Here’s my experience at the US Embassy when I went for my visa appointment. Prior to this, I followed the instructions on the official US visa Web site and submitted my DS-160 online application form including photo (the site has a test to show you if your photo is acceptable when you upload it, so no stress), created a profile on the Web site and paid the visa fee. A few notes about these:
- DS-160 – they want to know dates of your last 5 trips to the US, so keep your travel itineraries for future reference, especially since nowadays with our electronic passports there are no stamps anymore. If you don’t have the exact dates, you are supposed to put in your best estimate. They also want to know the visa number of any previous US visas, so keep old passports as well.
- In order to make visa fee payment online, you have to create a profile on their Web site. You can only do the payment after the DS-160 is submitted, as it will generate the reference number. Once payment is made, you don’t have to wait for a receipt from the visa system to be emailed to you as it says on one page (I never got a receipt beyond my bank’s receipt). You can go back to the Web site and use the reference number (“Virtual Account Number”) as the receipt number to schedule your appointment.
Okay, on to the appointment! Mine was at 8.45 am. Everything went smoothly. Most of the time was spent waiting outside the Embassy. They were backlogged and I didn’t go in till about 9.15 am. Once inside it was very quick. Overall, I arrived by 8.30 am and was done by 9.35 am. The procedure was roughly as follows:
- If you get there early, at first you don’t queue at all, you wait around until the security guard calls your appointment time. There are benches or you can stand around.
- Once your time is called, you queue in the outer line of 2 parallel lines next to the wall to submit your ID (MyKad or driving license) and passport. You get a Visitor ID card in place of your ID, and your passport is returned with a sticker on the back. TIP: I was watching the queues and was able to be one of the first in line for this queue when my appointment time was called, which probably cut down on my processing time as I didn’t have to wait behind all the people with the same appointment time!
- After getting your Visitor ID, you go to the second, inner queue along the wall which is the queue to get into what turned out to be not the Embassy but a very large guardhouse. Just before entering the guardhouse, you get a basket to put your handphone and other electronic items including headphones and car keys.
Inside the guardhouse
- Here you put everything through the x-ray machine, and you only have to hand over your electronics, e.g. smartphone. You sign for it and are given a number. The items are kept in a cubbyhole in the guardhouse, so it seems pretty safe. I got to keep my handbag with wallet and umbrella to bring in with me.
- After the security check, you walk up the steps to the Embassy. There is a guard who will do a visual inspection of your handbag there.
- Then you enter Consular Services, which was the door on the left while I was there.
Inside the embassy
- Here, there were people telling us where to go. No taking number (contrary to previous experiences I read online), I was ushered straight to queue for a counter, where the lady took my passport and student visa paperwork (I-20 and SEVIS payment confirmation). She checked them and folded them up, and sent me to the another counter.
- Next counter was for biometric fingerprint scanning, also very quick.
- Third counter was for the interview. Again, the line was short and the interview was short as well, just 4-5 questions and I was approved. The lady was typing the whole time. All the counters/booths are in a small room and it was very quick going from one to the other. Crowd/queue control was done by two local staff, all very efficient. (NOTE: I was not asked to show ANY of my supplementary documents, not even a copy of the photo, which they tell you to bring, which was a relief as I wasn’t too sure about the print quality. However I did have all the photos and documents there just in case, and you should too, of course).
- When I came out of the interview, that was it! I picked up my phone and ID at the guardhouse and left.
I had opted for home delivery for the passport instead of pick-up. The day after my appointment, I checked online and the status said the passport had been received by the courier company. It arrived at my home the morning after, i.e. the 2nd business day after my appointment. I wasn’t there but someone else was able to sign for it.
Thankful that everything went smoothly! 😀