Back by popular demand!
We have received a lot of positive feedback regarding our post on acceptable visa photos so we decided to post it again for those who missed it the first time!
Also, please be aware that if your photo does not meet our standards, this may significantly increase the amount of time you will have to spend at the Embassy, since you will have to get a replacement photo. And NO ONE likes to stand in long lines. Di ba?
It seems unnatural to pose for a photo in the Philippines and not smile. My Filipino friends and I love to capture moments on film and every photo is full of people in good moods and smiles.
However, if you are applying for a visa to the United States we ask that you present a full face photo with a “neutral” facial expression. This means eyes open, mouth closed, and staring straight ahead. Furthermore, glasses should be removed and long hair pulled back so that both ears are visible. If your photo is deemed unacceptable, there are Kodak photo booths inside the embassy where you can get photos retaken but this can add to the waiting time for your visa interview. Recently several applicants complained that they had to wait in long lines at the Kodak photo booth because many people (including them) had brought unusable photos.
Here are the details from the Embassy website for photo requirements.
One 2″ x 2″ standard photo. The photo must be:
• In color
• Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (22 mm and 35 mm) or 50% and 69% of the image’s total height from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. View the Photo Composition Template for more size requirement details.
• Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
• Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background
• Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
• With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open
• Taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis
• Uniforms should not be worn in your photo, except religious clothing that is worn daily.
• Do not wear a hat or head covering that obscures the hair or hairline, unless worn daily for a religious purpose. Your full face must be visible, and the head covering must not cast any shadows on your face.
• Headphones, wireless hands-free devices, or similar items are not acceptable in your photo.
• Dark glasses or glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable.
Needless to say, your visa application photo is probably not going to be in your top ten profile pictures on Facebook. But following the directions for proper photo submission will make your visa interview process go a lot faster.
For additional information on photo specifications please click here.
In the Philippines, it is not uncommon for people to raise children who are not biologically their own. They may be the children of a relative or a family friend and may have lived their entire lives with their adoptive parents. The formal adoption process in the Philippines can be a long and complicated one, so sometimes people choose to adopt children informally instead.
It is important to understand how these informal adoptions can affect your immigrant visa petitions and applications. While it is wonderful for any family to raise a child, U.S. immigration law only recognizes biological children, step children, or children who have been formally adopted. This means that if you are petitioning for your child or if your child is a derivative beneficiary of your petition, this child will not qualify for immigration benefits if he/she was informally adopted.
We have seen many sad cases at our visa windows in which children are not able to qualify for an immigrant visa because they were never formally adopted, even if they have lived their entire lives with their adoptive parents. In order to avoid this situation, it is important to go through the legal channels to adopt all children whom you would like to take to the United States with you on your immigrant petition. To qualify as an adopted child, U.S. law requires that a child be legally adopted before the age of sixteen (16) and have been in the legal and physical custody of one or both of the adoptive parents for at least two (2) years. Legal and physical custody can be accrued at one stretch of time or cumulatively over several periods. They can also be accrued before, during, and after the adoption.
These laws are in place both for a child who is the principal beneficiary of an immigrant petition (IR2 or F2A) and for a child who is the derivative beneficiary of an immigrant petition filed on behalf of his/her parent.
Note: There are different rules that govern American citizens adopting children through the Hague Process. Please see the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website for more information.
What is the process for TB screening?
Part of the medical screening process for all immigrant visa applicants is the chest X-ray examination requirement. A chest X-ray is not required for children below 15 years old, unless symptoms of tuberculosis (TB) exist, there is a history of TB, or there has been possible exposure to TB with a known case such as a family or household member with TB.
Please note that for pregnant women, since the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) has determined that chest X-rays are not harmful if taken with the proper shielding, St. Luke’s has been authorized to perform chest X-ray examinations on pregnant women in connection with their visa applications.
In certain cases, based upon the X-ray exam, abnormality consistent with pulmonary tuberculosis is observed. In these instances applicants are required to have follow up 3-day sputum specimens for AFB smears and MTB cultures for TB, the results of which will be available after 2 months.
If I am undergoing a sputum smear exam, can I still come in for my interview at the Embassy?
In the interest of public safety, visa appointments of applicants who are required to complete a sputum smear exam at St. Luke’s are scheduled at a later date when the results of the sputum smear and culture are available. The applicant need not contact the Embassy’s Immigrant Visa Unit to request rescheduling of the visa appointment. As soon as the sputum test and culture have been completed and our panel physicians have cleared the applicant for travel, St. Luke’s will advise the applicant regarding the interview scheduling.
We understand that the additional medical examinations for TB cause delays in the processing of an immigrant visa case. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is mandated by law to prevent the transmission and reduce the risk of spread of tuberculosis in the United States. As such, the strict medical screening of tuberculosis among our immigrant visa applicants is an essential component of the medical evaluation. This is a public health issue for which a Consular Officer has no discretion.
