Applying for a US Visa in Canada

Earlier this week, I went to apply for a U.S visa. Fortunately, I was able to pass the interview and I was approved. As promised, I will be sharing the details as to what I did during my visa interview, what the requirements are in applying for a US visa and some tips that may help you pass the consul interview.

I applied for my visa here in Vancouver, British Columbia. I just moved here as a worker a few weeks back and since it’s my first two weeks in the job, I am not yet that occupied, hence, I decided to apply and book an appointment for my US Visa Interview. Fortunately, I was able to get a spot for my personal interview two weeks after I submitted my DS-160 form online.

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The US Visa is one of the most straight-forward visa application processes ever and also one of the hardest Visas to obtain, especially if you are a holder of a third-world country passport. To be honest with you, this is not my first time to apply for it, I have been denied when I first applied. They didn’t give me a specific reason as to why they have denied why application but they just gave me a general reason that they cannot provide me a visa as of the moment. When I applied, I was residing in the United Arab Emirates, earning a decent amount and have traveled to several countries in Europe already, and I have both a valid Schengen and UK Visa.

Also read: HOW TO APPLY FOR A SCHENGEN VISA FOR PHILIPPINE-PASSPORT HOLDERS.

I guess they just deny people who are young, single and don’t have that much justification of deep-rootedness to his or her country of origin or country of residence. Or maybe if they know that you will re-apply then they will just deny you if you’ve failed to meet their requirements during the interview, but yeah, these are just my theories.

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The difference when I applied for the first time and this time is that they now ask you to provide your social media handles when you’re filling your DS-160 form online. Which I think is great as you can prove that you have been to places if you’re like me who posts a lot of travel photos on my social media.

Steps: There are only three major steps when applying for a US Visa

Complete the DS-160 form

The DS-160 form is basically pretty much about your personal information. Make sure to have all the necessary information ready like your parents’ date of birth, contact person in the States, etc.

You can access the DS-160 form here.

Schedule an appointment online

After completing the DS-160 form, schedule an appointment online through the US government online portal for Canada. Make sure to have your payment method ready, as of the moment they accept payment through bank transfer, credit card or Interac eTransfer.

You can book your appointment through here.

Documents Required:

-Printed Confirmation Page with Eligible Barcode

-Printed Accomplished DS-160 Form

-Passport with more than six-months validity

-1pc 2×2 Photo (If you have used the same photo on the DS-160 form which you have submitted online, they won’t ask for the hardcopy,  they will only ask for a photo if you brought a different one from the ones you’ve submitted) 

-Proof of residence (Work permit, study permit or PR Card)

-Bank Statements and any other documents which you think will help in your application. Please note that a flight ticket is not required, they actually encourage people to obtain the visa first before booking any flights. 

Prepare for the interview

Once you have submitted your DS-160 online and have booked your appointment, prepare for the interview. When I say prepare for the interview, I mean prepare yourself to answer for possible questions that they will be asking like: ‘What is your purpose of visit to the United States?’, ‘Who are you visiting in the United States?’, ‘Why the United States of all countries?’ , ‘What is your job?’, ‘How much are you earning?’ And many more.

On the day of the interview, please note they will not allow any big bags, purse or anything bulky which is not necessary for the interview. Also, mobile phones and other devices which can record or transmit data is prohibited inside the consulate or embassy. So I highly suggest that you go there light, or if you are going with someone, you can leave the things with them while you go for your interview.

During my Interview

Me: Good morning, how are you?
Consul: Not so bad, thanks for asking.
me: that’s great (smiled)
Consul: What is your purpose of visit to the United States?
me: I wanted to visit my friend
Consul: you sure it’s your friend and not your girlfriend?
Me: She is a childhood friend, we grew up together back in the Philippines
Consul: Do you have any Families in the States?
Me: Nah
consul: any families here in Canada?
me: Nah
Consul: how long have you been in your job?
me: several weeks, I started last January
consul: what? You just arrived here?!
me: yeah, but I decided to apply now since It’s not so busy in my job as of the moment because of the season
Consul: (looks at me then looked at the computer while typing a lot)
-brief silence-
Me: Is everything ok?
consul: Show me your permit.
Me: ‘handed my permit over’
Consul: ok I’m approving you, that’s it
Me: thank you, enjoy the rest of your d… (consul left the counter
)

The interview lasted only for less than five minutes but it seemed forever. All throughout the interview, I was just being myself, and yeah, I just spoke to the consul as if he is a good friend.

