My Step-By-Step Guide on How to Renew a US Tourist Visa Without Interview

September 30, 2017

My Step-By-Step Guide 
on 
How to Renew a US Tourist Visa Without Interview



First, you have to find out if you are eligible for visa renewal without interview. The criteria are as follows:


Eligibility Criteria for Drop-Box Applicants: 
  • I have a previous B1/B2 visa that I wish to renew. 
  • My visa was issued after July 1, 2007. 
  • My prior visa was valid for at least five years. 
  • My prior B1/B2 visa is still valid or expired within the last 12 months 
  • I am a citizen of the Philippines. 
  • My prior visa does not say “Clearance Received” or “Travel with Employer”. 
  • I have my passport with my B1/B2 visa in my possession
  • My most recent visa was issued on or after my 14th birthday. 
  • The last time I applied for a B1/B2 visa it was approved.

HOW TO APPLY


STEP 1. Have your photo taken.

In my case, I had my photo taken at Great Image. I told them that the photo is for US visa purposes so they know what to do. They charged me 249 pesos and got the photo in 15 minutes. Make sure to get a digital CD copy so you can use the disc to upload the photo when you fill up the DS-160 online application form.


STEP 2. Pay the visa fee.

The tourist visa is US$160. It's peso equivalent at this time is 8320 pesos at the exchange rate of 52 = 1USD. Click HERE   to verify the visa fee amount.

Check out US Visa Bank and Payment Information for primary information on how to pay the visa fee.

To summarize, you can pay 2 ways:

1. Over-the counter at Bank of the Philippine Islands
Go to this site: Bank and Payment Information. Click the Deposit Slip - $160 MRV Fee link to retrieve your US visa deposit slip with the RECEIPT NUMBER. Then go to any Bank of the Philippine Islands branch to pay the visa fee. 

My tip: KEEP THE RECEIPT. You will include a copy of the receipt with all the documents to be sent to the US embassy.



2. Online
If you have a BPI online account, you can pay the visa fee online.
Go to this site: Bank and Payment InformationClick the BPI link under Online Payment to retrieve your REFERENCE NUMBER. 


Log in to your BPI account online and enroll your reference number. Click the Guide to Enrolling Other Bills online 
My tip: After payment, print your payment confirmation. You will include a copy of the payment confirmation with all the documents to be sent to the US embassy.




STEP 3. Fill up the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160).

You can find the form HERE .

My tip: Make sure to remember your APPLICATION ID at the start of your application so you can retrieve and continue filling up your application in case you don't finish it in one sitting.



Prepare the digital copy of your photo. Uploading the digital photo is the last stage of the the process before submitting the DS-160 form online. You cannot submit and digitally sign the DS-160 form without uploading your photo.

Print your DS-160 confirmation page with your photo. You will include this with other documents to be sent to the US embassy.


STEP 4. Register an Account at the US embassy page





You need to create an account because this is where you will input your DS-160 confirmation number so you can retrieve the Dropbox Confirmation Letter. 






You need to input the DS-160 confirmation number in the account you created before a link will appear where you can print the dropbox confirmation letter.





The courier, 2GO Express, will ask for a copy of the dropbox confirmation letter before accepting your documents for delivery to the US embassy.




STEP 5. Gather all documents to be sent to the US embassy via 2GO Express.

CHECKLIST OF THE ITEMS YOU NEED TO SUBMIT:

1. Passports
a. Your current valid passport. 
b. The passport with your most recent B1/B2 visa 
c. All passports issued since the date of your last visa
If you are missing a passport, an affidavit of loss or police report is not acceptable – you will need to schedule an interview.
2. One copy of the Drop-Box Confirmation letter 

3. Two photographs taken within the last six months. 

4. DS-160 Confirmation Page

5. Proof of Payment

STEP 6. Bring the documents to 2GO Express.

No need to pay anything. The visa fee includes the courier fee.


Documents submitted to the US embassy




STEP 7. ARRIVAL OF THE PASSPORTS WITH THE US VISA

FOUR DAYS after submission of the documents, the passport with the new US Tourist Visa (together with all passports submitted) are delivered to the applicant's address.


