I was backpacking around Thailand last August, then suddenly, one of my friends was bound to New Jersey, USA that time. She gave me a crazy idea of joining her early next year, which I immediately replied, “Why not? Traveling to America sounds great!”. But I have one big problem:
I don’t have a valid tourist visa of the United States of America!
My last US visa (which is just a single entry for 6 months) expired already few years ago and I didn’t even used it. So, how? How on earth am I going to travel to America without a visa? I am not even in the Philippines, so where am I going to apply for one? And my biggest question was during that time:
Am I capable to apply in the US Embassy of Thailand as a third country national?
No, honey, I’m not referring to my Philippine passport which is considered as a third world passport. I am pertaining to third country nationals. Who are we? We are the individuals who are in transit and/or are applying for visas in countries that are not their country of origin.
To cut it short, I am holding a tourist visa in Thailand (I don’t have any work permit, etc. as I am just traveling long term), and I can’t just barge my way back in the Philippines just to apply for a visa then go back to traveling again as that option is very costly. So I’ve tried my way to research about third country nationals who applied for a US visa in another country, but to no avail, they usually recommend to go back to the home origin and apply there.
But I am a hard headed person and I love challenges like this, and so I insisted to apply for a US visa. Everything was just a risk, as if I was playing in a casino and I made a $160 bet. It felt like I was in odyssey with a 25% chance of making it.
But, I DID! The universe is great, and the odds are in favor! I got my 10-year multiple entries USA visa in Thailand!
I always believe that our Philippine passport is strong despite being a third world passport. We, Filipinos, may only be visa-free to travel to 61 countries, but I have confidence that we still have the capacity to travel around the world because of our perseverance and our attitude of always making ways in all situations.
So, what are the steps of applying for USA visa as a third country national? Simple! Actually, the process is the same with the application if you apply in your home origin.
As per December 2017, the application process is the following from US travel docs’ website:
Step 1: Pay the visa application fee.
Step 2: Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.
Step 3: Schedule your appointment on this web page. You will need three pieces of information in order to schedule for appointment:
- You passport number
- Your MRV fee payment receipt number
- The ten (10) digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page
Step 4: Visit the US Embassy/Consulate on the date and time of your visa interview.
You have to make sure that you have an ample time to collect all your requirements before your scheduled appointment date.
Here are the requirements that you have to bring during your interview:
- Passport valid for another 6 months
- DS-160 confirmation page
- Visa fee payment receipt
- Appointment confirmation
- 2×2 photo
You can also bring supporting documents like bank statement, land titles, proof of business or employment, and other documents that can prove your strong ties to your home country.
I’ve completed all the requirements, from signing-up the application forms online up to collecting all my requirements from the Philippines. I am lucky enough that my friend who invited me to the US, was also scheduled to travel to Bangkok, Thailand during the time of my interview. I’ve asked my parents, in behalf of me, to get my bank statement, birth certificate, and income tax return (ITR), which my friend brought with her to Thailand. Big thanks to my Mum, Dad, and Mach, and I’m really sorry for the big hassle!
Then, the day of judgement approached! Oh I mean, my appointment date!
I was really nervous and I kept telling to myself that I should just hope for the best and expect for the worst. I wasn’t really that well-dressed, as I only have few clothes with me during that time. Just decent looking, I guess. My friend and Awie joined me that morning, then I left my bag with them so I won’t need to pay for the locker charge since you can’t bring anything inside the US Embassy except for the requirements needed. Make sure that you arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment, as you have to go through series of security checks.
Guess what?! From lining up outside the US Embassy in Bangkok, getting ten-printed, up to being interviewed by a consul, until exiting the premises with a very big smile, it only took me ONE (1) hour! I was really shocked because back in Manila, the whole process usually takes 4-5 hours! The process was very smooth and well-organized. It’s just funny because they kept talking to me in their language since Thai people always thought that I am a local since we have the same physical resemblance.
The interview took shorter than what I’ve expected since I am considered as a third country national. Here are some of the questions which the consul asked me, with my answers:
- Why are you applying here in Bangkok and not in Manila? My friend unexpectedly invited me to visit her in the US and I am currently traveling long term around South East Asia.
- You’ve been issued with 2 visas before, why didn’t you push through on traveling to America? The last visa was issued because our film was selected for a film festival. Unfortunately, my director got denied with the visa.
- What countries have you traveled to? I’ve been to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos — then the consul cut me, and said, “Okay, okay, it’s good that you are well-traveled.”
- Who are you visiting in the US? My best friend.
- Which state are you visiting in the US? New Jersey.
The best advice that I can give you is to answer the consul’s questions with confidence and direct to the point. You don’t have to tell the complete story since he/she doesn’t have time for it. Always look straight in his/her eye, and of course, never ever lie!
After checking out my bank statement, the consul kept typing on her computer with my details. I was keeping it cool, but in reality, I wanted to run as I was really anxious. Then, she looked at me, smiled, and said,
“Welcome to America! Your passport will be delivered to you!”.