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Old Jun 20th 2008, 6:38 pm   #1
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Default London trip including US Embassy IR-1 Interview Report

Yes, we've had a few recently. Here's mine.

My interview was actually on Tuesday but as London is a good distance away and I was in no immediate rush for my passport back, I arranged for the medical to be done on Monday afternoon, so that I could get everything sorted in one trip.

I set off from home at about 8am Monday and got the bus into town. My train left my local station at just after 9am so I got to the train station in plenty of time and bought a morning paper and a muffin for breakfast. I arrived at my connecting station with 10 minutes to spare until the Glasgow-London Euston train arrived.

The railway line to London has been upgraded since I last travelled on it, and the Virgin pendolino trains are pretty good. From where I boarded it to London now only takes about two to two and a half hours depending on how many stops it makes. The trains are designed a little like planes now, they have the net pocket on the back of the seat in front of you with magazines in and also they have a place for you to plug your headphones in and listen to a choice of radio stations (about 10 or so). The ride was very smooth, fast, and we arrived early! I had allowed plenty of time in case the train was late, so I now had two and a half hours to kill before my medical.

I got some lunch and basically hung out in London for a while. But I still arrived at the doctor’s practice an hour early. The receptionist said I could go for a coffee and come back, but I said I’d just stay and wait for my appointment. She said that she would try and squeeze in my x-ray before the doctor saw me, rather than after, as that would save time and after I saw the doctor I would be finished. I had the x-ray a little while later then waited for the doctor.

The doctor was nice and friendly and I was only in there for about 15 minutes. He looked in my eyes and ears, gave me an eye test, checked my height and weight, checked out my family jewels , took my blood pressure and took a blood sample. That was it so I just had to pay my £180, I suppose that’s something I’ll need to get used to, paying when I leave the doctor’s! DOH!

The doc told me that I would only hear from him if there's a problem with the x-ray or bloodwork, if not they would send them straight to the Embassy.

So I went to the hotel which was a run down place, but I suppose that’s what you get for renting a room in a cheap central-London hotel. It was a place to rest and stay the night so I wasn’t really bothered. There were plenty of restaurants around there so I had a walk around and sat outside a pizza joint and ordered a pizza while taking in the evening air. Back to the hotel for a shower and then off to bed.

I didn’t really feel that hungry so didn’t eat breakfast at the hotel and set off at about 8:20am off towards the US Embassy. It was within walking distance of the hotel (less than a mile away) so I walked down there. I stopped at Starbucks on the way for a morning coffee and a danish pastry. When I got to the Embassy there were already quite long queues to get in, but you are only supposed to start queuing if it is within half an hour of your interview time. As it was only 9am and my appointment was for 10am I sat in the park next to the Embassy and finished my coffee. That was nice and relaxing as it was sunny and I could sit on the park bench under the shade of the trees watching people walking to work or walking their dogs etc.

I should point out here that the bit of the story coming up about queuing outside the Embassy may differ from your experience as they are currently doing building work there so they have some metal fencing up which may or may not be temporary. Also the queues are all in the open so prepare for that- if it's sunny you could get sunburnt or if it's rainy you will be getting wet!

9:30am came so I got in the queue. The queue is in three parts – there’s a general queue that you join first, then someone checks your appointment letter and gives you a clear plastic bag to put your cellphone and other electronic items into, which you have to check in at the security portacabin. You are then directed into one of the next queues, which are based on time, for example people with 9:30am appointments go into one line, 10:00 appointments into another line etc. Once you get to the front of the second queue a security officer checks your passport against the list of names he has for that day and lets you into a short, third queue which is basically the entrance to the security portacabin. It seemed to take a long time to get through these queues and it was already 10:30 before I even got through the security cabin.

The time for your appointment isn’t a hard and fast time, basically there will be about 30 or 40 people with the same appointment time and each batch of people are seen in order, so that all 9:30 appointments are seen before any 10:00 appointments, for example. I figured everyone was running late so I wasn’t too worried. Once I cleared security and entered the building, I got a ticket number issued to me at the reception desk (they check your interview letter again) and went up the stairs to the large waiting room. There were probably about 200-300 people in this room all waiting for appointments. I figured I would be there for a while before being seen so I sat down and just waited my turn.

As others have said in their interview reports, there are big screens like at Argos. There is a recorded voice that comes over the tannoy saying "ticket number xxxx to window yy" but sometimes the embassy staff make calls too. The room is generally noisy as there are hundreds of people there talking, so when the staff make calls over the tannoy in their yankee accents it can be a bit difficult to hear if they don't speak loud enough. The automated announcements are accompanied by on-screen information asking the holders of certain ticket numbers to go to a certain window number so basically just keep your eye on the screens.