7 DAYS IN OSAKA: My Travel Guide and Itinerary

August 31, 2017

7 DAYS IN OSAKA: My Travel Guide and Itinerary


WHAT YOU WILL VISIT IN THIS ITINERARY

4 World Heritage Sites of Kyoto and Nara namely: Nijo-jo Castle, Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion), Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Taisha Shrine

Other sites in Kyoto and Nara: Kyoto Imperial Palace, Nara Park

Osaka Castle
Umeda Sky Building
Dotonbori
Suntory Yamazaki distillery
Universal Studios
Kuromon Market
Shinsaibashi
Museum of Housing and Living
Tennoji Temple

Food tripping at Dotonbori: Kokuru Takoyaki, Ichiran Ramen, Melon Pan, Chibo Okonomiyaki
Food tripping at Namba: Takoyaki Wanaka, Isonoryotaro (conveyor belt sushi)
Food tripping at Kuromon Market: Kobe beef at Maruzen butcher, grilled scallops, fresh uni, otoro (fatty tuna), sushi, grilled unagi, Cremia ice cream
Shopping at Don Quijote discount store


WHAT TO BOOK OR BUY IN ADVANCE

1. Suntory Yamazaki distillery tour
Book Yamazaki distillery tour at least 2 months in advance, when reservation opens to ensure you get your desired date. The tour is always fully booked. For example, if you're going to the distillery in May, they open reservations at 8:00 AM on March 1. For the best chance to get your desired date, especially a weekend date, reserve on the 1st day of the month when reservations open. 

Suntory Yamazaki distillery tour reservations: CLICK HERE
PRICE: 1000 yen per person

If the Yamazaki distillery tour is fully booked and you want to taste the rare Yamazaki whisky, like the 25 year old Yamazaki, make reservations at the Whisky Museum instead. Entrance is free. You only pay for the tasting fee of the whisky you wish to taste.

Suntory Yamazaki whisky museum reservations: CLICK HERE
PRICE: FREE, but you pay for the drinks you taste.

2. Universal Studios ticket
It's a bad idea to buy Universal Studios tickets at the entrance of the park because of the long line. If you buy it in advance, you go straight to the turnstile entrance, scan the QR code on your voucher then immediately allow entry to the park.

Klook.com is one of the official ticketing agents of Universal Studios Japan (USJ). USJ will not honor your voucher/ticket unless it comes from their official ticketing agent. Of all the official ticketing agents listed in their site, Klook.com is the easiest site to use. They also offer promo discounts so you get the tickets for less than the price of the ticket at the USJ entrance.

If you wish to buy tickets at the Universal Studios Japan site, you have to choose the Japanese site, not the English site. The Japanese site is the only one offering tickets for sale.

You don't have to exchange the vouchers bought at Klook.com for Universal Studios tickets. The vouchers are the tickets themselves. You enter Universal Studios by presenting the vouchers with the QR code at the turnstile. They scan the QR code on the vouchers then allow entry to the park.

PRICE: 7600 yen, but I got it at 6550 yen at Klook.com because of a promo.

3. Osaka Wonderloop
It's a 2-day hop-on- hop off bus which you can use to explore Osaka city. We bought it in advance at Klook.com because it's 50% off the price in Osaka Wonderloop website.

We claimed the ticket, which is actually a tour booklet which you present when riding the bus, at the HIS stall at the arrival lounge of Kansai airport.

PRICE: 3000 yen at Osaka Wonderloop site, but I got it at 1500 yen at Klook.com 

4. Icoca card
This is a reloadable smart card that you can use on several networks like the JR train, subways, private railways and buses. This is the best smart card to use because:
a. It's reloadable. 
This means you load only the amount you need then surrender the card at the airport to claim the remaining amount loaded in the card.
b. You don't need to buy train tickets using cash. You can go straight to the gate each time you enter the rail station. 
c. You don't need to buy separate tickets when you change lines from the subway to the private railway. You only need to tap the card at the turnstile when you change lines. 
d. You can use the card to make purchases in stores like 711.

The most convenient place to buy the ICOCA card is at the JR Kansai station at the airport. But you need to go up the 2nd level where the JR Kansai station is located. The arrival area is at the 1st floor. 