Last Sept 7, 2011, USCIS presented a final rule that launch a visa classification for foreign nonimmigrant transitional workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The CW-1 visa classification can be applied by employers of nonimmigrant workers who are ineligible for other employment-based nonimmigrant visa classification for the time being while the CNMI foreign workers permit system is in transitions to U.S. immigration law. The transition period began Nov. 28, 2009 and will end on Dec. 31, 2014.
For further information about CNMI, kindly check the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration homepage, http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis
THE ADVENTURES OF BONG VOYAGE
Bong Voyage, our perpetual immigrant visa applicant, is at the Embassy to inquire about getting an interview appointment. He approaches Consul Jimmy Murdochs at the window.
Bong Voyage: Good morning.
Consul Jimmy Murdochs: Good morning, sir. How can I help you today?
Bong Voyage: My priority date is current and I would like to schedule an interview appointment.
Consul: Sir, I can give you several options to schedule your interview. You may call our Visa Information and Appointment Service at (632) 982-5555 or (632) 902-8930. It is open Mondays through Fridays, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Manila time), except on Philippine and U.S. holidays.
Bong Voyage: Can my petitioner schedule an appointment for me instead?
Consul: Of course. Your petitioner may call (214) 571-1600, from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time). Please be sure that you or your petitioner has the case number, passport number, and passport expiry date of each applicant when requesting a visa appointment.
You can also get more information and book an appointment online at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph.
Bong Voyage: Sir, if I already had a scheduled appointment and failed to show up for some reason, can I still go through the same process for rescheduling my visa interview?
Consul: Yes, the same process should be used.
Bong Voyage: Well, thank you very much for this useful information. I came to the Embassy thinking I could schedule an interview through you, but I see I need to call or go online. Many thanks for your help.
Consul: You’re welcome, sir. You can always check the Embassy website for any updates. Please also ensure that you have completed your documents and undergone the medical examination before your interview.
For information about scheduling a K nonimmigrant visa interview, please see our recent blog post.
For many people especially Pinoys, climate is one of the biggest considerations in choosing a place to visit. Because the Philippines is a tropical country and is usually hot and humid, a lot of Pinoys want to experience or see snow (yelo).
Some first time tourist visa applicants apply for a B2 visa even before the start of the winter season in anticipation of seeing that wonderful, fluffy cold stuff.
In the States, winter officially starts December 21st. The day is known as the Winter Solstice. However, in many states, snow can begin as early as October. Depending on their geographic location, cities in the U.S. might get a few inches or a few FEET of snow. States located farther north (Michigan, New York, New Jersey) tend to get a lot of snow, while states in the south like Mississippi, Texas, Florida etc., may not see any snow at all.
Americans have many different feelings about snow. Some Americans hate snow because it can freeze house pipes, close work and schools and makes driving dangerous. You may recall the bizarre snow storm in Washington, DC in February 2010 that the Washington Post called “Snowmageddon” or “Snowpocalypse.” Others love the “winter wonderland” experience.
Why is snow so fascinating to Filipinos? Is it the season that is associated with it? Is it a picture of Santa Claus riding on a sleigh and giving gifts? Is it the sports & activities that come with the season? Or is it just the cold sensation that we are so keen to experience every time El Nino hits the country?
Before you go to the U.S. and make snow angels, we at the Visatisfied Voyager have some suggestions for what to wear during this time of the year. We’ve also got some thoughts from our colleagues regarding snow and some pictures depicting snow’s joys & sorrows…
I. Things You Wear During the Winter:
Head & neck gear – knitted hats, sunglasses, ski mask , goggles & scarf (or a jacket with a hood )
Body – Wear layers. Jacket, long sleeved shirt, sweater & pants. There are also waterproof snow pants & specialized snowsuits that are designed for winter sports
Extremities - socks (waterproof if you have), insulated boots, mittens, gloves & earmuffs
II. Excerpts from our colleagues here at the embassy on their thoughts & experiences
“I remember walking my dog at my parents’ house in Montana. I’ve skied and hiked for years in the mountains of Oregon so I thought I knew what snow felt like. However, I had no idea that Montana was so much colder! I was not outside with my dog for more than 10 minutes when my mustache started to feel strange. I touched it and realized that the breath from nose had frozen it solid! At that point I didn’t care if my dog was finished doing his business. We were going inside where it was warm!”
