Yesterday was a big day for me, after 9 long months of paperwork and waiting, I had my interview at the American Embassy in London and walked away with my Permanent Resident Visa granted! I struggled to find answers to some of my questions online, everything seemed to be a little out of date and the official website didn’t really help either. So in this post I will cover: What can I take into the US Embassy? What facilities are in the Embassy? What is the interview process like? How long does the visa interview last? Please remember that every interview is different, this is based on my experience of my interview in 2016.
Let’s recap. I’m currently in the UK, my American husband is in the USA. I was using the i-130/CR1/spouse visa process and the majority of our visa was handled by the NVC in America. He was my only sponsor.
My interview was booked for 1.30pm. I had read on the website that you shouldn’t get there more than 30 minutes before but as there was no queue at all, when it came to 12.50pm I asked the lady sat under a giant “Embassy of the United States of America” gazebo with a big visa arrow on it if I was too early and she said nope and was more than happy to check me in. She asked me for:
- My passport
- My interview letter
She put a squiggle on it and told my Dad that he wouldn’t be able to go in with me. We knew this already, he’d come as my cheerleader and bag holder…
What can I take into the US Embassy?
…the lady said I could take my bags in with me if I wanted. I had a little shoulder bag, just big enough for my passport, money and phone and then a tote bag that had my paperwork in.
I was told to put:
- Any money from my pockets
- My phone
- My watch
- My Fitbit
into a little plastic bag just while I went through security. They recently changed the rules to allow in phones, tablets and e-readers but NOT laptops. She did ask me about key fob car keys but I didn’t have any (I don’t even have a car anymore!) so I’m not sure what would have happened to them, I guess they would have gone in the little bag too but I can’t say for sure.
I was directed to the security building on the right hand side. A guy checked my passport and form, let me through and the door was locked behind me. Usual standard airport like procedure, everything went in a plastic tray, I had to take my belt off and then walk through a scanner. All was fine. I had read somewhere that liquids under 100ml weren’t allowed in, again I’m not sure, I didn’t see any signs and I had left my drink bottle with my Dad.
Once through security, there are plenty of signs directing you to the main entrance. Just inside the door is a main reception desk. The guy I spoke to checked my interview letter and then stuck a ticket number to it. I was told where to sit and keep an eye on the TV for my number to appear. All the staff so far were Brits!
What facilities are in the US Embassy?
The waiting room had hundreds of chairs but only a handful of people were there! The facilities in the waiting area were:
- A little coffee shop tucked in the corner.
- 2 passport photo machines (the photos MUST be 2×2 American sized, NOT British passport sized)
- Travel brochures for America and the different States…of course I picked up an Iowa one, helped kill some time!
- A GIANT TV. In one corner of the screen it displayed the ticket numbers and the window that was being used…think if you are in a shop with order numbers and the TV tells you when your order is ready and what collection point to go to…just like that! It went PING really loud each time a new number was called. In the largest centre section it went through the process in simple steps in the form of a slide show. It told you what to do and also what paperwork you needed to get ready whilst waiting for your number to be called. When this wasn’t being shown, a DiscoverUSA tourism video was playing. On the right hand side, there was SkyNews, CBeebies children’s TV channel and a box telling you your rights if you were entering on a work visa. None of these had sound though.
- One thing that did make me laugh, all the signs were in American, such as ‘Please put cellphones on silent (and bluetooth had to be switched OFF)’…rather than mobile phones…but the best one was ‘Please put the trash in the bin’. Now, as Brits, we say bin, but not trash, it’s litter or rubbish, but then Americans don’t say bin, so I think the sign got a little confused as to what country it was in!
What is the interview process like?
At 1.55pm (after an hours wait), I was called to a window and saw a lovely American man.
- My fingerprints were taken
and I was asked for:
- My passport
- The interview letter
- 1 passport photo
- My 3 original documents – birth certificate, marriage certificate and police certificate, that matched the scanned ones that had been sent to the NVC
- THE COURIER LETTER
*BIG SIDE NOTE* As far as I can remember, I saw nothing that said about taking the courier letter to the interview. I knew you had to arrange a pick up location or a home delivery BEFORE the interview but I had only printed it off for my records, I didn’t know that they would require a copy too.
My DS-260 confirmation or the Affidavit of Support documents were not asked for. Make sure you still take them just in case. The man confirmed with me that I didn’t need to have any of the other documentation by asking if I had been adopted, divorced, been in the military, I said no, he was happy.
My medical report had been sent directly from Knightsbridge, I was told it was all OK and was given my chest X-ray on a CD that was mine to keep but make sure I don’t lose it just in case somebody asks for it. He asked me when I planned to fly, the medical was only valid for 6 months so I had to enter the States before that expired.
This took around 5-10 minutes. I was told to sit back down in the waiting area and wait for my number to be called again.
At 2.30pm (a 25 minute wait) I was called to a different window to be interviewed by a really lovely smiley American lady.
- She asked for my fingerprints again as a security measure.
- I had to take an oath, just to say that I’ll answer the questions truthfully and all the paperwork in my file was correct and true.
The questions she asked me:
- Where is your husband? (In America…currently at work!)
- What does he do at work? (She was looking at what his job was declared as on our marriage certificate, for us it was still the same)
- Where did we meet? (In a swimming pool in Jamaica…)
- How many times have I been to Iowa? (She laughed and said more than her, she’d never been! I liked the way she genuinely sounded interested in my answers)
- A quick mention that I had previously had a J-1 USA work visa, I just said ‘Yes! In 2008’
And that was it! She told me she was happy to grant me my visa and there will be a big ole pack coming through the post that will arrive at my UK address in around 2 weeks!
How long does the visa interview last?
The actual interviews didn’t take any longer than around 15 minutes total. It was just the waiting around that took a while. There were 25 windows but there were never anymore than 7 in use at once, the majority of them were closed. Maybe on some days there are more open!
I checked in at 12.50pm and it was all over and done with by 2.40pm, a total of 1 HOUR 50 MINUTES. Again this could vary on the type of visa or how many other people are waiting on the day.
I found it all pretty painless really…but I still rewarded myself with an Oreo McFlurry from McDonalds afterwards 😀
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments below, or if you’d prefer to message me privately, my email address can be found at the bottom of my About Me page! I’m happy to help! As mentioned at the beginning of the post, please bare in mind that this was my experience for my particular case, others may take longer/shorter, require more paperwork or questions. It’s just to be used as a rough guide! Correct in July 2016.