|Consulate Review: Cambodia
Review Topic: K1 Visa
|Review Date :
||August 17, 2019
|Embassy Review :
||I've been a lurker here but have gained a lot of info and wanted to share my own experience in the hope it may help others.
I am the U.S. citizen, late 40's white, professional, male. On October 1 I filed the petition for my Cambodian fiancee, late 20's. We have an 18 year age difference. We've been dating for 4+ years, and I have spent 400+ days in Cambodia since meeting her.
Got the first NOA approval thing in the mail in early March, then the next one in April, then the notice to complete the DS-160.
Completed the DS-160 and sent the confirmation page to the specific US embassy email address in their instructions, read them carefully. Then I got an email in response setting her appointment for 7-8 weeks later. It was over 10 months from me filing the petition to her interview BUT I dawdled for a month and delayed submitting the DS-160 because I wanted her appointment to be set for a date when I was in the country.
Interview was on Thursday August 1 at 9:30. We arrived at the guard window outside at 9:15 a.m., which was probably a mistake, because they told us to wait 5 minutes in the melting sun, and that turned into ten minutes because an American lady was having some kind of crisis at the window and we had to wait for that and then the couple who had arrived before 9:15 went in ahead of us. I noted that they were carrying three full 3 ring binders, presumably the evidence of their relationship. We were carrying about 80 pages.
We went into the security room and they took my fiance's ID card and kept it at the security station. Her ID card never actually went to the consular officer to look at.
They asked me for my driver's license and I said I didn't have it but I could give them my second passport or a credit card. They said that wouldn't be necessary, but I had to deposit my wallet (minus the cash), keys, chap stick, and phone. Basically you can't take anything inside but paper - cash, documents, etc.
Went through the second metal detector where they confiscated a second tube of chap stick that had escaped detection during the first check.
Now we enter the large waiting room. We go to window 7, get a slip with our number on it, then wait 5 minutes until called back to window 7. I walk up with her and kind of hang back but the Cambodian lady waves me up with her. We hand in our documents, including my fiancee's passport photos. This is where we came closest to blowing the whole thing. As instructed, she had written her name and DOB and case number on the back of the photos. But she used a blue felt tip type pen, so you could kind of see through the photo to the ink on the back, AND when she then put the photos back on top of each other, the blue ink on the back of photo 1 transferred to the face of photo 2. The Cambodian lady in Window 7 was not happy at all.
Fortunately, I had a set of backup photos, because I knew the embassy was know for being neurotic about rules like "the height of the head must be more than 60% but less than 75% of the photo height" or whatever that rule is. So we had two different sets of two passport photos. But my backup set also had the same blue ink transferance problem. The lady huffed and puffed and ultimately accepted the two best of the four photos and scanned one of them. I think it was a close call for her though and she almost sent us packing for new photos.
I recommend bringing multiple sets of recent passport photos, writing on the back of some of them lightly with a ball point pen and then not putting them on top of each other. And bring some other photos you haven't written on yet. If you do get ink on the photos, I would note that licking your finger and rubbing the photo will probably remove the ink.
The Window 7 lady took my fiancee's passport, ACLEDA bank receipt, original birth certificate with translation, police certificate with translation, the I-134 form, my 2018 tax transcript, and our packet of evidence of the relationship. She also took my passport so the consular officer would know I was there.
They didn't want her certificate of single status; she had never been married before. They didn't look at or take the updated statements of intent to marry we prepared. My fiancee had gotten her Medical exam at Raffles and Raffles sent the results directly to the embassy.
I've been unemployed living off investment income for several years, and my tax transcripts show me making somewhat more than the minimum income. My I-134 mentioned substantial stock holdings as assets but I didn’t list them, I just brought copies of the most recent brokerage statements. They never asked for them.
The Cambodian lady asked my fiancee to confirm her name, address, phone number, my phone number, whether she has applied for a visa before, where she was born, and does she speak English. She asked me if I spoke Khmer (I said "a little") and my phone number in the USA. She typed our answers into the computer.
I was feeling a little uneasy because when I handed her our 80 pages of evidence of the relationship, she said "That's it? That's all you have?" I confirmed that is was. The package included a two page cover index listing and describing 20 documents, some of which were multi page documents, offered chronologically showing the progression of the relationship. Like #1 was “chat message from mutual friend to fiancee introducing us” then #2 was photo from when we first met, then copies of my 25 Cambodia visa stamps, emails to me from her English school because I was sponsoring her, email from her dentist to me because I sponsored her dental treatment, photos and boarding passes or hotel reservations corresponding to five international trips, apartment leases with both our names on it, engagement ring receipt, finishing with #20 “photos from engagement ceremony and party.”
I did not include printouts of our voluminous Facebook messenger chats, for three reasons. 1. Our relationship isn't exclusively long distance we spend 2-3 months every year together, 2. the word for word transcripts are none of their business, and 3. I don't think they really want to read that stuff. They probably spend 2-3 minutes reading everything and mostly making their minds up before the interview. I don’t think dropping a binder of 500 pages of Facebook chats they will never read is the best use of those 2-3 minutes. But judging from the reaction of the Window 7 lady to our minimalist submission, binders of chat logs may be the norm.
We sat down and waited about 30 minutes. Note that the waiting room is also the interview room. The interviews take place with the consular officers sitting behind a presumably bulletproof glass partition and asking questions into a microphone while the interviewee stands on the other side of the glass. There are cubicle like partitions so that the people waiting can’t see the interviews, but you can definitely eavesdrop on others while you are waiting.
She was called up to window 5 or 6. I thought this would just be for fingerprinting but it was for fingerprint and interview. The American consular officer lady was friendly, much more so than the Cambodian document collection lady. She waved me up and let me stand next to my fiancee the whole time.
She started by handing my fiancee back her original birth certificate and handing back the 80-100 page packet of evidence we had submitted. I thought that was unusual but not a bad sign, it suggested that the officer wasn’t going to cross-examine her about any of the evidence we submitted.
My fiancee was place under oath and asked:
What are your plans in USA? “Get married.”
What kind/ type of wedding do you plan to have? “Romantic”
Yes, but what kind? “Get married.” (her English is better than this but she just misunderstood the question)
Have you applied for a fiancee visa before? “No.”
Did you apply in Bangkok before? “No” (Cambodians used to have to apply for US visas in Bangkok)
What are your parents names?
Are you parents living? “No.”
Did they remarry? Do you have stepparents? “No”
I was placed under oath too and asked what I did for a living
She asked both us “Did you guys have a traditional engagement ceremony?”
I said “Yes, the photos are at the end of the evidence packet.”
She replied “Oh, I probably didn’t get that far because I had already decided to grant the visa.”
I gleaned three things from that exchange. 1. The consular officers in Cambodia are interested in whether you had an engagement ceremony and it probably helps to have one, 2. It’s a not a requirement to have the engagement ceremony because she decided to grant the visa before reading that far in the packet, and 3. it seems her mind was made up before the interview actually started, just based on knowing that we met in person over four years ago and I’ve spent 400+ days in Cambodia since then
I showed her the engagement party photos and she asked my fiancee:
Who stood in for your parents at the engagement ceremony?
“My aunt and uncle.”
Who stood in for his parents?
That was it. She gave her the blue slip and told her to come back the next Friday (8 days later) at 11 a.m. to collect the visa.
My fiancee was surprised that our interview was so short because she heard other people being grilled and heard one or two applicants denied.
Other questions we heard being asked of other applicants were:
What does your fiancé do for work
How did you meet ?
Why did you move to Phnom Penh?
What’s your father’s job?
What do (or your fiancee) do in your free time?