One of the most daunting things about applying for a Visa is not really knowing what to expect from the process. I, for one, would have felt a lot more confident if I knew what was going to happen. So in order to help others in the same situation, I´ve decided to make a step by step guide based on our experience.
- First things first, obviously you need to file the application. I´m a bit iffy on this one since my fiance was in charge of doing this, but there are some forms to fill out (I-129F, G-325A), letters of intent to write and you need to pay an application fee. All of this, as far as I remember, is pretty straight forward.
- Now you wait. Once your application has been accepted you get a tracking number, so you can keep track on the progress of your application. We filed in mid to late March, and until July 27th it said `initial review´ so basically you´ll need all the patience you can master. In this phase I recommend you either relax and enjoy life, or prepare for the next phase. Also make sure to enjoy this phase, you might not think it while going through it, but this is the easy one.
- The letter of approval arrives. This is where ecstasy kicks in. There will be joy, jumping up and down and insanely optimistic Facebook updates, this is natural. You get the notice of action (I-979) by letter from the department of homeland security, this letter informs you about the decision they´ve reached. Hopefully, like us, you get approved. This means that they will forward the application to the embassy or consulate relevant to the case, in our case it was forwarded to Sweden. After a week or two you get a letter from the embassy with instructions on how to proceed.
- The letter from the embassy arrives. Prepare to be shocked, well at least I was, but I hope that reading this will prepare you. Check out my previous blog posts on this here, here and here. But if you´re in a hurry, here´s the short-cut version:
– There´s a checklist where you check off the things that is relevant to you. This is what they ask for (Remember that not all of it necessarily applies to you): Passport, Birth certificate, Unobtainable birth certificate, Police certificates, court and prison records, military records, 3 passport photographs, marriage certificates/divorce decrees, evidence of support, medical examination, evidence of relationship and translations.
– There are 3 forms that need to be filled out, one twice (DS-230 part1, DS-156, DS-156K)
– Instructions about the medical examination including a list of embassy approved physicians in your country. Besides the examination, you´re also required to get chest x-rays and blood tests and most likely some vaccinations. How many you need depends on a number of things like which ones you already have, your age and the time of year (is it flu season), I ended up only getting one. This part is fairly expensive so remember to have money set aside for this. You also need to fill out a questionnaire about your medical history including any hospitalizations (When, why and where) and any diseases EVER (not including children’s diseases and common colds and flu´s). You need to know type of disease, duration and name and address of attending physician. This might be a good time to catch up on good old childhood stories with mom and dad.
– There´s an information guideline regarding your financial situation, including an affidavit of support with instructions. Unless you´re a multi-millionaire, you might as well get used to the idea that you´re going to need one or more sponsor(s), basically this means someone who promises to take care of you if you´re unable to support yourself. Your sponsor can be anyone residing in the United States. To be on the safe side, I have both my fiance and my future in-laws as sponsors.
I think this is all that´s in the information package, but don´t lean back just yet, this is not even close to all the information you have to get, read more about this in part two.
You should be aware that there can be major discrepancies between the directions given in the papers from the embassy and the ones you can find online, even when it comes to official directions about really important stuff like what documentation you need for the affidavit of support.
Once you´ve gathered all the documentation needed, you send the checklist, a copy of your passport and the forms to the consulate, and they will send you an appointment letter with the time and date for your interview. You don´t have to get the medical examination before sending this, but you do need to get it, I think, at least 2 weeks before your interview.
Remember that if you submit your email, you´ll get your appointment letter a lot faster.
One of the things to be prepared for is that while you get a long list of what you need to submit, you never really know exactly what they want. The instructions given are not very specific and if English is not your first language it can be especially difficult to navigate. In part two I´ll write more thoroughly about what documentation I got, what it looked like and how I got it, so hopefully you´ll have an easier time preparing for your interview. In part three, I´ll go through the actual interview process.
As always, if you have any questions, comments or experiences that you´d like to share, feel free to comment.