Thursday, June 25, 2015

7 Pointers for Your US Immigration Interview

US Embassy in Manila | The Interview: the Last Step of the US Immigration Process
The US Embassy in Manila (Google Maps)
She writes…

Months of visa processing comes close to a conclusion with an email from the National Visa Center (NVC) indicating the interview date and time at the US embassy in Manila.

I was sure that I would be able to sufficiently answer all the immigration officer’s questions because Ray and I were very hands on with our visa processing. Of course it also helped that he was with me during the interview.

Although the spouse petition usually takes a few months longer than the fiancée/fiancé visa, it was the NVC that set the interview for us. We received the email more than a month before the set schedule.

So for our final step towards completing our US immigration process, here are some lessons and insights that hopefully would be helpful and useful to those who have yet to undergo this step.

1. Know where to go

All interviews for the US Visa take place at the US Embassy in Manila.

Not having to worry about transportation in Metro Manila is a big relief considering the heavy traffic congestion everywhere. It was beneficial that over the years of traveling for field work, I found it useful to chat and befriend cabbies so that I can establish trust, exchange numbers with them and schedule pickups.

Arranging for transportation on the day of the interview gave us one less thing to worry about. We did not see any parking spaces at the embassy so if you prefer private transportation, it might be better to have someone drive you there. You may also decide to check-in at one of the hotels on Roxas Boulevard because of its proximity to the US Embassy located at:

1201 Roxas Boulevard
Manila, Philippines 1000

Listen to the instructions of the assistants at the entrance and they will tell you where to proceed. After you check in, get your number, and complete the routine fingerprint scanning, you will go through two interviews: one with a Filipino immigration officer and another with an American immigration officer.

2. Remember to bring all required documents

The interview appointment letter contains a checklist of all the documents that the you will need for the interview.

We brought a copy of all the forms and documents that we submitted as well as a photo album that also served as a timeline of our courtship and marriage. It was a good thing we brought the album because the Filipino immigration officer asked to see some photos, whereas the American immigration officer asked if I still had my CENOMAR (certificate of no marriage), which we needed to get a marriage license.

Do not forget to print your interview letter and to bring your passport because these will serve as your gate pass.

3. Be early

We were at the US Embassy gate a little past 4:00 a.m. for our 6:15 a.m. appointment. By the time we got there, there were already at least 200 people in line.

Your US citizen spouse is not really required to be with you but friends and acquaintances who have gone through the process recommended that Ray accompany me. They said his presence would help cement the authenticity of the relationship.

If anything, I think his presence helped ease tension. I’ve known other partners of Americans who were granted a visa even if their US citizen partners were not present during the interview.

4. Leave all gadgets at home

We were aware of the Embassy’s no-gadget policy so we did not bring any of our gadgets (cell phone, iPad, USB drives, digital cameras, etc.).

For those who did not know that the embassy disallowed gadgets, some sidewalk “vendors” offered interviewees and their parties a service of holding their gadgets for a nominal fee while conducting their business inside the Embassy.

A couple who was in line with of us left two mobile phones and were charged P500. The lady who kept their phones for them gave her postal ID and claim stub.

5. Stay alert

As soon as you get inside the Embassy, remember to drop your number in one of the boxes and wait for your turn.

They have several television monitors above the service window counter areas where they will flash your number together with the assigned window where you will be proceeding next.

Although there are assistants everywhere, it is best to stay alert so that you do not miss your number getting called, and so you can finish as soon as possible. We were able to finish the interview process and submit our address to the courier service for delivery within about four hours of our appointment time.

6. Stay calm

Do not look at the interview process as an oral examination where you need to review and memorize passages from stacks of readings.

If you’re feeling a wee bit insecure, power dressing might help boost your self-confidence. Just remember to dress tastefully.

It is important to stay calm so that you do not have a panic attack and forget simple details such as your maiden name and where you’re from.

During our appointment, one of the interviewees fainted and needed medical attention because he could not recall his US destination. We could only assume that his memory became hazy because he had a panic attack.

Another interviewee didn’t know the title of the position or how she came across the job for which she was applying for an employment visa. Chances are that someone else filed and applied on her behalf, but not knowing such obvious details are sure to raise red flags.

We observed that most interviewees were very tense, as if their very life depended on it. Well, even if it did, fretting won’t do you any good.

7. Be honest

Immigration officers will ask you different questions. I was asked about how Ray and I met, how many times he has visited me in the Philippines and the reason why I married him aside from love.

I was only asked about subject matters that I was supposed to know by heart.

Some of the spouses and fiancées/fiancés who underwent the interview shared some of the questions they were asked and these are some that I remember:

Why did it take you 10 years to decide to get married? which the petitioned fiancée answered that her fiancé needed time to financially secure their future.

What food did you prepare for your wedding banquet? which the petitioned spouse enumerated the food she could remember from their wedding feast almost two years prior.

What preparations have you done for your wedding? which the petitioned fiancée said there were no plans yet because there was no assurance that she would be granted a visa.

The interview is the last step to acquiring your visa, so relax and it will go very smoothly. We were done at 10:00 a.m. and by 10:30 we were already at Emerald Garden trying out their famous siopao. #


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