US Embassy: I Was Disappointed But Thanks Anyway

US Embassy SingaporeDear US Embassy,

It took me a month before I was able to compose a letter. For this context, come up with a post. I couldn’t reconcile what title I would be making of: “I was rejected by the US Embassy“, “An Open Letter to the US Embassy“, “For the very first time, I got my visa application rejected“, “I Hate You US Embassy“… The latter seemed most fitting for the disappointment I was feeling that time. I knew I was not being rationale. What hate would do? It won’t change the situation. Moreover, it’s a plain waste of time and energy. It’s past. It belongs to the past. Move on.

Once I accepted it, I felt relieved. What’s left are learnings.

1) Be very clear of the “purpose”. This is where I might could have been wrong. My intention to visit US was primarily for tourism purposes. I did not elaborate to the Visa Officer that I might be attending a cousin’s wedding. But on top of all these, the deep-seated reason I had hoped to obtain a 10-year tourist visa was so that I can transit to US whenever I would fly to South America. Yes I will definitely be going back to South America again. And I wanted to have more options. Since there is no direct flight from Southeast Asia to South America. I need to transit somewhere else, like Europe, Middle East or USA (hopefully. I had hoped). But I didn’t utter all these. It never came out of my mouth. Was I scared? I thought it might not be necessary. And how do I explain to the Visa Officer that it is not US actually that I am super duper uber dying to visit – but something else – the countries towards South.

2) It is always best to “ask questions and clarifications”. (Towards the end, I will share a screen shot of my conversation with my sister who was so excited to know the result of my interview at the US embassy). When the Visa Officer asked me if I have a family in Singapore. I said, NO. If I have a family in US, I said NO again. I didn’t say though, that my family are in the Philippines and Australia. When he asked me to tell him of any other thing, of what I will be doing in US; that was the time I said, I may be attending a cousin’s wedding if it will be pushed through in October. The Visa Officer changed his facial expression and suddenly raised his voice. He told me, you said, you have no family in US? I said, yes, I have no family in US. I have a cousin though. Thus, it’s a relative, not a family. He then straight away gave me a letter of rejection saying that I won’t be able to have a visa because I don’t demonstrate a “strong ties” blah blah blah. I asked, what he meant by “strong ties” – he didn’t answer my question nor gave me a clear definition. Just handed me that piece of paper with strong ties blah blah blah for me to read. And before I can ask for another question or look for further explanation, the next applicant has been called. Poor me. I was totally out of the picture.

For this, the definition of “family” – perhaps the Visa Officer’s viewpoint involves: relatives, niece, nephews, uncle or aunties. My definition, comes my immediate family: father, mother, sisters or brothers. Anything outside my immediate family, we call relatives. Maybe I sounded uber pilosopo that the officer got irritated? I don’t know. How shallow could that be. I felt so stupid for being trapped in this no brainer boring discourse.

3) Assumptions can be dangerous. The Visa Officer could have been assumed that I may not return to my home country or my current residence. Hello. Earth is my home. Kidding aside. What immediately comes to my mind when I received the decision straight to my face was that this Visa Officer might be thinking another pinoy might be going for TNT in US. Apologies for my fellow folks for having this stereotyping mindset. But I couldn’t think of any acceptable or justifiable answer for my visa rejection at that very moment. It was cold inside the room. But the temperature was rising towards my head and I noticed I was sweating a lot. Talking to myself. Oh God, this is what it’s like to be rejected.

