There was a crazy airline sale sometime last year, so my husband, mom, and I booked a flight from Manila, Philippines, to Los Angeles, California, USA for March 2017.
I was already pregnant when we booked the fare, so we knew that we would be traveling with our little one, but he was not born yet, so we just booked ahead because an infant is easy to follow – all you have to do is call the airline and ask them to add the infant in your booking. March 31 was the last return date for the sale, so we just booked for the first week to the last week of March, with the calculation that our son would be 3 or 4 months by the time of travel.
What I didn’t realize at the time of booking though, is that 3 months might be too early given he’d have to GET A PASSPORT, and then a U.S. Visa! I got nervous the moment I realized that, but we had already booked, so I just prayed everything would turn out as planned.
Thankfully, Pablo got his visa by January 11, 2017 – passport and US visa complete in 2.5 months! So March is all set for his first long-haul trip, yey!
Sharing with you how we applied for Pablo’s first US Visa. The type we applied for is Tourist Visa aka B1/B2 Visitor Visa, and by the time of his application, both of us parents had exisiting US visas.
STEP-BY-STEP PROCEDURE FOR US VISA APPLICATION (CLASS: TOURIST VISA AKA B1/B2 VISITOR VISA):
- Visit THIS WEBSITE
- Once you get there, it will automatically ask you if it’s your first time to apply for a visa or not. For a baby, most probably yes, right? So just click YES.
- Then it will ask you for the type of visa you’re going to apply for. Just click on NON-IMMIGRANT.
- You will then be lead HERE, which gives you the steps for applying for a visa.
- Determine your type of visa. If you are applying for a tourist visa, that would be B1/B2 VISITOR VISA. Types of visas may be found HERE.
- Pay the visa fee. As of writing, the payment is USD 160. You have to pay via the Bank of the Philippine Islands / BPI (USD or PHP, online banking accepted). To see the conversion, you have to check their updates HERE. After payment, the bank will give you a receipt (which you need to keep because you need it when you schedule for an appointment, and when you go to the US Embassy for your appointment).
- Complete the APPLICATION FORM. Guidelines are found HERE.
- Schedule an appointment by first creating a profile HERE, clicking SCHEDULE APPOINTMENT once you’re in the system. You may also call (02)9768500-02 to schedule an appointment, or you need more assistance.
- Visit the US Embassy (along Roxas Boulevard, Manila) on the date and schedule of your interview. You must bring a printed copy of your appointment letter, your DS-160 confirmation page, one photograph (2×2 with white background, no collar needed for the photo) taken within the last six months, your current and all old passports, and your payment receipt. Double check your appointment slip/letter (which you will get after you schedule an appointment) for the things you need to bring.
After we got our son’s passport last December 20, 2016, we quickly acted on Pablo’s US Visa. We did all the steps and paid via BPI’s online bank transfer (we got the receipt through email). The earliest date possible with a really early timeslot for appointment was January 05, 2017, so that’s what we got and we were scheduled for 07:45 AM.
On their paper, it says that they can only let you in the Embassy 15 minutes before your schedule, but still, we left early and just waited it out in the car.
By 07:30 AM, we were lining up outside the Embassy. For the first line, we were given a green paper that an applicant must fill up. In our case of course, we filled it up for Pablo. Somewhere in the paper, a reason is asked for why another person is filling it up for the applicant, to which the reply must be: REASON: MINOR. Type of visa: B1/B2.
After that, we were lead to another line where we were given a yellow card (that has the letter E in it, which means Express, I think) because the applicant is an infant. And then we proceeded inside (after going through security measures).
Once inside, we were told to head straight to door 1, went through another round of a metal detector, and then asked to line up behind Window #1, the window were initial screening is made. Here, they make sure you have all the requirements. Because we were with an infant, we were given priority access. However, when the lady checked our requirements, she asked us to have Pablo’s photo taken (there’s a Kodak photobooth inside the Embassy) because Pablo’s photo has “shadows” (upon looking though, I think it was the creases of the bedsheet hihi). We did this and went back to her. And then she sent us to window #15 for fingerprint scanning. Since Pablo’s very young (2 months old), he was not asked to do this. But still, we passed the window for ID verification, I guess. And then we were finally sent to a consul for the actual interview.
When we got to Window #24, the consul only asked if we’re just applying for the baby, asked to see our existing US visas, looked at his computer, and said: “Your Pablo will have his visa in a week!”
That’s it. His passport was left with the consul, and we exited right after that.
By January 11, 2017, his passport with his US Visa arrived at our doorstep. And he got a multiple entry for 10 years! Woohoo!
Here are some questions I had and some people asked me. Sharing this, too!
1. Do you need to schedule an appointment for babies?
Yes, as explained above.
2. Is appearance required for the baby?
3. Can both parents accompany the infant during application?
4. Do I need to bring a ballpen?
Yes. Black ink, please.
5. Do I need to bring a passport photo of my baby?
Yes. 1 (2×2) photo, white background.
6. Should I dress my baby with a collared top?
No need. Any decent top will do.
7. Do I need to bring my baby’s NSO/PSA Birth Certificate? How about our Income Tax Returns (ITR), or Bank Statements, etc?
