In an unprecedented move by an embassy to connect with Filipinos and answer some burning questions, the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines is hosting a web chat right now (Feb. 23, 2011) as I am typing this post out. The first topic: U.S. Non-Immigrant Visas.
The hour-long web chat (from 4pm to 5pm) was well-announced. First, a Facebook event page was created. Then I heard the announcement of the web chat several times since yesterday over Crossover 105.1 FM. And a friend told me it was also announced over DZRH when a consular representative guested.
The chat room has about 117 participants as of this writing which includes people from the U.S. Embassy who are answering the questions posted on the chat room. To log on, go to this page.
The questions range from general questions — like what documents are needed to apply for an immigrant visa, why certain people were denied, how long before a schedule can be given — to specific family situations like an entire family wanting to apply for visas to attend a wedding.
I believe that this move not only brings the U.S. Embassy (and its government) closer to the Filipinos but attempts to address issues that are close to the Pinoys’ hearts. The issue of non-immigrant visas was a good choice, considering summer is very near, and many are planning vacations.
There were a few technical difficulties at the start of the web chat but I believe those are just birth pains. I hope that this marks the start of more technology-based communications with the Filipino people on matters that are of importance to both countries.
I’d like to congratulate the U.S. Embassy in Manila as well as the entire team behind it. More power to you!