|Consulate Review: London, United Kingdom
Review Topic: K1 Visa
|Review Date :
||June 20, 2014
|Embassy Review :
||***Getting there ***
I walked from Marble Arch tube station. It took approximately 10 minutes using the route plotted by Google Maps. I walked down Oxford Street (the Marble Arch behind me) and then turned right onto Park Street just after the big Primark. The last section (Culross Street) is not accessible as it is behind black metal fencing. I had to go around the outside, following the fencing until I reached the other side of the embassy, with Grosvenor Square Gardens on my right.
***US Embassy ***
Entrance to the Embassy for visa interviewees is via the glass and gold office on the right, which also houses the security screening machine. I got to this area a few minutes before 7am for an 8am appointment. There were about seven people scattered around the area (including a family of 3). No real queue to speak of. Then between 7am and 7.15am, embassy staff wheeled out two mobile desks and some noticeboards on the side of the bollards closest to the Gardens. The desks were approximately in line with the white bin situated in the middle of the row of black bollards. So if you stand near the bin, to the right of the bollards (on the side that's closest to the Gardens rather than the Embassy), you should find yourself near the front of the queue when they ask everyone to line up. You want to be on the side of the mobile desk that doesn't have the doors as the embassy personnel will be on the side of the desk with the doors.
Since there's no shelter unless you're in the security office or main building, I'm glad that it was warm and the sun had already been up for a couple of hours or more. Otherwise, I can't imagine that it would be fun standing in the cold, dark or rain. So those with autumn/winter interviews might want to make sure that they wear suitable clothing.
Initially, we were asked to form three queues. The first queue at the desk closest to the Gardens was anyone who had an immigrant visa appointment after 8am. The middle queue (second desk) was everyone who had an 8.00am appointment. The third queue, behind these desks and next to a noticeboard, was for other appointments. I joined the middle queue and had about four people in front of me. An embassy staff member went through the queue asking for:
- DS-160 confirmation printout
- appointment letter
She checked my appointment letter and circled the appointment time. When I got to the front of the queue (thankfully, there were two members of staff at this desk, so the line moved quickly), a guy checked my three items again and checked that I was on the list to be interviewed. He also asked if I was by myself or not. By this time, there were easily dozens of people in both the immigrant visa queues.
I was then asked to join a fourth line to the right, which was interweaving through the black bollards. In this queue, we were given small plastic bags to put our belts, watches and mobile phones. I asked if I could keep my mobile in my backpack. The staff member said that I had to take out the phone and put it into the plastic bag as it would be scanned separately. She also confirmed that tablets were allowed but not laptops. Then another staff member checked my passport again and I was ushered towards the glass and gold office on the right. I waited outside the office for the security person to open the door. This is the bit that's a bit like going through security screening at the airport. I was asked to put everything in my hands in a tray and they also took my backpack, these were all put through the x-ray machine. I walked through the security gate - I didn't have to remove my coat or shoes.
After picking up my things from the tray and my backpack on the other side of the security gate, I left the glass and gold office and followed the path to the right, around the edge of the building to the side entrance. Up a few steps, and then into the building's reception area. There are two receptionists. I handed one of them my three items (DS-160 confirmation page, passport and appointment letter). She stuck a printed set of labels (ticket number) on my appointment letter, told me to take a seat and wait for my ticket number to be called on the screens. The time-stamp on my labels was 7.38am.
Up a few more steps from reception and into a big hall, which was not unlike an airport lounge with rows of joined seating. The building's windows on the left overlook the queues to get in. On the right were a series of window booths (1-11), similar to those at a bank or train station. Windows 12-25 were around the corner, after the toilets on the right and the two photo booths on the left (£7 for 4 US size photos) - both photo booths seemed to be working as far as I could tell. At the front of the hall, there are a number of large TV/LCD screens. As the screens were switched off, I was expecting to hear my number being called rather than flashing up on the screen, as per previous visa interview reviews. However, after a 10-minute wait, the screens were switched on. The first two columns showed the ticket numbers called: first column shows the list of tickets numbers and corresponding window booths, the second column displays one ticket number and the corresponding window number enlarged. There is also a beep when the individual number gets updated. Since there is a list, don't worry if you don't catch your number when they show it individually, as you can still check the list to see if you have been assigned a window number. And as far as I could tell, they kept the number up there during the person's interview and they don't clear the number until the person has finished their interview. The middle three screen columns give you instructions about which documents you are meant to have with you as well as the 5-step process for the interview, starting with waiting for your number. The remaining screens show weather/news/travel programmes similar to those you'd find during an airplane journey, but you can't really follow them as the sound wasn't turned on or wasn't loud enough to be heard in the hall. And only one seemed to have the subtitles switched on.
