How To Apply For A US Tourist Visa (Part 1)

For millions of Filipinos, the United States of America is the land of promise: famous cities, iconic landmarks, relatives eager to show you around, fantastic food choices with huge servings, exciting NBA games, and loads of shopping.

Unfortunately, we Filipinos cannot just fly into the US. To be able to legally enter America, we need an official document from their government authorizing us to enter their territory. This document is what we call a visa.

A US visa carries several advantages:
1. Duration - an approved US visa can be valid for a few weeks to up to 10 years depending on how your whole application is processed by US Embassy officials. Compare this to EU Schengen (duration of stay as per itinerary), UK (6 months), Japanese (3 months), and Chinese (duration of stay as per itinerary) visas
2. Value for Money - Total visa application fee is at $160. If you get a 10 year visa validity, that fee comes out very economical.
3. Other Visas - It is not explicitly stated anywhere but having an existing US visa is a "plus" when applying for other visas (Schengen, UK, etc) and increases your chance of approval.

I am happy to present this definitive guide to applying for a US visa.

Part ONE contains a comprehensive guide of the PLANNING phase of the visa application process.

STEP ONE: Fill-out DS-160 Form

Click HERE for the DS-160 Form

1. Before we start, make sure to prepare a soft copy of a 2x2 ID photo. You will need to upload this to be able to complete the online visa application form. Click HERE for digital photo specifications.

2. Select the location where you will be applying for the visa. Enter the captcha code. and Click on START AN APPLICATION.

3. Take note of the Application ID. This is unique for every user, and will be used to finalize the visa application process.

4. Answer the form as completely and honestly as possible. Failure to do so may lead to you having to correct the application, reschedule the interview appointment, or worse, denial of US visa.

Prepare the following info:
a. Personal Details
b. Address and Phone
c. Passport Details
d. Travel Companions (if any)
e. Previous US Travel History
f. International Travel History
g. US Contact
h. Family Details
i. Work / Education Details
j. Security Questions
5. At any point in time, you may save and come back to your application via the RETRIEVE APPLICATION button on the main DS-160 page. Just make sure you have the Application ID, Year of Birth, First 5 letters of Surname and Answer for the Security Question. You have 30 days to return to a partially completed application.

6. Submit Application

7. Print confirmation and bring with you to Embassy.

STEP TWO: Register Online

Click HERE to register to the US State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs

1. Fill-up the fields on New User Registration Page

2. Select the following.
a. Non-Immigrant Visa
b. Manila
c. Business > Tourism
d. B1/B2
3. Enter Personal Data
a. Passport Details
b. Date of Birth
c. Nationality
d. Name (as it appears on passport)
e. Country of Birth
f. Gender.
g. Enter DS-160 Application ID (From STEP ONE)
h. Contact Information: Phone Number, Mobile Number, Email
i. Mailing Address (where you prefer to receive your passport)
4. If you are applying as a family, add family members.

5. Take note of earliest available interview schedule at upper left. You cannot book dates until you have paid the application fee.

STEP THREE: Pay the US Visa Application Fee ($160)

1. The Peso Equivalent of ($160) will depend on the exchange rate. As such, this may vary daily.

2. The Visa Application Fee is NON-REFUNDABLE whether approved or denied.

3. Choose a method of payment:
a. BPI Over-The-Counter Transaction
i. Print US Visa Fee Deposit Slip. Click HERE.
ii. Go to any BPI branch.
iii. Present slip to the teller. Pay the fee.
iv. Keep and secure copy of the transaction receipt, as you will bring it with you to the Embassy.
b. Online Transaction - BPI
i. Click HERE and follow instructions.
ii. Take note of the REFERENCE NUMBER that appears (unique, changes every time you go to the page)
iii. Click HERE for more detailed instructions.
iv. Receive email confirmation from BPI once done
v. Print confirmation and bring with you to the Embassy.
c. Online Transaction - BANCNET
i. Click HERE and follow instructions.
ii. Take note of the REFERENCE NUMBER that appears (unique, changes every time you go to the page)
iii. Click HERE for more detailed instructions.
iv. Receive email confirmation from Bancnet once done
v. Print confirmation and bring with you to the Embassy.

STEP FOUR: Confirm Payment

1. Click HERE to confirm payment.

2. Log-in using your credentials from STEP TWO.

3. Enter receipt number

STEP FIVE: Choose an Appointment Date

1. Take note of the following schedule to see how long before you can book an appointment date. 
a. BPI

2. Click HERE to book an appointment date.

3.  Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, and click on SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT

4. Pick your preferred date and time from the calendar.

5. Receive email confirmation of your appointment date.

6. Print confirmation and bring with you to the Embassy.


1. Click HERE and to check your communication options (email, call, skype, livechat)

2. Telephone, Skype, and Livechat options are available 8am - 8pm, Mondays to Fridays except Philippine and US holidays.

3. I have personally tried the Livechat feature as I had problems confirming my payment (STEP FOUR) and can personally attest to being assisted promptly and pleasantly.


That concludes Part One, Planning.

CONTINUE ON TO PART TWO where we talk about how to get to the Embassy, what to do once inside, and how to act during the interview!


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