The United States (US) Embassy in the Philippines is expecting a record number of visas to be processed in 2023 as the embassy works to restore and improve its operation since the Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic in 2019.
During a press conference at the embassy, US Embassy Consul General Mark McGovern said the Consular Affairs Section (CAS) of the embassy is on track to issue up to 330,000 non-immigrant visas for Fiscal Year 2023 (October 2022 to September 2023) compared to 188,000 in 2022.
“Last year, we got around 190,000 and we were at two-thirds of our capacity last year,” McGovern said.
The number of non-immigrant visas expected to be issued this year, he said, is higher than the pre-pandemic record of 290,000 issued in 2019.
“We’re really trying our best and we’re thankful for the patience the Filipino public is giving us,” he said.
The CAS, he said, has not yet been restored to its full capacity of 200 employees but improvements in the work flow have led to more visas being processed per employee.
“A year ago, the wait time for a non-immigrant visa was close to two years. It is now four to five months. We’re looking to lower that to 2 to 3 months by the end of the year,” he said.
He encouraged those with expired visas to have them renewed as visas can now be renewed up to four years past the expiration date.
He noted that the current non-immigrant visa fee of USD185 is the first fee increase in 10 years, with such visas — tourist, student, business, etc. — valid for up to 10 years.
“We have an increase in salaries, importation of visa foils and other materials. The fee increase is a worldwide change, not just in the Philippines,” he said.
Aside from non-immigrant visas, he said the embassy is also working “extra hard” on processing immigrant visas or green cards.
Tips for visa applicants
For those interested in getting a US visa, he shared some things to keep in mind to get approved.
Applicants, he said, must stay relaxed and always tell the truth during their interview.
Getting confused and lying, he said, are noticed by their trained personnel and may lead to doubt about their application.
He also asked visa applicants to avoid scammers or those promising to have their visa approved for a fee and to protect themselves from disinformation by getting their information from the embassy website.
The embassy, he said, has a fraud team that investigates scammers.
“We work to make sure the victims have a chance to receive justice,” he said.
He noted that there is no checklist or “magic list” that applicants need for a visa, and debunked rumors that having a certain amount of cash in the bank or having endorsement letters from famous or powerful people would help in a visa application.
“The money in their bank account doesn’t matter, we don’t rely on that because we know people can just remove the amount the next day,” he said.
However, he said the embassy does look into a person’s ability to pay for their stay in the US such as their employment, previous travel record, and their properties, among others.
“There is no checklist because cases differ. But what I can say is that third-party endorsements do not matter,” he said.
In case an applicant forgets a necessary document, he said the embassy is willing to hold their application until their documentary requirements are complete.
He noted that after a visa interview, 90 percent of applicants will know whether they have been approved or not.
For those aspiring to work in the US, he said the country has no temporary work program but it is possible if they find the right employer.
“They would have to find an employer that would be willing to process their visa and its documentary requirements — they would need to be an exceptional worker,” he said.
Prior to the press briefing, US Embassy Deputy Consul General James Fellows led Philippine media representatives on a tour of the CAS and talked about their process for non-immigration visas. (PNA)