-NIV consular officer
“I like the snow because:
you can stick your tongue out and catch the snowflakes as they fall
You can build snowmen, women, rabbits, dinosaurs or whatever you like
Snowshoeing through a snowy forest is like walking on marshmallows
There are no bugs in the snow (or winter)
Walking on a snowy night in the country is one of the most peaceful things a person can do: the snow falls silently, the birds and animals are quiet, and you can hear your thoughts as you watch the flakes fall to the ground
Cross-country skiing is one of the most aerobic sports there is, and when you reach harmony between your movement and your body, you glide across the snow like a perfectly choreographed dance”
-Dan (American Citizen from Minnesota)
III. Joys & Sorrows (Pictures)
Photos by Michaela Hackner and Laurie Munroe Bird
THE K PACKET
Once we receive a K nonimmigrant (fiancé) visa applicant’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)-approved visa petition (I-129F) from the State Department’s National Visa Center (NVC), the applicant will be notified in writing that he/she is eligible to be scheduled for a visa interview at the Embassy. Alternatively, if an applicant received notice from NVC that his/her case has been forwarded to Embassy Manila, the applicant may call the Immigrant Visa Unit’s inquiry line at 301-2000, extension 5184 or 5185, during regular business hours to confirm if the case has already been received by the Embassy.
Once an applicant has confirmation regarding the status of the case, he/she should visit our website (http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph) or contact the Embassy’s Visa Information and Appointment Service at (632) 982-5555 or (632) 902-8930 to schedule a visa interview appointment. The Visa Information and Appointment Service is open Mondays through Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Manila time), except on Philippine and U.S. holidays. Callers in the U.S. should call (214) 571-1600 between 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time).
Applicants should have their case number, passport number, and passport expiry date ready when requesting a visa appointment.
It is important to note that K applicants must pay the visa application fee of $350 (per applicant) before they can request a visa appointment via the online appointment website or the Embassy’s Visa Call Center. For K visa payment instructions, you may visit a link to our website at.
For additional information regarding K visa scheduling, payment, and required documentation, please visit our blog post “K1: Know Before You Go.”
* Written by a member of the Embassy’s local staff. The U.S. Embassy does not endorse any particular city or website over another.
Like most people around the world, Pinoys love to shop! The thrill of going store to store, checking the merchandise, and finding a great deal is a universal feeling. O, o! Without a doubt, Filipinos love to buy and shop each and every chance they get.
If the purpose of your planned travel to the U.S. is recreational in nature, including tourism or vacation (holiday)/shopping, then a visitor visa (B-2) would be the appropriate type of visa for your travel.
But where do Pinoys go in the U.S. to shop? To find out, we conducted an informal poll of Filipino shoppers. This is by no means a complete list; however, the following places seem to be the most popular.
Just like France has Paris and England has London, the Unites States has New York City. New York City, the Big Apple, is the shopping mecca of the States. One of the greatest things about shopping in New York City is that there is a store for nearly everthing! Pinoys just need to know where to go. Whether you’re looking to buy the latest fashions, great souvenirs, or just plan a walk through, New York City’s stores are like no other.
Some Pinoys who love bargains go to New York because it is filled with great discount shopping opportunities both at stores as well as at street markets.
Pinoys will find paradise in LA. The largest manufacturing area in the western U.S. and home to many top designers, Los Angeles ranks as a global fashion center.
Miami offers everything from designer creations to everyday great deals, from elegant outdoor malls to hip neighborhoods in Miami shopping districts. There’s something for every age, taste, and budget.
Miami is also known for its specialty stores like jewelry and perfume stores, duty free shops, clothing retailers, and a lot more.
Chicago offers a wide variety of shopping experiences. Its shopping destinations also extend throughout the city. Any shopping adventure in Chicago should begin with the Magnificent Mile. This section is filled with shopping, dining, and entertainment treasures that make any vacation unforgettable.
Note: Chicago’s nickname is “The Windy City.” The wind can be strong and lowers the temperature significantly, making it very cold in the wintertime. Check the temperature and weather report before you go.
San Francisco offers some of the best shopping in the world, so it is no wonder that Pinoys want to spend some time and money in its varied shopping centers, districts, and malls. Its walkable neighborhoods also make it a great place to meet friends or family and enjoy a day of shopping, dining, theater, or a movie.
San Francisco offers a unique style with one-of-a-kind shops. Each mall and neighborhood has a distinctive feel suited to any Filipino’s mood.
Note: San Francisco is a lot colder than Los Angeles despite also being in California. Bring a jacket!
When visitors to Las Vegas want something to do besides gambling, there’s shopping!
Within walking distance or a short drive from all major resort hotels, dedicated shoppers will find vast malls displaying a wide range of products to satisfy those in search of bargains, eateries, afternoon entertainment, casual and fine attire, domestic and imported merchandise, brand names, fine art, couture creations, diamonds, and gold.
Note: Just like San Francisco can be deceptively cool, Las Vegas can be deceptively HOT! Located in the middle of the desert, this kind of “dry heat” that is typical in the desert is very different from similar temperatures in the Philippines. Visitors often try not to spend too much time outdoors…but with this kind of shopping available, who would want to?