Underneath the screens, there is a canteen area along the front of the hall - no seating, so you take your food and drink back to your seat in the main hall. They had hot and cold drinks plus hot and cold snacks. I bought a packet of Walker's cheese and onion crisps and a Double Decker bar for £2.10. I already had a bottle of water with me, otherwise that might have been another £1 or £2! So, bring snacks if you think you might get peckish. They didn't have a wide selection, but it's not really the type of situation in which you'd be able to have a full meal as there aren't any tables. If you are stuck for reading matter, there's some brochures about the US near the windows.
I couldn't see a clock, so I used my mobile to check the time. You can use your mobile in the main hall, but there are notices asking you to keep it switched off during the interview.
*** Documents and Fingerprints ***
Just before 8am, my number was one of the first ones to flash up on the screen. I suspect that it wasn't first-come-first-served in terms of the queue at the beginning as there were a few people in front of me who hadn't been called. I went to window 13 and was greeted by an African American lady. She was very cheery and congratulated me on my engagement. Asked me if I had everything planned, colours, etc. I told her no, because I was waiting on the visa first! She asked for my documents in order: appointment letter (she removed some of the labels the receptionist stuck on my letter and put them on the cover of my file), DS-160 confirmation page, passport, birth certificate+copy, police certificate+copy, I-134+supporting evidence. As I gave her each item, she ticked it off the checklist in front of her. She put the originals and copies in separate piles. She also asked for two US size photos. I only had one with me. She said it was fine as there might be another one in the bag. She also asked if I was adopted, if I had ever been married, if I've ever served in the military, if I've ever been to the US before, if I've ever been refused a visa and if I've ever changed my name. I asked if she wanted updated letters of intent as my petition had expired and she took them. I suspect that she wouldn't have asked if I hadn't mentioned it, though that doesn't mean others shouldn't bring theirs. Note, these letters weren't notarised as my Packet 3 letter didn't ask for notarised letters. When I handed these over to her, she made a note on her checklist sheet. I wasn't asked for any relationship evidence. And we didn't provide any in the petition except a handful of photos of the two of us and one with his family. So, no Skype logs, receipts, boarding passes etc.
I had all my documents organised, in order, in hole-punched plastic wallets in a plastic cover, so was able to find each item quickly as she asked for them. I recommend doing something similar so that you're not fumbling about for papers, as there isn't much room on your side of the window booth.
She then took my fingerprints. First the left hand, four fingers. Then right hand, four fingers. Then two thumbs. I asked her if they were okay as I've read on here that a few people have been asked to go back to take them again. Thankfully, she said they were fine. She gave me a white A5 envelope, which she said contains my X-ray from the medical. She said that I should carry that in my hand luggage as they may want to see it at the POE. She also said that I need to be wary of the date written on it (6 months after my medical) as I need to enter the US by that date. She then asked me to take a seat and told me that an investigator will call my number out for the interview. I was with her for about 15 minutes.
*** Visa Interview ***
I waited about 15 minutes and ate the packet of crisps and chocolate bar. Then my number flashed up on the big screen (same ticket number throughout) and I made my way to window 14. I was greeted by an American lady in her 40s. She was not as cheery as the first lady. Seemed a little irritated. Though she did smile occasionally throughout the interview. As I responded to her questions, she referred to her computer screen and also typed things into her computer. Firstly, she took my fingerprints again (right hand, four fingers) to verify my identify. Then, I was asked to raise my right hand and taken through an oath to tell the truth. Then she asked me the following questions:
- how did you meet?
- when did you meet?
- how did your relationship progress?
