Yesterday I went to the US General Consulate in Amsterdam for an interview, the final step in getting my J-1 visa. Personally, I was very worried and anxious about the whole process, especially the interview, but everything turned out fine in the end. By sharing my experience I’d like to help those looking to find out more about the jungle that is the US visa application process!
Arranging an appointment
First things first! When I heard that I was accepted at the University of Montana, I wanted to apply for my visa immediately. I started by filling out the very extensive form that is the DS-160, needed to make an appointment. When I was nearly at the end, I needed to fill in my SEVIS ID, which was on my DS-2019. That form was still on its way from the US, so I had to wait. In the meantime, I had my visa picture taken by a photographer (5x5cm, white background, etc).
When I finally got my DS-2019 two weeks later, I was able to finish the DS-160 form and paid my SEVIS fee. Please do not forget to sign your DS-2019 at the bottom before your visa interview (I nearly did). I then went on to make an appointment, but when I reached that part on the website (after making an account), the site stated that there were no dates available and I could thus not proceed. I checked a day later and there was one date available and I could pay the visa application fee. This needed to be done by wire transfer, so it took a few days to process. When it was processed, I went back to the website and again: no dates available! Frustrated, I wanted to check the next day again: however, I would advise to check every hour or two. When I checked that afternoon there were three dates available but nearly every timeslot was already gone! I was lucky to get the timeslot of 10:45 but all the others were very early in the morning.
The big day
Because I was traveling with public transport, I wanted to take no risks and I chose to depart super early. Nothing went wrong, and when I arrived in Amsterdam around 8:30 I had plenty of time to find the consulate (where people had already lined up). Then I went to the Concertgebouw Café which already opened at 8:00 to have a cup of tea and read the book I brought (see the picture!). Because of the queue I’d seen that morning, I decided to leave at 10:00.
At the consulate they called people in every quarter hour: The people that had an appointment at 10:15 were called in at 10:00 and so forth. When inside, I had to put everything I needed at the interview in a tray, had to restart my cellphone and had to give my bag. Everything went through an x-ray scanner while I walked through a gate. I could take my belongings from the tray and went inside the waiting room, where the consular windows also were. My DS-2019, passport and SEVIS fee payment confirmation were checked and my fingerprints were taken, and I waited for my name to be called. Then I walked to the consular window for my interview.
The consular officer asked what I studied, and if it my university had a direct agreement with the University of Montana, so I explained that I studied anthropology and that the exchange would take place through ISEP. She then stamped my DS-2019, signed it, returned it to me and said that I would receive my passport with visa within three days. I was confused: was it already over? “Do I need to do anything else?” “No ma’am, have a nice day.” The interview had been over in less than 30 seconds and before I knew it I was outside again. Slowly I came to realize that I had really obtained my visa! Yay! 😀
Have you ever applied for a visa? How did that go? Oh, and should you have any questions about the visa process, do not hesitate to ask me anything!