Yooo little blog, helllloo!
Today I come to you with another post regarding my AmeriCamp experience and this one is about the visa. So in this post I’ll give you the low down on what to expect and I’ll treat you to my experience- sit tight because it’s a classic Paige situation!
So my appointment at the US Embassy was at 9am on March 20 and I went down to London the night before. I’m pretty lucky that I have a few friends down there, one of which let me stay at her’s the night because wowa it would’ve been expensive otherwise. I debated getting a 5/6am train down the morning of but given the recent snow, it was a game of did I trust the trains to be on time/not cancelled. In the end, the trains that early were well over £50 (with a railcard) so nope, just nope.
So anyway, the morning of, I’m up at like 5am because story of my life, constant paranoia of being late. I left my friend’s just before 7:30, luckily she lived on the Victoria line and only half an hour on the tube to Vauxhall station. Also sidenote, this is apparently London commuter time, so busy, so rammed. Happy days so I get to Vauxhall, I haven’t eaten, it’s like 8am and I spy a Starbucks over the road but that paranoia I spoke of overpowered me and I headed straigh to the Embassy. It literally took like five minutes to walk there so I’m like an hour early, story of my actual life.
I was queuing and a lady was walking down the line pulling 8am and 8:30 appointments out of the line and to the front. Turns out, the 9am line didn’t even start moving until a couple of minutes before 9 so if you’re gonna be mad early like me, bear that in mind.
So you only need your passport and the DS-160 confirmation page out, they scan these before you can go through the security bit. The security was simple, it was like being at an airport- yknow the whole metal in the tray, watch off, belt off, phone out etc. Once you’re cleared through security, you walk outside and you walk towards another building right in front of you. A guy greeted us in there, he was splitting up people for where they needed to be ie. American citizens were sent straight uptairs and all us visa people were in another queue. At this point, you still only need your passport and DS-160 confirmation page out. When you get to the front of the queue, the people at the desk scan your confirmation and stick a ticket number onto your confirmation. You’re then directed round the corner where you get the lift upto the first floor. Once upstairs, you’re directed right and to take a seat and wait for your number. There are TV screens everywhere so you literally sit and when your number flashes up, you go to the booth number on screen.
So, this is where it gets Paige. So my ticket number has been called and I go to my booth and the lady was like oh, are you here for a J visa? And I’m like, ….yes? And she was like oh, we’re not taking your visas in the morning, you need to come back at 12:30, didn’t you get an email? And I’m like no, but okay. Side note: I was aware of an email that had been sent from the Embassy asking some people to reschedule their appointments (AmeriCamp had been very good about letting us know this) however, I didn’t get this email. I did email AmeriCamp asking what to do if we hadn’t had this email and whether I should just carry on as is, but no one got back to me, it must have been an email that slipped through the net. Stuff like this happens to me, plus I do travel alone and I’m so laid back that this situation didn’t freak me out at all, like it is what it is and the Embassy were still gonna see me later that day so it was fine. I actually went for a walk- I googled cafes and apparently there was a Pret nearby. Fun fact, there’s loads of construction on at the minute and the Pret wasn’t there, it lied to me. I ended up walking all the way to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and then got the bus all the way back to Vauxhall station because I knew there was a Starbucks. Also, at this point, it’s like 9:30 so I had three hours to kill. I got a coffee and sat in Starbucks for like two hours. Still starving, but yano vegan and don’t really like cakes/sugary things so the caffeine was gonna have to tie me over. Anyway, so I’m sat in Starbys (uni throwback) and chillin, catching up on emails, social media things lalala and I tweeted out about how I didn’t get a reschedule email but got told to come back later so if you haven’t rescheduled, you probably should anyway. I meant no malice behind it, it was literally me trying to save someone else from having three hours to kill around Vauxhall because there was naff all to do round there. This knowledge would’ve also saved me a night in London but at least I didn’t pay for accommodation.
I wanna say though, literally minutes after that tweet, I got a phone call from Linzi at AmeriCamp to find out what was going on and if I was all okay which was really good and shows how much AmeriCamp do care about us! Credit to them. However, when I got back to the Embassy later that day, there was loads of people like me who were trying to get a J visa and had been told to come back. I don’t know if they were all going to camp or what, but given how many of us there were, I’d guess it was a fault on the Embassy’s part, like clearly a lot of us didn’t get an email that we should’ve but oh well, at least we were still getting the visa that day, can’t grumble!
So anyway, the cycle repeats. Because I already had the ticket from early- along with all the other J people, we got to skip the queue and go straight into security. Anyway, fast forward a bit, I’m back in a booth. The guy took my passport and DS-160 confirmation, all the while he’s asking me if I’ve ever had this visa before and similar questions, then he had my SEVIS confirmation, DS-2019 (if you’re with AmeriCamp, these forms are posted together to you and you can’t book your appointment until you’ve received them) and he took one of my photos. Just a tip, these mugshots are bigger than UK passport sizes and the easiest place I found to get these was at the post office. £8 for four identical images of my ugly mug! The guy then took my fingerprints, literally the same as when I went to New York, simple stuff. He placed all my documents in a special wallet and gave that back to me. I was then given a pamphlet about my rights whilst working in the US and I was directed to go and sit out left and wait for my ticket on the screen again.
So my ticket came up again like a minute later and I’m in a different booth with an officer. He took my document wallet and started asking me questions about what I was going to do at camp. When I said I was going to teach horse riding, he jokingly asked me if I could ride a horse to which I replied, just about. It was actually way less serious than I thought it was going to be. Like, I was expecting this to be like when I went to New York and the guy was so stern and serious and then this officer in the Embassy is like making jokes with me and was super chill. He then asked me if I had plans when I returned to England ie. employment or education and I was like oh god, I should probably get a proper proper job, maybe use my degree but who knows. And that was it, he said my visa had been approved, everything would come back to me in the post, including my DS-2019 which I’ll need at the border when I go to camp, and that was it. It took like ten minutes, if that. So yeah, it was pretty easy and not as scary as I thought the officers would be.
Then I went and got food and everything was delicious again.
*Again I didn’t take pictures so have one of a suspiscious looking meathead Martha