Visas before Breakfast

Tuesday June 25th 2017: Visa Day

My appointment was scheduled for 08:00, so I knew I needed to be up early to get there with plenty of time to spare. My alarm was set for 06:00, but by 05:40 I was in the shower, thanks to a terrible sleep.
I always sleep poorly when I know I have an alarm set for a particular time outside of my usual sleep pattern, and this day had particular significance.

I took the bus, Overground, and Jubilee Line to get to Bond Street, with Grosvenor Square and the US Consulate just a few minutes’ walk away.

As I write this paragraph, I am sat in the large blue-seated waiting room (“waiting hall” might be more appropriate nomenclature) with Number 9 stuck to my DS-160 form. There are 11 windows lining the right hand side of the room, so if everyone shows up to work on time I might not be here too long!I eschewed food and drink in order to get to the Consulate nice and early; there was already a queue of maybe 20 people when I arrived, some of whom were waiting for a later appointment than mine.
After 20 minutes or so the line had quadrupled in size, and people started arriving for work.

A door popped open on one of the large security huts outside, and a crew of British women (I don’t know why I assumed everyone would be American) pulled out banners and large erectable tents to setup in the middle of the courtyard where we all queued.

Within minutes we were all organised into the correct queues with our paperwork at the ready.
To start with, just the DS-160, Appointment Confirmation, and Passport were necessary. We were handed clear plastic bags to deposit our phones and watches into ready for security scanning.

Once the papers had been checked we passed to the next queue, where we waited for admittance to the security hut. A quick X-Ray screening followed, after which we hustled around the side of the building to the entrance, where friendly desk staff checked our papers again and handed out numbers.

It was about ten minutes before things started to happen. The huge screens mounted at the front of the room started to light up, with numbers being assigned to ‘Windows’. My number was up rapidly, but when I found my way to Window #5 I still found myself queuing behind someone else.
It took another few minutes before I was called forward, and passed the giant sheaf of paperwork through the glass partition.

My ‘official’ expertly leafed through and removed a number of copies of items – smiling when I quipped about how many of the damn things there were – and told me that there was a $500 fee to pay, which I was already aware of.

Bundling up my forms, I then headed down the line and around a corner, where I found windows 12 – 25 and a cashier. I paid my $500 (about £360 at today’s rates, and a handy 720 more Virgin airmiles, thank you American Express!!), got my receipt, and went back to Window #5 to join another queue.

With the receipt taken from me a few minutes later, the official put my papers into a clear envelope and instructed me back to where I’d just come from, except this time it was to the back of the line I had scooted past in order to pay my money.

This whole process had taken about thirty minutes – from getting into the building to standing in the queue – and it was another fifteen-or-so minutes before I was assigned to another window.

There, I was questioned on my application, taking all of three minutes. I watched and tried not to grin as I watched this new official stamping the ‘Visa Approved’ stamp onto my papers. He informed me that my passport would be returned in a few days.

I was still in possession of a huge stack of papers from EIG Law, and I asked what to do with them.

“Hang onto them,” he said, “And have them with you when you enter the United States.”

A couple of minutes later I was back outside the Consulate. The throng of people was as long as when I had gone in, but now there were three lines instead of two.

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