Our London Interview Experience

Old Apr 11th 2001, 9:49 pm
Steven Astley
Posts: n/a

DCF US Embassy London Interview April 6, 2001

We arrived outside the doctor's office, bright and early, at 7:45 am to find a line
of about 10 people already waiting. At 8 am the doors were opened and we filed
inside. At this point my wife and son left me and walked back to Marble Arch, had a
McDonald's breakfast, and waited for me to join them.

Inside the doctor's office, we found ourselves directed downstairs to the cellar
where we discovered a waiting room barely large enough to hold everyone. Our
passports, medical questionnaires and vaccination certificates were collected. We
were then left to sweat it out for another 30 minutes. At 8.30 am, the first names
were called. We were being called forward to sign some paperwork and pay our fees.
£85 lighter, I sat down. People were being seen in the order they were called forward
to pay - though this seemed to be totally without any pattern. A family was seen
first, then some men, then a couple, a lady on her own, and so on. We first went and
had a blood sample taken for testing, then returned to the waiting room - if you were
lucky, your seat had not been taken by a late arrival! Shortly after this, we were
invited into the x-ray department and told to strip to the waist. After irradiation,
we saw the doctor. The examination was very straightforward - "Where are you going to
settle in America?" - "Your vaccinations are all in order" - "Read from the chart
below the green line" - "Let me take your blood pressure" - "Breathe deeply, in,
out." - "You may get dressed and wait in the waiting room. Good luck."

Back in the waiting room we sat and waited. Finally, the radiographer came out and
explained that some names would be called out. If our names were called, we could
leave - though there had been a problem with the X-Ray machine and we would have to
wait at the Embassy until our X-Rays were delivered there.

Breathing a huge sigh of relief that part one was over, I left. Having made my way to
McDonald's, I quickly broke my fast, collected my family and off we went. It was
about 10:30.

As the photos I had taken in our town were not glossy and no one we found there did
them glossy (as per the provided instructions), we chose a place on the provided
list that was on the way to Embassy from Marble Arch. It only took about 10 minutes
to complete.

(note: As is the case with much of London, the London US Embassy is not at all
wheelchair friendly!)

We eventually got our bags, the wheelchair, and my wife up the steps of the Embassy
and went through the security section. We got her up more steps to the Immigrant Visa
department and went inside. A sign just inside the room told us to check in at
counter 2 or 3 (there were 6). Here we handed over my appointment letter and were
asked by a very friendly woman to sit and wait. We asked her about my wife signing
the affidavit and she said that would happen at interview. (This nice woman also
mentioned that we should go out "the back way" when we left, as it would be easier
with the wheelchair. The security officers never mentioned this option.)

We were soon called to the counter by someone else and here I handed over most of my
paper work. I say most because they did not require some of the things they had asked
for. The first thing requested was OF-230 Part 2 which was checked and then signed. I
had each original document, together with a copy, in a separate plastic wallet
(sleeve) inside a ring binder and offered each as they were requested. However, when
asked for birth certificates, I tried to give him the birth certificates of my
children - though they are not emigrating with me. The guy behind the counter said
they were not needed - "I know we ask for them, but we don't need to see them." Also,
when he asked for our marriage certificate, I also offered him divorce papers, but he
wasn't interested in my wife's divorce papers, only mine. For some reason, he did not
ask if there was a joint-sponsor. So, I mentioned it to him and he said yes, he would
take that paperwork also. He checked through everything, said it all added up, gave
me a yellow slip of paper and told me to go pay $260 and bring the receipt back to
him. After returning with the receipt, I was again told to sit and wait.

As we waited, we listened to others being interviewed (you can't help it, depending
on where you're sitting in the waiting area) for different types of situations,
various ages. Several people were called back again and again to be asked more
questions by the interviewers and to clarify things in their paperwork.

Shortly after, we were called to counter 5 for our interview. At this point my wife
was required to come too. She was asked to sign her Affidavit of Support and then we
were *both* asked to raise our right hands. The consular officer asked us if we swear
to tell the truth, etc. We said "yes" and the interview began.

