THE VISA EXPERIENCE
Basically one has to convince the interviewer that we will not overstay or try to remain in the country illegally. That is the only ground for rejection in the case of a tourist visa. For that one must have adequate documentation/investments proving your connection to your country & that you will return after the stipulated time. We had bank statements & CA documents that showed our total assets-House, Money, Investments. The fact that both our parents were employed & were doing well. We had letters from our school/college showing that we are studying here. We had to convince them that we had strong links in our country that would guarantee our return. We had to have sponsorship letters from mama stating that he had financial stability & could support us. The first time we had applied for the US visa, we were denied. That would cast a negative shadow in the mind of the interviewer, but that denied stamp was in the old passport, one that had expired. The questions we were asked during that interview are foggy [it happened way back….I was in class 6 at that time], but the whole thing had been filed under “scary” in my conscious! On the positive side, we had been granted US visas when we were in the UK & had applied for the visa there. Also helpful, was the presence of other visas-UK, Schengen. [when we applied for the visa from UK it was way easier. All papa did was fill the form, send it along with the passports & the money. No interview, not even a personal appearance! The passports came back with the visa stamped!]
Then there was the thing about my name. It has been changed so many times that it warranted some questions. The reason for the changes were purely astrological, but explaining that to a foreigner[the interviewer is always from the foreign country] would be hard. There was the fear that me & my sis might be considered a flight risk on the basis that we may start to study there, get job offers in the US & then stay there permanently…a very common occurrence .
A lot of our acquaintances & family members have had a lot of trouble getting their visas ,so applying for the visa is a BIG deal
Spoiler[read from right to left]————- asiv eht tog eW ————
-The Visa interview was on the 17th at 9:15. We were staying close by & reached the US embassy by 8:30. Thankfully we were not made to wait..
-No mobiles/ipods or other electronic gadgets allowed in. Only documents, in a clear transparent folder. The person sitting outside noted our application number/name/passport number & asked us to proceed.
-Opened the super heavy door to get into the embassy. There was the usual security check. Xray of documents/wallet etc. walk through a metal detector, frisking.
-Collected everything, got into a shed-like-room. On being asked we presented ourselves as visa renewals [we had filled the renewal form], told the dates of the visa expiry & were given token numbers. Being blood relatives, we were supposed to go in together, but somebody came in between & we were assigned different numbers. We got that changed & out token number was E25.
-Sat down & were chatting away, unmindful that our number was flashing on the electronic notice board. The guy sitting next to me pointed it out :). We got up hurriedly, thanked him, hoped that he too would get his visa & marched off to counter 7.
-Counter 7 was behind another heavy door. We entered to find people standing & being asked questions. I was like “whoa, that was fast, we are at the interview”. The suddenness had gotten me a bit nervous till I heard the questions. It turned out to be a scanning of documents, collection of the visa fee receipt & fingerprinting the applicants. Waited for the couple in front to finish up.
-Our turn came up. The guy took a look at our documents, entered some data into his computer & asked us register our fingerprints. Aastha’s application photo was very different from her present self & he kind of blasted her a bit, stating that the picture should not be older than 6 months. Though why he was being rude, I had no idea. [as it turned out the indians stationed all over the embassy were considerably ruder than the foreign interviewer! The guards outside were rude with mum, who is ever happy to pick a fight, lambasted them for their behavior :D]
-We then proceeded into the inner room where the actual interviews were taking place. There was another electronic notice board that would flash the token number & the counter number. It was flashing E12, so we had a long wait ahead of us. The tokens were’nt only of the ‘E’ category, there were ‘P’,’J’,’L’ etc. [as in P34,J14,L22]. Only 5 counters were open & any number from any category could flash so we had no idea how long the wait would be.
-We had each other’s company, so it was ok. We didn’t get bored. I had already had my dose of adrenaline at the previous counter so now I was pretty calm. Kept an eye on the flashing number & chatted away. I tried to figure the average time of the interview, tried to guess if ppl had gotten their visas or not.An hour later E24 came up & we got ready. Unfortunately it was another half an hour later that E25 finally flashed. The unnecessary wait had instilled some jitters. Got up & went to the counter for our interview
-Interviewer was a middle aged guy. Wished him Good Morning & took our places. I had planned to stand near the speaker as I can sometimes have trouble hearing clearly. That backfired when to were asked to confirm our fingerprints on the FP machine. The speaker was on the right & the FP machine was on the left. First Aastha went on the machine,switched to the right & then I had to go on the machine. Eventually I ended up on the left 😦
-Gave him the applications & the passports. He asked us about our previous visas, I showed him the old passport. It had my old name & thankfully he did not ask anything about it.For the next 5 mins he checked our applications, scanned our passports, entered stuff on his computer, compared our pictures to us, asked me to take off my glasses etc. This was good as I get a bit flustered at the beginning of any interview, need 10-20 seconds [not as lucky during my oral exams!]. Standing there I felt pretty confident
-Finally, the questions.
Interviewer:What do you do?
Aastha.Student, Loreto Convent, Class 12.
Me.Student, Studying in MIT, pune
I.What are you studying?
I:Ok, What kind of Engineering?
I:What does you father do?
A:He is a bureaucrat, secretary to the CM
I:Why are you going to the US?
M:To visit our uncle, he is a doctor
I:Where does he live?
I:What kind of doctor is he?
M:err…he’s a physician[could not remember what it was!!]
I:*laughs* I know he is a physician! What kind of physican!?
M:umm…[What does he do!!internal physician??no…]
I:How long will you be staying?
M:About a month.
I:Who else is going with you?
I:Who will be financing you?
M:Tickets etc. will be bought by our parents. In the US our uncle will be taking care of us.
I:So you will be staying in Georgia for a month, with you uncle?[the tone implied incredulity ]
M:Leisure activites. We have another uncle who lives in california, so we will also be visiting him.
-Entered some more stuff on the computer. Then he picked up the passports & put it aside & said that the passport would be mailed to us with the visa. Man hi man laddu phoot rahe the!
Wanting to scare mum a bit, we tried to straighten our face & make it look sad. A very tough job since my mouth would automatically form a grin! Aastha got the brainwave of holding our old passports in our hand [if we had been denied the visa, our passports would have been returned to us]. So we walked out looking for mum. She was standing with an umbrella & we saw her face tense up. The moment we got close, aastha jumped on her about the way they had advised the filling of the form, how the photo was not new, & the data erroneous etc. [I had planned to go soft, but aastha launched into an offensive!]. Mum had this shocked expression till we told her that visa mil gaya! The relief was instant & then came the expected lashing!![She had already had the tiff with the embassy security. She told us about that later!]Called up papa & told him & later Nana Nani & Mama.
We came out in 2 hrs. That was very quick. Last time Aastha went it had taken them 4 hrs.! The procedure was very streamlined, but maybe that was because we were applying for a renewal. Whatever the case, we got the visa. The duration will be known only on receiving the passport, but hey, I am going to visit both Mamas this summer!!