June 17, 2011

US Student Visa Interview

I finally received my US visa today. It has been more than two months since I indicated my acceptance of IU's offer. The I-20 form came quite late, and right after its arrival, I scheduled for an interview on this late Tuesday.

I got up at seven in the morning, and by eight forty-five, in full suit, I was already on my way to the Consulate. The Consulate was not far from the Central train station, yet the complexity of the transportation system on Hong Kong Island allowed my earlier pre-visit to the Consulate to pay off. It rained a little, and once I even had to seek shelter at the nearby St. John's Cathedral. Thankfully the rain soon faded, and I went up to the US Consulate.

Visitors need to enter at the gate upper on the Garden Road. The entrance hall is an open-space courtyard covered with a transparent plastic roof. Before you can line up to register, your belongings need to be searched through and examined. After that you can wait before the several windows for the officer to make a preliminary check of your visa documents. It was fast, and the lady collected my passport, visa application fee receipt, SEVIS fee receipt, DS-160 confirmation, and I-20, and gave me a slip with a queuing number on it. After disposing of the water in my bottle, I was allowed into the consulate building.

Here your belongings need to go through an X-ray machine, and yourself need to go passing an X-ray door. I deposited my phone and iPod, both powered off, before going through the X-ray. Like for most men, the door beeped when I went across it, and I was manually examined.

There were a few score people in the hall, and the interview windows as well as the post office windows are all located in this hall. There is a drinking fountain in case you feel thirsty. You will be beckoned first at Window 1 to take fingerprints. Then you can wait for the interview. During this time you may obtain a post office registered mail order and fill it out; this can be done right after the interview as well. I waited for around half an hour in total, then I was beckoned to Window 3, where a young Caucasian lady awaited.

We greeted each other, and she began with, "So you are going to do a PhD in the States?" "Yes." "And your major will be Economics?" "Yes." "I see you have been given a fellowship. Congratulations!" "Thank you!"

"So why did you choose Indiana University?" I have thought about this question before the interview, and answered, "My field of research is Macroeconomics, and IU is very strong in this field. That's why I picked IU over other programs." She seemed satisfied with my answer. "Have you been to the United States before?" "Not yet." "So this will be your first time in U.S.! Are you excited, or nervous?" "I think more excited, than nervous." I answered smilingly. She finally said, "Your visa's approved. Enjoy your trip to America!"

I said thank you for several times, and then brought the blue card with a number on it that the officer just gave me to the post office counter. It costs HKD25 for local registered delivery, and the post officer told me that I could expect to receive the visa by Friday. I cheerfully left the Consulate.

Throughout the process, the interview booking confirmation was not required. I am not sure if the officers checked that I have made the appointment in their database. Therefore I still advise visa applicants to make an appointment before visiting the Consulate to avoid unnecessary waste of time. The visa officer remained smiling during the process. As other students who were interviewed earlier told me, there were mostly yes/no questions only, and took only about a minute.

June 10, 2011


As some of you may have noticed, the URL of this blog has been changed to fangjinghk.blogspot.com, which is part of my proposition to change the orientation of this blog to a more personal/casual one. (I know it is not very techy now, but I am hoping by such a shift I can focus more on my life and write more frequent posts.) What do you think of such a change? Drop me a line to let me know.