Along those huge crowd of people. I wonder about the per day statistics of visa rejection. And I can’t help thinking, that when a certain phrase such that “could not establish strong ties” – could not be explained clearly in simple terms and remains vague, it is dangerous. When something is vague, it can always work in favor of the other party. I hope I am wrong for thinking that this visa stuff is becoming like one of earning revenue. The US economy is not doing well. Imagine in a span of 5-10 minutes you get  a bucks of about $208 dollars.  It’s NON refundable. And by saying this, by playing a devil’s advocate, I am making assumption that is indeed dangerous. I am aware, I am putting myself into serious trouble. I may be risking a high chance of not being able to step foot forever in the United States of America. I can be black listed (if it is a warn or friendly advice, am not sure). But one thing, I would not trade my freedom of speech to remain mum or stay in my comfort zone when I feel strongly for something that needed to be heard. I may be wrong. But we all learn from mistakes. Whether seeing US will happen or not in the future, it will not make me any less of a person.

4) There will always be rude people everywhere, insensitive, inconsiderate – let them be. If it is for the evolution of their soul, if asserting their power would make them feel superior over others – let them be. There is no point of arguing with someone who is close minded. If that is part of the character a Visa Officer has to possess or an image they have to project to the public – let them be. My response could have been different. But if creating an atmosphere of positivity still did not change the situation. Just leave. For God sake. They are not god.

5) People aren’t good at judging (all the time). Very few possess the wisdom. Objectively speaking, I may sound too bias as it is coming from myself. But isn’t it a shame to deprive someone issuance of visa who is traveling regularly? Who has more than enough, sufficient funds to cover for the entire trip? Who has set foot to major continents except Antarctica and yes, unfortunately, USA – the North America? My pay slip and bank account statement for the last 3 months was not even checked. The same goes for my Certificate of Employment, my old passport, it was too late to hand my old passport when the Officer had already made a decision of non-issuance of visa. I have never wanted to brag. I am someone who prefers to be in a low-profile as much as possible. But if I knew the situation was like that – I would have said to assert myself that I have had obtained about 5 visas in Europe, I have visas in Australia and New Zealand. I have traveled to all of Southeast Asian countries, visited parts of South America, North Africa, the Middle East. I have been traveling alone to some of the countries when it is not deemed safe for a woman to travel alone. One sad truth. And it all boils down in here. I am a passport holder of a 3rd world country. Yes, life isn’t fair. And yes I may really sound too bitter for saying all these. Pardon but I have to let it out.

Through these lessons, one can draw a hypothesis that obtaining a US Visa is a highly subjective business. You may meet all the bloody requirements but those are not a guarantee to get a visa. The Visa Officer failed me in the interview. Maybe I was not smart enough. Or I never made an impression at all.

= = =

I decided to publish this to share the message that even if I am traveling regularly and have obtained several visas from the so called rich countries, I am not an exemption for visa rejection. It probably is a bit difficult to comprehend. It takes humility to reach this point. It won’t deter me however, to stop the adventure. I will keep on traveling and exploring the world. That is for sure. No mishaps could ever stop me . I am a free-spirit :).

Thank you dear readers for bearing with me in this particularly long post.

US Embassy – I was certainly disappointed. But thank you anyway.

Yours sincerely,

Mafey (with Interview Confirmation No. AAOO4BOJYO)

= = =

And here was what took place at the US Embassy, one month ago. I cut my sister’s part as not to involve her in my trouble ;). And oh you might discover something – about my personal biases, how we talk about our stuff…


10 thoughts on “US Embassy: I Was Disappointed But Thanks Anyway

  1. I ‘incidentally’ found your blogsite and I read this bit and thought I should leave words of encouragement.

    What you need to understand is the quota** per day/week/month they have – How these allocations are awarded? We will never know. Their mood. Timing of your application, i.e. Time of the day. Beginning of the week. End of the week. Peak season. Etc. None of these are proven as solid elements but made sense for me when I applied.

    Back to encouragement topic: My first ever visa application was rejected ( along with the entire family???).

    Several years after that I applied again, this time under my company. I was nearly rejected ( based on how the consul handled me I can infer) in the end, she took my passport, she may have battled with her thoughts and perhaps the justification whispered, YES, give her the visa- and so she did. That was for business trips — this is your penultimate goal. NOT the ultimate goal.

