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How to increase your chances of being approved a tourist visa: a guide for Pinoys

passport stamps: ahhh….what a lovely way to remember all of your great trips. would be great to collect from everywhere around the world —  if you only didn’t need a visa!

We’ve all been there. We wanted to travel. We saved up months of hard-earned income to finally be able to get on that “big trip,” you know exactly what places you will visit and you’ve even single-handedly picked all of your clothes so you could look your best on your photos; and then all so suddenly, you have a major set back. A visa application.

Chances are, if you are a young, single and work an 8 hour job for a small monthly paycheck and from the Philippines. like I am, you dread a visa application, especially if that visa application is for a visit to any Western country like the US, Europe or Australia. And we all know why. Understandably, the disparity between the power of our money in comparison to the west is quite huge. So each time we intend to travel to these countries, we need, frustratingly, to prove our genuine intent and our financial capacity. It doesn’t help also that there were many Filipinos in these countries who violated their visa conditions (such as worked on a tourist visa and or overstayed their visa) in the past; therefore creating a bad reputation for the country.

I have traveled regularly to the US for the last 8 years and to Europe and Australia in the last couple of years. And I went through the same visa application procedure – and always got approval. Of course I’ve had to thank my former employer for an outstanding reputation that backed me up on my business visa applications; but for my personal holidays, I had to go through the same rigorous visa application process to show my pure holiday intent and the supporting documents that went with it.  So having gone through many visa applications and had all of them approved, I can say that I have quite a number of experience in this dreaded area. I have received many questions on this blog about visa application and what to show or how to get approved and so I decided to share my experience on this post, in the hopes of helping you increase your chances of getting approved a visa.

CAVEAT: Pls keep in mind that I am not an agent, immigration consultant or lawyer, nor do I have a connection with any of them or any of the embassies mentioned. I am merely sharing here my experience from the last 9 years in response to the overwhelming questions on our blog about how to get a visa approval. 

at the Grand Canyon, Arizona (US) in 2009

First of all, keep in mind that no one can guarantee you a visa approval – not even a lawyer, immigration consultant or agent. And just because you and a friend are both single and both have the same income does not mean that you will both end up with the same fate. There are lots of things that are being considered and each and every case is different.

The burden of showing proof of your intent and financial capacity is your responsibility, and you should therefore ensure that you have 1) genuine intent (meaning, you apply for a tourist visa because you’re going as a tourist, not to find work there) 2) all the supporting documents ready or submitted.  At the end of the day, the consul will decide on your application based on your documents (and your responses to the interview, where it is required, like in the US).  If anyone is telling you they can guarantee you a visa for a fee, run away from them as fast as possible, because that is most likely, a scam.

All the agents or immigration consultants are doing is to help you “increase your chances of approval” by reviewing your documents before you submit to the embassy. You might need an agent to help you if you don’t know where to start (what documents to gather, or what the rules are for your own case) or you’re too lazy to read lengthy rules on embassy websites.

In any visa application, I found these guidelines to be applicable and helpful:

1. Accurate, genuine documentation is key

Of utmost importance is to be truthful in your application. As I mentioned above, do not apply for a tourist visa if you intend to work or do business in the country you are visiting. Unless the tourist visa has some privileges that allows you to do some type of work or conference, you should always apply for a business visa where your intent is to work or do business, and a tourist visa, if your intent is to go on a holiday or visit friends and family. If you intend to study or have a medical treatment in that country, research on what is the most appropriate type of visa. The embassy guidelines are very helpful and contain many useful information to help you – my favorite is the Australian Embassy website, as I found their website to be easy to follow and comprehensive. All you really need is the time and patience to read through each guideline. but once you read and re-read them, you will find that in actual fact, the guidelines are very straightforward.

Submit only genuine documents. Do not ever submit a fake document to any embassy – or anywhere else  for that matter. Submitting false or altered documents could result in a visa denial and possible lifetime ban for you

Go to the embassy website for the country you intending to visit, read the full requirements and conditions of the visa you are applying for and prepare your documents according to their requirements.  Normally everything you need is on the website. If the embassy requires you fill the form electronically before you print and submit, then do so. Comply and do not be slack about it. Getting your documents right is of primary importance. 

In one of my US visa application interviews a few years ago, a young gentleman ahead of me submitted a handwritten application form to the US consul and explaining he didn’t read the website, so he assumed this was okay. Several hundred applicants were in the queue at the time. As you can imagine, the consul didn’t give him any more time, handed over his passport and told him to return only when he has accurately completed his requirements. 

If you are applying for a visa to Australia, you should know that there are no interviews. Your application will be approved solely on the basis of the supporting documents you have submitted. The rules are very strict that even the way you are supposed to close the envelope is very specific. If you do not follow to their strict specifications, your application may be denied or considered invalid. The good thing is, they have an authorized agency, VIA that reviews your document for completeness before your application envelope is closed, and submitted to the embassy. You can also call them for some questions about the documents before you even go to their office or have them come over to pick up your application envelope.

In Rome with my honey, the

privileged Aussie who almost always never need any visa application!

