My cousin from the US invited us to spend Christmas in California. Having been denied a US visa the first time I applied in the Philippines, I was actually hesitant to try again. First, it’s not that cheap and second, we just moved to Toronto. Nonetheless, we applied and was lucky enough to get a 10-year multiple entry visa for the three of us.

I have no facts to prove that applying  for a US visa from a third-world country is harder than applying from a first-world one, but it seems to be the case. Now that there could be some changes in the immigration rules in the US due to change in leadership policies, we’ll never know how hard or easy will it be to secure one in the future. Good thing we were able to secure it before these new policies are applied.

So, how did we do it? Google will always be your friend in times like this. There are a lot more comprehensive steps out there than what my blog post can provide but what I’ll be providing you are the steps on how to apply without spending too much money and time for a non-immigrant/visitor visa.

The Steps

Most of the information below will come from this site.

  • Determine if you’ll be needing a US Visa.
  • Determine  what visa will you be needing. 
    • Tip: If you will not be working, migrating or studying in the US, your visa will most likely be “B” (B-1:Business or  B-2: Tourism and Visit).
  • Prepare a soft and hard copy of your 2×2 picture. 
    • Tip: Although you are encouraged to use a professional visa photo service which will cost you around  ($15-$25), you can always use your phone camera for this. Use a white background. If you know how to edit a picture, you can use pixlr editor, it’s like Adobe Photoshop but it’s online and it’s free. For the digital photo, you can use this tool for gauging the size. For the hard copy, use this guide to resize your images in MS Word for printing. Use a high-quality photo paper when printing. Note, the visa officer didn’t ask for the hard copy but it’s safe to bring one. If we went with a professional photo service, it would easily cost us around $45-$75 but with a little perseverance, we only spent $8 for the photo paper. 🙂
  • Complete the online visa application DS-160 form here.
    • Tip: If you are applying from Toronto, select Canada, Toronto as the location where you will apply for the visa. Always take note of your Application ID in case you want to continue filling out the application at a later time. We had to fill out our application four times because of the session expiry every 10 minutes or so. Also, there will also be times when you can’t upload your picture due to a technical issue with the site, try to do it an hour after. In our case, we needed a day before we were able to upload the photos. Take note of the requirements you need to bring for the interview. 
  • Book  and pay for your appointment
    • Tip:  Detailed steps are here. Choose the earliest and the most convenient date and time for you. Usually, the earliest available date for an appointment is two weeks from the day you are applying. We booked a morning schedule and it took us around 45 minutes to complete the interview. As of writing, it costs USD 160 per applicant. During the booking, you can also indicate how you want to receive your passport if ever your visa application is successful. You can have it delivered to your doorstep, but it will cost around 
  • Prepare your documents
    • General required documents are passport (valid for six months beyond your period of stay in the US), printed DS-160 confirmation page, payment receipt, Proof of Legal Residence (Permanent Residency Cards), birth certificates, and marriage certificate.
    • Supporting documents could be Evidence of Employment (you can get this from your HR, ensure that your position, joining date and salary is indicated and printed with the company letterhead), bank statements and photo if you failed to upload your photo in the DS-160 form. Note, visa officer didn’t require me to submit my evidence of employment and photo.
  • Attend the Consular Section Appointment (Interview)
    • Tip:  If you are applying from Toronto, the US Embassy is located here. Entrance is at the back along Simcoe Street. Try to arrive 20-30 minutes before your scheduled time. Don’t bring any electronics (mobile phones, laptop, tablets) as these are prohibited inside the consulate. Don’t forget to bring the required and supporting documents. You can also practice answering these questions. If your application is successful, the visa officer will ask for your passport for processing and  you’ll receive an email regarding your tracking number for your passport delivery. If you’re not successful, you’ll get a slip giving you a general idea why your application was not successful.
  • Pick-up or Wait for Delivery of your passport
    • Tip:  Depending on your delivery option, you can either wait for your passport or pick it up from the designated post office. Since we chose the in-person collection, I have to personally visit the postal office. Be sure to bring an ID when picking up the passport. It took around 5 days for us to get the passports after the visa was approved.

For any general questions about the visa application process, you can check AIS’ FAQ page.


We could have spent more than a thousand dollars if we opted to get assistance from the “professionals”. In this age where digital information is always available, all it takes is a little bit of time and effort for you to save a couple of bucks.

Total Amount Spent: USD 485 for 3 applicants

Total Time Spent: 4-6 hours inclusive of the interview

If you find this post helpful, I’d be really grateful if you’ll help me spread it by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin. Thanks and ’til next post.