One of our ardent readers and contributors, Sujith, attended his H1B Visa interview along with his wife and twins. Firstly Congratulations to him and his family for getting visa. He was kind enough to spend a lot of time to write up his experience in detail. It is very insightful. Thanks to Sujith for all the time and effort. You can share your experience as well here
Background – H4 stamping for Kids – No need to take Kids to US Consulate
The following is our VISA interview experience at Chennai consulate on 6th August 2012 – H1Bs for me and my wife and H4s for our twin kids. We did not carry our kids to the consulate as they are just 2 years of age (Children below 7 years need not attend the VISA interview). For the kids, you will have to drop their documents along with your stamped VISA copy at the nearest VFS center. Alternatively, you can schedule interview for the kids along with yours and you may carry their documents too and process those along with yours. I thought it’s easy to schedule for them and get everything done in one go and followed the second option.
First schedule – “No Show”- HDFC VISA Receipt reactivation
Our interview was scheduled for 17th July initially. But the company wanted us to carry more documents with us so that we don’t end up with 221(g) or such delays.
Since our attorney failed to cancel the 17th July appointment 2 days prior to that, our case went into “No Show” and the receipts got deactivated. Now the procedure is to go to VFS with original receipts and Passports and pay INR183 per applicant and reactivate the receipts. As per VFS website, one can do this after 2 days of the missed interview date. The consulate has to update the status in some of their systems to “No Show” before VFS can reactivate the receipts and delays are usual in updating this (I came to know about it from some forums). I sent an email to the VFS helpdesk and they forwarded our case to the consulate. After 5 days I got an email from VFS that our statuses are updated to “No Show”. We got our HDFC receipts reactivated and scheduled our interview for 6th August.
Travel and Stay at Chennai for US H1B Visa Stamping
We booked Indigo flights, to and from Chennai, as they are famous for their “On-Time” performance. We flew to Chennai on 5th noon and came back 6th evening.
We stayed at the Hotel Crystal Residency near Gemini flyover. It’s just 2 minutes’ walk from US Consulate (Cross the road using the subway). The Hotel is an average one – decent enough for this purpose.
American Consulate Entry and Security screening
We started from the Hotel around 9:10 and reached the consulate gate by 9:15. There was already a queue which had around 30-40 people. We told the security standing there that our time is 9:45 and he asked us to stand in the front of the queue. I think most of the people come there too early and end up standing in the queue for longer duration – reaching the gate 30 minutes in advance is good.
We showed our appointment letters and the person at the counter outside the gate gave us the tokens – one for me and one for my wife (our kids’ appointments were clubbed with my wife’s token). Note that every H1B should have separate tokens taken, even if they are family.
I went through the door for Gents and my wife went inside through the Ladies’ door. I had a sealed package which had lots of confidential documents from the company. The security inside asked me to go out and open the package and come back and I did so. No sealed packages are allowed inside. Hotel room key and wallet are allowed inside – I carried both.
Documents verification and Fingerprinting at Chennai US Consulate
We sat down in the waiting area and as soon as our tokens were shown we went to the respective counters. They took all the “mandatory” documents and verified those with their records in the system (DS-160 confirmation page). Pasted the sticker from the HDFC receipt on my Passport, wrapped the required documents with the Passport using a rubber-band (no folders or anything) and gave it back. We were asked to go to Station 12 for fingerprinting. After fingerprinting, my wife too joined me in the queue towards the interview hall.
Interview Hall – Counters – US Consulate Chennai
We sat in the waiting area inside the interview hall, watching all those happening at the counters that are visible from where we sat. Once our tokens were displayed, we moved to our designated counters.
My H1B Visa Stamping Interview
[VO was a middle-aged lady who was very pleasant] Me: Good Morning.
VO: Good Morning.
[I handed over the folded documents] VO: Where are you going to work in US?
VO: Which is your company?
VO: What do they do?
VO: What is your position there?
VO: How long have you been working for this company?
VO: How big is the company?
VO: Will you be working for any client?
VO: Ok, so it’s an in-house project.
VO: How much you will be paid in the US?
