Once you’ve had the all clear from your university and you have been accepted by your host you can undergo the important step of obtaining a visa (if attending a US University.) This is a rather long procedure involving a couple of steps and for me a trip to London for the day!
For those of you wondering what is required you must first pay your SEVIS fee at http://www.fmjfee.com/ of $200, they will then post you a formal receipt on US paper required for showing at the US Embassy. After you have your receipt details (e-mailed to you shortly after purchasing) you can look on the US Embassy website at which visa you’re applying for typically F1 or J1 for study abroad students. You will then have to phone the embassy to book you’re appointment, this is an expensive phone call so I recommend you check you have everything specified on the website http://london.usembassy.gov/nonimmigrant-visas.html
So the day of your interview comes and you make your way down to embassy in London. I don’t want to walk you through requirements but merely give you an idea of what to expect (I didn’t know this!)
- Upon arriving, if you’re unlucky, you join the back of a queue outside the Embassy where staff will verify you have your passport and other necessary documents. They will then send you over to a security box to enter the embassy. Here you should wait for security to let you in – I made the mistake of trying to open the bolted door!
- Security will verify you don’t have any items on you that don’t pose a risk. Please note that they are VERY particular, you should quite literally bring your documents and a coat; leave all electronic devices, cables with a friend/relative. When I went in they found some headphones which I knew I had, not expecting to be a security risk, these had to be binned. Though if you’re lucky you could dump them in the small park across from the embassy in the hope they’re there when you get back instead of paying the shop they recommend (£5 to store your items.)
- Once inside you walk round the side of the embassy and receive a ticket number by reception where you then sit and wait for your number to be called out (numbers are called from a number of TV screens – literally every 10 seconds.)
- You are initially called to a booth where your documents are officially verified, your finger prints are taken and your photograph for the visa handed over. I recommend you bring spare photos (of different qualities) in case the one submitted online doesn’t suffice!
- You then wait some more and are called to another booth out of the main room for your official interview. Typically just a few questions will be asked to verify the integrity of your visit and that you won’t over stay… You will then be told if your application was successful or not.
- Another payment of approximately £15 (via card) is then required to post your passport back to you by courier.
Overall a very simple process and you have nothing to worry about! Just remember to leave your headphones behind; you don’t want a trauma finding more and more earphones in hidden pockets of your coat like I did! Also if you happen to be visiting an embassy in London make the most of your visit!
Stay Tuned, next post: “New York in a nutshell”