The lines at the JR Kansai station is very long so I purchased my ICOCA card at Klook.com. If you purchase the card at Klook.com, you can claim the ticket at the 1st floor arrival area, at the HIS stall, which is the same stall where you collect the Osaka wonderloop ticket. There is no line at the HIS stall so you can leave the airport immediately after claiming your card and ticket.

Price of ICOCA card: 2200 yen, but I got it at 2000 yen at Klook.com

5. Kyoto-Nara Tour
I purchased my Kyoto-Nara Tour at viator.com instead of JTB Sunrise Tours or Japanican because viator.com offers it at 10% discount.

PRICE: JTB Sunrise tours/Japanican: 17600 yen, but I purchased it at viator.com for15840 yen per person because of a viator promo

6. Flytpack Pocket Wifi
It is essential to bring a pocket wifi in Japan so it will be possible to navigate the subways and private railways. Lines change depending on time. If you have a pocket wifi, when you arrive at the station, you can start searching for your destination at google maps and google maps will tell you the next train you can ride to go to your destination. Others use hyperdia.com to navigate the trains but I find it easier to use google maps. Japan trains arrive exactly on time. So it's essential that you do an online google map search again once you arrive at the station to make sure you'll ride the correct train at the correct time.

PRICE: 280 per day x 7 days = 1960 pesos rental fee. Plus 2800 pesos deposit, which they return after you return the unit. I added 550 pesos router insurance just to be safe.  


DAY 1. ARRIVAL IN OSAKA (MONDAY)

3:30 AM
Leave house

4:00 AM
Park car in Park n Fly
Fee for 6 days and 12 hours parking: 2475 pesos

4:30 AM - 6:00 AM
Go to Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1
Check-in
NOTE: Check in counter at Jetstar opens 3 hours before the flight contrary to the email information that it only opens 2 hours before the flight. 
Immigration
Breakfast at MIASCOR Lounge

6:00 AM
Boarding

6:55 AM - 11:50 AM
Manila to Osaka flight via Jetstar 3K 763

NOTE: Japan is 1 hour ahead of the Philippines so from this point of the itinerary, I'm using Japan time.

11:50 AM-12:55 AM

Check out this video. This is the one I viewed to familiarize myself with Kansai airport

Credits go to Cliff Kimura for making this video

You take a short train ride from the airplane embarkation area to immigration
Immigration is at the 2nd floor, baggage claim is at the 1st floor

After claiming your baggage:
1. Claim the tickets bought at KLOOK like the Osaka Wonderloop and ICOCA card at HIS 1st floor arrival floor
2. Buy roundtrip ticket for Blue Kate limousine bus at window A to bus stop 11 (OC) (extreme right), 
PRICE: Kate bus is 1850 yen roundtrip per person
NOTE: TICKET MACHINE IS NEAR BUS STOP 11. Don't go to any other ticket machine except the one near bus stop 11 going to Namba (OCAT)


12:55 PM - 1:45 PM
Bus ride from airport to Namba OCAT (Osaka City Air Terminal)
Arrive at gate 5, 2nd Floor of Namba OCAT


This gate 5, 2nd floor of Namba OCAT
(Photo courtesy of Google Maps)



1:45 PM - 2:00 PM
Go down the elevator near bus stop 5.


Take the escalator at the right
(
Photo courtesy of Google Maps)
This is what you will see at the end of the escalator.
Proceed to the door near the Real Tree store.
That's where you can get a taxi.
(
Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Estimate of taxi to hotel : 1100 yen per taxi,  maximum capacity is 4
Actual price paid: 660 yen

2:00 PM
Check in at Hotel Sunroute Osaka Namba
Photo

2:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Lunch at Dotonbori
First stop is at Kokuru takoyaki
Price
Photo

Lined up at Ichiran ramen
Price
Photo
NOTE: Don't get intimidated by the line. Waiting time is not too long. 

Browsed at Don Quijote 
Photo

5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Rest at the hotel

7:30 PM - 8:30 PM
We visited Don Quijote. Don Quijote is open 24 hours

The we tried another takoyaki place, Takoyaki wanaka.
Price 
Photo
8:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Dinner at Isonoryotaro (conveyor belt sushi), 2f swing building 
Price:
Photo


9:30 PM - 10:30 PM
Bought breakfast items at 711
Returned to the hotel

Map of the day

DAY 2. KYOTO - NARA TOUR (TUESDAY)

The Kyoto-Nara tour is courtesy of viator.com.
Photo tour at viator
Highlights of the tour:
Price of the tour

Here are the details of what transpired during the tour.