One thing I always advise people who are going to a visa interview is to be ‘brutally honest’. Once caught lying, they will instantly reject your application and in worst cases, they will ban you from re-applying. If you are true to your intentions, then there is nothing to worry about.

On the day of your interview, you need to dress to impress but not overdress. Though I went on my interview with a basic tee and a jogger and I think I was able to slay it, so, haha. Also, manifest good thoughts, it helps a lot. You know what they say, we get what we attract.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

New to the Blog? Click here to get to know me more!

What I’ve Learned From Visiting Yick Cheong Building in Hongkong

Maybe it’s not a proper adventure, but if we are talking about deep feelings, my second time visiting Hong Kong was definitely the one. 

I’ve being living in Shanghai for more than a year now, working as a Head Chef de Cuisine, so I’m pretty used to big Asian cities… but HongKong has something different, and in particular, I would like to share my experience at the Yick Cheong Building.

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You need to know that the Yick Cheong Building is one of the most famous spots in the world for photographers. This building is, first of all an apartment complex, with lots of people living in it, like a lot! And for this reason, the locals sometimes close the entrance gate to avoid hundreds of tourists flocking-in to take a photo. 

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However, when I got there, the weather was not exactly the best, hence, there were no tourists, but despite this, the entrance was closed. Quite unfortunate as it could be, cause I needed to leave Hongkong the next day as well, so I just told myself to return next time on another trip. 

I’ve visited HongKong several times since then and on my second trip, I took the opportunity to head to the Yick Cheong Building  again. It was close when I arrived but I found a way in,  and sneaked to the courtyard, Italian Style! haha I will always remember that moment for life.

Inside, I was alone and the atmosphere was moody. The silence, interrupted by just the sound of some people cooking food or some children running around. It was cloudy, with only a weak ray of light hitting the façade, adding more drama to the atmosphere.

A place that is normally bombarded by loud tourists and photographers, but was so quiet during that time. Then I realized that I’ve  been staring at the building for quite some  time that I couldn’t tell how long I’ve been there already. And there it came the perfect moment for me to take the photo I have been dreaming to take. 

Timer was set, remote control from the phone was activated, and camera position has also been set! 

I took a photo, but I can’t seem to remember if I have heard any “click”, as my eyes were lost again staring at the wonderful but contradicting piece of architecture. 

Lost in thought, trying to think about the fact that Gucci has one of its stores just several meters away from the Yick Cheong Building… and that bus advertisement I’ve seen just a few minutes earlier on my way to Yick Cheong, with the ad of Cartier on it… and then this… people living in apartments as large as their mattress… often with no walls, just some cage-like barricades, and people eating on the corridor because they have no space inside their own home. . . It was just quite overwhelming.

Then a shout from somewhere broke the silence, and there I saw one of the security guards signaling that I wasn’t allowed to be there, so I left. Well, at least this time, I was able to achieve my purpose before being told to leave.

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Traveling is not just for fun. Traveling changes you, gives you opportunities to think a lot about what you have and how lucky you are, even if some days you don’t even realize it because you take everything for guaranteed. 

Traveling  leads us to places which often leave a huge impact in our lives. From my experience, traveling has brought me to Yick Cheong and it has strongly changed my view towards life. It is true, few minutes of observing something significant can really change our perspective towards all aspects of life, that’s what happened to me on that day. 

This Travel Story is written by Marco Erba. You can follow more of his adventure on his instagram @marco_erba
ALL PHOTOS IN THIS ARTICLE ARE FROM MARCO ERBA’S PERSONAL ARCHIVE.

Marco Erba is an Italian chef de cuisine, a traveler and a videography & photography enthusiast currently based in Shanghai. On his spare time, he likes to edit photos and videos which he took from his previous trip. He also travels a lot across Asia and often wanders around unfamiliar places in search for great photo locations. 

