life and a formative experience that has changed the way he approaches his work and relations with others back in the Philippines.

Placed in Seattle at the University of Washington (UW), Atty. Arnel studied Human Resources, Management, and Organizational Development. During his fellowship, he took two classes of his choice per term at the University of Washington, gave presentations on his professional background at various local institutions, traveled to Nevada and Washington D.C. for seminars, and engaged in professional development activities with the City of Seattle government and REI, a popular outdoor clothing and equipment company headquartered in Seattle. Through his pairing with a private and a government office, Atty. Arnel was exposed to American-style human resource management techniques, which place a strong emphasis on client and customer care.  Back in the Philippines, he adapted these techniques to Filipino culture, encouraging his staff at the Senate to be both courteous and expressive, important values in American offices.

Humphrey Fellows are allowed to choose classes on any subject, of any level, without coursework completion requirements. Atty. Arnel took several non-credit classes with UW students during his fellowship, including a course on the History of the Philippines and a Tagalog Language class, both of which were taught by Filipino professors and attended by American and Filipino-American students. These UW courses were the most diverse, multicultural classroom environments Atty. Arnel had ever experienced, even compared to his other international experiences in Australia and the United Kingdom.

While at UW, Atty. Arnel also formed deep bonds with other Humphrey Fellows, who came from all over the world. He has continued to engage with this network in the years after his fellowship, visiting his former roommate in Estonia and other fellows in India and Indonesia as well. In the wake of typhoon Yolanda, Atty. Arnel received messages of goodwill from all around the world, from his UW classmates and Humphrey network.

Atty. Arnel continues to reflect fondly on his Humphrey year, and explains that, by working with people from diverse backgrounds, and by witnessing a wide variety of problem-solving approaches, he walked away from his year in the US with a deeper understanding of both himself and others. Atty. Arnel’s advice to prospective Fulbright students, at any stage in their studies and careers, is to “run after opportunity.” Studying in the States, he explains, is a “great opportunity to learn who you are, and to improve on yourself.”

For more information on study opportunities in the US funded by the Philippine-American Education Foundation, visit http://www.fulbright.org.ph/.

Completed DS-260 Required Prior to Visa Interview


Starting October 02, 2014, all immigrant visa applicants are required to complete a DS-260 online immigrant visa application at https://ceac.state.gov/ceac prior to attending their visa interview appointment.

Applicants who appear for an interview without completed application forms will be advised to reschedule the interview by visiting the online appointment website at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph or by calling the Embassy’s Visa Information and Appointment Service at (632) 982-5555 / (632) 902-8930.

If you are asked to reschedule your interview because your DS-260 is incomplete, please note that the next available appointment may be three to six weeks after your original appointment.  To avoid lengthy delays, please complete the DS-260 well in advance of your interview date.

Visa Annotation (NIV)

I will attend a conference in the United States and was issued a nonimmigrant visa with an annotation. What does the annotation below mean?

To Attend Conference                                                                                                               New York, NY                                                                                                                           December 1-5, 2014

The visa annotation stipulates the purpose of your travel to the United States. If your nonimmigrant visa has an annotation, it means that you can only use your visa for a limited and specific purpose based on the information that you provided to the consular officer during your visa application.

For certain types of nonimmigrant visas, the annotation may also include additional information about the visa. For example, a student visa will show the SEVIS number and the name of the school. A temporary worker visa will show the name of the petitioner, the petition number, and the petition’s expiry date. Visas for domestic employees will show the name of the employer(s).

Are there restrictions if my visa is annotated?

An annotation with a date means that your entry is restricted to coincide with the purpose of your visit. If your nonimmigrant visa contains an annotation that you may only enter the United States at a certain port of entry, it is important that you only use that port of entry for both arrival and departure. For example, if you are traveling to Guam for training and your visa has the below annotation, it means that you can only use the Guam port of entry for your arrival and departure, and may not travel to the United States mainland.

To Attend Training                                                                                                                   Guam Only                                                                                                                               December 1-5, 2014

I am planning to visit my relatives in San Francisco before I proceed to my conference in New York. Can I use my visa for this purpose?

You may consider applying for a new visa if your travel plans have changed or if you intend to travel to the United States prior to the date indicated on the visa annotation.

It is important that you provide the details of your purpose of travel to the interviewing officer so that you will be issued the appropriate type of visa. If the immigration officer at the US port of entry suspects that you have any other purpose when entering the US, you may be denied entry and your visa may be cancelled.

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


Consular Fee Changes Effective September 12, 2014

The Department of State published an interim final rule (IFR) in the Federal Register on August 28, 2014 announcing fee changes for certain nonimmigrant visa (NIV) applications, immigrant visa (IV) applications, administrative and citizens’ services.  The new fees will become effective 15 days after the rule was published, which will be on September 12, 2014.

For Immigrant Visa processing, the fees for family-sponsored immigrants and the domestic review of an Affidavit of Support will increase while all other immigrant and special visa processing fees will decrease.

