Friday, July 19, 2013

The Visa Interview



At the end of any visa process the US requires you to have an interview. This is the scariest part of the process. It doesn't matter if you have done all of your paperwork exactly right. There's no reward for sending in more evidence than you were required to. This is one process where your best effort is necessary but doesn't actually count for much. You could do everything right, have the best relationship in the world, know each other on deeper level than any other couple ever and still get to the interview and get denied because the consular officer thinks there is the tiniest bit of doubt in their mind as to how real your relationship is.

Hubby and I had been married for over 2 years. We were no longer in newlywed status. We had lived together more than half our marriage and been together over 5 years. Our families had interacted, our lives had been joined in every way. (You're required to prove that as part of the process - financially especially.)

As I mentioned in the last post about our immigration process, our interview had been scheduled very quickly and we almost didn't have enough time to get everything done they wanted done. Some visa's (like ours) require the intending immigrant to get a special medical appointment. It takes 7 - 9 days to get your medical report back. So when the embassy gives you notice that you have less than 3 weeks until your interview, this must be done immediately or you risk getting put into AP. AP is additional processing and it can be drug out as long as 2 years (maybe more but 2 years is the longest I've heard of).

Luckily hubby's parents were able to help him get everything arranged in time and he got his medical papers back 2 days before the interview. He got everything packed and got his hotel booked. We had made it thus far.

I too had to make arrangements to attend this interview with him. I got lucky to get the time off of work because they require 14 days notice. Then I had to find a ticket and that can be difficult last minute as well. I did manage to get it all done. It was not my first flight choice but it would do since that was all that was left. We both met up in Delhi and practiced the questions we thought we could be asked. We knew the answers but were scared we might miss something. We were both nervous to say the least.

Then came our interview date. Hubby was so nervous. He started having fear that his English wouldn't be good enough and they wouldn't understand him. Every fear imaginable started running though his mind. Not only have we heard horror stories from friends of the treatment they received at this embassy, we knew first hand just how vicious some people there could be. There was no turning back though.

Our taxi that morning was running late and we got to the embassy about 30 minutes before our appointment. I wanted to get there earlier as we knew there were 75 other interviews scheduled for the same time slot as us. I didn't want to go last. That didn't happen. We got checked in (the line was long) 3 minutes before our scheduled time. Of course, things don't work on a schedule at the interview. They actually want you there that early to have time to do all the formalities before the interview.

When you get inside you are directed where to go. There are four queues you could have to get into depending on your visa. We got to skip the first section and went straight to the second set of windows. Our number was called, hubby got his fingerprints taken and we were again waiting. We got called to the second set of windows, gave them copies of some documents and they gave us back originals. All our information was confirmed and then we again sat down to wait.

The longer we sat there the emptier the room  became. We watched the officials take in over 150 applicants for tourist visas alone. About 300 cases went through that morning. Ours was one of the last in line and that only intensified how nervous we were. This was the only time I've ever been anywhere in India where almost no one stared at me like I didn't belong. (Only one man and his wife had the evil eye on us this day.) Everyone was too nervous and concerned about their own cases to be worried about the only mixed couple around.

While we were watching I took notice of who got their visa's and who did not. It seemed that a healthy majority walked away with the blue cards indicating they had gotten the visa. I heard a few people plead their cases and then be granted a visa and I watched just as many heart-broken individuals walk out of the door with their passports in hand (indicating they got denials). I couldn't help but wonder how our interview would go. What questions would the officer ask us and what would our result be. Our case was strong but that is not always enough. 

Finally our time came and we stood in front of a young, female consular officer. We had watched her give out many visa's that morning and were hopeful this was a good sign. She didn't ask us many questions and she didn't separate us. She asked me more questions than hubby and she alternated between us while asking. She asked about our wedding - who attended, where was my family, did my friends attend, how many people came, what kind of ceremony did we have, how long did I stay after the wedding. (She gave me a surprised look when I said 16 months!)

At one point she got a few odd (scary) looks on her face as she read some information entered into the computer previously. I can only assume it was the notes on our K-1 visa because she had just brought it up right before that and I was sure there was some nasty notes there considering I got a Senator involved and had received formal apology from the embassy from the events that occurred that day. She asked hubby about his family members in the wedding photos. She confirmed the details that were in our file (as in she provided us the information and asked if it was correct) and she asked me to tell her how our relationship had progressed over the years.

I watched everything she did carefully and I noticed after her questioning she closed my husbands passport up in the file with his interview letter. My heart skipped a beat and I thought this was a good sign. Then she typed some things in the computer and reached over and picked up a thin booklet on Immigrant Visa's. That terrified me because in the past, if you got a booklet it was a pre-printed denial. She tucked a piece of paper inside (it should be noted she never printed anything during the interview so this paper was already at her desk before we got there). She then tucked the booklet under the door and I swear my previously brown-skinned husband turned white.

Then she looked at him, eye-to-eye, and said your visa has been approved and .....to be honest I didn't hear the rest. Tears welled up in my eyes as my husband took the book. I don't think he heard anything either. We both walked out of the embassy half in shock and half excited, unsure if it was real or not. We paid the courier fee to have his passport sent back to him and exited the embassy. Things started to sink in as we got closer to the parking lot and on the ride back to our hotel.


14 comments:

  1. Nicole Jane SharmaJuly 19, 2013 at 1:40 AM

    congratulations! must be a relief!

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  2. So glad to hear you got the visa. That must be one hell of a weight off your mind (and a wait for that matter). Congrats!

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  3. Been there! Congratulations!

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  4. Yippeee!
    Can we ask what events precipitated the 'formal apology' from the embassy?
    I don't know why your husband was concerned about his 'English being good enough". Half the time the US embassy employees & CO's I've worked with I can barely understand- I have to bring my Indian husband to translate!

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  5. Thank you! It definitely is. Long distance relationships are so hard.

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  6. Yes!!! It's crazy how much torment we suffer while waiting for visas! Thank you!

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  7. Oh man. He got abused verbally BIG time by the CO, the second CO stepped in. The first CO was yelling at him and drew a crowd in the embassy. Even onlookers were stunned. He walked out of the embassy shell-shocked and I wrote 3 congressmen (oh the beauty of having ties to so many states). The congressman took my complain to the Ambassador and I got the apology letter in the mail.

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  8. What triggered the verbal abuse from the CO?
    If I may ask?



    I'm asking because I've born the brunt of completely inappropriate screaming tirades on how my Kashmiri Muslim husband is 'the worst' because all Kashmiri Muslims are terrorists, murderers etc. by mostly Indian immigration officials but a few US officials also.
    (For the record my husband has no criminal record nor ties to anyone with a criminal record.)

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  9. Nicole Jane SharmaJuly 20, 2013 at 12:12 AM

    have to agree with you there! still waiting for our approval! fingers crossed we'll get it.

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  10. I'm so happy for your both, congratuations !

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