August 14, 2011

California Dreams

People wanting to go to USA would agree with me on one thing. The procedure to get the visa is very tedious. My boss asked me to apply for the USA visa since he might send me to the states for a meeting. He asked me to apply for it as soon as possible since sometimes the application will be pending for weeks.

The visa application needs you to attend an interview at the embassy so you can’t ask travel agents to do it for you.

First thing first, you need to take a USA visa photo. They have some requirements on the photos; white backgrounds, 2”x2” size and your face must be proportionate to some size. So detailed! Check out the requirements here. Then, you need to scan it or if you already have the softcopy the better.

Then, go to any Standard Chartered Bank and pay the visa application fees. Make sure you bring your passport or copy of its front page together as they will need to check it. The fee was RM435 during my application (May 2011). You will then given a receipt with a number. 

Next step, fill in the DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form online here.
Here, you need to key in all your personal details, trip information, the visa fees number, upload the visa photo, schedule an appointment for the interview and also choose the passport delivery type, where you can choose for delivery or self pickup. 

Also, you need to choose which type of visa you need. It’s B1 for business, B2 for tourism, and B1/B2 for both and many more such as student visa, immigrant etc. Can be confusing but I think most of the people will apply for B2 right. Hehehe… By right, I should select B1 but since the visa fee is the same for all three, I chose B1/B2. hehe..

You can check out everything about the US visa application in Malaysia here.
I scheduled my appointment at 8.20am. Appointment letter - checked, one visa photo - checked, visa application fee receipt - checked, IC – checked, previous passport – checked. You need to bring all those items for the interview.

Luckily it was school holiday but sometimes the roads in KL are unpredictable so I went out of my house at 7.15am. Took the elevated highway, parked my car at the open car park next to the Auto Bavaria building and walked to the embassy. I reached the embassy at 7.50am but there was already full of people waiting.

I showed my appointment letter to the security guard and he asked me to get in the right queue. Right queue, because the queue can be confusing. There’s the actual queue and also people for the later slots who come early crowding the area. So if you don’t know and simply just join the queue, you might end up queuing behind people from other interview slots.

You need to show your IC and your appointment letter to the guardhouse counter before being given the visitor tag. When you are allowed to enter the embassy gate, you need to walk pass through the scanner and scan your bags. Then, you need to surrender your handphone, camera, car keys with remote, smart tag at the security. Basically, whatever electronics thingy you carry in your bag. You’ll be given a numbered tag for your bowl of belongings. After that only you are allowed to go into the embassy building.

When I entered the embassy building, the guard checked my bag once again. Wah looks like every door you enter you will be checked. I was directed to wait at the waiting area on the right side of the building. But just as I sat down, my number was being called to the interview room on the left side.

Depending on which counter your number is called on; usually counter 1 and 2, go to the counter and submit your appointment letter, visa photo, application fee receipt and the previous passport.

Then, wait in the area. You will then be called to take your finger scan on counter 9. Scan all your fingers and on the second scan, only your thumbs. Back to waiting again. Well I guess it’s all about waiting during this interview. It’s pretty boring since I didn’t have my phone with me. Couldn’t play angry birds to kill the time. Hahaha… So I suggest you bring a book to keep you company while waiting and waiting for your number to be called.

I wasn’t sure how the number ran because it definitely didn’t follow the sequence. Sometimes when I was getting excited as my number was closer; it jumped to numbers after mine, and then to way earlier number before mine. 

Anyway, I should tell you that the interview room is not like an interview room, if you get what I mean. I thought it would be a one to one interview like those job interviews. But I was wrong. The interview will be done over the counter, with the interviewer inside the glass panel window, talking on microphones. Everybody in the room gets to hear your interview yo! FYL.

Finally after waiting for almost 1 hour and a half, my number got called up. It was an American guy over the counter. He looked stern. Uh oh. So he began questioning me. Question numero uno; what is the purpose of the trip. I answered it`s for business meetings, spontaneously taking all my supporting documents out from the file - my business trip invitation letter and the company letter. But this was what he told me, ‘I didn’t ask for that’. Fine, just follow whatever he said la so I kept them back in the file. He continued with questions like how long will I be there, what exactly is the meeting for, do I have any relatives in the states. 

Next thing I know, he said ‘OK we’re done. Collect your passport in 2 days time.’ That was it. The whole interview lasted less than 5 minutes. I made my way back to the security door, took all my belongings and drove to the office.

On Monday, I received email from the US travel docs informing my passport was ready for pick up. Wow so fast!

Since I opted for pickup, I needed to go to the US Visa Collection Center at Wisma MCA. The collection center is at 19th floor. As soon as I got out of the elevator, I saw security guards at the entrance. 

Same procedure like at the embassy, the security checked my bag and took my handphone and camera. They pointed me a door and asked me to go in there. I went in. The room was quite small and there’s only 2 counters. Except for the lady at the counter, I was the only person in the room collecting my passport. She handed my passport and asked me to check all the information on the visa. 

I’m good to go to the USA for 10 years! *sings California Girls*


bdk2 a.k.a John said...

awesome!!! i wish i'll go there one of my wishlist. lucky u! ;)

fatt said...

despite all the hard procedures i think it's worth a lot for 10 years visa.

good though since u applied for tourism too, very smart :)

faizah sukeri said...

Travelling is so much fun. I envy uou lah.. hehe..

rara said...

john: my trip sekejap je.. tak sempat sangat nak berjalan kot.. but quite lucky la buat visa free company bayar..hehe

fatt: tu la.. nasib baik dapat 10 years. boleh kumpul duit and pegi jalan sendiri nanti. :D

faizah: i pity my wallet.. hehehhe...

thymothythythy said...

Hi I'm from Travel Agency, expert in USA Visa.

When you make payment at Standard Chartered Bank, no need to bring your passport as long as you can remember your Passport number. Normally we bring our pax passport photostat only.

At Wisma MCA, no need to give any IC to security, just direct go up to 19th Floor.

Also, photo for US visa no need to scan/softcopy, just bring along with interview.

I.B.K said...

salam. saya nak tanya. yang mana 1 receipt no kat form stardard chartered..nak isi kat us visa pee xlepas2..

rara said...

I.B.K: it's the account number if I'm not mistaken..

I.B.K said...

are u sure coz i apply for family too and all of the deposit for semua sama jek no akaun..

Jun said...

hi, i was just wondering, the receipt number is the unique I.D is it?

rara said...

Jun: Sorry.. I actually forgot which one is the receipt number.. Well, I guess you can try the unique ID.

Jo said...

hey guys, need help. my family and i have filled up the online form and paid too, i just can't seem to key in the receipt no. which on is it?
any help is appreciated. thanks

rara said...

@Jo: Sorry I forgot already. Try the unique ID?