1.Arrival at the Consulate:
Some people think that arriving at the consulate early helps while others say it seldom matters. I think arriving early is better. But you dont have to go there at 0200 hours. Well, I couldnt sleep the night earlier, so I reached the consulate at 0300 hours. But believe me people start to flow in at around 0430 hours.So its better to reach in at that time.
You are allowed entry till 11 am. You can go as early as 5-6am and sit in the Raj Pavilion. The line will start only by 0730 hours .If you go in after 0630 hours, its possible that the seating area is full, and you will have to stand for almost 2 hours. And on top of it, if it rains then..... However, you can also go at around 0745 hours. There will be a HUGE line in front of you but atleast the line will be moving.
And believe me, everything inside is randomized. If you are lucky enough, you can walk in at 1030 hours and have your interview done by 1100 hours whereas there could be some guy who came at 0500 hours, waited 3 hours, was one of the first to enter the Consulate Office, and he could possibly have his interview at 1400 hours! So its your call!
Going a bit early helps, coz then 1)you get the chair to sit. 2)You get acquainted to the atmosphere there 3)Your nervousness eases out 4)You get to talk to the person next to you, and you always get to learn something new
Carry an umbrella with you. Rain-God is unpredictable :P
2. Things to check for while you are in the queue:
While you are standing in the queue, or sitting in the RAJ Pavilion, go through your file and check the documents within, as to where you have placed a particular thing and if you remember its location.
This is a list of what to check for:
Check that you have filled your VISA form and signed it
Check that You have signed both the copies of your I-20(though they take in the School copy only)
Check that you have both the drafts (45$ equivalent and 75$ equivalent @47 equals 2115/- and 3525/-)
Check that you have written your NAME, ADDRESS , PHONE NUMBER behind both the drafts.
Carry the counterfoils of the drafts as well, coz many a times the guy accepting the fees doubts the genuinity of the drafts in case of an unheard name of the bank.
3. The ambience and Raj Pavilion(Mumbai US Consulate specific)
Raj Pavilion is barely a hundred paces away from the Consulate office. Its quite a fanciful name for a shed covering a pavement with a row of chairs aligned. Yes, its just a part of a pavement covered by a shed. Chairs are arranged as 100 Rows, 4 Columns. If you reach early you get to sit, or you have to stand out in the open in a queue.At the Raj Pavilion at about 0630 hours, the security people standing there, ask you to show your passport and drafts. Then they ask all the parents and accompanies to leave the pavilion.
At about 0730 hours, a mini bus arrives, courtesy RAJ TRAVELS and the students are asked to move in. The bus carries that batch to the main gates of the consulate. But later batches are usually asked to walk to the main gates. At the main gates you are supposed to stand in a line, and you have to show your passport, i-20 and draft to the guard of the consulate who asks you to take them out in your hand before you enter.The line starts moving in through the big doors of the consulate. Next you are frisked by the security guard.
Folders with metal zips arent allowed, so better dont carry them. Jewellery, lighters, tobacco preps, weapons of any kinds are not allowed inside the consulate. You cant even carry a leather bag i heard. Polythene bags are the best opt.
5. The steps
Once inside the main hall, after the security check is over you are supposed to stand in a line which directly faces the Counters # 1 and 2, where you are supposed to submit your PASSPORT, I-20 and VISA FORM. You are given a token, which you carry with you all the time, till you pay your VISA issuance fees. You are also asked to write down your scores either on the back of the VISA Form or on the second half of the token, that they keep with themselves.
Write the score that is comparatively higher than the other first. Also dont forget to mention
any other achievement, such as working for an Indian Govt. Org, or RANKED Student, or achieved international scholarship etc.
