09 June 2011

To Catch a Visa

I was at the US Embassy here in Manila last week. I needed to renew my visa, as it expired this June. Hopefully, this is the last time I will be doing this. After all, I want a lifestyle upgrade, and I am doing that by trying to graduate by June 2012. Hopefully I succeed in this.

Anyway, so I flew back to Manila in order to renew my visa, and I visited my parents at the same time. My appointment was at an ungodly hour of 6:45 AM. I remember that last year, when I did this, my appointment was around 9:00 AM, but for some reason, they changed everything. Now, it’s at 6:45 AM, and I was already there around 6:15 AM.

By the time I reached the embassy, there were already so many people that were congregating in front of the entrance. There seemed to be a long line, and people were on it. I wonder why. I asked around what was happening, and it turned out that there was no line. People were just waiting for their appointment times to be called. Apparently, you cannot enter until your appointment time is up. So, I just whiled away until 6:45 AM was called, in which I was able to enter the premises.

The funny thing is that most people don’t seem to ask around. There was a line forming, so they also stepped in line. People asked if the other person was the last person in line, and they just lengthened the line. I guess this is normal human behavior: refrain from asking, just observe and act like how everyone else acts. That saves face, I suppose.

Here’s another weird thing. At the waiting area, there were several vendors. They sell pens, they take your picture if you don’t have one yet, and they store your mobile phones if you happen to have them. The thing is, mobile phones and other electronic devices are banned inside the embassy. This fact is explicitly mentioned in the confirmation letter that everyone receives, and at the website as well. Thus, if one reads everything, this will be known. However, it seems that people don’t read, as there are plenty of people who still are forced to pay 200 PHP to store their phones somewhere outside the embassy. Knowledge is power, people!

Anyway, when my time was called, I entered, and I waited. I then visited several windows. The first window was to check whether all of the documents needed are there and in good condition. The second window was to record my name, birthday, and fingerprints, and the third window was the interview. My interview lasted about 30 seconds, and my visa was approved. The person before me was denied, as she got her passport back and received a blue form.

This brings the thought, that I never had a visa request denied before. Not that I want to experience that, but it seems that there are urban legends about visas and denial. I’ve heard stories of Filipinos and ludicrous things such as “show money” and “automatic denial” and so forth. They pass these stories to people they know, and soon enough, the stories get transformed to tales of hardship with legendary proportions. But seriously, just read the requirements in the website and you’ll be fine.

(Rocky Paths, from my Ollantaytambo Series)


  1. I remember when you did a similar visa trip last year. I tend to agree with you, people don't bother reading instuctions (visa or otherwise) and then complain when bad things happen.

    That said, getting visa is sometimes challenging. I guess your case is easy, you are a student and you already proved that you meet your visa requirement. It's routine!

  2. Zhu,

    Well said! And yes, I never had any problems getting approved for my visa applications, perhaps that was just simple fortune, but I am glad that it is the case.