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US Consul General: A kodigo could ruin chances of getting a visa

GMA News Online is publishing a series of stories about US visas based on an exclusive interview with US Consul General Michael Schimmel in Manila.
If a visa applicant showed up for an interview at the United States Embassy in Manila with a kodigo or cheat sheet, he or she could lose the chance to get a visa. In an interview with GMA News Online on Thursday, US Consul General Michael Schimmel said having a cheat sheet was definitely "not a good idea." He mentioned that a visa consultancy company near the US Embassy was recently caught providing people with false documentation, including a cheat sheet, to place them in jobs in the US, usually in care centers. Instead of bringing a kodigo, Schimmel advised that it would be better if people would "simply be comfortable with the conversation and anticipate some questions that you're always going to be asked like 'What will you do there?'" Schimmel said consular officers will "probably ask you a few questions: if you're being hosted, how long has your friend been there? Is she a citizen? Does she have family there? That sort..." "Questions, as you can imagine, will help the officer determine that the purpose of your trip is as what you described it to be, and that you're likely not to stay longer than the prescribed time," he said. His personal advice: Be honest Schimmel said the advice he can give to US visa applicants is to be honest. "Tell the truth in the interview. Do not omit information," he said. "Sometimes people in their application deliberately slide over the question of siblings in the United States. When it (the application paper) says: 'Are any of these people in the United States?' do not think that the presence of your brother or sister is going to compromise your status. It makes perfect sense that you'll be visiting your brother or sister, so tell us the truth about that," he said.   He also urged people not to "inflate" their financial status. "Do not inflate your economy. People will come in and say, 'I make $2,000 a month' when in fact, they make far less than that," he said. Schimmel said the embassy just wants to know whether the applicant has enough resources to travel to the US. "Again, it isn't a standard, but I think it's good reason that we want to see the resources for you to take this trip and not go bankrupt," he explained. He also said people should not lie about their work status.   "Don't exaggerate your stay at the company, give us the truth about that. Because again if you misrepresent the facts, not only will you be denied the visa immediately, but it's possible that you'll be rendered ineligible forever," he said. Schimmel said "that's an unfortunate situation because years later, you might have an opportunity to immigrate to the United States and that episode of lying would compromise that as well."   "So tell us the truth. That's the number one recommendation. The number two recommendation, of course, make certain that the presentation you offer represents a reasonably stable situation," he said.   Tweet the Consul General In a previous GMA News Online article, Schimmel said many Filipinos seem to find it intimidating to obtain a US visa.
"There is a certain mystery to the US visa process that we hope can be dissolved," he said.

To "demystify" the process, the US Embassy in Manila decided to have an online project — the "Visa Hour: Tweet with the US Consul General" — where anyone can ask Schimmel any question via Twitter.

Once a month, Schimmel answers live on the embassy's Facebook page selected questions sent to them via Twitter using the hashtag #TheVisaHour.

The project premiered on January 20 this year. (Click here to view the latest Visa Hour episode on February 24.) - Rose-An Jessica Dioquino/ELR/HS, GMA News