The most expensive phone call of my life.  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in , ,

Arranging the visa interview is so expensive, I'm sure I must have been calling the White House or something. ©


When I enrolled at Kellogg by submitting my deposit, I also submitted my I-20/DS-2019 Request Form to the school to allow me to apply for an F1 student visa. The I-20 finally arrived from Kellogg a week or two ago. On Friday I moved this process on to the next stages, which meant getting myself financially bled three times.
  • First, I paid $200 online for SEVIS. I don't know what SEVIS is, other than it is a necessary evil.
  • Then, I had to call up the consulate in the UK to book a visa interview. They charged £1.50 (~$2.20) a minute and the call lasted about 10 minutes. For some reason this felt the most painful of the three charges. Maybe this was because I could feel the money slowly and surely drawn out of me, whereas the other transactions were quick.
  • Thirdly, the visa interview itself cost $131 dollars.
I've scheduled the visa interview for next week. I'm hoping it is trouble free; the documentation they've sent through lists numerous reasons for abruptly canceling the interview and have me arrange (and pay for) another interview, including arriving at the embassy with a mobile phone.

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18 comments

A veritable rip off! It's the same when here in the US and trying to do anything with visa's and even worse with any sort of immigration procedure. It invariably involves repeated biometric appointments that take hours, (due to the gross ineptitude of the system, not the volume of applicants as they constantly tell of,) and cost the earth.

Good luck with your interview. The process is allegedly less clogged of late, due to the economy etc, but you should absolutely get there at least 1.5 hours before your appointment time. This is because, at times, there can be lines around the block that cause significant delays in entering the Embassy. You will not get expedited because you'll be late otherwise, you simply have to wait until your time in line. Get there too early however, and you can get moved back to the end.

Ensure that you have a file with you that is highly organised, and gives you easy access to your ID docs, and your letter/confirmation of appointment for access, and gives you an efficient approach for the interviewer.

You will be interviewed by a US citizen, and so being "genuinely" patient, upbeat, clean-cut, professionally dressed, and as polite as a puritan helps greatly. As does calling the female interviewer "Ma'am" and the male interviewer "Sir" go a very long way indeed. It is also ok to small talk, eg, "how is your day?" etc.

The main reason for the interview, aside from a security procedure, is to ascertain that you have absolutely no intention of staying or seeking to stay in the US, after your degree is granted, that you will not seek paid work, (aside from any stipend already offered by the Uni's,) and that you have enough money to support yourself, and have a return Airline ticket.

Even if you will explore the opportunity of working for the immediate period following your MBA, you must tell them that you intend to go to study in the best education system in the World, then will leave to work in eg, mainland Europe.

The US authorities, especially in times of economic downturn, are especially sensitive to those wishing to steal American jobs and daughters/sons.

Even when you show up at Airport immigration, with your visa in hand, you can be turned back if you answer incorrectly, and they think you are trying to stay here.

Americans in such jobs as these gatekeepers are, after all, patriotic individuals, and thus have a deep-rooted puritanical attitude towards outsiders. Even if these "outsiders" are the foundation of every ounce of American innovation, business and success.

It is somewhat strange, but Americans tend to see the World in an American way, and only an American way. They are not well traveled usually, and even those that are, fail to see the deep cultures and history of others. Thus they tend to think that you are coming here to better your lot, and that there can't possibly be any options for you at home, because it isn't the US...

It may sound a little jaded or far fetched, but I speak from experience, my own and many others.

You have nothing to worry about specifically, but be mentally prepared, know that Americans are very black and white, follow the rules, and you'll be just fine.

Good luck!

7 April 2009 at 23:33

A veritable rip off! It's the same when here in the US and trying to do anything with visa's and even worse with any sort of immigration procedure. It invariably involves repeated biometric appointments that take hours, (due to the gross ineptitude of the system, not the volume of applicants as they constantly tell of,) and cost the earth.

Good luck with your interview. The process is allegedly less clogged of late, due to the economy etc, but you should absolutely get there at least 1.5 hours before your appointment time. This is because, at times, there can be lines around the block that cause significant delays in entering the Embassy. You will not get expedited because you'll be late otherwise, you simply have to wait until your time in line. Get there too early however, and you can get moved back to the end.

Ensure that you have a file with you that is highly organised, and gives you easy access to your ID docs, and your letter/confirmation of appointment for access, and gives you an efficient approach for the interviewer.

You will be interviewed by a US citizen, and so being "genuinely" patient, upbeat, clean-cut, professionally dressed, and as polite as a puritan helps greatly. As does calling the female interviewer "Ma'am" and the male interviewer "Sir" go a very long way indeed. It is also ok to small talk, eg, "how is your day?" etc.

