For so many, obtaining a visa from the US Immigration is a long, expensive, route to arrive in the USA. This is true for even those in the IR2 category (Immediate Relative minor child). This category has no immigration caps and is only made available to a USC who petitions a non-USC child, whether it is a stepchild or adoption that is under age 21, through marriage of a non-USC. Typically, this is the case. But even those who become an USC can use the I-130 form to petition their kids that are not 21. Once they arrive in the USA, most automatically become a permanent Green card resident or can file for USC.
In the pre-Covid days, that is before March 2020, the whole process from filing to interview took 6-8 months. Covid drastically change it all and now it can take years. In my case, I filed my IR2 visa in October 2019. My first interview was not available until Sept. 2021, which had to be cancelled due to bad Covid in the Philippines and still in the USA. The second interview was not scheduled until March 1, 2022.
Keep in mind, the embassy staff nor do immigration make the appointment for you. It is not like a doctor's appointment, you have to continue to access their calendar at the US Travel docs website, which is not user friendly, to get the appointment. If there is no calendar, there are no appointments. One just has to continue to check the website for them. In my case, the March 1 appointment was just a fluke. I just happened to try one more time and there it was and ONLY for this day. There were no others to choose from. So, we quickly flew to the Philippines from the US, spent a lot of money, did the St. Luke Medical exam (required) and went to interview at 10:30. However, the medical exam results were not available until 1 PM, 2.5 hrs. after the interview. The embassy refused the interview because the medical records were not in hand. Despite our pleas that at 1 PM they would be, they refused to reschedule! They told us just to do this on the website and had zero compassion or mercy about our situation.
The Interview Process
Despite the failure, I was able to glean from others what the interview process is once inside and the questions they may ask, depending on whether the applicant is a young child or much older.
It is advisable to go to the embassy 1-2 hours early before the scheduled appointment because of a long line. Make sure you have the required documents and your medical records from St. Luke. You will have an option to pay for a seat or simply stand in line until your turn. The people who offer seats are not affiliated with the embassy. Do not bring ANY electronic devices because they do not allow them in the embassy. There are vendors that will "hold" you phone until you get out for around 200 pesos ($4-5).
Near the embassy entrance, a line is created and ask for specific documents like the DS-260, put your passport in a ziplock and place a ID sticker on it. As you enter, you are searched like at any airport twice. Once inside the embassy, the area is divided into sections A,B,C. You will go to whatever section assigned to. Each has its own pre-screening widows etc.
- Prepare the necessary documents
- The necessary documents that are asked for are: NBI clearance, CENOMAR, birth certificate, DS-260, and passport (ALL SHOULD BE ORIGINAL COPY)
- Once called, the Filipino interviewer will be asking you some questions based on the application form
- Bring PICTURES of you and your petitioner. If you are a minor and the petitioner is an immediate relative, bring old pictures, if possible, and the recent ones. Have one photo of the minor and petitioner together.
- If asked for proof of remittances. do not worry if you do not have them. That can easily be found by the staff.
- Once done, you will be fingerprinted in another window.
Now, all you do is sit and wait for your turn for the interview. Note that the petitioner does not actually have to appear with the applicant, but a relative will do. Once called to the interview window, it proceeds at a rapid pace in English only. Depending on the age of the minor ( 20 yrs. is far different than age 7) the interview will ask any of the following:
- What is your name?
- How old are you?
- When is your birthday?
- Who is your petitioner?
- When did your father go to US?
- How did he acquire his citizenship?
- How many are they in the house? (place where I'll be staying)
- Are your parents separated?
- Do you have pictures with him?
- Why are you going to the USA?
- When was the last time you saw your dad\step dad or mom?
- How do you communicate with your petitioner?
- How long has your petitioner lived in the USA?
- Do you have any brothers\sisters and what are their names?
- What will you do in the USA?
In a space of 15 minutes, its usually over. If the interviewer does not return your passport to you, that means the visa will be issued in 10 days or so. They will also provide instructions. If he returns it to you, then something is wrong and will delay it. If rejected, they will tell you why and what to do.