A Guide To The U.S. Visa: The Beginning Of My USA Trip




THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, USA, UNITED STATES, U.S., AMERICA: These are some of the phrases we use to address the country. But for many Indians like me, it was UMREEKA (An Indian way of pronouncing) during our childhood days. As a kid I used to tease and make fun of my brother's nickname i.e. "Jimmy" because it was a popular "dog name" in our neighbourhood. One day my brother got really annoyed and gave ultimatum to our parents to change his nickname. Our parents told him (just to calm down my brother) that they named him after the popular Umreekan President. My brother stopped complaining and had no effect of my teasing thereafter. Gradually, even i lost interest. It was probably the first time when i heard of the country.
I had no plan or intention of visiting USA during trump rule but sure i wanted to visit USA some day.  The main purpose of my visit was to volunteer at Sundance Film Festival. Detailed post about how that happened will be up soon.

I heard and read so many disappointing stories of people who had applied for the U.S. visa and how their applications got rejected on no solid grounds. In this post, I'm sharing my personal experience of applying the notorious USA Visa.

Below are the steps i have taken to apply and obtain a U.S. VISA:



Checking the Visa Category

As per my travel purpose, i applied for Non-immigrant B-1/B-2 visitor Visa. This type of visa is for people temporarily traveling to the U.S. for business (B-1) or for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2) purposes. Generally, visa is granted jointly as B-1/B-2. So, best to apply for B1/B2 visa instead of B1 or B2.

Submitting the DS-160 Form

Next step is to fill the DS-160 Form which is 5 pages long form consists of many questions ranging from passport information, personal and family information, Work and Education information, Travel information and some preposterous security and background questions. Before submitting the form, it is strongly advisable to recheck the filled information twice/thrice and the information filled by you should be true to your knowledge. After submission you will receive an email with the confirmation number.

Paying the US Visa Fees

You need to create an account here: https://cgifederal.secure.force.com/SiteRegister. After login and filling another form (short one). I paid $160 to apply for a B1/B2 Visa which i transferred to the specific Bank Of America A/c Number assigned to me (only valid for one time transaction). After few hours of transaction payment reflected and I was good to go onto next step.

Scheduling two Appointments 

Next step is to schedule two appointments. 

First one is for the Visa Application centre to have your fingerprints and photo taken. You need to carry below documents for this appointment:
  • Your current Passport
  • Your DS-160 Confirmation page
  • Your Appointment confirmation letter

Second one is for the U.S. Embassy/Consulate for the Interview. You need to carry below documents for this appointment:
  • Your current and old Passports
  • Your DS-160 Confirmation page stamped at Visa Application centre
  • Your Appointment confirmation page
  • Supporting documents: Unlike schengen visa, Issuance of a U.S. visa is more interview based than documents based. The interviewer didn't ask me to show any documents but it is highly advisable to be fully prepared on your part. 
Okay, so here comes the tricky part for me. The latest interview dates available at Mumbai U.S. consulate was just few days before my intended departure date but as i find out we can give interview at any of the five US consulates/embassy in India. Luckily, few much early interview dates were available at Kolkata U.S. consulate. I left with two options: First one is to drop the USA travel plan and Second one is to go all the way to Kolkata and take this opportunity to explore the city since i had never been to Kolkata before but really wanted to visit. Fortunately, i choose the latter option. My first appointment was done at Mumbai Visa application centre only.

A detailed process to apply for a U.S. visa can be found here on the official website: http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in/in-niv-visaapply.asp



The Interview

This is the most important and deciding step to obtain a U.S. visa. I landed at the day of interview in Kolkata. I reached the consulate office couple of hours before the interview. There was a huge line outside the consulate. Mobile phone and bags are not allowed inside the consulate premises. Only documents are allowed inside which should be in a transparent bag/folder. I stored my bag at a nearby shop at a nominal charge. After few hours i went inside the consulate only to wait for an hour more in the waiting room. Finally, i entered and queued up in the interview room. 3-4 interview counters are there in the room separated by a glass window. Most Interviewees were students who are going to USA for higher/better education. The best or the worst part about the interview is the Interviewer let us know at the end of the interview whether our visa is approved or rejected. I saw some disappointing and despairing faces after they have been told about their visa rejection. I was in the zen mode maybe thanks to the book i was reading on the flight i.e. "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck." ;) I was looking forward to finish the interview and go out to explore the city of Kolkata. I called upon to the window and a girl was my Interviewer. She was chewing a gum and must be in her 20s. She looked uninterested maybe because of doing same thing again and again or maybe it's a part of their training. Below are the interview excerpts:

Me: Hello. Good Morning.

*I handed over my passport*

No response from her. She just instructed me to put my fingers on the fingerprints scanner and i did the same. After scanning, all the details came up on her computer. She sees her computer screen for few seconds.

She: What is the purpose of your visit to the United States?

Me: I'm going there to volunteer at Sundance film festival.

*She seemed confused for a second*

She: Where is it?

Me: It's in Park city, Utah.

*She looked more interested than before*

She: Hmm. How did you heard about this festival?

Me: I have been following Sundance film festival for many years since I'm a huge cinephile.