6:00 AM - 6:15 AM
We walked from Hotel Sunroute Osaka Namba to  SwissĂ´tel Nankai, the meeting place of the tour nearest to our hotel.

6:45 AM - 7:15 AM
Transported by bus from Swissotel Nankai to Hotel Granvia to pick up other tour participants.

7:20 AM - 8:00 AM 
Bus ride to Kyoto

8:00 AM -8:10 AM
Restroom stop

8:10 AM - 8:40 AM
Bus ride from the restroom stop to Nijo castle

8:40 AM - 9:45 AM
Nijo castle
Photo

9:50 AM - 10:50 AM
Kinkakuji Temple
Photo

11:10 AM - 11:50 AM
Kyoto Imperial Palace
Photo

12:00 PM - 1:10 PM
Japanese / western buffet at Kyoto Handicraft Centre 

We changed bus and tour guides after lunch. Our other companions took the Afternoon Kyoto tour while we took the Nara tour.

1:20 - 2:20 PM
Travel to Nara. The guide gives a short background of Nara.

2:30 PM - 3:40 PM
Todaiji temple and Nara park
Photo

3:50 PM - 4:20 PM
Kasugai taisha shrine
Photo

4:40 PM - 5:00 PM
We visited Nara nagomikan for souvenir shopping

5:00 PM -5:40 PM
We were brought to Kintetsu Nara station to ride the train back to Osaka. A guide accompanied us in the train to Osaka

5:40 PM-6:20 PM
Kintetsu nara station to Osaka namba

6:30 PM - 7:30 PM
Visited Takashimaya food hall at the basement of Namba OCAT to buy dinner
Returned to the hotel.
Bought breakfast at 711 store near the hotel 


DAY 3. SUNTORY YAMAZAKI FOR THE ADULTS/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FOR THE KIDS (WEDNESDAY)
We separated on this day. My husband and I went to Yamazaki Distillery while my kids went on to Universal Studios

My tip: If everyone in the group wishes to go to Universal Studios, the best time to go is on a Wednesday. Based on my children's experience, although they went in with a huge crowd, they were able to ride all the major rides.

crowd calendar

Itinerary of those who went to Universal Studios

6:30 AM 
Leave hotel

7:00 AM - 7:30 AM
Train from Nipponbashi station to Universal Studios

8:00 AM Opening of Universal Studios. Everyone ran to Harry Potter World when the gates opened!

Show crowds and those who ran

8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Universal Studios Japan. 

MUST SEE

MUST RIDE


Itinerary of those who went to Yamazaki Distillery

8:30 AM: Leave the hotel 

10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Travel by train to Yamazaki from Nipponbashi station to Oyamazaki station

11:30 AM -12:00 PM
Sandwich lunch at Daily convenience store, beside JR Yamazaki station

12:20 PM - 1:40 PM
Yamazaki distillery tour

1:40 PM - 2:30 PM
Tasting room

3:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Travel by train from Oyamazaki station to Nipponbashi station

4:00 PM - 4:30 PM
Late lunch at Kuromon Market
Kobe beef at Maruzen Butcher
Grilled scallops and Fresh uni

5:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Rest in the hotel

8:00 PM - 11:00 PM
We ate okonomiyaki at Creo ru. We were disappointed so we went to Don Quijote and lined up at Ichiran Ramen again.


DAY 4. KUROMON MARKET, REST DAY OR FREE DAY SHOPPING (THURSDAY)

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Lunch at Kuromon Market
Grilled scallops
Sushi
Otoro
Cremia
Grilled eel

My tip: If you want to buy freshest catch, best time to go to Kuromon market is at 9:00 AM. However, you have to deal with a lot of people, especially if it's a Saturday. Best time to go to avoid crowds is at 1:00 PM, when the lunchtime crowd is done eating.

2:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Rest in the hotel or shopping at Shinshaibashi

8:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Dinner at Matsuya
Bought breakfast at 711 near the hotel.


