|Consulate Review: London, United Kingdom
Review Topic: IR-1/CR-1 Visa
|Review Date :
||May 11, 2015
|Embassy Review :
||Apologies in advance if this review seems like total overkill, but I wanted to make sure it was as comprehensive and helpful to others as it can be (as well as document my personal experience). As with all other May/June immigrant visa interviewees, my appointment time was changed from 9:30am to 1:00pm, which was appreciated as it allowed me to eat breakfast and doze in the hotel until check-out time. I took the Central line from Queensway to Bond Street and exited the tube station on to Oxford Street. Once you're there, turn left to walk in the direction of Marble Arch until you find North Audley Street on your left. The embassy is at the bottom of the street, about a five minute walk from the station in all. I passed the infamous Gould's Pharmacy on my right, and thanked god that I didn't have to contribute to their prolific profiteering as I had packed light and only had a rucksack. I immediately recognised that I was near to the embassy as I could make out a long queue of people snaking around the corner of Grosvenor Square. It turns out that these were non-immigrant visa applicants, and the queue was fairly imposing, but appeared to clear rather quickly. I went and took a seat in the beautiful gardens and enjoyed an uncharacteristically hot British spring morning with a coffee. At about 11:00am I decided to test my luck and see if I could get in to the embassy early. My return train was booked for 2:48pm and I didn't really feel like waiting until near 7 o'clock for the next off-peak train. This attempt was foiled by the greeter under the gazebo marked "visa services" between the two security huts at the front of the embassy, and I was advised to come back at 12:30pm. I resigned myself to another coffee and 46th cigarette of the morning. I came back at around 12:00pm and decided to stand and wait at the front of the building until they made a formal queue or started to allow applicants in. By 12:30pm an informal queue had formed behind me - these were fellow immigrant visa applicants. The information that we got back from the security guards was inconsistent as to when they would allow us through their checks and into the building, but they were humorous and made jokes with the queue, which definitely helped calm the by now considerable nerves I was feeling. After all, the security guards and Consulate Officers are just people, nothing to be overly scared of (with the exception of the heavily armed police officers patrolling the grounds). At about 12:35, they started to allow us in, and I was lucky enough to be front of the queue. I had readied my passport, DS-260 confirmation page and interview letter, which were checked by the greeter, and my name was crossed off of the list of the day's appointments. In the security hut, I ditched my belt and and threw all metallic objects into the provided tray and passed my bag through the x-ray, turned right out of the hut, rounded the corner of the building and took a short flight of steps up to the Embassy door. It's all signposted, so it's physically impossible to get lost. The front of the building is lined with the flags of all 50 states, and I felt a twinge of joy to see the flag of Texas. In the initial lobby was a receptionist who checked my interview letter and passport again before issuing me with a counter ticket - I-901; the first immigrant visa application of the day. I was directed to the waiting area located up another short flight of stairs to the left. Inside the oblong room were two sets of 35 rows of seats with around 6 seats per row. Every seat was taken, and there were plenty of people standing. A large screen filled the wall at the far end of the room displaying ticket and window numbers - kind of like a nightmarish oversized Argos - and 12 small booth windows occupied the right hand wall, with others located in a corridor jutting off again from the rIght of the room. It was unbearably hot, no doubt due to the body heat. These were non-immigrant applicants, and it was staggering to see how many there were. It was around 12:45pm, and after another applicant stood and left for their interview I managed to find a seat. Here's some very practical advice - don't bother taking anything to read or otherwise occupy your time, because every ten to twenty seconds there was a "ping" noise as a new ticket number was called on screen. Every time this happened, around 250 to 300 heads shot up. I suspect there were a fair few cases of whiplash suffered throughout the day. At exactly 1:00pm, my ticket was called to window 1 to submit my documents. I had readied these well in advance whilst I was seated and was able to hand over everything requested without much fuss. The officer was a very pleasant American man, but I had a lot of trouble hearing him over the hum of the behind me. I handed over my passport, and original copies of my civil documents, had my fingerprints scanned, and was asked some short questions (actually moreso confirmation of facts) such as "so Lacy is your wife?". He asked where my wife was at the moment, and I responded Texas, to which he replied "good choice". I tried to engage in small talk and riposted with, "I know - it sure is god's country", much to his puzzlement. It turned out he had actually asked me who Joyce was - which is my mother-in-law's name. We laughed off the awkward faux pas as I handed over my passport photos. He asked when I intended to travel, and wrote "ASAP" on my paperwork when I informed him as soon as I could. He them advised me to take a seat and wait until my number was called again for the interview proper. It was around 1:10pm. At 1:30pm I was called to the interview at one of the windows around the corner. I was greeted by a polite, if in honesty slightly clueless American woman who told me straight off the bat that she was new to the job. She made me swear an oath that I would promise tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to which I replied "I do", quite awkwardly, like I was getting married, or something, and fingerprints from my left hand were scanned again. And then came, unexpectedly for such an overlong, bloated process, the shortest set of questions I have ever experienced in an interview scenario in my entire life;
"How long have you been married?"
"What does your wife do?"
"What do you do?"
And with that, she told me I was approved and that my passport would return within two weeks, and that I was free to leave. I thanked her, wished her a good day, went outside, and took a big breath of fresh air. I had made it in and out within 40 minutes, which again, given the rest of the process, felt disproportionately short, and it was at that point that I realised that they hadn't even asked for the amended I-864a that the NVC check listed me for and stated I had to take to interview, but on reflection I really wasn't exactly prepared to go running back in to tell them that. I wondered back to Euston in a euphoric state and made the obligatory phone calls. So that's it. A year of my life for 40 minutes, but it's finally over and I get to go home to my wife.
All in all very straightforward if you're properly prepared, painless and relatively anti-climactic.