My first time to apply for US Visa was 4 years ago. And to my surprise, a lot of things have changed with the process. So here’s what happened to me during my personal appearance to the embassy last Dec 18.
Incident # 1
To my horror, I realized that I have forgotten to print the DS-156 application form while looking at those people in line. So I immediately left and crossed the street and was told by a street vendor that there was a nearby internet café. I gave the vendor 10 pesos for good info and for escorting me to the computer shop. The computer shop charges 15 pesos per page so I ended up paying 45 pesos for 3 pages. Good thing I still have the copy of my scanned document in my email! Because if not, then I have to fill-out the form again for 15-20 minutes and get charged by that computer shop with 200 pesos! Instant money isn’t?!
No cellphone allowed in the embassy for non-US citizens! While crossing the street to the embassy I’ve heard the vendor telling me as such but I ignored because I thought the embassy will let you check-in your phone like it used to, but no more! The new policy has taken effect last Mar 2008.
Again, I got evicted from the line to the 2nd gate of entry this time, crossed the street again and was offered help by the same vendor. He showed me the mobile phones he was safe-keeping and looking at those models, I don’t recognize any of them and I won’t bother taking that risk.
First attempt was with Bel-Air hotel. They have a safety box, but for the exclusive use only of their check-in guests. I didn’t bother asking how much ‘coz that will be costly for sure. Second attempt was with Starbucks security guard. As I enter the store, “Manong baka po pwede magpatago ng cellphone…” (Sir, can you keep my cellphone…), I asked. He did have some hesitation on his face knowing that he’s not allowed to do that. But maybe, he pitied me enough, and so he went outside with a starbucks cookie bag and handed it over to me. “Mam, paki tanggal na lang po ang sim, baka tumunog po. Kunin ko na lang po sa inyo dyan sa gilid.” (Ms., please remove the sim card so the phone will not ring. I’ll get it from the side of the store.). I was relieved when he agreed. I put my company mobile phone and mp3 player inside the cookie bag and handed it back to him. While looking at the name on his uniform, I told him, “Manong, salamat. Tiwala na lang po ako sa inyo. Babalikan ko po yan mamayang 12.” (Sir, thank you. I have to trust you. I’ll be back by 12 noon).
Now I got back on track and lined up again. It was not so bad waiting in line after all. I think the process has improved a lot. I met one lady there and learned that she too had problem safe-keeping her phone. Her last resort was to check-in in Bel-Air hotel that cost her 5,500 pesos which included 1,000 add-on for early check-in! I can’t imagine that for myself! I could have bought another mobile phone for that, or even 2 mobile phones!
Many thanks to “Manong” guard in Starbucks for taking the risk to help me. He was there and was true to his words. I gave him a small token for his kindness and pretended to be his friend so that people around will not took suspicion. I’ve learned my lesson there… never-ever bring cellphone to the US embassy! And I don’t want to take risk again in asking for another person’s help if that can cause them to lose their job… Good thing it didn’t happened.
My visa was approved… and I have to be away from home for 2 months. Just thinking how long it will be makes me missed Reese and Gani already. :-(