DAY 5. OSAKA CASTLE, UMEDA SKY (FRIDAY)

9:30 AM - 10:30 AM
Ride the Osaka Wonderloop to Osaka Castle

10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Osaka Castle
Lunch at stalls outside Osaka Castle

12:30 PM - 1:00 PM
Ride the Osaka wonderloop to Umeda Sky

1:00 PM - 3:00
Umeda Sky building

3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
Ride the Osaka Wonderloop to Shinsaibashi
Walked from Shinsaibashi to Dotonbori
We ate Melon Pan at Dotonbori while waiting for a seat at Chibo.

4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Late lunch at Chibo for the okonomiyaki

My tip: Go to Chibo off hours, meaning not during lunchtime or dinner, to avoid the long line. This restaurant serves the best okonomiyaki that's why it has a long line.

6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Rest in the hotel

9:00 PM
Late dinner at Matsuya across the hotel


DAY 6. Museum of Housing and Living, Tennoji temple, Dotonbori (SATURDAY)

9:30 AM -10:00 AM
Leave hotel
Ride the train

10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Museum of Housing and Living
You see a recreation of an Osaka village during the Edo period. You can rent a kimono and walk around the village and imagine what it's like to live in Osaka during the Edo period.

12:00 PM - 12:30 PM
Ride the train from Museum of Housing and Living to Tennoji temple.

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Tennoji temple

2:00 PM -2:30 PM
Ride the Osaka wonderloop from Tennoji temple to Dotonbori

3:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Rest at the hotel
Shopping

8:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Explored Dotonbori and Shinshaibashi

9:30 PM - 10:30 PM
Dinner at Gyu-Kaku, Dotonbori, Japanese Grill


DAY 7. DEPARTURE FROM OSAKA (SUNDAY)

7:30 AM
Check out of Hotel Sunroute Osaka Namba

8:00 AM 
Get taxi in front of the hotel
Ride the taxi to Osaka City Air Terminal to ride the Kate limousine bus to the airport

9:10 AM - 10:00 AM
Ride the Kate limousine bus to Kansai Airport

10:30 AM - 12:00
Check in at the Jetstar counter
Dine at Kansai airport food court before immigration
Return the ICOCA card to JR Kansai station at the 2nd floor of the airport
Immigration

Map photo

11:50 AM
Boarding

12:50 PM - 4:05 PM
Departure from Osaka via Jetstar 3K 764

4:00 PM
Arrival in Manila





EASYTRIP RELOADING VIA BDO: How to do it

August 16, 2017


EASYTRIP RELOADING VIA BDO:
How to do it


What is Easytrip?

"Easytrip is the exclusive tag issuer for Class 1, 2, and 3 vehicles at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX)....With the Easytrip electronic tag, motorists can have cash less and queue-less transaction as they pass through Easytrip dedicated lanes or mixed lanes at all NLEX toll plazas. Each Easytrip lane has a unique sensor that reads the tag, automatically lifting the toll barrier" (source: http://www.easytrip.ph/faqnlex.html)

As you can see from the announcement, you cannot reloadat the NLEX-SCTEX lane anymore.You need to do it in advance in another way.


HOW TO RELOAD OVER-THE-COUNTER AT BANCO DE ORO:

NOTE: I recommend using Banco de Oro (BDO) because of the number of branches they have, with mall-based branches also open Saturdays and Sundays.

1.  Go to any Banco de Oro branch. 

2. Fill in the blue deposit slip (not the bill payment slip) with the following information :


Account name: Easytrip Services Corporation  
Account number: 0015-3011-7826 
Reference Number: 12 digit Easytrip Customer Account number and Customer name


3. Make the deposit. 

4. After making the deposit, make sure to do any of these two things. If you don't, your easytrip will not be reloaded. 


A. Email the copy of the validated deposit slip to vds@easytrip.ph or support@easytrip.ph.
OR 
B. Fax to (+632) 6357752 or (+632)555-7575 (option 3).


5. After sending the email or the fax, call  (+632)555-7575 (option 4), to confirm that they received the fax or the email. 

6. Your easytrip will be reloaded 24 hours after you confirm that they received your fax or email.