I showed her the email confirmation received from the festival. She glanced it for a few seconds. I told her about my visit to Cannes Film Festival and even showed her my cannes badge. Afterwards, questions diverted towards my work and personal space. She also enquired about my past international travels. Last leg of questions are as below:

She: Do any of your relatives or family members live in the United States?

Me: NO

She: Where are you from?

Me: I'm from Mumbai.

It seemed she wanted to ask "Then why are you here in Kolkata" but didn't. Finally, comes the last question in this approx. 15 minutes long interview which she must have already thought about during the course of our interview. It was like a test.

She: Which film won at the Sundance Film Festival last year?

It was out of the blue question. Firstly, There is no single film who had won. Many films won many different prizes at such film festivals. Secondly, i don't care about the awards and always remember the ones which left an impression on me. I was not expecting this question and she asked this question in a rapid fire round kinda way. I fumbled for a second and then i confidently told her the name of the film that i saw couple of days ago. Even told her the leading actress' name. She took my passport in her hands. I thought she's going to return my passport which means my visa is rejected but she said the golden words instead "Your visa is Approved" and kept my passport for visa processing. I grinned and thanked her. The grinned remained on my face while i walk out of the room and then out of the consulate premises. After reclaiming my bag from the shop, the first thing i did was searched online whether i was right or not. Well, the film i named was indeed premiered at Sundance film festival but it was couple of years ago and No, it did not won a thing. I'm sure she herself don't know the answer, just wanted to check how much i know. I set out to explore the city of Kolkata with an added excitement. Oh and in case you are wondering about the name of the film, It's "Life After Beth."

Hundreds of USA Visa applicants get rejected everyday in India. My suggestion to anyone attending the Interview is: Firstly, It just one opportunity and the world is wide open. Treat it like a discussion/conversation and be confident. For example many people in USA are so full of confidence that even when they are saying something wrong you feel like they're right ;) I believe in "Stop worrying about missed opportunities and start looking for new ones."

I visited Utah, NYC & LA during my USA Trip. I had a surreal, learning, fascinating and memorable experience in USA. Lots of exciting and eye-opening USA travel posts are coming soon. Stay tuned!









If you have any questions, write them in the comments. I will answer them accordingly.


Comments

  1. Wow I had no idea how the USA visa application process is for Indians! Looks so complicated! For me the most difficult visas were the Chinese and Russian ones so far but I have a EE passport. No interviews involved! I enjoyed your interview story regarding the film that "won"! Very clever and confident reply for something you didn't know! Thanks for sharing this, eyes opened !

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  2. Sounds complicated! I often take for granted how powerful my passport is as a US citizen. The interview process to visit sounds crazy. That's wild that she threw out that question about who won Sundance because she probably had no idea.

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  3. I am from the USA, but it is interesting to hear what those entering have to go through. It doesn't seem terribly hard, I guess! :)

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  4. The US visa process is one of those that most pleasure travellers hate. Especially for Indians like me, the long drawn process is a real bummer when you just want to visit a country. Thanks anyway for the step by step details. Im sure they will help many!

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  5. When ever I've been to America I've had to purchase an ESTA which is pretty easy for us in the UK. You can just do it online and it lasts for three years which has helped me loads as I've been to the States quite a few times now x

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  6. This is a very useful post for Indian citizens looking for a visa to Umreeka. I like the fact that it is not just an academic exercise but more a narrative based on your own personal experiences. I am sure many people would benefit from reading this post.

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  7. This brought back memories of my US visa being rejected the first time around! I took the lack of funds in my bank and the interview so lightly!! Anyway that is all behind. Even though the process is cumbersome, I like the fact that a 10 year visa is given and that allows me to not get a visa Forbes so many other countries!

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  8. Great post! I've never been to the United States yet, but my bucket list contains a lot of destinations from the country. I'm glad I came across this post. There is a lot of useful information we would require for applying for a US visa. Saving this post for future reference. Thanks for sharing the detailed information.

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  9. This is a bit complex, and I loved reading about your journey. You made a rather dry topic into a colorful story. I'm so glad you got to visit and looking forward to your upcoming posts!

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  10. I will finally be applying for my US visa next year since I am planning to go there from Australia after I graduate :D This post definitely has some good info about the US visa.

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  11. Thanks for letting us know the whole process in detail

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  12. It is a good guide and helpful for the people looking for US visa application. Good job.

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  13. It's like this also in Indonesia. They key is confident! And yes, they always have tricky question. When my mother had to renew her visa before I delivered my son, the interviewer told my mother, "Oh, you want to see your grandbaby? Do you want to take care of the baby, too?" Then my mother said, "No. My daughter is not working. She can take care of her baby. I just want to see my new grandson." The interviewer granted my mother the visa.

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  14. I don't wanna apply for US visa, waiting for my Finland passport, then I can travel visa free. Have to wait just a bit.

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  15. Interesting post. Being a US citizen it is fascinating to read what other passport holders from other countries have to do to obtain a visa to visit. Not really that hard it seems.

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  16. Detailed, informative article on US Visa process... educative for sure...you are right it's an opportunity and be taken as such ..rejrct rej doesn't mean the end if world..

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