One of the requirements for a K1 visa is clearance from the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation), whose main office is located on Taft Avenue, Manila, right next to the Supreme Court. I called them beforehand and they told me they were open from 7:30am to 5pm, Mondays to Sundays. Since NBI clearance is also a common tihng requested by prospective employers, I asked my friends for advice and they said either go very very early, or very late (about 4:30pm). When I finished applying for my passport renewal at around 10am, Mom and I drove to NBI after having lunch. We arrived around 1pm and parked in the nearby Robinson's Place mall, then walked to the NBI. There was a huge teeming mass of hundreds of people, and I couldn't find the end of the line, so we decided to come back another day. Besides, we were already tired.
I returned around 7:15am on a Thursday morning, with my yaya as companion. Since the mall was still closed, I parked at the Philippine General Hospital and we walked. The queue for clearance is in the back of the NBI complex (actually, to the left side, but it starts in the back early in the morning). Even then, there were at least a hundred people in line ahead of us. What they don't tell you--you only find out after overhearing people looking for the correct line--is that there are two different lines for clearance, "local" and "abroad". The difference is that the brown one costs slightly less (about P30) and is valid for local employment, while the green one costs about P55 and is for travel abroad. Fortunately, I'd only been in the wrong line for five minutes before I started asking around.
The windows for Step 1 (cashier) open at 7:30pm and they start letting people advance in the queue. That morning, there were three windows open for "local" and two for "abroad", so the latter was slower. At some point they broke up the line into two and you have to be snappy to get ahead. All you need is to write your name on a piece of paper and pay the fee, then proceed to a small enclosure to fill up the card. Each step, like at the Department of Foreign Affairs passport section, is clearly marked by signs with Step 1, Step 2 and so on. After filling up the card, you go into the building and it is looked over. Then they take your picture, and finally your fingerprints. As you leave, they stamp the back of your receipt with the date you should come back to claim your clearance. Usually it takes three days.
The process is fairly straightforward. I finished at around 9am, even though I was in line at the cashier for over an hour. I'm told that you run into difficulties if you have a very common name, or one that happens to belong to someone else who has a record.
I returned early, also around 7:30am to claim my clearance. You fall in line at windows marked alphabetically, this time in the front of the building. (The line looks longer than it actually should be, because some married women fall in line under their married surnames, instead of their maiden names.) Before reaching the head of the line, you should write your full name on a small slip of paper. They ask you to check that everything in your clearance is correct (name spelling, address, etc.) before you leave. Thankfully, mine was alright and said "No record on file". I was out of there around 8am.
The clearance they give is on a green paper with the NBI dry seal affixed on the left. It is actually two copies of the same thing with your name, address, birthdate and a very bad picture. The upper half is what the US Embassy will get, you get to keep the lower half as your personal copy (this is also what you present for renewal). Don't forget to put your thumbprint in the lower right-hand box before you go to your interview.