VO: Can I see your I-129, LCA and the company’s letter to USCIS?
[I handed over the entire copy of petition documents] Me: It contains copy of everything from the petition package. Do you need a separate copy of LCA and the letter to USCIS?
VO: No, this is enough.
[VO searched for company’s letter to USCIS. First page of the letter had details about company and it’s products and second page had my roles and responsibilities] VO: Are going to work on this product “ABC”?
VO: And the company has these 2 products – “ABC” and “DEF”?
[VO turned to page 2 of the letter and read all those written about my roles and responsibilities, but did not asked anything on that] VO: I see that you had travelled to the US earlier, is that correct?
Me: Yes, with the same company.
VO: Can I see your old Passport?
Me: Sure [I handed over my old Passport] [VO checked the old Passport and gave it back] [I thought the VO cancelled my current B1, but later found that it’s not cancelled] VO: [Picking up the Rights, Protections and Resources Pamphlet] Have you read this pamphlet?
Me: Yes, I had read this from the State department website.
VO: Ok. You need to read and understand this before start working in the US.
VO: Your VISA is approved and you will get your Passport in a week’s time.
Me: Thank you.
VO: Have a good day.
Me: Good day.
Even though this seems to be long, the whole interview took just less than 2 minutes.
My Wife’s H1B Visa 2013 interview
[VO was a very young man who seemed to be new to VISA interviews as he was supported by a senior person sitting behind him] VO: Good Morning. How are you doing?
Wife: Good Morning Sir. I am doing well. Thank You.
VO: What is your position there in US?
VO: What are your responsibilities there?
VO: What business does your company do?
VO: What is your salary?
VO: How old are your kids?
[She had Passports and documents of our twin kids too] VO: Is your spouse also travelling with you?
Wife: Yes, on H1B.
VO: Which company? What is his role?
VO: Do you interact with your client?
Wife: No. It’s an in-house project.
VO: Your visa is approved. You will get it in 7 days. Bye.
Wife: Thank You. Bye.
We came out of the consulate around 10:40 and the whole process took less than 1.5 hours. The overall experience at the consulate was very good. However, as someone mentioned in their experience blog (posted earlier in RedBus2US) that the Indians weren’t as courteous as the Americans, all the Indians in the documents section were too serious and not even smiling at the candidates at the counter, whereas those Americans who actually do the interviews are very pleasant and polite. All the uniformed guys inside the consulate who help us to move around are very good – I think they are VFS fellows.
Important Dates in the entire H1B Visa Application and Stamping process
1st week, January 2012: Company starts planning on H1B for me and my wife.
2nd week, January: Applied Passports for our twin kids and got them in 5 days.
3rd week, January: Send all required documents to the company’s attorney.
31st March 2012: Attorney sends the package to USCIS (California Center). Our petitions were filed for Premium Processing.
2nd April 2012: Package reached USCIS.
10th April: USCIS accepted our petitions and sent receipts to our attorney.
13th April: My petition got approved.
19th April: Wife’s petition got approved.
1st week of May: We noticed a minor spelling mistake in my wife’s I-797 – the error was originally in the petition form I-129. We informed our attorney and she sent an email to USCIS for correction.
Last week of May: Attorney received an amended notice of approval (I-797) for my wife.
2nd week of June: Started paperwork for H1B VISA interview at Chennai consulate.
1st week of July: Scheduled interview for 17th July.
16th July: Decided not to attend as company wants to send us some more documents to carry to the consulate.
1st August: Scheduled the interview for 6th August.
6th August: Attended the interview at Chennai consulate and got our VISAs approved.
Few points I want to share from my experience:
1. Reach the consulate 30 minutes prior to your scheduled time.
2. Carry as many documents as possible with you.
3. Be pleasant during the interview time.
4. When you are talking, the interviewer is mostly looking into your eyes and they can identify quickly when you try to cover up something.
5. Do not memorize anything from your petition, like your roles and responsibilities. Always try to understand your job and talk. Chances of fumbling are more when you memorize information.
6. VOs are there to give you VISA and they just need some more info from you to do so. You are the only person who can screw that up, provided you have a genuine case.