Saturday, February 3, 2018

My U.S. Visa Journey

"Mahirap ba mag-apply ng U.S. Visa?" "Bakit biglaan naman yung alis mo?" "Kwento ka naman paano ka nag-apply ng working visa" These are just one of the many questions that were thrown at me by my family, close friends & friends of friends that made me decide to share my story. I know I should have done this sooner but I got carried away with my new life here in Saipan and I was deliberating whether to publish this or not because this is by far the hardest & most personal aspect of my life that I'm sharing so here it is..

How did it all started? Simple. ONLINE application. I think one of the most important thing I've ever learn while living in Manila is that everything are done through online. I never knew that when I first came in Manila. You know the wide-eyed, naive, innocent girl from the province who's trying to make it in the real world. Who would have thought I can make it here right? I remember when I was applying for a job, I personally hand in my resume to various companies or commonly known as walk-in application. I didn't mind it at first since it’s a good way for me to get familiar with the city but it's actually tiring & exhausting in the long run. Not to mention that I only received a few calls from interested companies. One of my good friend suggested why don't I create an account online in jobstreet/jobsdb after I complain so much about the difficulty of finding a job. I reluctantly agreed although I did not expect much from it because in my mind companies should prefer what's on their table as opposed to soft copies. But I was wrong because after I made my account public, phone calls started coming in. And so when I decided to try my luck in working abroad, I still use the same route which is online application. I know what will be your next question. What site did I use? To be honest, I tried a lot of websites such as, jobsglobal & company websites (direct hiring) just to name a few. None of them are very responsive until I tried I won't discuss it in detail about how their sites works but just to give you an overview, it works just like any other job online search sites. What makes it unique is that all the agencies listed in the site are POEA accredited which means you're applying for a legit job & not being scammed.

I've already made a brief overview of what went down to my application in my previous post I didn't choose Saipan, Saipan chose me but basically there are 3 stages. Once you accept the job offer the agency will process your work permit which is the 1st stage. The processing of my work permit took around 4 months, relatively longer compared to other countries in the Middle East. After it is approved you have to go through medical check-up (2nd stage) & the 3rd and last step is the U.S. visa application. Out of the 3 stages, applying for a U.S. visa is the most that I'm worried about. I've heard/read a lot of rejection stories that's enough to scare me off. It doesn't also help that the US embassy is the most intimidating & strictest out of all the embassies. My agency even reassure me that I have nothing to worry about since I'm not applying for a tourist visa, it's an employment/ worker's visa (which has already been processed by the employer) so I will be fine. Well that's what they thought.

It was July of 2017 when I schedule an appointment/interview for my visa application. Head to their website to know all the steps (Note: It's a lengthy one). When the day of my interview finally arrives,
everything went very smooth until the last step which is the dreaded interview with the consul. You can actually overhear the interview process of the other applicants since it is done through a window counter just a few steps away from you while you are waiting on the line. I don't want to scare you but a lot of applicants were rejected during that day. One particular window caught my attention when a very 'stern-looking-you-better-answer-my-questions-correctly' consul keeps on rejecting one applicant after another. I was like "Lord, I don't want to be interviewed by him". But as luck would have it I was assigned in his window. The girl behind my back actually said "yes!" (it means she's safe & will be assigned to a less intimidating consul) Ang galing! That wasn't very encouraging lol. So while walking towards his window, bes I actually wanted to turn back & run away but eventually calm myself that it will be fine. I'm not applying for a tourist visa so he might be a little lenient on me but I was wrong (again!). 

Consul: Good morning! How are you today?Me: Good morning! I -I'm good (in a very low voice because honestly I'm really really really nervous)
Consul: That’s good. (Looks at his computer) You're going to work in Saipan, one of the island in Pacific Ocean known for its beautiful beaches.. (it goes something like that)
Me: Ahm yes (bes sa haba ng sinabi nia 'yes' lang nasagot ko lol I was still thinking to myself 'he just deny an applicant before me')
Consul: (Types something in his computer & there was a long silence before he speaks in a very serious voice & looks me straight in the eye) So…you're born in Cotabato City..(it wasn't even a question, he said it as a matter-of-fact)
Me: Ye-es (If there's a way to prolong the 'yes', I would have lol)
Consul: (Types something in his computer again) And what will be your job in Saipan?
Me: Internal Auditor
He actually made a face as if he's not convinced & I was bracing myself to explain my job details but surprisingly he did not made any further comments. He just breathe a heavy sigh & said "Wait a moment" closes his window & turn away from his desk to get something. At this point I'm now starting to painc & there are a thousand thoughts going to my mind 'Shit he hates me already.' 'Did I do something wrong?' 'This doesn't feel right' 'I am really in big trouble' After a while, the consul return to his desk & hands me a questionnaire "Fill this up & return to me after you finished" Dumbfounded & confused, I simply muttered "Ok"

I know, I'm thinking the same thing as you guys "What in the world is this questionnaire?" I was actually hoping some other applicants were given the same thing but I think I was the only one sheepishly completing those 3-page questionnaire. And in case you're wondering it consist of personal questions like list all the countries you've travelled for the past 10 years, name of your siblings, declaration of all your social media, name of your residence, work experience, etc. Some of it were already included in DS-160 form so I skip some questions & leave it blank (oo pasaway din ako but I have my reason) Once finished, I return to his window.

Consul: Oh it's you again.
(I handed him my questionnaire & he scan it quickly. He stops when he saw that I did not fill up my work experience)
Consul: Is this your first time to work?
Consul: Why didn't you fill this up (pointing on the part of work experience & I can see that he's about to lose his patience)
Me: Because it states here 'fill this up only if it's not specified in your DS-160 form'
Consul: Miss why don't you go back there & complete this? (And now he sounds mad, ayan magjustify pa ako)
Me: Oh ok..sorry

I quickly return to the table & filled everything completely. I mean everything. I was like one more mistake he will definitely deny my visa. Imagine what I felt when he approved another applicant bound to Saipan for work right away as I was just a few steps away from his window. Their interview didn't event last for more than 5 miutes, it was that quick. I think the consul knows that I overhear the interview because when I return to his window (yet again) defeated & crestfallen, his voice was softer & calmer.

(I think by this time no introduction was needed anymore & handed him the questionnaire)
Consul: (Scanning the papers one last time) Ok..much better
Me: I just smiled & breathe a sigh of relief
Consul: (Types something on his computer) How long did you live in Cotabato?
Me: (It took me a moment to answer him) Around 22 years
Consul: And how old are you now?
Me: 28
Consul: (He also breathe a sigh of relief) Ok not that long.
Types something in his computer again before he speaks
Consul: Unfortunately I can't issue you your visa right now since your case needs to go for additional administrative processing. (He writes something on a green form & handed it to me) This will be your case number so you can track your application.
Me: How long will I need to wait for the result?
Consul: I can't also give you a definite timeline for that since administrative processing usually takes a while to be completed
Me: So I'm just gonna wait for your call?
Consul: Just read the form (Obviously wanted to dismissed me already)
Me: Ok..thank you

It would be safe to assume that I have more questions when I leave the embassy than turning up completely oblivious of what's going to happen. First of all what the heck is 221g or administrative processing? It is of common knowledge that an applicant will know at the end of his/her interview whether he/she is approved or denied. I think I've fallen into the fine line between not approved but also not denied. So the first thing I did was to reaserch about 221g the moment I got home. It only takes one click to know that my instinct was right, I am in trouble.

Well 221g administrative processing is one lengthy topic that I wanted to discuss so I will be making it in a separate post :)