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Practical Tips on Dealing with the U.S. Consulate in Manila

By Vanessa S. Barcelona

  How to Contact By Telephone:
From the U.S., dial: 011-63-2-523-1001. If you don't get a busy signal, then you will get an automated machine. Unless you know the extension number of the person you would like to reach, you can save on your LD charges by dialing "0" right away. An operator will come on and ask you who it is you would like to speak to.
At that point, most people will say that they would like to speak with either the Non-Immigrant visa section or the Immigrant visa section. (Quick reminder: If you are calling to follow up on the status of a K-1 fiancee interview, ask to speak with the Immigrant Visa Section.) I have been told that the best time to call the Immigrant visa section is at 10:00 a.m. Manila time. For the non-immigrant section, call between 2-4p.m. Manila time.

How to Contact by Mail:

Best to send mail to their AFP/APO address:
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Embassy, Manila
FPO AP 96515

When sending documents by Federal Express or DHL, use the street address:
U.S. Embassy, Manila
1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines

Non-Immigrant Visa Processing

The U.S. Embassy in Manila allows for walk-ins as well as filing through the drop-box. If you are a first-time applicant, or if you have not been refused a visa in the last year, you can go without an appointment from 7-10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. If you've applied before and have been denied, or were requested to present additional evidence, or are there to follow up on your case, you can go without an appointment on Monday, Thursday and Friday from 7-10 a.m. Generally, the walk-in procedure will apply. Drop box applications are allowed, however, for those people with B1/2s which expired less than 5 years ago and have not been refused since; official and diplomatic passport holders; business travelers from selected corporations (list on file in the NIV Branch); J visa applicants, L-1s and E1/2s, C-1/Ds if prior C-1D visa was issued, etc.
All those wishing to enter as a B-1 domestic servant cannot use the drop box procedure, and must instead apply in person and appear for a personal interview. All applicants will be pre-screened prior to being allowed entry into the consulate. Be prepared, therefore, to show your completed application form, proof of having paid the machine-readable visa (MRV) fee, and your valid passport. The MRV fee is paid in advance at a local Bank of the Philippine Islands, which in turn issues a blue receipt which is then attached to the application form filed at the Consulate.

Immigrant Visa Processing:

Interviews are scheduled Mondays through Fridays in the morning. The latest appointments for IV interviews are scheduled at 10 a.m. Applicants are advised to bring all the documents requested on the OF-169. This is the form submitted to the Consulate with the Applicant's signature, attesting that the applicant possesses all documents required for a successful adjudication of the case. The OF-169 must be filed with the consulate before an interview is scheduled. The applicant, however, is not required to submit all documents listed on the OF-169 until the day of the interview. Also on the day of the interview, the I-864 affidavit of support and all documents in support of such form must be submitted. Note that most likely due to the delays caused by improperly filled-out I-864s, the National Visa Center has begun to pre-screen these forms even BEFORE the interview is set up with the Consulate in Manila. While this is not done in all cases, it is definitely a welcome change as the applicant can go to the interview knowing that the I-864 has already passed muster. Care must be given, however, in ensuring that documents are up to date at the time of the interview. Therefore, even if your I-864 has already been "pre-screened" by the NVC, make sure that you are able to supply the Consulate with your sponsor's updated letter of employment and recent pay stubs and latest tax returns (if taxes were filed AFTER having submitted the last 3 years' ITRs) at the time of the interview.

Common Sense Pointers for NIV Applicants:

If you are coming in as a tourist, how long are you planning on staying? For what purpose exactly? Where in the U.S. are you planning to visit? Which family and friends? Do you have their addresses and telephone numbers? Have you made arrangements to confirm your stay with them? What financial arrangements have you made to finance your trip?

What about your present employment in the Philippines? How have you made arrangements to be away from work? (You may wish to refer to last month's article for a more detailed discussion of the B-1/2 visa application process).

If you are entering for business purposes, again it is important to adequately answer any questions posed regarding the nature of your visit. If you are meeting with clients/distributors/ suppliers, show proof of the correspondence(s) made to confirm the appointment. If you are attending a conference, show proof of having registered for that conference. Have you made hotel reservations? Document them and be prepared to show them to the interviewing officer.

If you are being interviewed on the basis of an employment-based petition (H, L, O, P visas), be prepared to answer questions regarding your prospective employment -- job duties/responsibilities, salary, your employment history and how it qualifies you to perform the duties of the position, how you were offered the job, etc. Many applicants are denied visas simply because they did not go over these details prior to the interview. It is best to get a copy of the entire petition filed with and approved by INS. What is the nature of the business? How are your skills consistent with the business' needs? If you are coming in as a computer professional, what computer skills do you have that they require? If you are coming in as an accountant or auditor, what accounting system does the employer use and are you familiar with it? Also, it is good practice to talk to the attorney who filed your case at least once prior to the actual interview, to make sure that you are prepared for all possible issues that may arise in the course of your interview. You can do this by phone or if more convenient, by e-mail.

Unlike the H, L, O, and P visas, E1 or E2 visas are filed directly with the consulate, without any prior INS approval. Supporting documents for E visa applications are substantial and the applicant, usually the investor, must take great pains to ensure that s/he is able to intelligently discuss the nature of the business, its capitalization needs, financing arrangements necessary to keep the business going, and plans for the future (a detailed business plan usually helps, and such a plan must include plans for the hiring of U.S. workers in the future).

Common Sense Pointers for IV Applicants

At the moment, the Consulate reports a high refusal rate of applications on the basis of improperly filed I-864 Affidavits of Support. If you are filing for a family member and are doing so without an attorney, I suggest that at the very least, you obtain legal assistance in filling out the affidavit of support. Given the high denial rate because of improper filing of these documents, and the delays caused to your case if insufficiencies are found, it may be the most prudent course of action to obtain legal assistance, at the very least, in the preparation of this form. While the Fiancee visa is technically a non-immigrant visa, it is treated as an immigrant visa because the fiancee is coming to the U.S. essentially for the purpose of marrying the U.S. citizen. It is also treated as an immigrant visa case, in that medicals and NBI clearances are required. With respect to the affidavit of support, note, however, that some officers will require the I-134 Affidavit of support for non-immigrants; while some will require the I-864 affidavit of support for immigrants. It may be best to send both, to avoid delay in the interview process.

The U.S. consulate has been very accommodating in the treatment of children who will turn 21. It is important, however, to put them on notice as early
as possible, of these special circumstances so that sufficient time is provided not just to interview the applicant, but to do so with sufficient time remaining so that if there are problems at the initial interview, deficiencies may be overcome and the visa is issued before the child turns 21.

Lastly, when calling up the Consulate to obtain the status of a pending case, more often than not you will NOT need to speak to a Consular officer. Many
times, they are inaccessible (in a meeting or interviewing applicants) and you will become frustrated for no reason. Usually when you ask to be transferred to the IV or NIV section, a clerk will come on the phone and you can request that they provide you information on the case. Just make sure you have not only the I-130 or I-140 Approval Notice handy, but also have a copy of the interview notice. The consular employee you will be talking to will be able to access your case on the computer, but will need not only the applicant's full name, but also the I-130 or I-140 case #, and most definitely the case # provided by the consulate and available on the interview notice (begins with MNL-).

VANESSA S. BARCELONA is a partner with the law offices of Barcelona & Pilarski, P.A. She obtained her law degree from the University of Florida. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Bar Association, and the Florida Bar. Please send all e-mails to: vsbarcelona@earthlink.net


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