Monday, September 26, 2011

Overcoming US Visa Denial

A visa to travel to the US is hard to come by if you're a Filipino. But I wouldn't blame the embassy of the US for denying so many who are applying for a non-immigrant visa. They have learned from experience that a lot of Filipinos use the non-immigrant visa as if it were an immigrant visa. When they have successfully entered the US as a tourist, they would assume a new status that is not flattering at all. They would voluntarily become an illegal immigrant and never return to their home country.


The reasons for the denials are not always clear though. Those who do not qualify for a non-immigrant visa are given a piece of paper. It contains statements which are supposed to explain the reasons for visa denials. The consul officer would encircle those reasons pertaining to the applicant. But these statements do not explain in detail why anyone got denied and no further explanation is given by the consul officer either.

Personal Experience

Even before I went for my first US visa interview on February of this year, I have been hearing about stories of visa refusals. Some of my colleagues were denied a visa and had to reapply. At that time, I could not imagine that a denial would happen to me. I was banking on my ability to express myself in English. I thought that maybe those that did not qualify did not answer the questions well. I was also thinking that since a colleague with a similar job and status in life as I was got a visa, I should not have a hard time getting one for myself.  I was dead wrong!

I had to recount the unfortunate visa refusal to my boss later on. He really wanted to help me get a visa in whatever way he can so he wanted to know what happened. I told him that a guy interviewed me and asked me questions about the purpose of my travel, a few questions about my job and some about my status. I told him exactly how I answered all the questions. My boss and I could not pinpoint the reason for the denial despite our attempts to analyze what happened. The company even hired a lawyer to help out.

Second Try

Before I went to go for another visa application, I have prepared all the documents the lawyer asked me to bring. From our discussions, she thought this would improve my chances but would not guarantee an approval. The strategy was for me to hand deliver a letter from her which will explain, together with supporting documents, my financial and social ties to the Philippines. I thought this letter would do the job because the foremost thing on the mind of the interviewer is whether or not the applicant intends to return to the Philippines. The burden of proof is on the applicant but that will not be easy to do if he just answers the questions directly. So I thought a letter from the lawyer together with solid evidence to support would convince the consul without a doubt.

Bad Signs

I went to my second visa application interview on Friday, September 23. I had all the documents with me. But even though I was confident thinking I had all things ready, I can't help but feel that the signs were pointing to a denial once more.

When my number came up, I went to my designated interviewer who was at window number 6. He was still conducting an interview with an applicant so I just stood there to wait. This happened while there were also interviews happening on windows number 5 and 7. The first bad sign I sensed was when I heard the interviewer in window 5 told his applicant that he did not qualify. He then went on to issue the standard blue paper for the reason for denial. The applicant took the disapproval without much emotion and left. After that, it was window 7 who issued her own disapproval of her applicant which made me even more worried.

I tried hard to stay positive about all these. I said to myself that even if the guy in front of me got denied it will just increase my chances of being approved since the more refusals were issued the more likely is it that mine will be an approval. The consul officer who is doing the interview might have a target number of visa approvals and if the guy in front of me is unlucky then perhaps it will be to my own benefit. With this in my mind, I shuddered to hear that the applicant in front of me qualified for a visa. He was full of gratitude to the consul which I witnessed with discomfort.

As I approached the interviewer, I saw that he was American as I hoped. (There were also Filipino and Chinese consul officers.) I have rehearsed all the answers to possible questions in English which caught me a little off-guard when the consul started to ask me questions in Tagalog. He asked me questions in Tagalog and I answered back in English. I then immediately offered him the documents from our lawyer but he immediately rejected them. It's not needed he told me. I told him these were proof of my claims but they were still rejected.

Judgment Time

This was it for me, I thought to myself. My strategy to get myself a visa was rejected from the outset. I stood there and just waited for the verdict after I answered all the questions similar to those that I answered on my first interview. My mind was still trying to come up with things to say once I get the disapproval so that I might change his decision. I was telling myself that I needed to remember exactly how this one would go down since I needed to recall the incident to my boss once more.  All of these things were running through my mind when I heard the most shocking news... I was approved!
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