How Hard Is It To Get a Tourist Visa to the USA From the Philippines?

How Hard Is It To Get a Tourist Visa to the USA From the Philippines?

(Updated 2 November 2020)

Here’s a typical comment that gets posted here at PhilFAQS, where you can learn how to move to and profit in the Philippines.  Over the past 15 years, I have heard and seen so many stories like this that it makes me sad.

There’s nothing I can do except to try to clarify the way the US laws are written and how they seem to be applied to Filipinos applying for visitor visas (tourist visas) to the USA.

Disclaimer:  Remember that I am not a lawyer and I have no connection with the US Embassy or any other agency or company involved in granting or denying US tourist visas.   These are my own personal opinions and are not legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney.

Here’s a Video That May Help.  The Outlook Isn’t Rosey

A Typical Reader Story

Names and some details changed to protect the reader’s privacy:

Can anyone please enlighten me on this one? I am a Filipina and I’ve been working abroad for 9 years.

I applied for a US Tourist Visa sometime in 2012 and got denied which I fully understand why. I was new to my job.

I was not able to demonstrate my strong ties with family, work etc.

Then I met my boyfriend who is a professional employed by the US government.  He has now returned to the USA.

We decided that I have to visit him first while we are working on our plans until my marriage annulment is over this year.

So I applied for a Tourist Visa last May and got denied.

I then filed another application and got interviewed earlier and again got denied.

I would appreciate if somebody could give me some advice on what I need to do to get a visa.

1. I have a permanent job with a construction company with a good salary.   I joined this company in August of last year. So basically, I’m less than 1 year working with the company though I stayed for 8 years with my previous employer.

2. I have sufficient funds to cover my trip and stay.

3. I have traveled to 14 countries including several times to Australia and I just got my visa to Canada approved.

Does telling the immigration officer about visiting my boyfriend help or would it do more damage?

OK, let’s take our reader’s story apart here and see what we can learn.

The first thing which disturbs me is the fact she has applied three times for a US Tourist Visa three times and has been turned down three times.

When an applicant is denied a visa the US State Department says this:

… If denied a visa, in most cases the applicant is notified of the section of law which applies …  (see Visa Denials here) …

If I have heard this story once, I have heard it a thousand times.  Visa denied with no explanation.  I’m mystified.

Does no one ever get a written notice of their denial and the section of the law (US Immigration and Naturalization Act — INA) which applies?  This denial notice would possibly tell a LOT, yet no one ever seems to get one, or if they get one, pay any attention to it.

Common Reasons For Denial

Here are some examples of visa ineligibilities, with INA references, which are explained further below.

The visa applicant:

  • Did not fully complete the visa application and/or provide all required supporting documentation – INA section 221(g)
  • Did not establish eligibility for the visa category being applied for or overcome the presumption of being an intending immigrant – INA section 214(b) (my emphasis)
  • Was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude – INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I)
  • Was convicted of a drug violation – INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II)
  • Has two or more criminal convictions for which the total sentence of confinement was 5 years or more – INA section 212(a)(2)(B)
  • Did not demonstrate proof of adequate financial support in the United States; therefore denied under public charge – INA section 212(a)(4)
  • Misrepresented a material fact or committed fraud to attempt to receive a visa – INA section 212(a)(6)(C)(i)
  • Previously remained longer than authorized in the United States – INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)

For a complete list of all visa ineligibilities contained in the Immigration and Nationality Act, see Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws.

By far the most common reason for denial of Philippine citizens, especially young, marriage-eligible Filipinas is INA section 214(b) … They can not overcome the presumption of being an intending immigrant.

Consider, just for a moment, the situation of my reader here.  She wants to go to the USA and spend time with her boyfriend/fiance’.  So do thousands and thousands of other young women.

But the “normal” path the US law spells out is that the fiance’ should file a petition for a K-1 Fiancee’ Visa.  This visa will legally admit her to the USA for 90 days.  At the end of the 90 days, the fiancee’ must do one of two things”

  1. Marry the US citizen who petitioned her, and then apply for US permanent residency status.
  2. Leave the USA, and return to the Philippines  (or go to some other country).

Problem is, the K-1 visa costs quite a bit of money and it takes a non-trivial amount of time to process …on the order of a year or so. Also, in this case, the reader is still married, and a condition for granting a K-1 visa is that BOTH parties must be free to marry at the time of application for the visa.

So even if a marriageable person comes to the US to visit here intended, the simple Tourist Visa may, even unintentionally, turn into an intending immigrant situation.  It would not be easy at all if the couple were together in the USA for 90 days and “hit it off” really well, for the fiancee’ to just say goodbye at the end of 90 days and fly back to the Philippines.

In more common language, this means the Consular Officer suspects the applicant intends to use the B2 Tourist Visa as a means to legally enter the USA and then has no further intention of leaving the USA.

In other words, “Going TnT”  (slang for “hiding and hiding”, living as an illegal in the USA, or marrying a US citizen and then applying for a change of status to a Legal Permanent Resident based upon that marriage.