Marco’s Travel Essentials

Camera body: Sony Alpha 7iii

CHECK THE LATEST PRICE OF SONY ALPHA 7III HERE

CAMERA LENSES: Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 AND Zeiss 55mm f/1.8

CHECK THE LATEST PRICE OF TAMRON 28-75 F/2.8 HERE

CHECK THE LATEST PRICE OF SONY ZEISS 5MM F/1.8 HERE

DRONE: DJI Mavic Air 

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Exploring Cappadocia, Everything You Need To Know About The RED TOUR

One of the most popular and cheapest tours in Cappadocia is the red tour. This tour mostly bring you to places/attractions around the town of Goreme. The duration of the entire tour is 2 hours shorter as well as 10 Turkish Lira cheaper compared to that of the Green Tour, so you only pay 90 Turkish Lira or 25usd for the whole tour which already includes entrance fees, transportation, lunch and guide. 

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Click here for Capadoccia Green Tour Itinerary guide.

The Red Tour usually starts around 9:30 in the morning and ends around 4:30 in the afternoon. You will be picked-up around 9:20am-9:30am; so make sure you’re already prepared before the pick-up arrives to avoid causing any delays as you’re not the only person whom they will be picking-up.

The red tour consists of seven destinations which includes the following:

Uchisar Castle is a rock-cut castle riddle with tunnels, which was used by the early settlers as a place of refuge when their enemies overtook the surrounding plains. And now, it is one of the most famous landmark in Uchisar. 

Goreme Open Air museum is an essential stop when you visit Cappadocia for the very first time. It is an open complex composed of different rock-cut monasteries and churches. 

Pasabag Chimney also know as the ‘Fairy Chimneys’ are rock formations which mimics the shape of a giant mushroom. 

Avanos Pottery is a great place for those who admire the art of pottery. In here, you get to experience watching veteran potters shape a magnificent pot from scratch.

Devrent Valley or commonly know as the ‘Imagination Valley’ is where you can find different rock-formations which mimics some animal shapes and some objects’ shape. The most famous of all the rock formations here is the Camel/penguin/snail rock which mimics all three animal shapes depending on which angle you are looking it from. 

Urugup Valley is where you can find the Three Beauties rock formation. Back in the days before the internet, photos of these rock formations were used to promote tourism in Cappadocia.

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Important note:

Sometimes each tour company follows a different itinerary per vehicle to avoid bringing in too much tourists in one attraction at the same time. They somewhat created a scheme to prevent all these visitors from flocking in in one area at the same time which is great!

Thanks for reading. Hope this will help you with your Cappadocia Itinerary. 😀

New to the Blog? Click here to get to know me more.

Things to do in Cappadocia, Full-day Itinerary, Green Tour Info

My first stop on my recent trip in Turkey was in Goreme, a small but magnificent town in Cappadocia. So upon arriving, I checked the tours which I can avail on the following day. Upon checking, I can see that there are several tours being offered  like ‘Green tour’, ‘Red tour’, ‘Rose Valley Tour’, ‘ATV tour’, ‘Horse riding tour’, and ‘Hot Air Balloon Tour’. But in this post, I will be discussing about an itinerary which you can avail if you want a whole-day tour while in Cappadocia, it’s called the Green Tour I will be discussing the price and the different places and stops included plus the start time & end time of the Green Tour.

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Continue reading “Things to do in Cappadocia, Full-day Itinerary, Green Tour Info”

Travel to Buscalan, A DIY Travel Guide On How To Get There

Ever thought of taking a trip to a destination where you can disconnect from the modern world to reconnect with yourself? Or simply just want to have a life-changing experience on a budget? Then worry no more, the best destination for you is ‘Buscalan’!

Buscalan is a small village situated on the mountains of Tinglayan in the Province of Kalinga in the Northern part of the Philippines. It is famous for being a ‘tattoo haven’ as well as being the home of the legendary tattooist

I remember the first time I visited Buscalan, I was 16 and went there alone! I don’t know what’s gotten into me but it surely is the start of my wanderlust story. And since then, I haven’t kept track as to how many times I’ve been there already. Well, basically, I’ve been captivated by its breathtaking landscapes and its rich culture resulting in my many countless returns. Definitely a place that would surely make you wanna’ come-back for more.  

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Top Things to do in Buscalan

-Interact with the locals, go around the village and discover their way of life.

