Thursday, November 10, 2011

My visit to USA- Part 1- Preparations for the visit and departure from Chennai

Note: Frequent fliers to foreign countries may find this posting as waste of time to read.My intention is to share my experience of the preparations to visit USA, which may be useful for the first time visitors.


Visiting a foreign country is always an enjoying experience for all of us. After starting to work in USA,  my son   started to give pressure to me and and my wife that we must visit USA and stay with him at least for a month and visit places of interest . So we started our preparations for the visit.


Getting passports: 


Since I was working as an executive of a bank, it was easy for me to get passports for myself and my wife. I called the agent who was doing the job of getting passports, air tickets etc for the bank executives. He brought the necessary application  forms to the office and guided me to fill the applications. I filled the applications and gave them to the agent along with the necessary supporting documents. I had to pay him a considerable amount towards the passport fees as well as towards his commission.


After some days a policeman from the near by police station called at our house for verification and after verifying the ration card etc.,he departed.


Getting Visas for the visit:


For getting the visas, I visited the following websites and collected the various details required for getting the same.
http://chennai.usconsulate.gov/visas.html
http://www.immihelp.com/visas/usa-visa-application-centers-india.html
http://www.path2usa.com/us-visa-appointment


I give below the procedure in brief for getting USA Visitor visa for the benefit of the readers who want to visit USA  (Source:http://www.path2usa.com/us-visa-appointment )


USA Visitor Visa is a tourist visa to US. It is also known as B2 Visa. A visitor visa is a non-immigrant visa issued to people entering US temporarily for pleasure, tourism, or medical treatment. 


Photographs:


 digital photograph is required for each applicant while applying for a US visitor visa (also called tourist visa or B2 visa). The photograph must meet certain criteria. A studio can take the picture for you if you mention "photograph needed for US visa".


Filling Visa Application:


Form DS160 is the visitor visa application form required by most US consulates worldwide, including India. DS160 must be completed online.


You will need the following before you start filling DS160 form for visitor visa:
  • Digital photograph of applicant in a specific format. If you are unable to upload of provide the correct picture during the online application submission, you can carry a printed picture when go for visa interview at consulate.
  • You must know which consulate you will be appearing for interview. For people applying in India, here is the list of US Consulates in India based on your State of Residence in India.
  • Since the application must be completed online, you must have a reliable internet connection.
  • Passport details (Name as on passport, date of birth, issue date, expiration date, passport number, etc) of each applicant.
  • Family information of applicant (Name of parents of each applicant, occupation, mailing address, work address, income, etc).
  • Address where you will stay in USA.
  • Name and address of your relatives in USA, if any.
  • For US residents, your social security number and your US tax ID number.
  • Date of most recent travel to US, if any.
Technical Requirements
  • Your Internet browser must support 128-bit encryption and must have javascript enabled.
  • The minimum version of Internet Explorer (Windows) must be version 5.0 service pack 2 or higher.
  • The minimum version of Netscape must be version 6.2 or higher.
  • It is recommended to have a laser printer connected to system so you can take a printout of the confirmation page. Alternatively, you can take a screenshot (Shift + Prt Sc button) and paste it in a Word file for printing later.
Click here for: sample DS160 application.

Pay the visitor visa application fee

In India, the fee can be paid only at an authorized HDFC bank branch. Pay the visitor visa application fee and VFS service charges at any of the designated HDFC bank branches in India. You will need to submit a clear photocopy of the first page (bio-page) of your current passport to the bank when making your payment. The bank will issue you multiple copies of a visa fee receipt with a 10-digit barcode number. You will need the HDFC fee receipt barcode number to schedule your interview appointment. Please note, you are required to wait 24 hours from the date of purchase of your visa fee receipt before you can use it to schedule your interview appointment. 

