A friend of mine had a rather annoying experience when she went to the US Embassy for her visa application interview. She was not aware of the things that applicants are not allowed to bring inside the embassy building and so she ended up entrusting her mobile phones and thumb drives to some stranger outside the embassy gates, to the tune of P250 per mobile phone (she had two) and P100 for 3 thumb drives! She also had to throw away an unopened bottle of water and a pair of small scissors she keeps in her make-up kit for emergency purposes.
She found it difficult to focus on her interview as she was worried that the guy who “kept” her gadgets might turn out to be some scammer and run away with her stuff. Nonetheless, she answered all of the consul’s questions honestly and as best as she could. Less than five minutes into the interview, the consul told her that she will be granted a visa and that her passport will be delivered to her home soon. In spite of this good news, she was only able to breathe a sigh of relief after she has claimed her gadgets from the stranger’s stall a few meters from the gates of the US embassy. Had she known beforehand that gadgets of any kind, food and drinks, and practically all other personal effects are not allowed in the premises of the US Embassy, she would have just left her bag in the car with her husband, saving herself from unnecessary worry and expenses.
I did my own research on the matter and true enough, the US Embassy does have a long list of prohibited items, whether brought by a non-immigrant visa applicant, an office visitor, and even their own employees. If you are scheduled to visit the US Embassy anytime soon, it would do you good to save a copy of the following list:
- Electronic gadgets such as mobile phones, digital watches, cameras, audio/video recorders, calculators, flashlights, CDs, DVDs, thumb drives, external hard drives, Bluetooth devices, laptops, tablets, and even remote car keys.
- Limit your hand-carried items to an unsealed, transparent plastic envelope when carrying your application-related papers. Ladies’ hand bags, back packs, briefcases, suitcases, and travel bags, including sealed envelopes and packages are not allowed inside the embassy premises as well.
- Any food item, including bottled drinks. There are drinking fountains within the building should you feel thirsty while waiting for your turn.
- Matches, lighters, and sharp objects of any kind.
- Any liquid including beverages, hand sanitizers, anti-bacterial gels, and colognes.
- Umbrellas are allowed inside the premises although the guards may ask that you “open” the umbrella for inspection before they let you in.
- Feeding bottles for babies and toddlers are allowed. If you are carrying a milk bottle, guards may ask that you taste the milk in front of them before you are allowed entry.
- Interpreters are allowed to accompany hearing-impaired applicants; other than that, the rest of the applicants are not allowed to bring other people with them that are not applicants, including American citizen family members and friends.
The embassy does not have a facility where applicants can temporarily store the prohibited items. They will not be held liable for any loss or damage to your property should you choose to leave it under the care of individuals lurking outside the embassy gates offering to “safe keep” your belongings while you are being interviewed inside. Most applicants, especially first-timers, are only made aware of these prohibitions upon entry to the embassy gates, minutes before their scheduled interview. So do your part in spreading the word and share this article to as many friends and families as you can.