US Visitor Visa concerns. Can My Philippine Friend Visit Me in the USA?
- 1 Specific US Tourist Visa questions:
- 2 Timely Warning
- 3 The original US visitor visa questions and my answers/comments:
- 4 First: Does she need a passport?
- 5 Second: Does she need a visa?
- 6 Third: Is she eligible to apply?
- 7 Main Obstacles To Getting a US Visor’s Visa:
- 8 A Promise Means Nothing
- 9 Who Is High Risk?
- 10 Another Common Scam, Don’t Fall For It
- 11 Risky?
- 12 Is She Coming to Meet Her Man?
- 13 Intention To Return is the Holy Grail
- 14 If You Haven’t Dealt With The USCIS Before, Prepare To Get A Rude Awakening
- 15 But I Can’t Afford to Fly To The Philippines
- 16 One Other Thing to Consider
(Updated 21 September 2018)
Originally published sometime back. Significantly updated and corrected for my current reader’s information. Thanks for being a reader, by the way.
I have received a lot of queries over the years about the US Visitor Visa (known as a B2 Visa to the US State Department) for Filipinos.
Mainly these questions revolve around the subject of getting a Filipino friend a temporary visitor’s visa allowing them to enter the USA for a short visit.
People want to know, mainly:
- How do they (the visas) work,
- How much do they cost,
- Can my girlfriend get one, etc.
- I’ve heard they are very hard to get, and why?
It occurred to me today that I hadn’t written about these issues in some time when I opened an email from a reader here with some specific questions:
Specific US Tourist Visa questions:
Here are a few thoughts on the subject from my answer to him, along with some important source links.
This can be a very difficult subject, so be sure you go to official sources.
This is a prime area for fixers to pop out of the woodwork … there are probably more “fixer problems’” in this area than any other legal activity I know of in the Philippines.
A few facts to keep in mind:
- I am NOT a lawyer and what follows is personal experience and opinion only.
- If you need specific advice, get it from a qualified attorney.
- Be sure you follow the official US State Department steps when applying.
- Use only real, true legal documents. You can’t go buying a birth certificate on Recto Street and expect to get a visa issued.
- The folks at the US embassy have seen every scam in the book. Don’t try to bullshit your way through.
- There are no legitimate shortcuts.
- Anyone, US citizen or Filipino who says “I can guarantee a visa” is either a fraud or stupid. Avoid them!
- No one outside the US Embassy can “guarantee” issuance of a visa.
The original US visitor visa questions and my answers/comments:
Thanks for writing. Yes, foreigners may have a very difficult time visiting the US, depending mainly upon their nationality, age, marital status and economic means. I am assuming that you are writing about a friend in the Philippines who holds Philippine citizenship, correct?
First: Does she need a passport?
Essentially anyone who wants to visit the US must first hold a valid passport.
Be especially careful here. A great many problems and issues I have personal experience with center around the fact that many Filipinos seem “addicted” to the idea of using a ‘fixer” or some sort of “backdoor” method to get their Philippine passport.
Do it right the first time and save yourself a lot of grief. here is where you start: http://passport.com.ph/ .
I could regal you with a dozen or more tales of woe that people have brought me over the years here that involved getting a “phony” or fraudulent Philippine passport and then getting caught. The outcome is never pleasant.
Second: Does she need a visa?
People from countries which do not have a reciprocal ‘no visa’ agreement with the US must have a visa, issued by the US State Department in their home country.
The Philippines falls in that category,
Filipinos must have a visa before they can board a flight to the US.
Third: Is she eligible to apply?
Any Filipino has the right to apply for a US visitor’s visa. It can even be started online now from the US Embassy, Manila, website.
It costs US $160, cash, and the application fee is non-refundable.
So it makes good sense to be sure you meet all the requirements and have a good chance of being approved before applying.
You also might want to also read this page from the Embassy … always better to go to the source rather than listening to ‘what people tell you’.
The amount of misinformation I have heard personally on Filipina girlfriends getting US visitor’s visas is literally ASTOUNDING.
Don’t listen to what “Joe” told you down at the VFW. Read it for yourself!
Main Obstacles To Getting a US Visor’s Visa:
As the State Department says, their main concern is evidence that will convince the Consular Officer that the applicant has ties here in the Philippines sufficient to cause the applicant to return to the Philippines.
