Sunday, 5 April 2009

I am approved

I arrived at the U.S. consulate at 7:00am this morning for my visa application appointment. I probably should've arrived earlier, because although it doesn't open till 7am, there was already a queue of over 50 people ahead of me.

First, you queue at the white cabin outside, where they have to confirm that you do have an appointment today and that you're not just a random walk-in. Security check point #1. Scan, search, leave any bags, mobiles, etc. Thankfully, I'd left everything apart from my papers, a book, and my wallet in the car.

Inside the portacabin, there are 3 sections, each one with 3 long benches. I sat down in section A, as B and C were full. People in section C (closest to the door on the other side) get to leave first. A security guard unlocks the door, ushers them out in one single file, locks the door after them, and then proceeds to move those seated in section B into section C and we (A) move along to B, and so on. About 45 minutes later, I'm now stepping outside to enter the consulate.

In the lobby, a nice lady calls "Next", checks my paperwork - all in order - tick tick tick. Security check-point #2. Scan, search, wipe fingers with thing that looks like a band-aid. Exit. Proceed to queue for lift. Security check-point #3. Scan. Leave mobiles behind - again didn't have one. Take lift up to consulate.

Security check-point #4. Scan. But wait. Now I'm about to step into the consulate. So scanning is not enough. The security guard went through my file, paper by paper, then through my book, and then he opened and went throughmy wallet . Grrrrrrrrr. By now I'm really exploding inside. Bear in mind it's now 9:00am.

Anyway, I'm now inside the consulate. Get a number, queue. Go to window. Scan fingerprints. Left hand. Right hand. Both thumbs. Ooops! didn't get the little finger on your left hand. Please scan left hand again. Ok. Get another number. Queue. Go to window. Answer some questions. Important ones - not like the pointless ones in the application form, where they ask you about your skills and training in firearms, explosives and other weapons.

Approved. Leave.

Security procedure: 2 Hours 30 minutes
Visa application procedure: 20 minutes

As a colleague of mind said to me, "and you haven't even arrived at the border yet..."

*Sigh*

3 comments:

  1. Good thing you had an appointment. =)

    I had a similar queuing issue at the Chinese embassy for a tourist visa two years back, and the only security they had was the crowd of bored, impatient people waiting their turn. Surprisingly effective, especially against queue-jumping.

    Got there at 9am on a Tuesday morning, the queue was already 50m down the street. Where else gets that busy on a Tuesday morning?? Had to submit my passport by 11am to submit for the 'express' pile. I didn't make it.

    I took a flight from Toronto to Denver once. Arrived early at the airport, then nearly missed the flight 'cos it took 3 hours to get through check-in/security to the gate ... they nearly gave my seat away and were closing up as a few passengers and I came running over!

    Good luck. =)

    Oh, and don't forget that in a move of shameless profiteering under the guise of security, the same liquid restrictions applying at most international airports now apply to any aircraft entering the US and Australia. Meaning you can't bring aboard any duty-free liquor or even a bottle of water bought at the airport. I suggest bringing on board an empty bottle and asking the steward(ess) to fill it for you.

    Luckily, I suspect that like Australia the US will have home grown duty free shops available to all international passengers entering the country before they pass customs.

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  2. hmmm... all i can say is it's good they don't know about that thing you did that one time. Remember? in that place?

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  3. Me or Mai?

    I prefer the idea of standing up and being proud! It seems the UK Government at least agrees? Better to declare it than let them find out themselves.

    I was told once about a fellow who was applying for UK Government security clearance. There are questions that ask things like "Have you ever been part of any politically motivated militant group?" and "Have you ever participated in a coup?"

    He answered yes to both, having been part of a Argentinian Liberationist Army or somesuch.

    He was approved ... =)

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