[Assam] Details: H-1B visa 20th floor interview; the preceding nightmares
jaipurschool at yahoo.com
Fri Sep 15 04:47:15 EDT 2006
Here is the bit about my visa interview. Being one of
a kind case - I do not know anybody being here for
H-1B visa for teaching (thru a visa contractor -in my
case www.sonlightinternational.com ) . So I was
inwardly shaking when I went in. No lets start from
the beginning --from the preparation --from the hey
days of my sea beach visits --right to visit to the
Here goes... When I had started from Washington DC to
Vancouver, Canada - I already had brought with me
almost all the required documents. So it was only this
Monday that I decided to wake up from this nature
resort holiday at www.ubc.ca and check out the place
where I was supposed to go for the visa interview. For
added effect I went to the international airport at
Vancouver once again -where I had landed from DC. The
aim was to make a direct connection between my coming
here from DC and my going to the visa interview. It
made me focused and serious about the whole thing.
This lovely place had me taking it quite lightly since
I had come here.
So the next day (Tuesday) i spent filling out and
printing the forms DS-156, DS 157, DS -158 (I had
already got my passport size photos done on
Sunday--just 2 photos for $8 (Rs 400!!) at the UBC
library. The tricky part was the column regarding
country of residence -- had to mention two people who
could vouch for me. Shall I say Canada (I know only my
hots here) or India (then I could not recollect any
phone numbers). After a Google search -which showed
where you spent your last 12 or more months -as
resident country - mentioned my landlord and my
Harvard sponsor schooltime firnd Dr kamal Kejriwal's
names and phone etc.
Yesterday (Wednesday) I painstakingly went over all
the documents I might need -made photocopies of them
all. God is in details -as the say. And more I went
over the stuff the more I realized that I had left
something . But I was successful in my aim in packing
all the documents needed (incl US visa forms,
passport, $100 fee in cash in USD and original
marksheets etc, payslips etc, employment letters, tax
forms, etc etc) by 10 pm in plastic bags. We could not
take backpacks, cellphones, water or any electronic
devices--as told in the website --however on reaching
there I was told to tear open all my sealed
marksheets/transcripts also--big mess -now have to get
new ones from India.
Then I ironed my only full sleeved white checked
(Raymonds Rs 300) shirt I had brought and the black
pants . I was told by my host and her mother that the
all American tie (with stars and stripes -I bought it
in DC -3 for $10) was too inappropriate and
recommended I wear a grey patterned one. Last night
while returning from the UBC library suddenly it had
started raining so weather had cooled down (I had my
folding umbrella gifted by Harvard Dorm crew -my
colleagues when we used to clean classrooms together)
so I decided to wear an inner warm vest under the
shirt -and a wind cheater on top.
I used my cellphone to tell the time but it was banned
from US consulate so my host's husband had offered his
watch (my HMT with Hindi day dial has run out battery
anyway) but I decided against taking it --since even
in James Bond movies -he blows up buildings with his
watch --the consulate security mighthave similar ideas
regarding watching and might asked me to throw my
host's watch out before getting in.
I could not sleep nearly all night (my cellphone was
set for 3 alarms -at 6:30 am, 6:45 am and 7:00 am) so
did not need more than one alarm and kept waking up
all night. (Even had a nightmare where a calf in
someplace near Jaipur is biting my arm -and stopping
me from racing on to some school in some village near
there. the previous night I had a dream that somehow I
am Jaipur School and talking to a student's parent -of
2005 batch--and suddenly I look at my watch and lo! it
is already 8:40 am -and then I remember I have to rush
for the visa interview -the US consulate building at
vancouver appears [in a deamy way] to be located in
downtown Jaipur -in my mind. So I rush outside -how
willI reach there?? Oh!! then I see my red , chrome
and black bullet enfield parked under the tree in
front of my house. Does it still work after my two
year stay in US? So confusing ---all mixed up - across
time and space. That was the end of taht terrifying
dream of last night (Wednesday Sep 13th).
