By Roy Mabasa
The approval rate of Filipinos applying for a non-immigrant visa to the United States is “quite high” and Philippine applicants are considered “very good” visa applicants, officials from the Consular Section of the US Embassy in Manila said on Thursday.
At the launching of Walang Sikreto (No Secret) project, US Deputy Consul General and Visa Chief Kimberly Kristine Kelly assured the Filipino public that applying for a visa to the United States is actually “not difficult” and does not require the help of a fixer or expediter to accomplish the process.
“There are no secrets in applying for a US visa,” Kelly said.
The Walang Sikreto project is an information campaign aimed to inform the public of the risks of using fixers and at the same time warn them of the typical scams that offers “too good to be true” quick-fix solutions to their visa applications.
“Our goal of the Walang Sikreto campaign is to make sure that those applicants know that our (visa) process is easy, transparent and is universal,” Kelly told journalists during the Manila leg of the campaign.
For 2018 alone, Kelly noted that the Embassy issued 204,137 non-immigrant visas to Filipinos, making the Philippines as one of the largest consular sections in the world.
“On the average, we approve the vast majority of the applicants that we see on a daily basis. The denial is much, much lower than the issuance. Our issuance rate is much, much higher,” Kelly said when asked about the rate of denial for Filipino visa applicants.
In order to avoid becoming a victim of fraud or scam, Kelly advised applicants of US visa or other consular services to follow the simple steps of visiting the US Embassy website, follow the process, submit authentic documents if required, and be truthful during the interview.
US Consular Fraud Prevention Manager Leon Gendin said the message that the Walang Sikreto project brings is important not only to maintain the integrity of their consular operations but also to make the Filipino public to be aware and to make educated decisions when they decide to apply for consular service at the US embassy.
“Often we’ve seen instances where those expediters or fixers would provide a fake document, with or without the knowledge of the applicant. But in the end, the applicant is responsible for his visa application. And consequences could be heavy and severe and may result in permanent ineligibility for that applicant to ever travel to the United States. So, why take the risk?” Gendin pointed out.
Gendin said the number of fraud cases that the Embassy has been working on for years is still “small” compared to the total number of visa applications they have received.
“Each fraud is fraud too many. We’re very vigilant and take appropriate actions on all alleged fraud that we discover. It is an important part of consular operations to provide excellent service and to support the applicants, as well,” he said.
Gendin noted that the most typical scam or fraud that they have encountered are those scammers who claim to have some influence over the visa service that the embassy provides, mostly using a variety of social media platforms to push their message and attract potential customers.
“If someone claims to have an influence over the process or guarantees a visa, the public should know it’s a scam because no one can guarantee a US visa. No one outside of the consular section has any influence over any of the consular processes, including expedited appointments or any other services,” he stressed.
Prior to the Manila leg, the US Consular Section has visited about 14 places throughout the country to promote the Walang Sikreto campaign, that includes Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan, Baguio, Iloilo, Dumaguete, Bohol, and Davao.