To my surprise I was called to one of the windows within about 15 minutes, where a lady took some paperwork and scanned my fingerprints. She gave me a slip to go and pay for my visa and then come straight back to that window. They get you to pay for your visa before it’s been approved – no refunds if you are refused! There is apparently a surcharge at the moment, it was $355 for the visa and there was an "IV surcharge" of $45, for a total of $400. It's charged to your card in dollars and not pounds, so if you are paying by card make sure that your card issuer won't have an issue with that before travelling. There's also a foreign exchange surcharge of $6 or so to translate the transaction to pounds so altogether I think it was about £210 on my card. You are given a receipt here and told to give this to the person at your window. I went back to the window where she asked me for some more paperwork and my receipt of payment, then told me to sit down again and wait until called by the consular officer for the adjudication of my visa application.

A note on the location of the windows/booths. Windows 1-11 are directly next to the big waiting area, so it's quite a noisy place. If you get a consular staff member that is softly spoken, as I did, it can be difficult to hear them - I had to ask her to repeat herself several times. Window numbers 12 and above are around the corner to the right of Window 11 and down the corridor a bit - away from all the noise. It's much, much quieter there, which is good because the actual interview takes place at one of these windows, and not at the first bank of windows which is much too noisy for that. Window 12 is the cashier's window and that's where you pay. Down the corridor towards window 12 is where the toilets are also.

I was called about another 20 minutes later to a window where a nice friendly lady consular officer greeted me and started asking me questions about how long I had known my wife and what we did for employment, what our plans were when we get to the US etc. She asked if our house was on the market yet. She was asking me a few questions about our living arrangements out there so I produced the letter I had my FIL sign for me and I kept quiet for a moment while she read it. The letter basically detailed that we would be living on the family property for as long as was needed until we find employment and a place of our own. The next three words out of her mouth were “you are approved”! The interview was 5 minutes tops.

She was very friendly with me and we even had a joke about things like how the date format is different, and she said I'd have to start calling football "soccer". It'll never happen, I told her.

I did have to fill in a form I-864A as the house we are in now is in my name only, so although these assets were listed on the I-864 my wife was submitting under the visa beneficiary's assets, I still had to sign the I-864A so that these assets could be included for the purpose of the I-864.

After that a quick visit to the SMS courier's desk to pay my £14 for the return of the visa, and I was done and dusted!

All in all I was only in the Embassy building for about an hour so it really was quite quick - once you've negotiated the queues outside. Then a quick lunch and onto the tube to get back over to Euston station to get the train home.

It was a tiring trip but there was no real aggro. It's all done now so the last thing is to flog our house then we can get on a plane or boat and start our new life in the US.

