While I’ve been accepted for a visitor visa and two student visas before, I was afraid my recent marriage to a US citizen would be a problem for the “visitor” visa. I’d read in the deepest trenches of the Internet that some spouse applicants were rejected because marriage may suggest “immigrant intent”. After scouring the Internet for other experiences, I thought I’d add mine to the collective pool. So, here are my notes for applying for a B2 visitor visa.
- Filled out the DS-160 application form, available online. Useful information to have that might take up some digging: the visa number of your previous US visas, dates you visited the U.S. previously
- Generated a unique CGI code on website and paid the application fee. The fee was USD160 at the time of application, but this had to be paid in local currency. Of course they use a conservative exchange rate, so I paid SGD232 at a SingPost branch. Instead of a Standard Chartered receipt, a post office receipt was given, which worked fine. There are plenty of options on how to make payment on the CGI instruction sheet.
- After submitting the application, I made an appointment online. The CGI fee needs to be paid to make an appointment.
Arriving at the Embassy
- Sitting in the Queue: When I got there, the guard didn’t ask what my appointment time was and directed me to a general (outdoor) seating queue for entrance into the embassy. The appointment confirmation advises arrival 15 minutes prior to appointment, so I only came 15 minutes early. For all I knew, the people in line had later appointments but just wanted to get a head start at the queue (TL;DR: come to queue early). The guard calls people in the queue about 4-5 at a time to go through security. Bring reading material.
- Going through Security: While the website mentions to leave cell phones at home, and to not use shoulder bags, if you do bring your cell phone (you rebel, you), you can leave it at the guard house. After walking through the scanner, the guard exchanged my phone for a token. Also, my tote was allowed inside. Most people seemed to have their bags. If you bring a beverage, the guards have you drink it, then let you take it in.
- Walking Inside the Embassy: Everything is so guarded at the embassy, that after passing security and walking up a long-ass ramp, you can’t help but feel like Jack Bauer/a badass. Although Jack Bauer probably wouldn’t be walking through the front door. There’s another security desk, after which you turn left into a room and take a queue number for Nonimmigrant Visas.
Inside the Embassy
There are three windows to go through. But if you don’t remember, fret not, the waiting room has an informational video about the procedure on loop.
- Check-in: Submission of DS-160 confirmation, appointment confirmation, passport, and 1 photo. Very fast. Also, if your photo doesn’t cut it, there’s a photobooth in the waiting area. Bring cash/coins.
- Fingerprinting: Your ten digits will be scanned, and you’ll be given a folder with all the documents you submitted at the first counter.
- Interview: Probably the longest part to wait for. A consular officer asks probing questions (ranging from personal, professional, and financial), while the rapt waiting room audience listens to every word of your interview. The room is basically a waiting area with seats and 7 windows, so don’t expect privacy–it’s really difficult not to eavesdrop. I brought papers with the intention of reading them, but it was more interesting to hear about the outcomes of others’ visa applications. The number of rejections was surprising and slightly nerve-wracking. The bottom line from all this kepo eavesdropping is the officer wants to see you have no immigrant intent, and will be sure you’ll be leaving the country. An applicant was rejected because she had more immediate family members in the U.S. and didn’t have enough convincing ties to Singapore. Another, a recent graduate who’s been in his job for a year and half was also rejected because of weak ties (no property, no family, etc). Some interviews were longer, with vigorous paper checking (so have all your supporting documents with you), some were not more than 5 minutes. But each applicant awaits to hear those golden ticket words: “You can collect your passport in 3 days.”
Aramex manages passport distribution, with the option of pick-up or delivery. No changes are allowed once selected. My passport mysteriously texted me the day it was ready for collection, and for the next two days. Passports have a ten-day pick up window before it gets sent back to the Embassy. I was on the ten-day mark after a series of unfortunate events, but called Aramex and requested them to hold it for one more day, and they obliged.
You’re Done! Yay, congratulations on your visa–enjoy the land of opportunity!