|Consulate Review: London, United Kingdom
Review Topic: K1 Visa
|Review Date :
||March 4, 2008
|Embassy Review :
||OK, here's what happens:
You line up in Grosvenor Square about half an hour before your time (for me that was 7.30am), in the cold bright morning, and you get a little plastic bag from the woman handing them out to put 'electrical items' into (which for me was only the fob on my key chain; since I read the letter they sent telling me not to bring anything else - including a mobile phone - I knew what I was doing... unlike the people right ahead of me, who had large bags and laptops and all manner of other things expressly prohibited, and who were sent away to store them elsewhere).
You then show your appointment letter to one dude, and then your letter AND passport to the next dude - this is still all out in the cold; I'm so glad it wasn't raining (I saw a big 44 gallon drum full of identical black umbrellas for that eventuality), and then you go into a little demountable building - VERY shoddy, but they're building a better one right next to it (and have been doing so for about three years...) and go through security - I had to show the underside of my shoes, but that was it.
Then you walk round the corner to the entrance, inside the magic wire fence, and look smugly at all the suckers still waiting in the cold in the line that has grown MUCH longer, and you go up some steps past a man with an uzi, and in the door, and show your letter to the girl at the desk... if you're not one of the herd going for a tourist visa, you get a special sticker with a special number, and you get told to 'sit near window 1 if you can' (which you dutifully do, to later find that it's about as far away from where you eventually need to go as is possible to be).
Then you sit in the foyer for ages, and think it's outrageous that they're CHARGING for the boring coffee in urns, and refuse to buy it, but note with interest that all the confectionery items are Reese's Cups and similar, not British stuff (and you also note with mild amusement the clash of cultures in the signs saying 'please put your trash in the bin').
Then you watch the screens, which show all the numbers in rows, and how many are waiting - by far the most are there for non-immigrant visas, and all their numbers start with 'one thousand'; there are only four waiting for immigrant visas, and their numbers all start with 'five thousand'... you sit and sit, and on the dot of eight all the blinds roll up behind the counters, and the electronic voice starts calling out 'now serving ticket number one thousand at counter 12' etc, and they're going at a frightening rate, but no five thousands
So you wait some more, and still refuse to buy the coffee, and it's all one thousands, and the idiots from the line come in without their huge bags and laptops and sit in the wrong place and almost miss their turn... and finally one five thousand is called, and then you wait some more, and then another, and then quite soon it's 5003.
So off around the corner and down the corridor and across the room to window 14, where a nice British dude takes away my passport, and says 'I'll be right back', and then reappears a minute later with this big wodge of papers; I can see my medical exam report, and the original petition we sent off to Vermont, back in July, with a big red 'APPROVED' stamp on the top
And then he asks for the documents I was told to bring, in Packet 4 - birth certificate, two police checks (he was impressed I had the Australian one with the fingerprints, as I was supposed to; he said loads of people don't), and the affidavit of support, and then I have to do fingerprints on a little electro machine (first wiping it with a little alcohol pad), and then he gives me back my CHEST X-RAY, of all things, and says I have to make sure it's in my hand luggage to present at my point of entry... yeah, cos THAT's what I'll be thinking about...
And then I'm told to go and pay, two windows down, and it takes all of two minutes, and I take the receipt back to the dude, who says I can go and wait for my number to be called again...
So I go and wait by window 1 again (I figure she must have said that for a reason, right?), and still refuse to buy the coffee, and five or ten minutes later, when my number's called again, it's window 15, down the same corridor as before and right next to the first dude (who is by now struggling with a woman who doesn't speak much English...)
Second dude is a yankee, and very nice, and asks me to raise my right hand and swear to tell the whole truth (I do!), and then sign the forms I sent back from Packet 3 (he has to witness the signatures), and asks me some questions about where we met, and how often I've been to the States, and why we decided to live there and not the UK, and if I've ever lived anywhere else, and then he says those magical words: 'Thank you very much; your visa's been approved; please take this form to the courier service counter in the foyer'.
So I take the form to the courier and pay £14, and walk out, on the stroke of nine.
And then I go to Starbucks and have a Fairtrade coffee and a lemon muffin.
And that, children, is the story of the Big Bad US Embassy with the golden eagle on top.
(For the record: no one asked for tax returns, or pay slips, or letters from employers, or proof of ongoing relationship, or anything like that... doesn't mean they won't in the future, of course, but worth knowing).