Was able to renew my B1/B2 US visa this week, and it was thankfully a lot easier than I expected.
The steps for applying for any kind of US visa are described in detail at the Embassy of the United States in Manila website. In my case, I needed to renew a non-immigrant visa and therefore used the VisaPoint site.
Side note: the VisaPoint site explicitly says it works well with Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. I was able to use Firefox for most of the pages on that site, but in the end I had to switch to IE because the final step, where the site generates a PDF-form, didn't work properly with Firefox.
The best advice I can share after going through the experience is this: Read everything related to your visa type on the VisaPoint site carefully and follow every instruction.
It may also help you to know in advance that you'll need to go through 5 different queues on the day of your appointment:
- a queue at the entrance to the embassy where they check to see if you've actually got an appointment. They also check if you've brought along the correct forms;
- a queue inside the embassy where they review the correctness and completeness of your application forms and then assign you a number. Once you've got a number, you sit in the waiting area and wait for your number to be called;
- a queue after they call your number where you go to get your fingerprints scanned;
- a queue after finger-printing where you actually talk to a consul and s/he decides whether or not to approve your visa application; and finally
- a queue with the Delbros courier service, where you fill up a form to let them know where your passport and visa should be delivered once the embassy releases it (usually after a few working days).
In reality, the whole queue-based process, although very impersonal, is designed with process efficiency in mind. So just accept that you'll have to line up a few times. You'll find that with the correct mindset, the wait will be much easier to handle. The employees I interacted with were all gracious and patient, and that helped too.
My appointment was scheduled for 8am. I arrived at 7am as instructed and was done with the courier paperwork (Queue #5) and back outside the embassy gates by 8.45am.
I think my experience was much easier than I expected because my previous visa had been multiple-entry. I noticed that folks like me were all assigned a number on the "Speed Line." Although everyone has to go through the same lines for Queues #1 and #2, folks who got sorted into the Speed Line had shorter waits for Queues #3 and #4, primarily because there were less of us, and we didn't have to answer questions or show any supporting documents other than our expired visas.
Overall, it was a much more pleasant experience than I expected. If all goes according to schedule, my passport with its new visa will arrive by courier within a week's time. Only then will I know what kind of visa I actually got this time.