It started very pleasantly. He had obviously reviewed our paperwork and immediately
began asking us about the Isle of Man (which is where we are living at the moment),
we mentioned how pretty it is, how wet it is, and answered that, yes, there is indeed
a world-famous motorcycle racing festival there every year. He made a hilarious
comment about the weather and then he got all serious. He told us that the X-rays
hadn't come back yet, but we should be called again as soon as they did. He indicated
it could be another hour an a half, including the time to prepare the visa. We
debated (with him) as to whether we had time to go out and about and he suggested
hanging out there, if we could, as it might be more trouble to leave and come back
because of the wheelchair. We decided to wait there and get drinks from the machine
on the other side. We walked away with my wife quietly exclaiming to me, "What just
happened? Is that it?! He didn't even ask how we met!" All the wondering (okay,
"worrying") on our part of how to "prove" our relationship was evidently unnecessary.
So much for those letters from friends, our previous emails, the wedding photos, etc!
must be the contributing factors to this smooth result.

We sat and "listened" to other interviews, trying not to giggle about the excitement
of it all and how easily it had gone so far. Okay. We did giggle a little, while our
son buried himself in his Gameboy, pretending not to know us. (No, not really.
Besides, it wasn't the giggling that bothered him. It was the kissing!) There were
a couple of situations similar to ours (marriage-based), work visas, K-1's, etc.
There were individuals, couples, and families with well-behaved school-aged children.
There was also a couple there with their toddler who ran around constantly,
entertaining most everyone.

A while later, my name was called. I went up to the counter and was given another
yellow slip and told to go and pay $65 to the cashier. That *was* it - I was paying
for the visa to be issued. It was 12:15 pm.

I paid my money and the cashier told me that I would get the receipt when I received
the visa (after it had been prepared).

Soon afterwards, I was once more called forward. At the counter I was told that there
was a problem -- the visa was ready (and was given to me at that time), but the
X-Rays had not yet arrived due to the problem with the machine. (Like I cared! I was
getting my visa!) I was given a brown envelope and instructed not to open it. I was
told that I should carry it in my hand luggage and hand it to the immigration officer
at the POE where I would receive my temporary green card. My X-Ray could travel in my
luggage. All that remained was to wait another hour or so until the X-Rays showed up.
At about 1.30 pm they arrived. They were handed out to everyone waiting and we were
free to go!

We then asked someone at a counter about going out "the back way" and as it turned
out, the consular officer who "interviewed" us took us through the back (all
restricted) and down via an elevator. On the trip down, he chatted away with us. My
wife commented on how surprised she was at how smoothly and quickly everything went
due to "things we've read on the Internet of other people's experiences."

"What you read about was regarding the INS, I'm sure," he said. Smiling, he politely
continued, "WE are not the INS." One could tell from how others related to him that
he was a senior official, but he was extremely kind to us and made sure we were
headed in the right direction outside. In fact, we want to stress that everyone we
came in contact with was very helpful and polite. (After all, we would be complaining
if the opposite were true!) The experience was rather painless, in spite of the wait
due to the X-ray delay!

After our experiences, our strongest piece of advice to anyone in similar situation
to us is to NOT waste time and money on the UK £1.50 per minute "help line" over
here. (The scripts they use are not only out of date, they are often outright wrong!)
Written questions to the Consular Info Unit work very well. They also have a phone
number directly to them as well.

Any questions, just email us. Good luck to everyone.

OUR BASIC TIMELINE: Feb 02 2001 mailed I-130 Feb 05 2001 mailed OF-230 Mar 01 2001
received written notice that petition was approved Mar 09 2001 telephoned Consular
Info Unit in London, given case number Mar 14 2001 mailed OF-169 Checklist Mar 22
2001 telephoned Consular Info Unit, told Interview date of 4/6! Mar 24 2001 Packet 4
arrived with Interview notice Apr 06 2001 Interview Days from mailing off the I-130
to the Interview date: 64

~Steven (UK) & Mandy (USC) who met online 5 years ago and are now packing up for FL
while waiting on the birth of the baby because.... we have the visa!!
Old Apr 11th 2001, 11:02 pm
Posts: n/a

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