So got up at first alarm and rushed thru the morning
drill -again checked my passport and the visa forms
-and at 7:45 am ran out the door. No rain, I had
checked the weather report on Yahoo - said might rain
so took umbrella and cold weather 9-15 degree celcius
-like winter in most India. Thebus which I changed
after a 20 minute ride was in rush hour for going
downtown (main city) so elbow to elbow I stood in
thebus and reached the last station -Burhard Station
-which was where I was to get down. It was exactly
8:30 am in the clock at the bus stand. Still one and a
half hours to go.
There were tall sky scrapers all around (though not
too tall compared to NYC --ony upto 30 floors)but
quite styilishly done. I generally feel like a tourist
-and not at home -in such concrete jungles.
Having been to the US consulate during my scouting
mission on Monday - I knew where it was --so got
inside a building before it -and at "Seattle's Best
Coffee" bought "Americano" coffee for getting the
American spirit. Small things get you connected :-)
After the coffee I got some rumbling in my stomach
-which I was anticipating (always happens ininterviews
to me -so I nevver eat before interviews or sometimes
even the night before)--and seeing me holding the
coffee cup the security guard told me how to get the
coffee shop people to get me inside the
toliet/washroomm/restroom. After relaxing a bit (I
mean a lot) walked straight to the US consulate office
-just one building away.
There was a long line there. The old, AfricanAmerican
security guard I had inquired from -the other day-was
also there. Being polite and genial with security
gurads is very useful -always ;-)
There was a line with 8:30 am written on the post in
front of it. They were close to the door. The line
nearer was the 9:00 am line. Despite warnings in
website and even at the office -still some poeple had
brought cellphones, backpacks, purses (ladies)
--needless to say most of the people were Indian -in
the lines. I guessed most were from nearby -Seattle
-where Microsoft is head-quartered -withBill Gates
-the famous Harvard drop-out ruling from there --or
from California -a little down the pacific coast.
Perhaps I was the only one -maybe in months or years
-who had travelled all the way from Washington DC
(4,000 miles away -to Vancouver's US consulate -the
last outpost of Western civilization [if we discount
Alaska above it]). (I am glad i did - fun city and
great hosts.) That became more clear when I was
questioned by the visa officers later.
Among those standing were a few Indian families -witha
child barely able to walk -swaying around etc. A few
girls also seemed to be bravingit alone. Most seemed
like who had studied and/or worked in US -seeing from
their level of confidence and ease.
When our 10am line was stationed at the door -the old
security guard came up tp me and said :' Are you for
H-1B visa?" --I said Yes. Then he pointed out to the
guys in front of me and behind me -- they carried just
a folder with a few documents. My swollen plastic bags
were sagging (one's plastic handle had nearly come off
-due to heavy weight-I had an extra one -thankfully)
with documents and now my umbrella and the
It created problems when I went thru the security
checks -but I had already opened all the sealed
envelopes -thankfully they didn't mess up with the
order of the documents as I had arranged them. I had
noone to guide me -so i took ALL the documents I
thought they could ask me for. I felt more confident
becos of that --so there!!
Inside the door was the first security check point. I
had to remove everything except my clothes (ie my belt
, iron bangle -Kada of Sikhs etc, wallet, coins etc).
After going one floor one - they had a sign which read
that I had to deposit my visa forms DS-156, DS157 (my
DS 158 was useless - it was for only student visas
-but I took just in case ;-) ) my I-797 form -from US
immigration inside US, employment letter, and US $ 100
cash. The cashier gave me a slip with B59 written on
I took a seat with others. The digital piece called
numbers B48 to B52. A quote from Rosa Parks seemed
familiar in the background. I took up a Feb 2004 issue
of National geographic Magazine lying there - about
Polar bears. I learnt that Eskimos are around me-only
found in Alaska, Canada and across the sea in Siberia.
The seals (which polar bears eat) I had already seen
near my current residence at www.ubc.ca
They called numbers B53 to B58. Then again a click I
looked up -they called numbers B60 onwards. Where was
my B59!! Still I wnet along and told the security
guard . She said that sometimes the machine skips a
few numbers -its alright!!! She got us on the
elevator/lift to the 20th floor!!! (I have never done
any serious work so high up).