Likewise, the fee for K or Fiancé(e) visas, a non-immigrant visa category processed by the immigrant visa unit, will increase.

For Nonimmigrant Visa processing, the fee for Treaty Trader (E-1), Treaty Investor (E-2), and their qualified dependents, will decrease. No refunds will be available to persons who paid prior to the effective date of the new fees. All fees are valid for the usual one calendar year from the date of payment.

Additional information on these fee changes may be found on the Department of State’s website, http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/fees/fees-visa-services.html

Nonimmigrant Visa Processing Fees
Fiancé(e) visas (K) $240 $265
Treaty Trader (E-1) and Treaty Investor (E-2) $270 $205
Immigrant Visa Processing Fees
Immediate Relative and Family Preference Applications $230 $325
Employment-Based Applications $405 $345
Other Immigrant Visa Applications $220 $205
Determining Returning Resident Status $275 $180
Waiver of Two-Year Residency Requirement $215 $120
Affidavit of Support Review (only when reviewed domestically) $88 $120

Demonstrating Ties (NIV)

 Consular Officer: “Im sorry but this time, you do not qualify for a U.S. visa.”

 If you do not qualify for a nonimmigrant visa under Section 214(b) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, you will receive a blue letter from the Consular Officer at the end of the interview.  A Section 214(b) refusal typically means that you were not able to demonstrate that your intended activities in the United States would be consistent with the classification of the nonimmigrant visa for which you applied.

 U.S. immigration law assumes that all applicants to enter the United States are intending immigrants.  It is up to the applicant to prove to the Consular Officer that he/she is NOT an intending immigrant and will use the issued non-immigrant visa appropriately.  One requirement states that an applicant needs to demonstrate that he/she has a residence in a foreign country which he/she has no intention of abandoning in order to receive a visa. 

 While conducting visa interviews, consular officers look at each application individually and consider the applicant’s circumstances, travel plans, financial resources, and ties outside of the United States that will ensure the applicant’s departure after a temporary visit.

 What do you mean by “ties”(ugnayan)? 

Ties (ugnayan) are various aspects of your life that bind you to your country of residence, like your profession, employment, and social and family relationships.  All of these factors are considered in the process, and U.S. immigration law requires that the visa application be refused if these strong ties are not apparent.

In the case of younger applicants, who may not have had an opportunity to establish such ties, interviewing officers may look at educational status, grades, the situation of parents, and an applicant’s long-range plans and prospects in the Philippines.  As each person’s situation is different, there is no one answer as to what constitutes adequate ties.

For more information, please check our blog posts:
Social, Family, and Economic Ties (NIV)
I Received the Blue Letter. When Can I Reapply?
214(b) Refusals (NIV)
When an NIV Visa Is Denied (NIV)
Visitor Visas – B1/B2 (NIV)

Notice to Nonimmigrant Visa Applicants Scheduled on Tuesday, July 29, 2014

In observance of the Philippine holiday Eid-ul-Fitr on July 29, 2014, interview of applicants scheduled on this day will be moved to Monday, July 28, 2014, at the same interview time. Applicants must present their original appointment confirmation letter when they appear at the Embassy.

If an applicant cannot make it on July 28, a new appointment must be booked. To reschedule, contact the Embassy call center through the following numbers: (02) 982-5555 and (02) 902-8930, open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. Appointments can also be booked online by accessing http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph.


Fact File: Immigrant Visa (IV) Unit

U.S. Embassy Manila’s Immigrant Visa (IV) unit is the second busiest in the world, processing an average of 65,000 cases per year.  In accordance with U.S. immigration law, most petitions are based on family connections, but we also see a fair number of employment-based petitions, primarily in the healthcare field. Unfortunately, high visa demand means that some Filipinos wait longer than anyone else—over two decades at times. On the other hand, nearly one out every five fiancés petitioned around the world are Filipino—more than 5,000 each year! And with the U.S. Supreme Court striking down key aspects of the Defense of Marriage Act, the IV unit has received dozens of same-sex fiancé petitions in recent months.

To manage this workload, our American adjudicators are assisted by a talented team of local staff who provide translation services, cultural insight, and continuous processing support.

For more information, check our Consular Affairs Fact Sheet.

Petition with Pride

On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Windsor v. United States that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (the 1996 law that denies legally married same-sex couples over 1,100 protections and responsibilities of marriage) is unconstitutional. President Obama then directed federal departments to enforce the decision and ensure that federal benefits for same-sex legally married couples were implemented swiftly and smoothly. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was tasked with reviewing immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.

U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents in a same-sex marriage to a foreign national can now sponsor their spouses for a family-based immigrant visa, and U.S. citizens who are engaged to be married to a foreign national of the same sex can file a fiancé(e) visa petition for their partners. For more details please visit http://www.uscis.gov/family/same-sex-marriages.

Same-sex marriage is now permitted in 19 states plus Washington, D.C. The states are: Oregon, Pennsylvania, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Three other states allow civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples: Colorado, Nevada and Wisconsin.

Stay tuned for more about same-sex marriages in our succeeding blog posts.