I’m back! After a pretty crazy month of travelling home, Christmas and just the small task of getting married (ahh!), I finally have some time to dedicate to my blog, so thought I would cover this important, and I’m afraid very lengthy, post first. During this time, I have had my VISA appointment at the US Embassy in London, so can update you all on how it went!
Following the wedding, Adam had to get back to America pretty soon afterwards due to work. I however, allocated five weeks for the entire VISA process, from application to passport back in my possession, before I could head back to SF. Our wedding was on 12th January and I was looking at returning on 15th/16th February. We had spent some time talking to friends who had done this and reading numerous forums on expat.com to try and gather an overall turnaround time for the VISA process and five weeks was the average.
As we knew this time frame could be longer and we wanted to avoid that at all costs, we did all that we could with the VISA application prior to the wedding (and therefore my name change), to ensure we could book my appointment as soon after as possible. To book the appointment an application form needs to be filled in, you will find that here. It requires pretty basic information, i.e. name, age, employment history, parent’s information and more. It took us around one hour to complete and I would definitely suggest ensuring you have that full hour to do it as opposed to doing it in stages. We were able to complete the application up until it required a passport number (as I have taken my husband’s surname, I needed a new passport with my married name meaning the number on my old passport would have been incorrect). With the application, you create a username and login meaning that it can be picked up and dropped whenever necessary.
After the wedding, we had the task of updating my passport. I must note that this is something that can be done up to three months prior to the marriage or civil partnership ceremony. For this, you must complete a ‘passport for newly weds and civil partners’ form which you can find here, which must be signed by the religious minister or registrar who will conduct the ceremony. You must then send your local HM Passport Office your old passport, the above mentioned form, a standard passport application form and a Post-Date form 2 (PD2), both of which are available from a Post Office branch that offers the Check & Send service, or they are available from www.gov.uk. As the website explains though, your new passport will have a Post-Date on it, meaning that it cannot be used until after the ceremony.
This is not what we chose to do as we did not have enough time prior to our ceremony. Therefore, we booked a Paper Premium Service appointment at our local HM Passport Office, which was in Liverpool, and managed to get a slot two days after applying. As we went for the Paper Premium Service, we had to pay £177 but it meant that my new passport was available four hours after my appointment. For this, we had to take my old passport, new pictures (as my old passport pictures were from 2012 and I had a very questionable haircut!!), a completed paper application form (obtained from the Post Office) and our marriage certificate. To book an appointment, see here. This was all very easy and organised: I showed my documents, confirmed my information, went shopping for four hours and came home with a new shiny passport and some new clothes!!
Upon our return home, we picked up where we left off with our VISA application and once done, we were ready to book my appointment, this was on the Tuesday after the wedding. Adam was heading back to SF the following Tuesday and we thought that it would be a minimum of two weeks until the next available slot, meaning I would have to go to London on my own, which was fine. But we were mistaken…they had one that Thursday at 8.30am. We both looked at each other in disbelief and tried to calculate if it was feasible for us to go. Through us both scrambling through train times and calendars and messaging family who lived in London to see if we could make an impromptu visit, we managed to do it! As we headed for bed at midnight that night, we realised that it was tomorrow that we were going to have to leave and there was us thinking we were going to have a calm post wedding week!!
The U.S Embassy website is incredibly helpful and has lots of useful information about the VISA appointment and what to bring, some of which I have sampled below.
Each person applying for a visa is required to furnish the following at the visa interview:
- Confirmation page of the application form DS-160 **this is essential, they check it at four different points so make sure you have it. It is emailed to you once your appointment is confirmed so print it off and make sure it is in your folder.
- Appointment confirmation page (if relevant);
- A passport or other travel document: The passport or travel document must be valid for at least six months beyond the holder’s stay in the United States and contain at least one blank page. The six-month requirement does not apply to United Kingdom passports. For other nationalities. If your passport is damaged, we recommend that you obtain a new passport before applying for the visa to avoid any delay in the processing of your application; **so for me, this was the essential proof of identification of my new married name.
- One 5 x 5 cm (2” by 2”) color photograph taken within the last six months: If a photograph has been successfully uploaded to the DS-160, an additional photograph is ot required. If there are any issues with the uploaded photograph, however, a new photograph will be required which may delay visa processing; **this is not your usual passport picture, they have different requirements and are different sizes. All photo booths in stores such as WHSmiths can offer this service. I however, went to Max Spielmann and they took my picture against a white background and cut it to shape for me. I also got it on a memory stick which was very helpful. There is more information on this here.
