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Permission to Proceed

April 17, 2011
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Yesterday was our long awaited visit to the US Embassy in London.

We’re only actually going to be in the US for around 3 months but the rules of the Visa Waiver are such that you are only allowed a max of three months in the USA but the clock keeps running even if you enter Canada or Mexico and then re-enter. So for us, with plans to drive from Alaska, through Canada and then down into the lower 48, the clock will keep running the whole time so we need a Visa.

The first step in the visa application process is to fill out an online form called the D 160. This is huge and takes a fair amount of time to fill in. It requires details of your last 5 visits to the USA with dates and durations, your parents names and birth dates and even (if you are unlucky and I was) details of every educational institution that you’ve been too since the age of 11.

Before you can submit your form you also have to provide passport photos in a very particular format. We managed to take these and get them accepted but you do have to read the requirements carefully. They must also be submitted electronically.

You have to phone the embassy hotline to book an interview. This is pretty straight forward and you can book a single interview to cover off a couple. Our interview was about 10 days after we phoned up, so pretty quick.

The interview itself was at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, London. We had a 9am meeting so we arrived at just before 8.30 to find a queue outside the embassy. This was moving pretty quickly though. A lot of people were being sent away as they had not read the instructions and had arrived with electronic items (like phones or even car keys). This first queue got you access to a second queue which was to go through security (full x-ray for your things and metal detector for you). After this you could proceed inside the embassy – to another queue.

At this queue you were allocated a number (your position in the next queue) and moved forward to a waiting area. we didn’t have long to wait before our number came up and we moved to a numbered window. At this window we handed over our passports and had our fingerprints scanned before being told to take a seat and wait to be called for our interview. After about 15 minutes our number came up again and we moved to another window, where we were greeted by the first american accent of the visit to the embassy. This was the interview proper which only lasted about five minutes.

We were asked a number of questions, all of which were fairly expected. They were as follows:

  • Why do you want to visit the US ?
  • How long do you want to visit for ?
  • How much money do you have ?
  • How long have you been married ?
  • How long have you been together ?
  • What do you do ?
  • How long have you worked for your current employer ?
  • Do you own your own property ?
  • When did you buy it ?

It was quite funny when he worked out that we had bought our flat after only 18 months of knowing each other and commented that we had done this quickly. We responded that it worked out ok.

After this he let us know that we were approved and that we would get our passports back in between 3 and 5 working days.

The last step to the embassy visit is the courier desk where you have to pay for the return of your passport and hand over a form telling them where to send it to.

All in all it was a pretty painless process and took just over an hour.

And hopefully this is the end result –

US Visa

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