Following is the fee structure for non-immigrant visas. All fees are non-refundable. US Dollar exchange rate 1 USD = 50 INR as of 19th Sept, 2011
Visa TypeFee (USD)Fee (INR)
Visitor Visa (also known as B2 Visa or Tourist Visa)$140Rs 7,000


Take appointment for visa interview


Use VFS website to set up an appointment with the US embassy or consulate where you will be applying for your visitor visa. You can also walk in to a VFS service center to set up your appointment.
See complete details of taking a visitor visa interview appointment.
Go for visa interview at designated US consulate
On the day and time of your appointment for interview, go to the consulate where your interview is scheduled. Carry all mandatory and supporting documents and originals.
Carry the following to your interview:
  • Your passport (and your old passports if any)
  • Your photograph
  • The DS160 barcode page (you will not need the full application)
  • The HDFC visa application fee receipts (if applying at a US consulate in India)
  • VFS appointment letter
  • Supporting documents.
USA Visitor Visa Interview

a. Arrive at the consulate



When you arrive at the consulate for visa interview, you may need to stand in a queue outside the consulate. Only visa applicants may enter the consulate. Before entering the consulate, you may need to show your original passport, appointment letter, and HDFC fee receipt to the security staff.


Please note that electronic equipment, cell phones, bags, sprays, perfumes, liquids, backpacks, bottles, food, sealed envelopes, sealed packages, and dangerous items are not allowed inside the consulate. There is no facility at the consulate to store prohibited items. If you bring prohibited items with you, you will have to dispose of them before entry. Water and bathrooms are available inside the consulate.

b. Security check at consulate

As soon as you enter the consulate, you will go through a security check, which may include a full body metal detector scan.

c. Fingerprinting for visitor visa



After security check, you will need to provide fingerprints for both hands. Usually, you will need to provide fingerprints for four fingers at a time by placing first your right palm and then your left palm on the fingerprinting device. Fingerprinting requirements can change over time and across consulates. Follow instructions given to you by the staff at the desk.


It is possible that applicants who have a cut, blister, or other temporary skin injury on their fingers may not be issued a visa until their fingers heal so they can be fingerprinted.

d. Waiting area

Soon after fingerprinting, you will be directed to be seated in the waiting lounge area. You must sit quietly and wait for your turn to be called for the interview. Keep your documents ready. When your name is announced, you will be asked to proceed to a particular window number. Walk towards the window, greet the interviewer with a smile, and follow the instructions given to you by the interviewer.

e. Visitor visa interview



The interviewer will be behind a glass window, and you will be able to speak through a microphone on the glass window. You will be able to hear the interviewer through a speaker, which is also on the glass window. A slot below the window will let you exchange documents with the interviewer.


The interviewer may ask questions and verify your documents. Answer truthfully and confidently. Answer only the questions you are asked. Do not provide more information than you are asked, and do not present any documents that you are not asked to. The primary goal of the interview is to verify all information presented in the application and to make sure that you qualify for the desired visa.


If the interviewer approves your application, you will know immediately. The officer will say something like "Your visa is approved". Your passport will usually be delivered to your India mailing address by courier within 3-4 business days. Under some circumstances, you may be allowed to pick up your passport in person.

f. If your visa is denied

If your visa is denied or put on hold, you will be informed accordingly. You will be able to pick up your passport soon after the interview.


MY EXPERIENCE IN GETTING VISAS:


In the above paragraphs I have given the general procedure for getting Visitors visa to USA. I give below my personal experience.


After paying the required fees at HDFC Bank, I  filled the online application for visa and took appointment for the interview. I gathered  the required supporting documents like  the photos of myself and my wife as per requirement ,no objection letter from the office, copy of sanction of leave,bank account statements, invitation from my son to visit USA to spend time with him with assurance by him that he will take care of our boarding and lodging etc. Just two days before the interview, I was told  that I had to give a stamped undertaking  letter giving the details of my assets like house, car etc which is to be duly attested by a Notary public. I got this document also ready by spending about Rs.500/. My son from USA conducted mock interview to us giving clues of expected questions and our answers.


On the D Day, we went to the US embassy and stood  in the long queue waiting outside. When our turn came , we were frisked by the security guards and then went to a lady officer. She collected  the necessary  documents like Passport, HDFC challan for the payment of fees, our photographs etc from us but she did not ask the supporting documents. She also took our photographs and our finger prints. Then we went to the next building where interviews are conducted. 