Unlike other countries that require specific papers like your ITR and Bank Statement, the US Visa does not ask for anything except for the following: printed copy of your appointment letter, your DS-160 confirmation page, one photograph (2×2 with white background, no collar needed for the photo) taken within the last six months, your current and all old passports, and your payment receipt. So technically, you don’t need to bring those. However, should the consul ask you a lot of things, it’s better to be prepared and have back-up for it. We still brought our bank statements, ITRs, and marriage certificate (since my US Visa is still under my maiden name and because we were applying for our son).
8. How many years of visa validity do they give?
With Pablo, he was given a 10 year multiple entry visa. But it really depends on the consul, and I am not familiar with the process on how they decide. Some are given 5 years multiple, and some are given a single entry only.
9. Should our baby be given 5 or 10 years multiple entry visa, do we need to go back to have his/her photo updated?
No. Fortunately, we will be reminded of their cuteness for 10 years. 😛
10. Our US Visas are expiring in 5 years. Can we apply together with our baby already?
Yes. You do not have to wait until your current visa expires. You can apply for a new one even if your visa is valid.
11. How long does it take to do the whole appointment with a baby in tow?
Like mentioned above, we were given a yellow card with the letter E on it. Because of this card, we were given priority in the lines. From the time we entered door #1 to the consul, the whole thing took less than 15 minutes! I guess it’s really quick when you’re with a baby, yey!
12. Can I apply together with my baby so I get to ride his/her priority pass?
You set your appointment, so you can definitely apply with your baby. I was not able to ask if they would still give priority if an adult is applying with an infant, but with the way they were prioritizing babies in each step of the way (seriously, super VIP mode – and much appreciated!), I would think so.
Lastly, some tips…
- Yes, babies (and I think minors in general) are given priority, BUT still, eye for an early slot, most especially if you’re bringing a car. If you’re early, chances for parking right across the Embassy (where the overpass is) is high – for a fee of PHP 100.
- We all know it’s a challenge to take photos of babies for these things. It surely was when Pablo’s passport photo was being taken. So for his US Visa photo, we decided to take a photo of him ourselves, which the computer (during the online application) accepted. However, when we got to the US Embassy, we were asked to have his photo taken because there were some shadows. Thankfully, they have a photobooth inside the Embassy, so it was not much of a hassle (and thankfully, it wasn’t overpriced!), but still, to avoid these things, just go to a professional studio and have your baby’s 2×2 photo taken.
- Answering the DS-160 form is quite a challenge. It’s lengthy and asks for a lot of information. The questions depend on your answers, so it’s not a one size fits all kind of questionnaire. In our case, we mentioned that we would be living with my brother when we get there, so we were asked to give information about him – his name, address, phone number, email address, and status in the US (immigrant/ green card holder/ resident/ citizen/ etc). If the applicant him/herself has immediate family living in the US, be prepared to give all the full names, contact details, address, and status in the US.
- No phones allowed (or anything electronic) at all inside the Embassy. They don’t keep it for you either. Since we had a car, we left it in the car. However, before entering the Embassy, there were people that offered to keep your phone for a fee. I’m not sure how risky that is, so I personally suggest that you either bring a car, or leave your phone at home and just go home right after your appointment. There is a payphone inside the Embassy should you need to do an emergency call.
- The DS-160 “times out” after 20 minutes without user activity, and your data will be lost. To safeguard against data loss, click the “Save” button frequently and download the file to your local computer. Select a place on your computer to save the DS-160 file, browse to that location, and click the “Save” button in the “Save As” window. But don’t worry, should it time out, you can always do it again!
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FOR MOMS WITH MAIDEN NAMES ON THEIR VISAS…
My passport has already been changed to my married name, but my visa is not expiring until 2021, so it’s still my maiden name. My question was: Can I travel with this visa without conflict? To be sure, I went to THIS PAGE, and at the bottom, there’s a link to the LIVE SUPPORT, so we clicked it, and sent our question. They got back to us after several days and the answer is: Yes! Just bring your NSO/PSA-validated Marriage Certificate.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON BOOKING FLIGHTS FOR INFANTS…
* Adding infants in your booking is easy. So you can also do what we did – book ahead of the infant, then just add him/her later on. In our case, we scored a seatsale, right? His discounted infant rate came out much cheaper, because they considered his booking part of the seatsale, too! I believe that’s really what airlines usually do.
* We never bothered to pay extra for better seats for economy class before, but with an infant in tow, we decided to book ahead of time and get a seat upgrade. Seats to choose from for upgrade include EXIT ROW, where infants are NOT ALLOWED. So do not book exit row if you’re traveling with an infant. Always ask them for seats where bassinets may be placed.
* We booked the nicer seats before Pablo was born to save the slots, but should you book and your infant is born already, even if you have no plans on getting a seat upgrade, just call the airline. In our case, we found out that if we upgrade seats with an infant, one adult is actually free-of-charge for a seat upgrade! We ended up paying for both of us, though, because we booked before Pablo was born – again, to save the slots! They usually run out fast!
That’s it! Hope this blogpost was helpful to you! Goodluck in your application! 🙂