Any other questions about the interview just ask in this thread and I will try to answer.

~~~~~

I know this isnt' a "timeline" forum but I thought I'd put it in this post as a one-off.

2008-01-30: Mailed I-130 petition to USCIS London (DCF)
2008-02-04: Credit card debited $355
2008-02-07: NOA1 received - file date 4 Feb 2008
2008-04-19: NOA2 received - APPROVED (took 74 days)
2008-04-23: Packet 3 received
2008-04-28: Packet 3 (DS-230 Pt 1 and statement of readiness) mailed in
2008-04-28: Medical appointment booked
2008-05-13: Packet 4 received - interview in mid-June
2008-06-16: Medical - no apparent issues
2008-06-17: Visa interview - APPROVED - total 135 days from I-130 filing date

Last edited by BritishGuy36; Jun 20th 2008 at 7:50 pm.
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Old Jun 20th 2008, 7:19 pm   #2
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Default Re: London trip including US Embassy IR-1 Interview Report

The obvious question is: What kind of muffin was it???

Congratulations on your successful interview, not that I ever doubted it for a minute.

ftr, on the I-864A, I'm sure you know, that is not what the instructions say, but since no one really understands that form and it only takes a minute to complete, it's easier to just go along, get along.

And PS on the visa fee.. the fee is not for the visa, but for the application, which is why you pay whether you 'get' the visa or not.

congrats again, and happy travels!
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Old Jun 20th 2008, 7:30 pm   #3
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Default Re: London trip including US Embassy IR-1 Interview Report

Thanks for the report.

I hope you enjoyed the comfortable, efficient train ride, 'cos you can kiss that goodbye when you get to Ohio...
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Old Jun 20th 2008, 7:36 pm   #4
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Default Re: London trip including US Embassy IR-1 Interview Report

Quote:
Originally Posted by meauxna View Post
The obvious question is: What kind of muffin was it???
Chocolate chip, of course.

Forgot to add my timeline so edited the OP.
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Old Jun 20th 2008, 9:43 pm   #5
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Default Re: London trip including US Embassy IR-1 Interview Report

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Originally Posted by BritishGuy36 View Post
Chocolate chip, of course.

Forgot to add my timeline so edited the OP.
Congrats!I'm very happy for you !
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Old Jun 20th 2008, 9:46 pm   #6
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Default Re: London trip including US Embassy IR-1 Interview Report

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Originally Posted by BritishGuy36 View Post
Chocolate chip, of course.
Thank god for that. Thought it was going to be one of those filthy microwaved breakfast muffins they used to do. :curse:
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Old Jun 20th 2008, 9:56 pm   #7
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Default Re: London trip including US Embassy IR-1 Interview Report

Congratulations!!
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Old Jun 21st 2008, 9:22 am   #8
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Default Re: London trip including US Embassy IR-1 Interview Report

Thank you for the review! We are about at the same point as you (only filed I-130 2 weeks after you did) so this makes us feel a little better. We're just waiting on Packet 4 now.

Seemingly random question... did you happen to notice if you can bring a baby stroller into the embassy?

Oh, and what did you wear?
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Old Jun 21st 2008, 9:46 am   #9
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Default Re: London trip including US Embassy IR-1 Interview Report

Thanks all!

Quote:
Originally Posted by MummaLitt View Post
a) Seemingly random question... did you happen to notice if you can bring a baby stroller into the embassy?

b) Oh, and what did you wear?
a) Yes I did, and yes you can! A couple about 3 ahead of me in the queue for the security cabin took one through, they didn't seem to have a problem.

b) Polo shirt, jeans and black shoes. There were people there in all sorts, don't worry too much about it. If you wear what I wore you'll be one of the smarter ones!
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Old Jul 8th 2008, 9:36 am   #10
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Default Re: London trip including US Embassy IR-1 Interview Report

Congratulations on your approval, and thank you for sharing the interview experience. Your personal circumstances sound quite similar to ours. Reading your threads has already helped us out as you asked the same questions that we are now getting.

May I just ask what you are going to do about your house in The UK?
Are you going to keep it on the market and try and sell whilst in The US, or wait in the UK for another few months or are you going to let it out?

We can't sell our house either and all our dough is tied up in the equity. We could let the house out and wait for things to pick up, but in the meantime we would have no capital to ship our stuff or buy a car etc.

Cheers
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Old Jul 8th 2008, 10:45 am   #11
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Default Re: London trip including US Embassy IR-1 Interview Report

This is the problem. Like you, all of our cash is tied up in the house.

Fortunately we have quite a bit of equity so we can afford to let it go cheaper, and we have found a buyer. We aren't getting anywhere near what we want for it, but it's enough to get us started in the US.

What you have to factor in is that it will likely be a number of years or so before house prices come back up past what they were a year ago. So if you have equity in the house now, and can get a quick sale by selling the house cheaper, then is this preferable to putting your plans on hold, or struggling to start a life in the US? For us, it's worth taking the hit as we would rather move now. Whether it works for you depends I suppose on how much equity you have in your property.

We can't let it out as we would only just get in rent what we pay for the mortgage, so no extra cash - a definite non-starter for us.

All the best with your decision.
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Old Sep 23rd 2008, 6:39 pm   #12
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Default Re: London trip including US Embassy IR-1 Interview Report

Your timeline is great, I have been worried about the interview but I feel much calmer having read your post.

How long did it take to get your passport back by courier?

Thanks and good luck.
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Old Sep 23rd 2008, 7:46 pm   #13
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Default Re: London trip including US Embassy IR-1 Interview Report

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Your timeline is great, I have been worried about the interview but I feel much calmer having read your post.
That's why I gave such a full report - so that others could get a flavour of the experience. Glad it helped. To be honest if all your ducks are in a row there should be no problems, it makes you nervous I know but afterward you wonder what the fuss was about.

I believe I got the passport back 4 working days after the interview - but that was because I only had the medical the day before and they had to wait for the results - otherwise I probably would have got it back in a couple of days.
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Old Oct 12th 2008, 11:41 am   #14
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Default Re: London trip including US Embassy IR-1 Interview Report

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Originally Posted by BritishGuy36 View Post
That's why I gave such a full report - so that others could get a flavour of the experience. Glad it helped. To be honest if all your ducks are in a row there should be no problems, it makes you nervous I know but afterward you wonder what the fuss was about.

I believe I got the passport back 4 working days after the interview - but that was because I only had the medical the day before and they had to wait for the results - otherwise I probably would have got it back in a couple of days.
I angered the lady that did my initial 'pre-interview' finger scan by daring to say "Pardon?" one too many times! As you say it was very loud in there and she had a really thick accent, of Japanese decent. I could do no right after that but I couldn't say anything because my future was in her hands so to speak.
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Old Oct 23rd 2008, 4:21 pm   #15
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Default Re: London trip including US Embassy IR-1 Interview Report

Hello BritishGuy36,

I had my medical last week but I am still waiting to hear from the embassy about my interview date. Did you already have an interview date before you had the medical?

Thanks
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