Visa to the USA (Part 2)
08 Jun 2005
The interview appointment time was 8:30am. We were both nervous, worried we’d forget something, worried all the work would be for nothing. Here is our checklist of things to take:
– The four forms, two with attached photos
– The receipt for the 830 rmb application fee
– Her passport, national ID card, and official employee identification
– The “proof of intent to return to China dossier”
In addition, I had to take my bookbag so that she could give me her purse, cell phone, and watch before going in. You’re not allowed to take in bags, cell phones, or cameras, and the less metal you’ve got on your body, the simpler it is for you when you go in.
We got to the Isetan building on Nanjing Xi Road at about 8:10am. The building was not officially open, but one of the side entrances was. It had this sign in front of it:
Leading up to the sign (see it at the left?) was a really long line:
It didn’t take long to figure out how the system worked. The “appointment times” did not need to be kept at all. They were simply a means of distributing applicants throughout the day. Those with an appointment at 8:00am arrived the earliest and got in line. Whether they had their actual interview at 8:00am was irrelevant.
Everyone had to wait in line outside because there were too many people to wait inside. It wouldn’t be worth the Consulate’s time to argue with each person that they’d arrived too early, so they simply make all applicants wait outside and come in on first come first serve basis. Who comes first is indirectly controlled by the Consulate through appointment time. You have to wait in line outside because without the special card that you receive from the guy at the head of the line, you can’t get into the Consulate.
We waited in line from 8:15 am until 10:00 am. Fortunately it wasn’t too hot.
We were at the front of the next group to be admitted, so my girlfriend didn’t have to wait in the second line outside the Consulate on the 8th floor. It was there that I said goodbye and wished her luck (I wasn’t allowed to accompany her). Since she had submitted her form online and had the barcode already on her form, she was admitted immediately.
While I went upstairs to the movie theater lobby to study for my exam, my girlfriend was waiting in yet another line inside the Consulate. It was a pretty nerve-racking wait, but the longer I waited, the surer I was that she had gotten it. Applicants that pass the interview are then passed on to the visa issuing line, which obviously takes even longer. She came out at 12:15 pm.
I hadn’t gotten much studying done while I was waiting. Deprived of her cell phone, my girlfriend didn’t have a way to locate me when she came out, so I was waiting near the exit almost the whole time. As soon as I saw her come out, I did the “did you get it?” face and hand gestures. She tried to pretend to be dejected, but she couldn’t help smiling.
I asked her about the interview. I had been told it could be in Chinese if the applicant prefers. She said the guy spoke to her in English, but let her reply in Chinese. (Sounds kinda lazy.) What was she asked? Basically, he wanted to know how she met me, how long we’d been together, and if we were engaged yet. Then he wanted to see the documents related to her job. Aside from that, he wasn’t interested in any of the “proof” we had meticulously compiled. I think the multiple trips to the United States she has already made for her job was all the proof he really needed to see.
She also said that it seemed like most of the applicants were being granted visas. She had heard on the inside that it’s way easier to get a visa now than it was six months ago.
So, was she a shoo-in all along? I still honestly don’t know. I do know that her job (which allowed her to make previous trips to the USA) counted for a lot. I’m not sorry we went to all the trouble of preparing all those documents — it made it all the sweeter when she was granted the visa.
We already bought our plane tickets. Right now all we have to worry about is a fun two-week itinerary for Florida in July.