A first-time mom’s guide on US Visa application – parent and toddler

When I was pregnant with Kerrigan, I vowed on making sure that we our going to have lots of fun activities together and that includes random trips to anywhere in the world. And just as planned, when she was two months old I took her on an out-of-town road trip to San Pablo, Batangas. At about four months, her Dad and I brought her to Cebu to see the whale sharks and trek our way to a beautiful waterfall. And few months after receiving her passport, we packed our bags and went to Singapore and Hong Kong in March 2017.

I told myself, why not apply for a US Visa this time?

Guided with my dear friend, travel enthusiast, PinayNomad, KT gave us a glimpse on what to prepare and what to expect in applying for a US Visa. The thought of getting a US Visa is already intimidating for some, this is why it’s even harder to get on with the steps to apply for one. Her blog post paved the way to get me up to speed in the application process and it was a ton of help!

 Why US? I thought it would be nice to finally see all those places I see in the movies.

America is such a huge country, there’s just so many things to see and experience there with my daughter. Before becoming pregnant my college friend would always tell us to go and visit her but I was just too intimidated to check on the requirements. I would tell her I was just too caught up with work to even think about it. I guess if it weren’t for my daughter and friends, I’d still be sitting around waiting for my trips to happen. Before we get to the steps, I want to tell you that applying for a US Visa (contrary to what we were made to believe) is really easy if you are well-prepared for the trip. Meaning you have your passports ready, your Certificate of Employment indicating your intention to return or business permits and other documents proving your capacity to pay for your trip are all with you.

Now, here are the steps in getting a US Visa for you and your toddler.

  1. Grab your passports, sign the DS-160 form online and be sure to read all the information found on their website first. 

    Tip: Finish the online filing in one sitting to avoid repeating this step multiple times, because I just couldn’t log back in when I tried retrieving my DS-160 form to continue the online form. Somehow the password and security questions weren’t working.

  2. Before you complete the online filing of the DS-160 form, you will be asked to upload your 2×2 photo in their portal. You can check the guidelines here.
  3. Create another DS-160 form for your child and submit your child’s 2×2 photo on the online form.
  4. Keep the confirmation numbers found on the DS-160 forms. You and your child should have a separate confirmation number. You will be needing them to register an account at https://cgifederal.secure.force.com This website will guide you on the payment and interview schedules. There’s no need to open another registration for your child, if s/he is still a minor. You will just have to indicate that you are traveling with him/ her during registration.
  5. For payments, you can either pay online or go directly to a BPI branch. I did the latter because I couldn’t find my bank in Bancnet and I don’t own  a BPI account. Bring the MRV forms with a deposit slip number, photocopies of your passports and US Visa fee payment. 

    Tip: All details for the payment are on the https://cgifederal.secure.force.com so read them carefully. The MRV form that matches your Visa Type is also available there.

  6. Register your payment receipts on your https://cgifederal.secure.force.com account. I registered mine 5 hours after payment because it took 3 to 5 hours before it appeared in their system. Tip: At this stage of your US Visa Application, you should have a print out of your DS-160 forms, photocopy of your passports, 2×2 photos, and your deposit slips. Keep them safe.
  7. Schedule your interview on your https://cgifederal.secure.force.com account and safe keep all the documents for the interview.

Before the US Visa Application Interview

I filed for the US Visa Application on the first week of April and got a schedule on April 24. While we were waiting for the day of the interview, I prepared my answers to the possible interview questions and read other tips on what to bring and what not in the embassy.
Remember, electronics of any sort, even an Apple Watch is not allowed, so bring a friend or a relative to hold all your electronics for you. I climbed the overpass (bridge) twice just to hand over my watch to my brother, and that was while carrying my daughter. Not smart! So get everything in place.

On the day of the interview

I woke up early to prepare and thought about what to wear. I didn’t want to look too polished like I was going to a job interview, so I wore a gray dress that looked like they’re overgrown men’s long sleeves and paired it with a purple trainer shoes. But my daughter, wore something cute and sparkly. I dressed her with a light peach with gold polka dots on them paired with red shoes. Cute right? I know!

Take the attention away from you and direct it towards your cute kid. Trust them!

Do yourself a favor, no matter how busy you are double check on the things you need. If I hadn’t checked twice we would have come to the interview without the Appointment Confirmation email. Although, it was not asked it helps to be prepared with the things you might need. I even forgot to have our 2×2 photos taken and have them printed ‘professionally’ so at the first counter our photos were rejected. Luckily, there is a Kodak Photo Booth inside the embassy. Super convenient but just get everything you need ready before going to the interview.
Back to the interview process, after resubmitting our photos on the first window, window 2 and 4, we went straight to window 24. We skipped the line because Kerrigan was still considered a baby at 16 months old. But we did wait for at least 2 sets of interview to finish and that’s when I heard how others carried themselves during their turn. The interviewer, who’s an American, was using a mic, so although she’s on the other side of a window, everyone could hear the questions and results of the interview. Unfortunately, the couple who were on the window at the time that Kerrigan and I was in line got rejected. The same thing happened to the lady who was standing before us. The interviewer mentioned about the ‘US immigration policy’ to explain why they’ll have to re-apply in the future. For some reasons, I just had a feeling that confidence hugely matters in this type of interviews. Speak clearly and confidently. If you appear too meek during the interviewer you may just give them the wrong impression about you and your intentions of visiting the country. Go there with clear intentions with loads of confidence!

The Interview

The questions were pretty basic, like what do you do for a living, intention of the visit to the US, if Kerrigan and I traveled internationally before, where we are staying and even questions about the work of Kerrigan’s dad. I think it matters if he’s joining the trip as well. The interview would have been shorter if not for the computer freezing from time to time. The lady interviewer kept complaining about how slow the system was. It only made our interview a lot nerve-racking so Kerrigan and I sang “ABC”s and “If you’re happy and you know” nursery rhymes there to appear cuter despite the slightly long wait for the interview to finish. And at last after she’s done typing, she seldom look at us by the way, she announced: “Your visa will arrived blah blah…”. I kind of lost track on the number of days she mentioned because I was just exploding with excitement. Instead, I blurted: “Yehey! You’re the tiniest traveler” at Kerrigan. The lady interviewer smiled at us and we said thanks and goodbye.
On the 26th of April, I received our passports with the US Visa on them.
There! So mom or dad, or even guardian of someone’s kid, it helps to be bold and brave to achieve things even when having a kid in tow. With the right preparation and confidence, you and your kid will be doing all your goals early on. I know because that’s what Kerrigan and I have been doing since birth.
Keep safe and have fun!