VISA - if you know how to wait in line, you're half way there
I thought I would let the Oz Students Abroad know about my VISA adventure on Friday (02/07/2010). For those of you going to the US you know where I'm coming from. I know these blogs are supposed to have photos attached but since I was going to the American consulate I didn't think a camera would be a good idea (they kept asking if I had a mobile phone, as if modern communication technology would be the end to us all!).
After successfully making my way to Martin Place and onto the MLC centre, (with minimal annoyance to the transit people ;D ) I realised I had about 45mins and I would still be early to my appointment. Being stuck in Sydney surrounded by shops like Tiffany and Co, Prada and Cartier with a lot of time on my hands was not good for my self control.
I moseyed on up to level 10 to begin the exciting VISA process! *insert sarcasm here*. I was greeted by some happy looking security guards covered in American flag stickers and put all my stuff through the x-ray scanner thingy (scanner thingy is now it's official name) and successfully avoided the urge to crack a really bad taste joke which seems to come over me when I'm nervous. I waited in line and was called by a pleasant lady who seemed to be going for the world record in processing paper work, VISA ninja I tell you. It was then I noticed I had forgotten my HUGELY important self addressed enveloped and I needed to get a new photo taken...
This is where it started getting annoying, I had to haul ass all the way back down to the shopping centre and get a new envelope and photo and then haul ass all the way back to level 10 and go through the security check again, yep even the x-ray scanner thingy. I waited in line and talked to the VISA ninja again and then low and behold I had another line to wait in...
A group of us scared and confused looking VISA applicants were herded into an elevator and whizzed up to another level where apparently the 'real interview' happens. BING the doors open and we were greeted by President Obama's smiling face...not actually him obviously, just a photo on the wall. I couldn't decided whether I thought it was cute or cheesey, I guess he deserves his photo on the wall it is his consulate.
I went through a big heavy security door into a room with a big long counter, kinda like at the RTA, you take a ticket and try not to look bored while you wait to be served by an annoyed looking 40-something who you'll annoy even more no matter what you do. I submitted my paperwork, scanned my fingerprints and sat back down to wait again. Finally my number was called and the 'real interview' began...This was it, I can't screw up now, just answer the questions and you'll be fine.
He asked me about three questions, pushed a few buttons and said "Okay Olivia, your VISA has been approved just move to the next window please and pay the fee and you're done". That was it?!, you've got to be kidding me! I gave him this look like I didn't believe him and he just smiled politely and gestured to the next counter (I think he gets that look a lot) So I paid the fee and I was done. I walked out of the tower with the biggest smile on my face, I couldn't get over how easy it was.
So that's about it, my best advise for anyone going for a American J-1 VISA is make sure you have all the documents they tell you to have plus an extra American VISA photo (would have saved me tons of time) and you'll do fine, all of the VISA people were really nice and it feels great to hear you've been approved!