-Go and work your way towards the rice terraces early in the morning to watch the sunrise, or in the afternoon to catch the sunset.

-Go and have a dip at their waterfall situated at the base of the mountain just below the village.  

-Try their local coffee, this is a must whenever you visit the village!

-Try their local food, a must if you wanna have an unforgettable experience in Buscalan!

-Get inked by the legendary traditional tattooists of the village!

In this post, I will be sharing some helpful DIY travel tips on how to get there.

The most frequently asked question by every first time traveler is of course, how to get there. Well, there are actually a few ways on how to get there, purely depends on where you will be coming from.

Below are the most commonly taken route:

Manila->Tabuk City->Bugnay, Tinglayan

For this route, take the Victory Liner bus which departs from Victory Sampaloc Terminal in Manila. Buses to Tabuk usually departs during the evening, around 7:00 pm till 9:45pm. The journey roughly takes around 12-14 hours, depends on the traffic. For complete bus schedules and fare, click here.   

Then from Tabuk City, take the mini buses or jeeps going to Bugnay or Bontoc which usually departs from Tabuk City between 4:00am- 9:00am, they usually park in front of the opposite side of Damagen Gasoline Station in Barangay Bulanao. The journey takes around 3-3.5 hours from Tabuk City to Tinglayan. If you’ve taken the , tell the driver or the conductor to drop you off at ‘Mar-u’ in Bugnay, Tinglayan. Then from ‘Mar-u’, you can ask the locals where the starting point is going to Buscalan and you can then work your way towards the village. The walk usually takes around 1.5-2 hours, depends on how fast you are. Or you can hire a motorcycle for $3 to drive you all the way to the last vehicle-accessible point in Buscalan then you can work your way towards the village which would only take around 45 to 60-minutes walk.

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Tip: When you ride the jeep/bus going to Bontoc or Bugnay from Tabuk, make sure to ride on top of the jeepney/bus to enjoy an unforgettable experience and a spectacular view!

There is also another way if you want to skip the long bus-ride. You can take a plane from Manila going to Tuguegarao City and from Tuguegarao City, you can ride a van going to Tabuk City which will take around an hour journey. You can then follow the same route as above. But for this option, you need to spend a night in Tabuk City and catch the bus to Bontoc in the morning on the following day.

Manila ->Bontoc Mt. Province->Buscalan

For this route, take the Coda Bus lines which depart from Quezon City, Manila en-route to Sagada, Mountain Province. Just don’t forget to tell the driver or the conductor to drop you off at Bontoc. Journey takes around 9 hours to Bontoc from Manila.

For Coda Bus Line Schedules and fares, click here.

Then from Bontoc, you can then ride the Jeep going to the last vehicle-accessible point in Buscalan and you can then work your way towards the village which would take around 45 to 60-minute walk, depends on how fast you are.

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Manila->Baguio City->Bontoc, Mt. Province->Buscalan

This route is the best option if you need or want to have a stop-over at the Summer Capital of the Philippines.  I suggest that if you take this route, then spend at least one night in Baguio then take the buses going to Bontoc either via D’Rising Sun or GL Trans in the morning on the following day.

Buses from Manila to Baguio departs every hour 24/7 via Victory Liner, Genesis, etc. Either from Pasay Bus Terminal, Cubao Bus Terminal or Sampaloc Bus Terminal. Journey from Baguio to Manila takes around 5-6 hours. 

From Baguio City to Bontoc, you can take any of the following below:

D’Rising Sun Buses departs every hour from 5am till 1pm every day from Slaughter House Compound in Magsaysay Avenue, Baguio City.  

GL Lizardo Buses, departs 8AM, 10am and 2:30pm from Dangwa Bus Station at the back of Center Mall in Baguio city.

Journey from Baguio city to Bontoc takes around 6-hours and fares differ from $5-$6 depends on the couch you availed. Then from Bontoc, you can follow the same steps as above.

If you’re arriving from Banaue in Ifugao. You can take a jeepney ride from Banaue to Bontoc which would take around an hour journey, then from Bontoc, you can follow the same steps as above.

If you have questions or clarifications, feel free to drop a comment below.

Photos by Loic Bourgeois Photography, all rights reserved.