    That Business Visa expired. Uh-oh. So…

    I applied for a tourist visa a year after it expired. Played it cool, I only looked at the consul when he talked to me. I did not fidget. The type of behaviour you should display when you are waiting for the cashier in the grocery shop to hand you the receipt. What I distinctly remember was walking towards his window*, half-smiling( polite smile if you will?) and I placed my book on the ledge. HOW to think like Leonardo DaVinci book. He stared at it, looked at me and asked: So you already know how to think like Leonardo? To which I replied: ‘I am getting there,’ and natural laughter came out ( he laughed with me too). He only asked me that and my pay( how much I am earning monthly) and why I am going to the USA. I was not earning much then, roughly 40K Php( but enough to pay for airfare and food?) I said I will go to Hawaii. ( True- that is the reason.. despite the fact that my father is in California, my real reason was to see Hawaii).

    Got the courier claim slip, he took my passport and he wished me a ‘nice day’ in Filipino language. Surreal? You bet, but that was how it unfolded for me.

    If you ask me what I can infer from that, there are a few that surfaced out as viable reasons: 1- You need to break the Ice without even trying, this is hard to do but somehow, that happened. 2- I was observed, how I reacted, what I read, what kind of a person I am, through non-verbal , before and whilst being interviewed. 3- Consul’s mood. It was a morning ( early) appointment. I read somewhere that mornings are better when they are still ‘fresh’ and rested to make judgments.

    If your company can sponsor you, perhaps that’s a good way to obtain it. Or you can study there. there are 1-year courses that you can take. That is a start then when you re-apply, and they know they can trust you, they can perhaps finally award you that Tourist Long-term Visa.

    By the way, the first time we got rejected ( whole family), we left the place, smiling. Hilarious but we did this because the bystander applicants were annoying taking guesses and checking if we got it 😀 !!! So if you smile, it can mislead ( decrease the chances of being annoyed!).

    1. Hi! First, thank you so much for finding the time to write an almost post comment 😉 I really appreciate it especially the last part, that really made me laugh, a very good technique to adopt :).
      Sharing the experience you went through is indeed uplifting and oh thank you I learned several new terms from you. You are a good soul! 😀
      Somehow, I had this not-so good feeling from the very start when I was waiting to get into the embassy that took me to wait for an hour. And another one more hour feeling like waiting forever. The queue then when I arrived inside the room was 333 and mine was 777! I thought, oh not a good number! Was it a bad omen. I find as well that the Visa Officers at the US Embassy have an exceptional character compared to the rest of the officers I have been. Perhaps next time I should bring Ken Wilber’s The Theory of Everything put it on the ledge and wonder what the officer would ask hihi. Thank yo so much. Really thank you especially for the tips you shared, I find it sincere and indeed, encouraging! Thanks for dropping by and have a happy weekend! 🙂

      1. You’re welcome- I actually didn’t realize my comment was that long.

        It’s cool that you can keep a blog, I cannot do it, I don’t have the discipline.

        Well wish me luck because I’m applying for a schengen visa for my mission to bring my ailing father to the Vatican this Christmas.

        I have had it before but always for work. Never for tourism. I am also in Singapore so I hope the processing time will be like yours.

      2. I love reading long comments Ms Kim 🙂
        I find yours concise and coherent. The organization of thoughts and progression are clearer and engaging. Plus, I actually pick up some new words from you! Haha. Thank you! I hope you will SERIOUSLY consider starting up a blog because you have a gift in writing and I believe you have a lot to share.

        For the Schengen Visa I can only guarantee that as long as you meet all the requirements from the checklist it’s 101% that you will get the visa. Have a great Christmas celebration at the Eternal City! And wish healing for your father. Take care and enjoy! 🙂

  2. Oh by the way… 777 is not a bad number. Not sure if you’re catholic but if so, this number stands out distinctively in the bible.