From here, you have to move diagonally across the room to Counters # 13 and 14, either of where you are supposed to pay your initial fees, VISA Application fees. Give your draft(2115 Rs rupee equivalent of 45$)to the person over there, you also have to show your pink token here. He gives you two receipts One Yellow, the second white. Keep them close to
6. The Eternal Wait
After having paid your fees, you come to the front. and sit in the chairs aligned in front of the counters 5,6,7,8,9. These counters are in the same line as that of Counters # 1 & 2. The proceedings usually start at about 0800 or 0830 hours. But many a times it is delayed. The function of the counters is all randomized. But usually Counter # 3,4,5,6,7,8 are used for student visas. Either of these, not all. Some of the unused counters from this lot as well as other counters are used for Non-Immigrant applicants, Visitor visas and Immigrants too.
You have to wait for the announcements to start. You can clearly see the officers sitting at the counters behind the glass.
Your token has a number printed on it.Memorize that number.
The calls for student visas are made by the Americans themselves. They call out the token numbers in batches of 10 and ask them to come to a window.
The calls are made as "For Student VISAS, Token # 106, 525, 445,108,110, 565, 446,526,112,113.. please come to the counter # 5")
It doesnot usually occur, but it does at certain times...Two of the officers call out simultaneously..well its your job then to pay attention to your number being called out. But dont fret or panic, bcoz if you happen to miss out your number once, they call it a second time, and even after your batch is over and you dont turn up, they announce it as : "This is the final call for token # 101"..Well thats it, if you dont turn up now, they wont oblige again !!!!..so be attentive, (the VISA office is a good place to be in ;) , but the interview should be your first preference ...hehe).
7. Its your turn !!!!
If you hear your number being called out, its your turn. Listen to the counter number you are asked to appear at, and reach there. If you arent the first one to reach the counter, you probably might be in a queue. Let Confidence flow. The Interviewing officers keep an eye on even the students standing in the queue.
Suppose the guy ahead of you is being interviewed..and he has been rejected..and is still standing there trying to convince the officer ..and the officer signals you to come into the cabin..dont just barge in and push the other guy..that creates a negative impresion.. Stay your footage..till the guy is asked to move out by the officer and he asks you to come in aggressively. Be mannered...that helps.
8. The Interview !!!
Now once you have prepared yourself, you shouldnt have much trouble with the interview. The only point is convincing the officer that you are reutrning back and that your only motto of this trip abroad is STUDIES.
After the interview, if the officer is convinced, he/she will take your token and write F1 on it ...else if he/she isnt convinced, you will be handed back your passport with a VISA rejected seal on a page.
If you arent granted the VISA, dont just shriek or sob out yourself, gather yourself and ask the officer as to what ws wrong with you..You can ask for the reason for being rejected..Be modest.
Be modest and humble.... Never ever hurt the ego of the officer.
9. Got the VISA!! Yoohoo..now what??
The officer wrote F1 on your pink token?? Thats great...Now move towards the counter# 13 and 14, to pay the second draft of 3525(original conversion of USD 75).
Dont forget to collect your I-20 from the officer who interviewed you.
Pay your fees and collect the receipts, keep them carefully.
You will be asked to come back at about 1500 hours to collect your passport with the VISA stamped on it.
10. Collecting you Passport
The line builds up much before 1500. I reached the Consulate at 1500 hours to find that I had to stand in a queue comprising of about 500 people. Dont fret...the line moves pretty fast..very fast ..I had my passport in my hand withing 35 mins...
Dont entertain the touts offering you a place ahead in the queue for some hundred bucks, coz the you will be at that position within the next few mins..
While collecting the VISA, you have to hand over the receipts(the yellow ones), and you will be given your passport with the VISA stamped on it. The ladies at the counter are very fast..they will ask you to step away from the window to allow the next person.
Be quick as you receive your passport, have a look at the VISA page to verify if your name is spelled correctly, if your birthdate and other details are correct..
If you find any corrections to be made, approach them immediately..you wont probably be asked to stand in the queue again to submit your passport.
You have to come the next day to get the rectified VISA stamped.