- so you've been together since [first trip we met in person]?
- does he have kids?
- what does he do?
- what's he studying?
- do you know how much he makes?
- what do you do? do you consult for companies?
- have you ever been refused a visa or refused when applying for the visa waiver (ESTA) program?
- have you ever been arrested in the US?
- when did you last talk to him?
When I mentioned that my fiance is divorced, she asked if I had any paperwork to show this. Was a bit surprised as I thought this detail would have been covered at the USCIS/NVC stage, so I directed her to the original petition she had in front of her. She seemed satisfied after she reviewed the documents. When I mentioned that my fiance is a student and that he has children from a previous reltionship, she looked at the I-134 and stated that it only shows assets, so she asked about his income. I gave her details about his income (army pension and benefits) and told her that he is only partially financially responsible since the children don't live with him and one child graduated high school recently. I also mentioned that she has a copy of my bank statement showing that I have £25K+ savings, which will be transferred to the US. I also said that I will be looking for employment as soon as my EAD comes through. She seemed satisfied with all these answers and said that she was going to recommend that my visa application is approved. She said that I would receive my passport and visa within 2 weeks. She also mentioned that I would receive a package that is marked, "do not open." And I mustn't open it. She returned the originals of my birth certificate and police certificate to me and kept my passport. She tried to return the I-134+supporting documents and updated letters of intent, but I insisted that she kept them. Then I thanked her and left. I think I was with her for about 15 minutes.
The exit is opposite the third (last) set of window booths (windows 17-25, if I remember correctly) - first set of window booths (1-11) is in the main hall, second set (12-16) is after the corridor with the photo booths and toilets and then the third set can be accessed through the gap to the right of window 16. This means that you don't go back through the main hall or the way that you came, until you leave the building. Once you leave the building, you mingle with the people coming in. There are signs for the exit, but the layout of the corridors inside the building is a little confusing. I left the embassy just before 9am, making it the visit approximately 2 hours in total from arrival and queuing to interview and leaving the embassy.
*** Overall ***
Everyone was pleasant and it was a fairly smooth process, except for the haphazard non-queuing at the beginning. The interview wasn't as easy as others I've read on here. Not sure if that was down to our case or the individual "investigator" being very thorough and probing. Nonetheless, we were recommended for approval, so that's all that matters! Hopefully, Administrative Processing doesn't take too long and I can get my visa in-hand within the 1-2 weeks they specified. At the time of writing (1.15pm), my CEAC status has been updated with today's date and is showing as "Ready."
*** Recommendations ***
- check the weather and bring a brolly and/or suitable coat as you might be standing outside in the queue for quite some time
- queue near the white bin in the middle of the black bollards, on the side of the bollards that is closest to the Gardens rather than the embassy;
- have your DS-160 confirmation page, passport and appointment letter ready for inspection before you enter the building, you'll go through three checkpoints before taking a seat in the main hall;
- bring snacks and a drink if you think you'll get peckish;
- bring 2 US-size passport photos with you; there are two photo booths at the embassy but there's no guarantee they will be working on the day of your interview;
- organise your paperwork:
1) DS-160 confirmation page, passport, appointment letter;
2) birth certificate+copy;
3) police certificate+copy;
4) I-134+supporting documents;
5) updated letters of intent (if your petition has expired, which is 4 months after the priority date on your packet 3 letter);
6) any other evidence (just in case), e.g., photos, if you feel better having them with you.
If you have additional documents such as military records, divorce documents, etc., organise these as per the list on the US embassy London website, as this is the checklist embassy staff will be using.
- watch the London embassy videos about visa interviews and document-checking so that you can get a feel for the interview situation - it's a standing interview at a window booth;
- review everything you've submitted as part of this process, especially the I-129F petition and the DS-160 application, as they can refer to any of this information and ask you to elaborate or confirm - it's not a math test, so you don't have to worry about memorising answers, but I suspect that you do need to demonstrate that you are familiar with the information that was submitted and you know your fiance well (bona fide relationship).
- talk to your fiance/e and make sure that there isn't anything in his/her background that could come up during the interview to surprise you, e.g., past brushes with the police or immigration
(updated on June 21, 2014)