Again the security check -the Chinese looking guards
seemed as thorough as Bruce Lee -they really emptied
all my bags and even checked many envelopes to see if
they were sealed or not (Anthrax scare??) They weren't
--thoroughness is the key in preparation!!!
So they sent me in. In a narrow corridor sat the
applicants in plastic chairs. in front were cabins (4
feet by 5 feet) with ticket windows . I was aksed to
report at "room 1" (cabin 1). When my turn came I had
to place my index fingers (near the thumb) for finger
Then back to musical chairs - and suddenly got a seat
just below "room 3" and that was the main interview.
He already had my forms etc (incl my work and study
VO (Visa Officer): So this is your first H-1B visa?
US (myself) : Yes
VO: So did you also study in US?
US: Harvard Univ, School of Education
He opens my student visa page in the passport and
confirms my Univ
VO: What did you study there?
US: I did my masters in education --actually he also
says that together -oh you must have done masters
VO: When did you graduate?
US: Last summer.......June 2005
VO: So what have you been doing since?
US: I was on my OPT (Optional Practical Training) for
last one year and working in various schools.
VO: So you were working in Boston (thats where Harvard
US: No I was in Washington DC (my form said I worked
in Virginia and Maryland -in DC Metro area)
VO: So who is this SonLight International -your new
employer and visa sponsor?
US: They supply teachers to schools (I had recalled
this answer only while sitting waiting for my turn a
few minutes before)
VO: So your earlier jobs did they get over after a
US: They got over when the academic session got over.
One got over in April 2006, the other in June 2006
-they were part time jobs.
VO: so have started work with the new employer -can
you show me the pay stubs
US: I would start working thru them from Oct 2nd. I
can show you the pay stubs from my previous employers.
I dig into my big bags and thankfully am able to find
the paystubs still bunched up togther --the security
guards could not mess up this too much.
He looks at them. I notice my employer (
www.belldc.org ) 's colroful commendation certificate
and when he returns my paystubs after leafing thru
them a bit -- I offer him my certificate. 'From my
previous employer sir -for my good work!"
He is scribbling something on my visa form.
VO: so where will you be working now?
US: At Washinton DC . Potomac
VO: Do you mean Washington state?
US: I mean Washington DC - Potomac in Maryland
He was testing whether I knew where my work-place was
and had I been there.
VO: So what are you doing here (he probably meant
Vancouver and not Toronto which is much much closer to
US: Oh my OPT period was expiring so I had to come out
VO: He smiled -so you got the ealriest date in
He scribbled something on a form -cirlcled IND H
some code and 50
in four separate columns (India, H visa, code for visa
issuance and 50$ fee) and aksed me to pay up at the
cashier's place. I said I don;t have $50 cash - the
website didn't say anything about it www.amcits.com
He said don't worry they accept credit cards
(initially I was reluctant to bring them -security
might ask them to be thrown -as electronic devices)
and bring the receipt to "room 1"
US: Thank you so much. have a nice day!!
He seemed genuinely surprised -perhaps people were too
Same greeting to the cashier.
At room one the VO gave me a red slip to bring
tomorrow (Friday ) at 3pm . The slip read that it only
guarentees return of the passport but not visa
issuance (if they find something hanky-panky in my
So thats that. It is 1:43 am now and it is Friday
Hopefully i would get the visa-stamped passport today
and so to get busy revising my high scchool math, eco
Regards.Hoep it was interesting (and also useful to
PS: Moral : Apply for US visa for work/study from a
third country only if you have worked and or studied
in US -otherwise apply from your home country --so
they can ask questions . VOs in India know a lot about
Indian jobs and edu degrees and society in general
Many have lived in India for long -even as tourists
-before joing the VO jobs.
5121 Lackawanna ST
College Park, MD 20740 USA
Current temp. address: 5649 Yalta Place , Vancouver, Canada
1-202-215-4328 [Cell Phone]
Canada # (607) 221-9433
Ed.M. - International Education Policy
Harvard Graduate School of Education,
Class of 2005
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