- Evidence of their status in the United Kingdom, if not a U.K or EU passport holder;
- Evidence of previously issued U.S. visas: If you are no longer in possession of the passport(s) containing the visas, you may advise the consular officer at the time of your interview;
- Photocopy of the valid visa issued to the principal E visa holder; **for this we printed out a copy of Adam’s VISA, pretty straight forward I know, but just thought I would say!
- Copy of the approval letter for the registered treaty company; ** So when Adam was applying for his, the company that he works for had to sign a letter confirming their status in the U.S and to confirm that he requires a VISA.
- A signed and dated statement of intent to depart the United States upon termination of nonimmigrant E treaty legal status; **for this it was simply a letter confirming that I intend to depart the U.S after the VISA has expired. Please do check what is required for yours as they all differ!!
- Marriage certificate; if applicable;
- Copy of deed poll, if applicable;
- Birth certificates for the child(ren) listing both parents names; if applicable;
- Adoption certificate for the child)ren), if applicable; and
- If they have have ever been arrested, cautioned, convicted, a police certificate known as an ACRO. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act does not apply to U.S. visa law. Click here for further information;
- If they have a medical condition that could have a bearing on their eligibility for a visa, a letter from their physician which discusses their current state of health. Click here for further information;
- If they have been denied entry into or deported, or removed from the United States documents relating to this.
That is just a sample from the U.S Embassy website, have a look on there if there is any more information you need.
Now the appointment. This was at 8.30am and I arrived at 7.50am (alone as spouses are not allowed to join) as they ask you to arrive early, but just to note they can only let you in a maximum of an hour early. Your DS-160 is checked for the first time upon arrival and you and your belongings (you are only allowed to bring a small bag, no laptops or iPads are allowed. But you can bring a small amount of food and drink) are sent through scanners inside before you can head up to the main building which is very grand! We were then organised into lines but had to wait until all 8am appointment holders had arrived and were checked in. After this, our DS-160 was checked again and each individual was given a ticket number. We were then sent into the lifts (or elevators as they called them!!) and arrived at our destination. The whole process felt very organised and well structured: you sat and waited for your ticket number to be called and a booth in which to wait for it (there were 15 slightly open pods where the line was a maximum of to people per pod). For mine, I had to go to a private booth just around the corner, where I was greeted by a very lovely lady who congratulated me on my recent wedding. My documents were checked and I was sent back to the waiting room. Following this, I was then called again to one of the more open booths where I was ask to pay the remainder ($108, which had to be paid in dollars which is circa £83.08 – dependant on the exchange rate), at a different counter and once done I was told that my passport would be delivered to the secure location within one week (we had allocated two!). Just to note, when completing the VISA application, you are asked to find your local pick up location, which is a drop off point for the courier company DX. They seem to have locations in slightly odd places, ie. not in too major cities, but slightly nearby them. The nearest one to me was Bristol.
Following the appointment, I received an email the next day stating that the courier company had my passport and was given a tracking number. Then on that Saturday, I tracked the parcel and it had been delivered! So what we thought would take five weeks had taken five days…!! Meaning that I could have in fact booked my flight back and gone back with Adam had we known! But instead, it has meant that I have had these few weeks to spend some quality time with my loved ones before heading off on the 12th of February, which has been lovely.
The whole experience was incredibly simple and easy for me. I know that for others it would not be, but as mine was a simple spouse VISA I found it all to be very straightforward. Sorry if I have bored you with this, but like I’ve said before, I would have loved to have had something like this to read before my appointment so I knew what to do, instead of having to traipse through numerous forums! If you have any more questions, please comment below or send me a private message on here. Hope this helps!
Just a little checklist, because who doesn’t love a good checklist:
|Begin VISA application||Found here|
|Can get passport up to three months|
prior to the ceremony
|Need the forms listed|
above to do so
|Sort out Passport||Either in pay to have it|
within 4 hours, or will
take around 3 weeks
|Finish VISA application|
|Book appointment||In either London, |
|Print off required documents||What you need found|
|Arrive at appointment||No more than one |
hour before. Leave
about two hours for
|Pick up passport from location|