ON official count, the United States has the most number of visitors. In 2013, the US Department of Homeland Security reported a total of 173,100,000 nonimmigrants admitted.
Okay, technically, there were only 54,645,551 visitors for business and pleasure.
Applicants intending to visit the United States temporarily for business are admitted as B-1 visitors. Individuals whose purpose is to visit relatives, friends or simply to go on a tour (no matter how long or short the duration) are admitted as B-2 visitors.
While about 6.3 million visitors (officially called “nonimmigrants”) were admitted without visas – through the Visa Waiver program), all nonimmigrants seeking to enter the United States must apply for a visa in person.
From these numbers, almost 32 percent of nonimmigrants were admitted as visitors for either business or pleasure. And they were the lucky ones.
Worldwide, more than 48 percent of visa applicants expressing their interest to visit the US for pleasure were not issued visas. That was before the spate of terror attacks in Paris and specifically the shooting of civilians in San Bernardino, California.
On December 2, 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik barged into a holiday party being celebrated by office mates of Farook, killing 14 and wounding 22. Malik was later discovered to have come into the US on a nonimmigrant K-1/Fiancee visa.
The immediate aftermath was the strict enforcement of visa issuance and application for admission into the US. Contrary to popular belief, having a valid US visa does not guarantee admission into the US. A person applies for a US visa to go to the US.
That person issued a visa would have to present the visa to an immigration officer at the port of entry. The office then determines whether the visa holder should be allowed entry, undergo inspection or not. The process of inspection and being allowed into the US is the admissions procedure, separate and distinct from the visa application process.
In December last year, a family of British-Americans were denied travel to the US. Tuesday last week, a British-Iranian journalist working for the BBC was kept from boarding a plane when the US denied her visa waiver.
Now a new law passed by the US Congress (as part of a budget bill) and signed into law by President Barack Obama will no longer allow citizens of 38 countries – including the UK – who have either traveled to Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan in the past five years or are dual nationals of these states, to travel to the US under the visa waiver program.
Close to eight million applied for temporary visitor visas to the US for pleasure or business, close to a million more than in 2013.
The percentage of refusal worldwide, however, remained consistent at over 20 percent.
While there is no official record of the number of Filipino US visitor visas denied, it is not far-fetched to assume the same percentage of denial for Philippine visa applicants. There are, after all, four million Filipinos in the US whose relatives and friends could visit, not to mention join as beneficiaries of immigrant visa petitions. Pinoys admitted with their immigrant visas at a port of entry are lawful permanent residents issued their green cards after being allowed entry.
Tips for visa approval
With these developments, how could you enhance the chance of getting your visa application approved not just for the US or the other countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK?
1. Know the specific visa category you need, not what you want. In the US for example, you may specify B2 category if you really wish to visit relatives or friends or simply to have a tour of the US Selecting the B-1/B-2 category when there is less likelihood of your returning for business visit would increase the rate of denial.
2. Check the latest news and developments about this specific visa. The purpose of your visit would be affected by events and developments in the country you intend to visit. While those applying for student and tourist visas are more likely to be welcomed, individuals applying for work visas may be perceived as competing for or taking away jobs from the locals.
3. Verify the correct and latest form you need to complete and submit. Most forms are updated to reflect the most current revisions in a country’s immigration and visa laws. Be sure to check you are using and submitting the latest version.
4. Find out the most recent document checklist for the visa you need. Most Embassy and consular websites now provide a checklist either through the specific Embassy website or the designated visa application center.
5. Determine the costs related to this visa category, especially the most current visa fees. Embassies usually accept payments by credit card or banking instruments such as manager check, bank draft. Some visa application centers may accept cash on site. Be sure you know the exact amount and to whom the check is payable to.
6. If applying for a tourist visa, prepare an itinerary for the duration of your intended stay. Some Embassies prefer that you have an itinerary, to establish that you have planned for the intended trip. Others advise not to complete booking arrangements or buy tickets until after getting the visa decision.
7. If applying for permanent residency, review the steps and stages especially if a consular interview is required. Generally, family or employment-based sponsorships are in two stages: the sponsor files the petition with the specific immigration office, then the visa beneficiary applies for the visa at the Embassy. Only the US requires a personal interview. The other embassies rely on complete documentation. Where an interview is not required, be aware that your documents are the sole basis for the consular decision, hence accurate completion and elimination of inconsistencies are the key elements for visa approval.
8. Role play for the interview. If you were the consul would you approve the visa application? The consular or visa officer interviewing you (or looking at your documentation) does not know you from Adam or Eve. It is essential then that your initial documentation (and personal appearance or presentability) if an interview is necessary confirm the way you describe yourself and the purpose of your application.