The main reason for the interview, aside from a security procedure, is to ascertain that you have absolutely no intention of staying or seeking to stay in the US, after your degree is granted, that you will not seek paid work, (aside from any stipend already offered by the Uni's,) and that you have enough money to support yourself, and have a return Airline ticket.

Even if you will explore the opportunity of working for the immediate period following your MBA, you must tell them that you intend to go to study in the best education system in the World, then will leave to work in eg, mainland Europe.

The US authorities, especially in times of economic downturn, are especially sensitive to those wishing to steal American jobs and daughters/sons.

Even when you show up at Airport immigration, with your visa in hand, you can be turned back if you answer incorrectly, and they think you are trying to stay here.

Americans in such jobs as these gatekeepers are, after all, patriotic individuals, and thus have a deep-rooted puritanical attitude towards outsiders. Even if these "outsiders" are the foundation of every ounce of American innovation, business and success.

It is somewhat strange, but Americans tend to see the World in an American way, and only an American way. They are not well traveled usually, and even those that are, fail to see the deep cultures and history of others. Thus they tend to think that you are coming here to better your lot, and that there can't possibly be any options for you at home, because it isn't the US...

It may sound a little jaded or far fetched, but I speak from experience, my own and many others.

You have nothing to worry about specifically, but be mentally prepared, know that Americans are very black and white, follow the rules, and you'll be just fine.

Good luck!

7 April 2009 at 23:33

Hey, thanks le redacteur. Your thoughts are worth more than this post itself.

Good advice that I'll make sure to follow.

8 April 2009 at 00:34

Hey, thanks le redacteur. Your thoughts are worth more than this post itself.

Good advice that I'll make sure to follow.

8 April 2009 at 00:34

All the best for your visa interview!

8 April 2009 at 06:42

All the best for your visa interview!

8 April 2009 at 06:42

D.G. - My pleasure, though I disagree about the value comparison - yours highlighted the problem in the first place.

A case in point about the US Govt stance at present, is an article in today's US FT, Companies & Markets section. I think the problem will spread to other industries, and so it seems wise to plan well ahead for what to do and where to do it, post MBA....

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ccc60850-2398-11de-996a-00144feabdc0.html

8 April 2009 at 17:45

D.G. - My pleasure, though I disagree about the value comparison - yours highlighted the problem in the first place.

A case in point about the US Govt stance at present, is an article in today's US FT, Companies & Markets section. I think the problem will spread to other industries, and so it seems wise to plan well ahead for what to do and where to do it, post MBA....

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ccc60850-2398-11de-996a-00144feabdc0.html

8 April 2009 at 17:45

Thanks guys. I will surely post about how it goes. le redacteur: yeah, someone else also commented about US protectionism and the job scene...

9 April 2009 at 13:18

Thanks guys. I will surely post about how it goes. le redacteur: yeah, someone else also commented about US protectionism and the job scene...

9 April 2009 at 13:18

Good luck! I'm sure everything will run smoothly.

I liked your description of why the second charge felt the most expensive. :)

12 April 2009 at 21:07

Good luck! I'm sure everything will run smoothly.

I liked your description of why the second charge felt the most expensive. :)

12 April 2009 at 21:07

Thanks July Dream. :-)

14 April 2009 at 23:54

Thanks July Dream. :-)

14 April 2009 at 23:54

when i phoned the US embassy in London i did so from a BT payphone. after spending £25 inordinately quickly i rang the operator who told me that from a payphone it was "the most expensive phone number she had ever seen" at 10 pence for every 2.1 seconds. It was only £1.20 per minute from a BT landline but nobody really has one of those anymore.

when I asked why there was a difference in price between a BT payphone and a BT landline the operator got extremely snippy with me.

they are all crooks, sadly. none bigger than the US embassy, who later informed e that I should prepare to pay an additional fee "but we won't be able to tell you how much it is until you need to pay it, and then you'll need to pay it immediately."

i constantly got the feeling i was talking to someone impersonating the US embassy- but i wasn't.

21 July 2009 at 12:11

when i phoned the US embassy in London i did so from a BT payphone. after spending £25 inordinately quickly i rang the operator who told me that from a payphone it was "the most expensive phone number she had ever seen" at 10 pence for every 2.1 seconds. It was only £1.20 per minute from a BT landline but nobody really has one of those anymore.

when I asked why there was a difference in price between a BT payphone and a BT landline the operator got extremely snippy with me.

they are all crooks, sadly. none bigger than the US embassy, who later informed e that I should prepare to pay an additional fee "but we won't be able to tell you how much it is until you need to pay it, and then you'll need to pay it immediately."

i constantly got the feeling i was talking to someone impersonating the US embassy- but i wasn't.

21 July 2009 at 12:11

I guess this is the cost of state monopolies. :-/

At least it's over with.

21 July 2009 at 13:01

I guess this is the cost of state monopolies. :-/

At least it's over with.

21 July 2009 at 13:01

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