Typically this includes real estate or incorporated business owned here, spouse, family, higher-level employment, money in the bank, etc.
A Promise Means Nothing
There are at any given time hundreds of thousands of Filipinos in the USA “overstaying” their visas, that is, failing to return to the Philippines.
Sad fact, but it’s the truth.
The Filipinos even have a slang for it, TNT … tago nang tago … literally translates to “hiding and hiding”.
The duty of State Department Consular Officers is to reduce or eliminate this problem.
More info on the decision process work of US Consular Officers here.
(It’s written for the Bolivia Embassy, but it’s the same the whole world over … Just substitute “Philippines” every place you see “Bolivia”.)
Also, something you as an American citizen must understand … the level of rhetoric and mudslinging regarding the US government’s supposedly “slack” or “lax” immigration procedures has never been higher in the USA than it is now.
When US politicians spit as they complain about “illegal immigrants”, they ain’t just talking about Mexicans swimming the Rio Grande into Texas.
I’m over 70 years of age and I have never seen such outright hate spewing all across the USA regarding “Illegals”.
Like it or hate it, it’s a current fact of life.
So, since they are sworn government employees, you can expect that US Consular Officers are going to be even more vigilant in 2018 and onward than they may have been in the past.
Who Is High Risk?
A young person is usually a very high risk, as they typically have no substantial ties here in the Philippines … nothing to lose if they leave and don’t return.
A young, single woman is a particularly high risk because in addition to the possible intent she will find illegal (but readily available) work in the US and fail to return, she may find a husband in the US and not even have to worry about finding a job.
And a great many young female applicants do, in fact, have this on their mind … whether with the current friend they are chatting with now or with another man whom the first guy knows nothing about.
Again, sorry to call a spade a spade, but this is the reality, not some rose covered BS fairy tales.
Another Common Scam, Don’t Fall For It
One very common issue is the fact that a determinant that the Consular Officer often asks about is money in the bank … here in the Philippines, of course.
It is sadly very common for young ladies to tell their US friend that they need the loan of $15,000 or $20,000 dollars to put in the bank, temporarily here, so the US Embassy will grant them a visa.
Does this sound risky? Oh, you bet it is.
First, in my experience, the Consular Officers check with the bank to see how long the money has been on deposit.
Oh, the account just got opened and the money all got deposited in one lump week or two ago? Hmmm.
If YOU were the Consular Officer would YOU grant the visa?
Again, remember, these guys are not dumb. they see this crap all the time and they are sworn to protect the borders of the USA against illegal immigration.
Second, the entire relationship may be phony, put together just for the purpose of you advancing that much money. The girl may have no intention to apply for a visa, just looking for a kick monetary score.
Think that is rare? It isn’t, and many times this scam never gets reported because the American feels so embarrassed after he finally shifts over to thinking with his “big head.” He can not believe he was so dumb in handling his money.
And if you decide to report it, you report it to whom?
“Let’s see”, says your local police officer, “Help me understand here.
You sent $20,000 bucks to a woman in the Philippines you have never met, for the purpose of committing immigration fraud against the government of the US”? Can you spell your name for me where on this report I have to fill out?
Umm, never mind officer ….
Third: Suppose you do send the money and she convinces the Embassy to issue a visa.
Do you think there is even a remote chance that she might then withdraw the money and fly to the USA on her own and never even contact you?
She can live a long, long time on $20,000 dollars, hidden away in the Filipino community in the USA.
And even if you find her, she has committed no crime that is really prosecutable in the US. Good luck on getting any help from law enforcement on this issue. You are as guilty of a crime as she is, only she as the smart one. You? Not so much.
Is She Coming to Meet Her Man?
If the consular officer gets the idea she is trying to visit the US to meet up with an available man, it’s a virtual certainty the application will be denied … because there’s virtually no chance she is coming back to the Philippines if the officer issues her the visa to allow her entry.
In most cases (aside from visiting a boyfriend, that is) the reason a Filipino/a wants to visit the USA is not important. Many people cook up dramatic, sad stories about why they need to visit.
Mostly though, the Consular Officer doesn’t care about the WHY. He or she only cares about the intention to return.
Intention To Return is the Holy Grail
These are the cold hard facts of life, my friend.