We saw more than 100 persons waiting in two rooms. We were asked by the security guard to sit in the two available chairs in the second room. Since more than 50 persons were already occupying the seats in the room, I thought that we had to wait  at least one hour for our turn. But to our surprise we were immediately called by an officer for the interview. After verifying the details about us in the PC, he asked me about my son's employer in USA and how long we will stay there. After my replying to his questions,  he said with a smiling face " Wish you Happy time in USA and your  visas will be sent by courier". He did not ask any other question and also did not ask me to show any supporting documents .  It was really a great surprise for me that we could get the visas so easily.


After three days of the interview , the visas were delivered to us by the courier.


BOOKING AIR TICKETS:


Since my son was living in Minneapolis, I decided to book the air tickets from Chennai to New York and from New York to Minneapolis for the upward journey and  Minneapolis  to New York to Chennai for the return Journey as per plans given below:

                 
                          25-Apr-09


   26-April      











   
   
Departure By Emirates Airline   
 Change of  Plane at Dubai   

New York JFK Airport

By   Delta Airlines to Minneopolis  
                                   












                    

21-May-09    

Minneapolis to New York by Delta Airline



24-May-09
  
   
   New York  to India By Emirates Arline via Dubai

25-May-09
  
Arrival Chennai








              


I booked the flight tickets from Chennai to New York and New York to Chennai  by going to the office of Emirates Airlines in Nungambakkam. The booking officer in the counter was very friendly and allotted very comfortable seats for both upward and return journeys. After booking the tickets over the counter, when I checked the fares by online booking I noticed that it was cheaper by about Rs.5000 for the same flights.  I called the Emirates office by phone and asked why it was costlier to book the tickets over the counter and cheaper to book the tickets online, he told me  that online tickets are cheaper since no administrative charges are involved. The flight tickets from New York to Minneapolis on 26th April and From Minneapolis to New York on 21st May were booked by Delta Airlines by my son.


Other Preparations:


Whenever we go to a Foreign country it is advisable to take a Visitor Medical Insurance  since  health care is not cheap and minor sickness can cause large medical expenses in America. So I took a Visitor Medical Insurance policy which also covered travel related risks.


We had to purchase suitable suitcases as per the dimensions prescribed by the airlines to carry our luggage.


We had to purchase suitable winter clothes for both of us which are very essential due to the extreme cold weather in USA especially in Minneapolis. 


We  also purchased some gifts and sweets to be given to my son's friends.


Departure from Chennai:


On 25th April 2009, we reached  the International Airport at Meenambakkam before 6 pm. After getting the security clearance for the luggage, I went to the Airlines counter where Boarding passes for upward and returned journeys were given. Then we had to fill up the immigration forms. After security clearance , we boarded the Emirates Flight No EK 547 Y going from Chennai to Dubai and the flight took off in time.


Hope that this posting will be somewhat useful to the readers who plan to visit USA.


My next posting will be about my flight experience .....

18 comments:

  1. this post should be useful for those clueless about all these intricate procedures of visa & stuff

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Sujatha for your nice comments. I'll be glad if the purpose of this post is served

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sir this is really a very useful post for us.Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Seema> Thank u for ur nice comments

    ReplyDelete
  6. very useful and informative post

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very good post. Useful info for first time tourists.

    ReplyDelete
  8. nice and i would like to add few things/ health problem -persons should carry medicines for the days they stay with valid prescription.it difficult to get our medicines there.also to carry vomiting,headache and diarrhea tablets 1 or 2 stps

    ReplyDelete
  9. also to have 2 id'd either originals or col.xerox, to be shown in the entertainment center,places of attraction and in the bars.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Deepak Yeshwanth>>Thanks for ur nice comments
    Ramaswamy>Thanks for ur comments and additional inputs

    ReplyDelete
  11. Nice narration for any one going for the first time. It is all prepare for the worst. It is all luck and time for any in these things.

    ReplyDelete
  12. vow thank you for sharing this info.. i am sure it will be very helpful :) :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Refresher and SuKupedia>>>Thank u for ur nice comments

    ReplyDelete
  14. this post is realy nice thank you so much Sujatha for this post.Essay Writing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Martin Alen>>>Thanks for your nice comments

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