Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

    American Dream – A Visit to the American Embassy in London

    Just by way of introduction you should know that that there are several stages that you must go through before you actually obtain your visa.

    The Petition:

    Many visas require you to file a petition (request for a consideration). Typically your attorne y in the US will file your petition. A petition is where you are asking USCIS to consider whether the purpose of your extended trip to the US is valid. For example, you may be considering buying a business or opening a business or taking up a particular job. In each case USCIS will need to consider whether your business proposal or type of job being offered fits the eligibility requirements for the visa you will be ultimately applying for.

    Petitions can take up to six months to a year to be evaluated. As a result, for certain visas such as the H, L and E petitions that are business and job related, USCIS introduced a fast track system called Premium Processing (PP). PP is a fast track option where time is of the essence. For an additional filing fee of $1000.00 USCIS will undertake to process your petition application within 15 days. In some cases, further information will be requested by USCIS before they will make a final decision, where this is the case USCIS will make a decision within 15 days of that additional information being received.

    Once your petition has been granted you will be ready to go to the Embassy with your visa application papers to apply for your actual visa. Your immigration attorney will prepare all your visa application forms, supporting documentation and a copy of your petition approval notice to complete your entire visa application bundle.

    Making An Embassy Appointment:

    Once you are ready to visit the Embassy you must first make an appointment. You are not permitted simply to queue up and enter without a written confirmation of appointment. Note that only those people listed on the appointment letter will be able to enter the Embassy with you, this restriction even includes spouses and children. Security is very tight at the Embassy at all times. Calls to the Embassy to make appointments cost around one-pound thirty per minute. It is not possible to simply mail your visa application in, even for a tourist visa you will be required to make an appointment. However, if in any doubt, as policies change from time to time please check with the Embassy to be on the absolute safe side.

    Contact the Embassy

    U.S. Embassy, London24 Grosvenor Square London, W1A 1AE United Kingdom

    Switchboard: [44] (0) 20 7499-9000

    Visa Information Line: 09068-200-290 (24 hour)

    The nearest tube station is Bond Street

    If you are looking to travel quite quickly then you must allow plenty of time as depending on the season it can take three-four weeks to get an actual appointment date.

    Paying Your Filing Fees:

    You are required to pay a filing fee for each person applying for a visa. Typically, this will be in the region of sixty-five pounds per person. The way this fee is actually paid does require some explanation. The American Embassy itself does not accept any direct form of payment whatsoever. Instead, you are required to pay the filing fee into a bank and obtain a payment receipt. The banks nearest the Embassy are well equipped to handle this for a fee, but the official Embassy bank is Barclays, who will not charge to accept the Embassy filing fee. The Barclays bank closest to the Embassy is at 9, Portman Square, London. Please note that not all banks open at 9.00 am so if you have a very early appointment you may have to pay your filing fee the day before, or make sure your appointment is later on that date. Once you’ve paid your filing fee attach your receipt to your visa application.

    Waiting Times:

    According to the feed back from our clients waiting times can vary between three to five hours from arriving at the Embassy to being interviewed.

    What Actually Happens Once Inside The Embassy:

    Once inside the Embassy there are two tasks you need to do as soon as you enter. The first thing is to use the ticket machine to obtain a number that determines your place in the queue. The second thing is to buy a visa return envelope. Your passport will be mailed to you by a special delivery service. This is the only way your passport will be returned to you. The service costs ten pounds (total) for up to four passports. They will ask for your address details and so forth and then give you this labeled envelope to keep with you up to your interview. If your visa application is not granted then you can return the envelope and obtain a refund.

    The waiting room can hold what seems like 300-400 people. Once you have taken care of obtaining your queue number and passport return envelope you should take your seat and dig in for a long wait. Your case will be screened twice during the day. The room looks like a bank with a very big waiting room. The first time your number is called you will go to a counter with a bank style security window. Your first call up will be to simply check that all your documents, filing fees and supporting documents are in order. The initial reviewer will separate all the documents into a format that the immigration interview will want. You may be given back some of your paperwork. This should be kept handy just in case the interviewer asks questions for which you have supporting documentation. After everything has been sorted out you will be asked to sit down again and wait for your number to be called up again. It could be two hours wait or more between first being called up and being called up again for your actual interview.