    666 I think is the culprit 😀 !

    Perhaps it’s not your time yet to get it– things and Sh*t sometimes happen for a reason 🙂

    1. I was born and raised from a Catholic family po but I was not aware that 777 stands out in the bible :). What I immediately thought of this number was in terms of academic grade hihi which I believe is FAILED 😛

      Thanks again Ms Kim. I appreciate your input. It’s very informative. and it’s good to see positive people visiting this little blog 🙂

  3. Hello Mafey, I’m very glad you finally shared your US visa experience. it is a difficult one indeed. I’ve heard from my cousin recently that when he applied for his US visa in the Philippines, they were denying many people.

    Yes, the definition was the problem. He was also very irrational not to give you leeway for the “family” definition. I say you have the right to ask for a reconsideration but after your experience, I would agree you don’t want to go through it again. I understand the US is the most subjective one and they don’t even look at your papers!

    It sounds like most US visa officers sound like TSA security/immigration security. Perhaps they are trained to be rude if they think the person is “suspicious.” Most likely, he was trained to follow policy and stuck to the letter which is to prove “all ties”. In the US consul in the Philippines, if the officer caught one “lying” they are immediately rejected. I say be truthful but don’t reveal all until asked. When I went for my interview in China, he asked my reason for being in China and where my family was, if I had more family in the States. I said most of my family was in California (he had my cousin’s invitation letter), my family was in the Philippines and the reason for being in China was to trace my ancestry and to be closer to my family which was living in the Philippines.

    I think you should have told him about your cousin’s wedding and then showed him an invitation letter from your cousin to prove the “family ties”. Perhaps that might have helped?

    You’re not alone. I’m often nervous as well in applying for every visa application. Ah, the perils of the Philippine passport 😦

    1. Hi Kate,
      Thank you for sharing your experience with the US Embassy. I stop thinking about “what could have been” if I have done this or have done that. As this only harbor ill feelings and not put an end to this drama.

      Initially, my plan was to write to the Head of the US Embassy in Singapore to relay my grievances. On a second thought, either way it won’t change the situation as they have mentioned they don’t entertain any appeal. My effort might be put in vain. In the end, I decided to transform the letter into a post like this one. Since, I have already express and let out my disgust, I feel better now. You know my personality, I can come face to face with any authority as I have no hidden agenda and my intention is good. Take for instance, my experience with the Immigration Officers in New Zealand. Glad that I didn’t give in to their ridiculous demands. In the end, I guess we just have to admit that yes, nationality matters, double standard exists. Sad but true.

      Well, what makes our journey more exciting? 🙂 Facing mishaps like this ;). When I re-read this post — my bitterness and anger was apparently obvious no matter how I tried not to conceal it, it comes out. Re-reading it again — I can now smile — that sincere SMILE that no matter what happens, it’s not what happen to us but what we do with what happen to us. I could choose NOT to share this unpleasant experience but doing so gave me some sort of strength and at the same time I wish to share with our readers that NOT all our experience when it comes to visas, immigration, travels are all bed of roses. There are many thorns along the way. I guess, roses are beautiful because of its thorns ;).

      Kate, have a great time with your first European trip! Am happy, finally you’re making your way to EU :). I’ll be home this Christmas, me and Carms – Out On Vacation will be most likely meeting in Pinas 🙂

  4. am jealous you and Carms are going to be home this Christmas. wish I was there. Mafey, don’t forget to PM me if you need someone to talk to. Yup, it’ll be my first trip to EU. am excited! hope it’ll be great.

    1. Hello Kate! Thanks for lending your ear about my current work situation! I’ve been outside mostly this weekend and had not read my viber messages; whatsapp – am using once in a blue moon! Sorry I suck in online communications can’t sustain it!!

      For the tips that you’re asking I would be very happy to share with you my experience about Morocco! Am sure you’ll have a great time in EU!

      Yes, am excited to see Carms and hear her stories about living in the middle earth! 🙂

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