Travel, Stay, Lessons – H1B visa Stamping experience 2011 in Chennai
One of our awesome readers, Karthik, shared his H1B visa stamping experience in detail with lot of information about travel, stay and preparation. Firstly, Congrats to Karthik and Thanks to him for taking time to write and share his experience with our readers. You can share yours as well here
I’ve been following this website for longtime and I’ve got many useful information from the articles & Q/As in this site. I went to Chennai consulate last week for my H1B visa stamping, I would like to share my experience with other readers as a token of my gratitude to this website. Here it goes; I wrote it in detail for the first timers like me, if you are just interested in Q/A you shall directly jump to it.
I reached Chennai on the day before my interview. I took fast track call taxi from Chennai private bus stand to my hotel near US consulate, it was Tata Indica A/c car, trip cost was 170 Rs.
I stayed in a hotel called Crystal Residency. The hotel is opposite to the consulate. From hotel to embassy it takes 2-3 mins that is it. I took the subway near the hotel to cross the road and from the other end embassy is just a minute walk.
I booked a Standard A/c room. They have two buildings adjacent to each other, I stayed in the new building. I heard the other building is not that good, so when I booked a room through phone I insisted on having a room in the new building. They did not have the standard room vacant when I reached there so they gave me a ‘suite’ for the same cost. (It’s not the ‘suite’ you would see in star rated hotels, it is just a double bedroom with a couch). Room was clean and nice, it looked and felt like a decent service apartment room.
They served decent quality food at my room for reasonable cost, breakfast was free. Had to order food 30 mins in advance.
Cost : 1600 Rs + Tax = 1883
Check-in & Check-out = 24 hrs
There is a xerox shop adjacent to the hotel. I’m not sure about the wi-fi/Internet service, I used my phone with 3g for browsing.
To the consulate:-
I started one hour before my scheduled interview time. I took the subway near the hotel to cross the road and found many people standing under a tree in front of oxford press. I thought that was the queue for interview, but they were the ‘friends or family’ of actual interviewees who went inside, so I asked a security guy and he pointed me to the actual queue behind the stainless steel barricades.
Inside the consulate:-
I first had to stand in a queue outside embassy to reach a counter, at that counter they asked for my 1. Appointment letter & 2. DS160 confirmation print out, after checking them they gave me a paper token that had some number.
After I received this token I was allowed to enter into the door. Once inside they asked me to open the folder and checked every compartment and sent it through security scanner. I was frisked and allowed to enter a waiting hall. I left my mobile and wallet in my hotel room itself and the folder I had was plastic, so I did not waste much time at the security point.
(I had some currency notes in my pocket just in case I need to retake my photograph. There is a photograph counter in the waiting hall, I don’t know how much they charge)
After the security check I was allowed into a waiting hall and was asked to keep an eye on the LCD monitor for my token number to be called. After sometime I saw my token number flashed with a counter number. (Even if I missed that moment, I could have checked the list of waiting numbers that were displayed constantly on the screen)
I went to that counter, lady at the counter asked for my 1. Passport, 2. Appointment letter, 3. DS-160 confirmation, 4. HDFC receipt & 5. I-797, she put them all in a file along with the white pamphlet (H1B worker’s rights) and asked me to go to the next counter. At the next counter they took my finger prints and asked me to wait for the call to next building.
After some time, they sent group of people to another building where we had to wait in a queue for sometime to finally enter the interview hall. Once I was into the interview call, they asked me to sit and watch the LCD monitor for my token number to be called. There were rest rooms & water dispensers at this hall.
There were interviews going on and at one counter a VO used mic, so I could clearly hear their conversation. There were some rejections and some approvals. I lost into their conversations and had to pull myself out frequently to watch the monitors. After long wait my number flashed with a counter number, I went to that counter and stood in a queue. There were 3 guys in front of me, I couldn’t see what happened to the fist guy, second guy got 221g and increased my pressure level, the third guy’s visa was approved, and then me the fourth guy was called.
My H1B visa Interview with Visa Officer :
VO: Hi, how are you?
Me: I’m ok thanks, how are you?
VO: I’m fine thanks.
I passed the passport & docs folder to her
VO: Give me a minute
After few seconds she took my folder and checked the docs.
VO: Why are you going to US?
Me: I got a job in XXX company, I’m going to work for them at US.
VO: Will you work in client project?
VO: Who is your client?
VO: Tell me about the project?
Me: <Briefly explained about the project, my skill set and the reason I got selected for this project>
VO; Can you give the justification letter that your employer sent to USCIS
Me: <handed over it>
VO: Where will you work in US
Me: <city>, <state>.
VO; Can you give a brief summary of your responsibilities in this job?
Me: XXX, XXX, XXX, XXX and XXX.
VO: Can you tell me about your education?
Me: I completed my <degree> <major> in <year>, <college>, <university>, <location>.
VO: How long will you project go?
Me: XX years
VO: OK, I’m approving your visa, you will get it though courier in a week. Keep this white pamphlet for your reference and here is your I-797.
This part of my life…this little part..is called “happyness”
Me: Thank you, have a nice day.
I passed through few exit signs, went through a weird final exit door and finally I was out embassy after two and half hours since I went in.
Answers to few questions that I was desperately looking for:-
1. Where do you intend to work question in DS-160 form
****This is my opinion, it worked for me. This may or may not be correct, so use at your own risk****
It was a big confusion. I finally concluded that it was about my employer & their address and filled my employer name & their address as per I-797.
I presume that the literal meaning for this question is, “who is your employer”. I see no other sections of DS-160 asks about H1B employer details, and in ‘work’ section asking about the details of H1B employer is obvious. Client has nothing to do with DS-160.
2. Color of HDFC Receipt
In appointment letter, VFS has mentioned to bring ‘BLUE HDFC Receipt’, but both my applicant copy & embassy copy were green. Title of the receipt was something like ‘Petition based visas (H,L,O blah)’. It worked for me.
3. Employer with 50+ employees who have 50%+ of their US work force on H1B should get HDFC receipt for 2000$ extra fee & Fraud detection fee 500$
My employer had already paid these fee when they filed my petition, HDFC receipt they gave was only for around 7000+ Rs.
So my answer to this question is, “check with your employer”.
Every case is different. Questions you will face & documents you will be asked for can be different, so get as many supporting documents as you can and prepare clear & concise answers to all the possible questions. There are no bad VOs as far as I’ve seen, they approved some cases, they issued 221gs to some cases & they rejected some cases, it all depends on your particular case & your documents. Dress well, be confident & giveyour best, and I wish you good luck for your visa interview.
Chennai is hot, keep some tissues/handkerchief with you
Finally, Finally, The Harmonium Folder:-
Do yourself a favor, get a harmonium folder. It has many compartments separated from each other and you can attach notes to each compartment. You can take kilograms of documents in that single folder and you can take a specific document in few seconds without trembling & messing up things.
-Someone who has got his first H1B after long struggle-
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