    The actual interview itself can be a nerve-racking experience. Remember you would probably have gotten up very early, traveled to the Embassy and by the time of your interview you could have been waiting four hours or more so you’re really tired. You would have been watching other people go up to the window and you would be trying to read their faces as to whether their visa was accepted or not. If you are interested and want to know what a good sign is of success or failure then look to see if they get handed a white piece of paper or whether they are given their pre-paid envelop back. Some people are so distressed that they often forget to get their refund for their envelope. Anyway, let’s think positive. All I’m trying to do here is describe what the experience is for most people.

    The adjudicator would have had a quick glance at your paperwork just prior to calling you up for your interview (which by the way should only last about two minutes). You may get asked to have your fingerprints taken. Typically, this would be your index finger print from both hands. As the adjudicator flicks through your passport and other documents you will be asked a range of questions relating to your application. The questions can appear to be relevant or totally irrelevant so be prepared to have an open mind. All things going well the adjudicator will be satisfied with your answers and will tell you right away that your visa has been approved. This is a big deal and when you get home some kind of party will be in order! The adjudicator will keep all the paperwork and your passport(s) and send them for processing. You should get your passport in the post within two or three days from the interview.

    Your visa will be stamped into your passport and will state how lo ng your visa is scheduled to last. It will be important to either renew your visa or leave the US before that date.

    If the adjudicator is unhappy or not quite convinced that you have a solid case then two things can happen: either the adjudicator will simply deny your application or he or she will ask for further information. If you have it in your supporting documents then produce it quickly. If you don’t have it then you will be asked to send it in by mail. Either way try to argue your case as vigorous ly as possible, sometimes a good argument can be persuasive but of course not all the time. Yes, you will be given a white piece of paper and your pre-paid envelope back if your application is denied. Although this will be initially disappointing there may be a number options still open to you such as starting an appeal. Contact your immigration attorney as soon as possible to discuss it and keep the champagne on ice.

    Appealing The Embassy Decision:

    When a visa application is turned down you’re bound to feel very disappointed, after all the expense of it all it is very depressing, let’s face it. When emotions have cooled ask yourself these questions:

    1. Before you submitted your visa application and signed all the forms etc, did you feel that you worked well with your attorney to produce a very good case? In other words, were you happy to submit your application?
    2. Did you feel that your adjudicator did not take certain factors into account that you felt should have been considered?
    3. Do you feel that the reasons given for denial fair or unfair?
    4. Did the adjudicator suggest any other visas you could apply for that would be more acceptable?

    If you hired an attorney to work with you, you must appreciate that your attorney would have been very disappointed too to learn of your denial. Every attorney loves cases going through as this builds their reputation and attracts more clients and repeat business. So in many ways your success or failure is very important. Also, if you worked well with your attorney then it is possible that you can continue to work through the implications of the visa denial together.

    It is very easy to blame a visa denial on your attorney. Remember, the attorney does not have a crystal ball. Also, remind yourself as to the precise reason given by the adjudicator as to the denial. It is simply not possible to predict the precise outcome of any visa application and turning on your attorney may not be the best move as your attorney is the only person on your side fighting for you. On the other hand if in answering question number one your relationship with your attorney was not good in the first place, in that phone calls or email messages were not answered in a timely fashion, or you felt that your attorney simply was not bothered, sympathetic or the overall quality of work produce was very poor, then maybe a change would be a good idea.

    As an attorney, especially as a Brit having gone through everything that has been described above. I can understand the highs and lows of going through the immigration process and what it’s like to work with an immigration attorney.

    Anyway, back to the appeal process. If you feel you have good grounds to appeal the adjudicator’s decision then you can do this and sometimes this can be successful. Your immigration attorney will discuss this option with you. If you want to do your own appeal details of this are available on the Embassy website –www.usembassy.org.uk

    If an appeal is not the best option for you then the adjudicator may have suggested an alternative visa strategy. Again, discuss this with your immigration attorney and decide whether that option would be more viable. It may be possible to try the appeal first then the alternative.

    Applying for a visa is not a sure-fire thing. The real truth is that immigration is hard work all the way. If you can accept this from the beginning and are prepared to do what ever it takes to finish the course then you will indeed make it. You may even be one of the lucky ones where everything falls smoothly into place all along the way like the biblical parting of the waves.