Remember how I said I was in the visa procedure some weeks ago? Guess what, I still am! The visa procedure must be the absolute triumph of modern bureaucracy. You get lost in dozens of forms with difficult names (DS-160 anyone?) coming from many different places, spend hours figuring out what needs to be done exactly and have a hole in your wallet before even having any guarantee you’ll get that precious little piece of paper.
So, for everyone who is thinking of moving to the U. S. of A I thought I’d provide an illustration of what the visa procedure is like. Here are 67636 (okay 6) steps to getting your visa for the Land of Dreams…
Like I wrote before, there are different ways to getting a Green card (visa that allows you to work in the US). You can marry an American, invest a lot of money in an American company or become a model, for example. If you’re at national celebrity level, you can also get the O visa that is handed out especially for talented people.
But if you, like me, are not rich, size 0 and tall, or willing to marry a random Joe Obese you’ll have to try something else.
I chose to try for an F1 student visa. That way you can stay in the U.S.A. as long as you study full-time. You won’t be allowed to work there but oh well, who knows how things go. The visa procedures for getting an internship or full-time job are much alike, so here it goes:
Step 1: Get an Institution in the US to Make a Request
This can be a school or company. The thing is that they have to file a request, you can not do this yourself. And before they do so, there is a load of paperwork you have to get through. If you want to study you have to apply for a college or University, which requires an average of 30 pages of paperwork. If you have a company that wants you, they have to prove that an American can’t do the same job.
Lots of procedures end here, because schools are really expensive and selective and employers have a hard time proving Josie Yank can’t do your job.
Step 2: Get That Request Form to You
If you’ve been accepted by a school or your company could prove that John Patriot couldn’t do the job, you’re in! All you have to do now is get a start date and get the signed request form (called I-20 for students) to your home country. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Well, in my case it wasn’t.
I thought my start date would be close to the start date of the first semester, the 29th of August. However, all of a sudden I needed to do an intro course at the college, at the beginning of August! That meant a ticket in high season, a month extra of living expenses in LA, being in the USA on my birthday (17th) and most of all: a month less with friends and family. I wasn’t pleased, but had no choice.
So I signed up for the intro course, and waited for my I-20 form to come. It didn’t. I called the college, they would leave a note…It took about 4 more calls and a million pounds of frustration before I finally received the form.
Step 3: Make an Appointment at the Consulate
Once you’ve received your form and it’s been signed by both you and the requester, you have to make a call to get an appointment with the Consulate for an interview. This call costs you about $15 before you even speak to anyone. Pay with credit card, please.
By this point you have paid probably about $85 for your school application, $50 for having the request form sent to you and another $80 for required intro courses, seminars and what not.
But you’re not even halfway through the costs…
Step 4: Fill in More Forms!
Before you can go on an interview you need to complete a so called DS-160 form online. It takes about 2 hours and you need to enter everything from your mother’s date of birth to contact details of a non-family person who can prove your existence to your employment history for the last 5 years.
Then you need to print out that form and start collecting for documentation for the interview. You see, the whole point of the interview is that you can prove:
A) That you will return to your home country
B) That you can prove who you are and most importanly: that you can pay
So what do you need? Official bank statements, high school diploma’s, passports, employment contracts, a letter from your employer, a rental agreement, a signed I-20, a US sized pass photo (5x5cm), the list goes on…
Also, don’t forget to pay the SEVIS fee (sea fish?) of $250 and a reciprocity fee of $120 (how is it reciprocal, when do I get mine?)You can still pay at the consulate when you haven’t paid enough. However, if you’ve paid to much they have no “means” of refunding.
Step 5: Do the Interview!
I sometimes (in the shower) pretend I’m a successful actress and am being interviewed by David Letterman or Jimmy Kimmel. This is not that interview. You basically need to provide documentation and answer questions about your ties to your home country.
You also have to provide a stamped envelope so that when Patty Penpusher and company do decide to give you a visa, they can send it to you for free.
Step 6: Get Entry to the US
So, you’ve gotten through in interview round and receive your visa 3 days later. Nothing can go wrong now. Unless homeland security thinks you’re fishy and they decide to deny you access. That’s right. Uncle Clarence Customs can deny you access when you’re already in the American airport. Especially if you don’t have a return ticket.
So, sounds like fun doesn’t it? Honestly though, 90% of the people do get their visa and can go on their adventures. And there’s a great likelihood that you and I can too. But it doesn’t come for free.
You’ll be overwhelmed by a lot of information, spend hours figuring things out and your wallet will be ever so light afterwards. But if that’s what it takes to follow your dreams, who even doubts doing it? So if you think about going, I hope this will help at least a bit!
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