2. Ensure all of your required documents are complete. 

While getting your application and other documents on the right form is key, ensuring everything is included on your application is also paramount. Look also into what other document, besides what’s being required, could actually help your application. Several supporting documents, when taken as a whole, could be more powerful than only one piece of evidence. What do I mean by this? Example:

When proving your financial capacity, it is very important to show the embassy clearly what your financial status is like. Showing them only one proof (say, a bank statement with P100,000) does not guarantee that’s sufficient. In most cases, it won’t be, because in reality, you can easily use all of that P100,000 just for flight and hotel, food and transportation for just one week of stay. If you’re staying for more than that, how can you seriously pay off for the rest of your accommodation?

Other proof of financial capacity should be your Income Tax Return, payslips, credit card statement, any documents showing your ownership of personal or real property. Basically, anything that says, “yes i have more than enough funds to allow me to go and have fun on the trip, and come back home, at my own expense.”  Ensure you have the most updated documents with you. For example, last credit card statement or payslip.  

When submitting your documents, ensure they are neat and organized, so it’s easy for the consul to go through them one by one. As a general rule, I try to always include checklist on my application so that it’s easier for them to see what documents I have submitted. This is helpful, especially if you have a stack of supporting documents submitted.

3 . If you have to go to an interview (like in the US visa application), make yourself look presentable.  Do not be afraid (because I mean, seriously, this is just an interview!) Relax, breathe and be confident in your answers, but not cocky.

Review your application form before you face the consul.  Ensure everything is accurate and complete. Greet the consul and give them a smile. This should already help you start to feel at ease.

Normal questions during the interview are:

Tell me about your trip. What’s the purpose of your visit?

If you are going for a holiday, visiting friends or family, then say so.  A tourist visa generally does not permit you to work in the country you are visiting. If you intend to work or do business, then you may need to apply for a different visa. Check what the rules are before even collating your documents.

How long do you intend to stay? Who will pay for your trip? Where will you stay? How are you connected with the person you are staying with (ie sponsor)?

If someone is going to sponsor your whole, or part of your trip, then indicate that on the application form, explain it to the consul, and ensure you also provide evidences of this person’s relationship with you, as well as his/her supporting documents (proof of identity, residence, financial capacity and relationship with you)

How long have you been connected to your employer? -

This question is normally asked to show your strong ties to the Philippines. If you are a genuine travel going on a holiday, you should have with you not only proof of your payslip, but also proof of your approved holiday at work. This should show that while things maybe great in the US (or any country you are visiting for that matter), you actually have a permanent job to go back to.

In my nearly 9 years of experience helping staff from my former employer apply for a US visa, I have observed that a married individual (with a child or children) in the Philippines normally has a greater chance of getting a visa because of their strong ties. This is NOT a guarantee of getting a visa (so please don’t rush and get married the next day, LOL), but just by observation, a single, young professional who are new or still young to the company has a greater chance of denial. Speaking to some of my American friends and colleagues before, we realized it made sense. There were many young Filipinas who apparently go to the US on a tourist visa, and then overstay and never returned to the country again, or who overstayed there and married one American after another just to legalize their stay in the US. You get the picture? It’s easy for young Filipinas/Filipinos to leave the country, overstay their visa and never return home because they don’t have strong ties back home.

There are many other questions  normally asked, but these are the main ones. I found, by experience, if the consul will grant you a US visa, that the interview normally is very quick (say 5-6 questions, within a couple of minutes to less than 5 minutes). The longer an applicant is in front of the consul for the interview, the more likely we saw people getting denied. And we think this makes sense because, if there’s an issue with your application, most likely the consul will take time or give you time to prove yourself.

Of course, we also had some people got denied very quickly without even them showing any document. It’s a case to case basis and all you need to do is to get yourself ready for the interview, with all of your supporting documents ready on hand. in case you get asked as proof.

What if they deny me a visa?

Thank them for their time anyway and be respectful of their decision (don’t throw tantrums or be rude and shout at them — trust me, I’ve seen this happen). Ask kindly if they can tell you what you should be improving on your visa application next time and how soon you can apply. Try again as soon as you are able to, and if you really don’t get it, then I suggest try your holiday on other countries where you won’t need a visa. There are many of them nearby in Asia. Having regular holidays abroad could also help you in your later application – as this shows proof that you have the financial capability to go on quick out of the country trips, and you have strong ties back home (as you return each time after your trip ends)- such as family, friends, work, assets.

What if I get approved, what’s the next step?

If you get approved, check the accuracy of the information (your name, passport info, and length of stay you are allowed, for example) and the conditions of your visa (ie no work or study), before flying. Contact the embassy for any errors. Do this before you fly, or you could run into trouble. Most importantly, follow the conditions of your visa, and do not overstay. Overstaying your visa would mean violation of your visa provisions and you may be subject to a visa refusal next time you apply for a new one.

mum & I at the Forbidden City in Beijing. yea, she also dreads visa applications!

Hope you all find this post helpful. Good luck to all of you and happy travels!

Category: Forex

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