Her word means nothing. All applicants are basically treated as if they are lying (mainly because, sadly, a huge percentage of them _are_).
Your word means nothing. A US citizen has no real say in the matter.
People hired into the Consular Officer jobs are not there because they are stupid, you know.
They most likely know full well that you, as the American citizen, are thinking with your “small head”.
Also, realistically, the US citizen has no control over the visitor after s/he enters.
Your word may truly be your bond and you may have every intention of ensuring she returns to the Philippines, but in reality, if she does get a visa and enters the US, you are not her “keeper”.
She is free to do anything she wants, including leaving you … you can’t call your local police or anything like that because unless or until she does anything against the law, there is no police matter to deal with.
And if you try to restrain her in any forceful manner, you yourself are going to get into a criminal situation on your own, really quick.
Remember too, realistically, you do not know this woman at all. If it were to turn out she is not who you think she is in real life, what alternatives would you have?
You can’t call the police and have her arrested for overstaying if she runs off on her own the only crime is an immigration violation, you can only report the offense to the USCIS (formerly the INS) and they will add her to the list for apprehension/deportation.
Typically that could take 10 years, so you can see why this is considered a worthwhile gamble for Filipinos … even if eventually caught, they might get 10 years or more in the US for a hundred and sixty dollar visitor visa … better odds than buying lottery tickets for sure.
If You Haven’t Dealt With The USCIS Before, Prepare To Get A Rude Awakening
Many Americans get really angry when you bring out the facts this way.
Get used to it. In immigration matters, you have little or no say in how things are handled.
Just look at the news every day with people constantly complaining about illegal immigrants, even arming themselves and threatening violence in some cases, and you’ll see why the laws are the way they are … if I were a Consular Officer, I’d probably deny a huge percentage of the applicants I interviewed as well.
Hope this answers your questions, although I doubt the answers made you happy.
My advice? Do you want to meet this young lady?
Come to the Philippines yourself.
But I Can’t Afford to Fly To The Philippines
Well, then, my friend, the truth is, you can’t afford to get into this sort of arrangement either.
I hear from so many broke people who somehow think the laws of good sense with their money just don’t apply if there’s a Filipina involved.
Pick yourself up, get a job. start your own business, save money, get out of debt and THEN go looking for romance.
I know those words may sound tough, but you just can’t “wish” your way to instant gratification these days. Sooner or later you have to “Man Up”. In this case, the time is now.
One Other Thing to Consider
The visa, once issued and in the passport is NOT a guarantee the individual is going to be able to enter the USA.
The visa is, if you will, a “license” which allows the USCIS officer at the Port Of Entry (POE), to grant her entry, if, and only if the USCIS officer feels she meets the USCIS criteria for entry.
She can expect to be interviewed upon arrival regarding her plans in the USA and her plans to return to the Philippines.
She can be “inspected” thoroughly, both her physical person and any possessions.
She can expect her cell phone to be examined, text messages read, required to give access to her social media accounts, etc. No search warrant is required for this, as a potential entrant to the USA, the Customs and Immigration Enforcement folks have this inherent right under the law.
So if she tells the officer she is entering the USA to visit a sister, when the officer calls the sister on the phone (this is done frequently), it better be the sister and not you who answers.
And last but not least, a final caution.
The individual may not receive payment from a United States source while on a B-2 visa.
Coming to the USA on a Tourist Visa and then going TnT to take an illegal, “under the table” job is a prime goal of many applicants.
USCIS officers are experts in sniffing out these sort of schemes, and they, too, are “under the gun” to be especially alert and suspicious given the current USA anti-immigrant mindset.
So make damn sure your friend doesn’t indicate she is even thinking of any sort of paid (or unpaid) employment in the USA if she gets the visa.
She could easily be turned back and returned to the Philippines at the US POE.
Not long ago a Filipino lady, well into her 50’s, was turned back at the Los Angeles airport. Why?
When the immigration officer called the woman’s elderly mother on the phone, the mother responded, “Oh, I am so glad she’s here, she is going to be my full-time permanent caregiver”.
BZZT. No employment, paid or unpaid.
Get on the next plane heading for Manila, please. (and guess who pays the airfare when someone is sent bck that way? Not the US government, that’s for sure.
Good luck with Can My Philippine Friend Visit Me in the USA?