U.S. Visa Renewal 2012

After missing my first two appointments, I finally made it to my third [and last chance before I would have to re-apply online and pay the $160 visa renewal fee all over again]. I qualified for the new Visa Reissuance Program (VRP) which is supposed to be a much shorter process since there is no interview. Yet the entire 2 hour+ process still seemed longer than it actually was. Maybe it was the 38 degree heat that day.

I parked along the Service Road across the street right next to the foot path (a.k.a. overpass) closest to the new Annex building of the U.S. Embassy where visa renewals are now held.

Since I was about an hour early this time, I went to 7-Eleven first. When I got to the counter to pay for my drink, the clock at the counter said it was already 1156am. It wasn’t, but I didn’t know that! So I dropped everything and dashed across the street.

You don’t have to wait for 12nn, or even 1145am (as they advise), to line up. As soon as you arrive, just fall in line. The same goes for late comers. In hindsight, I could have made it to my second appointment afterall since I noticed that they still entertain people who arrive even as late as 1230pm or 1pm.

The process:
First, you line up outside the Embassy where they check and arrange all your documents. There is a tent but it covers only the first 10 people or so on the cue. So, rain or shine, it would be wise to bring an umbrella. Also, bring a Black pen otherwise you’ll end up having to buy one for Php 15 from the hawkers along the Boulevard.
As soon as you enter the very fence of the Embassy, you go through a heavy door and security. Remember cellphones are NOT allowed. And there is no depository where you can leave your cellphone.
You line up at another relatively quick cue where they check your documents again and give you a “ticket” (a.k.a. number).
Next, you walk through a small covered court where there are lots of seats and a couple of food concessionaires. If you haven’t eaten or if you need a drink, this would be a good time to go for it. There is more than enough time; Surprisingly, the prices are quite reasonable.
Lastly, you enter another heavy door, go through security again, take a seat, and wait for your number to be called. The hall is new, well decorated, and airconditioned. But the wait is looong so bring a book or magazine -especially since you have no iPad or cellphone to keep you busy; I actually fell asleep on my seat!
When it’s your turn, at the window you submit your documents -the info of which seem to be encoded into a computer. They ask you one or two questions. Mine was “How long was your longest stay [in the U.S.]?” to which I answered “Five weeks, last October.”
You are told to take a seat till your number is called again at another window. I barely even felt the seat beneath me when my number was called. This time they just scan your fingerprints then send you home.

Your passport is usually delivered to your home or business address but I opted to pick up mine at one of the accredited 2go branches. I’m waiting for a call to confirm when it will be ready.

Autumn in New York, here I come (again)!

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