Written by Crispin Aranda
Posted on December 21, 2016 |
Will the current rules on visa applications change in the next 6 months? Not likely. But do not hold your breath for the remainder of next year.
The Department of State is one of the 15 main departments under the Executive Branch – the Office of the 45th President of the United States – Donald Trump.
Nobody knows if the number of Departments will increase or be reduced. The most recent count put the total number of employees under the Executive Branch at 4,214,652. Yes, approximately 4 million, 215 thousand.
The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security are the two distinct departments separate from each other but are directly involved in the visa petition and issuance process.
Prior to the election, however, the U.S. Embassy website had already changed. The old or previous site was information-laden but not tablet or mobile gadget friendly. Now, the landing page or main page is panelized, with six main panels to choose from if you are (1) Looking for a visa; (2) Looking for U.S. Citizen services; (3) Want to study in the U.S.; (4) Looking for a job at the Embassy; (5) Need U.S. policy information and (6) Looking for the latest news.
If you need to see the latest procedures on visa appointments, for example, this info is immediately available in the previous website. Now, you have to click on Panel No. 1, then select “Nonimmigrant Visa” from the selection that appears and then click on the r U.S. Visa Information Service to get the latest news. Warning: no more eyeglasses allowed for visa photos.
In the previous website lay-out the new procedures are immediately visible such as the one we published in February 2016.
DO NOT BE ON TIME: BE 15 MINUTES - STARTING FEB. 1, 2016!
A new appointment system is now in place by the Embassy’s Immigrant Visa Unit to “ensure the highest level of customer service.” . The “staggered appointment system is “designed to minimize applicant wait time.”
“Effective February 01, 2016, Immigrant Visa interviews will be scheduled at 6:45 am, 7:30 am, 8:15 am and 9:00 am. Embassy personnel will facilitate entry of immigrant visa applicants 15 minutes prior to their respective interview time slot.”
The U.S. Embassy emphasizes in its announcement that “All applicants who arrive earlier than 15 minutes before their interview time will be asked to wait outside the Embassy premises”.
Second Increase in Medical Exam Fees starting Oct. 1, 2016; the last increase was on November 1, 2015
Starting October 1, 2016, you would have to add P5,000 plus more to the already increased medical exam fees. Read the official news from St. Lukes. And you have to set your interview or register online to ensure examination.
Increase in Medical Examination Fees Effective October 1, 2016
St. Luke's Medical Center Extension Clinic (SLEC), the Embassy's accredited panel physician, will begin charging a new medical examination fee of Php 16,042.50 for most immigrant visa applicants effective October 1, 2016. The medical fee increase is based on mandatory gonorrhea testing for all immigrant visa applicants 15 years of age and older as instructed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Please note that the medical fees for children 14 years of age or younger will remain at Php 8,600. However, if SLEC determines that a child applicant must be tested for gonorrhea, SLEC will charge the corresponding gonorrhea test fee separately.
Delivery Address Registration
After the interview and as the next step after visa approval, applicants must register the address where they want the visa packet (passport and visa) to be delivered. Registration is intended to “facilitate a timely processing of immigrant visa applications.” Registration or change of existing delivery address can be made online by clicking the “Select Document Delivery Address” link under the Immigrant Visas section of the U.S. Embassy website (http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph/).
REVISED, UPDATED PROCEDURES
How to Set Appointments
The U.S. Embassy interviews more than a thousand nonimmigrant visa applicants every day. Each minute you have not set an appointment, somebody would have taken an available slot. How would that happen?
You may get an interview date on your own or by calling the Embassy Call Center but you need to complete the following procedures first.
Embassy Manila’s Visa Information and Appointment Service center hotlines are (632) 976-8500, (632) 976-8501 or (632) 976-8502. The call center is open Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Manila time), except on Philippine and U.S. holidays. Callers in the U.S should call (703) 520-2235 on its Eastern Standard Time equivalent of operation hours.
If you are doing your own schedule checking online, you would be able to access the available dates only after completing the DS 160 application form online. The online system would automatically pause and terminate your application after long periods of inactivity. Therefore, be sure you have the information you need before you start the online form such as passport information, names of relatives in the U.S. if any, date of your first application (if you have had a refusal or issuance of visa) and any trips outside the Philippines within a given period. Only after completing the form would you be able to get an appointment date.
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