The Holy Grail Of The Visa Decision Process

How Hard Is It To Get a Tourist Visa to the USA From the Philippines?Convincing intentions of returning to the Philippines at the end of their authorized US stay.  This is basically the most important criterion in the decision process.

It is also the most difficult to show convincing proof of.

Here is my take on the most significant factors that we think are used in the evaluation process:

Family Obligation

If you are single without dependents or have kids that don’t live with you, and you want to travel to the US, the officer may think you don’t have enough reason to return to your country.

I think, personally, that this is one of the most important “go/no go” factors.

However, if you have kids or dependent family members in your country, especially those with a disability who rely on you as a caretaker, that is a great sign of strong ties.

Obviously, these are factors the applicant has no control over.  Everyone’s family situation is different, and yours is what it is.

Family in the USA

If you have family in the USA, this could be a sign that you have a reason to stay in the US and it will likely work against you.  No matter how honest you are and how firm you are in your personal desire to return to the Philippines before your trip, a relative in the USA who invites you to overstay with them may destroy all your good intentions.

If you have a fiance or spouse in the US, your odds are slim to none, and you should probably opt for the fiance visa or spousal visa right away, rather than wasting $160 USD application fees or and over again.

This is the situation for a great many of my readers who seek help here.

Going to the USA to briefly meet a boyfriend and then returning to the Philippines is a plan that just isn’t going to fly in the majority of cases.  One definition of insanity is doing the same unsuccessful action over and over again while just hoping for a different outcome.

Employment Status & Verifiable Income

Being unemployed, or employed for a short period of time at the same job may hurt your case.

Having a longstanding career in your home country, and working for the same company for more than five years may help your case.

Again, not much the applicant can do to change this in a short period of time … it is what it is.

Property & Asset Ownership

Owing assets and especially property or businesses in your home country are a great sign of strong ties.

One thing I should mention here is a frequently expressed idea that the applicant should have money in the bank.

There is no specific requirement regarding this and applicants should not go through schemes to acquire “show money” strictly for the visa application process.

Besides, the Consular Officers are not stupid, they have seen most of these schemes before.

My advice?  Stay away from it.

Visit Duration

If you request to stay in the United States for a very long period of time in your application, it may be a red flag that you intend to figure out a way to simply immigrate and not return.

If you request a more realistic time span, that is specific to the purpose of your trip, this is a point in your favor.

For example, if you are traveling to a 5-day conference, requesting a trip for 3 months may certainly hurt your chances. Don’t be vague and don’t ask for obviously unreasonable lengths of stay.

Travel History

If you’ve traveled to other countries before, especially first-world countries, and did not overstay your visa and returned to your country, this is a sign that you are trustworthy to follow the visa process.

If you have traveled to a first-world country with strict immigration policies and didn’t overstay your visa, this goes a long way to prove you are trustworthy.

Means to Pay for Trip

If you have no means to pay for the trip and are relying on a friend or family member to pay, this could go against your chances.

If you have the means to pay yourself or if your company is paying for the trip, this signals that you won’t be influenced to stay illegally and get work in the USA.

Community Involvement

If you are heavily involved in your community, especially in a way that an organization would suffer if you didn’t return, this could help signal a strong tie.

If you are a full-time college student enrolled in your country, this is good evidence you have an intention to return.

Previous B1/B2 Visas

Of course, if you’ve been previously approved for a B1/B2 visa and entered the US, and returned to your country in a timely manner, this works in your favor.

However, if you previously overstayed, your odds are greatly diminished.

Purpose of Travel

The more specific and precise your purpose of travel is the better your case for travel.

If you simply state a vague purpose like “tourism”, you’re not very convincing.

If you are attending a specific conference in your profession or attending a wedding, or an event like a concert or important sporting event, or anything else that shows a convincing reason to be in a specific place at a specific time, this builds a better case.

One thing to be especially cautious about is this … if you give a specific reason for your US visit, know, by heart, the dates and ties of the event.

Saying you are going to attend a relative’s wedding when that relative is not even getting married is a bad idea.

Even if your visa is granted, when you get to the US Port of Entry the CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) officer may very well call the relative to confirm the date and time of the wedding.

Trust me, this has happened, and if you were granted the visa based on a lie, you may be getting turned right around at the US Port of Entry and being sent back to the Philippines.

What Chance Does a Filipina really Have, Anyway?

Well the US State Department publishes the rejection rate for tourist visa applicants.  For the Philippines, about 29% of applicants are denied.  Which of course, means, more than 70% of applicants are approved.

From what you read on blogs and forums about the visa process, you might think hardly anyone gets approved, while, in fact. 7 out of 10 get approved.

How To Figure Your Own Chances.

My friends at have put together a handy tool which will give you an “educated guess” on your chances of tourist visa approval.

It’s free and it takes only a few minutes to give you an expert opinion on your chances.

B1 B2 Visitor/Tourist Visa Odds of Approval

More on this subject in my article:

Can My Philippine Friend Visit Me in the USA?

Now, do you have a better understanding of How Hard Is It To Get a Tourist Visa to the USA From the Philippines?

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