Getting an Appointment – Filling out the DS-160
After you’ve been accepted onto the CEP, the ball really starts rolling. There’s a whole host of fees to pay and forms to fill out, like a DBS check, flights, insurance, and the SEVIS fee.
Before you get to book your American Embassy appointment, you have to fill out multiple forms online. This includes the DS-160, which is the most irritating form I think I have ever had to fill out.
Once you’ve been given a DS-2019, you’re able to go online and complete the DS-160 form. Yummy Jobs will send out a guide before you’re able to complete this, with a brief step by step guide and FAQs to make the process a whole lot easier. And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, being a member of the Disney UK CEP Summer 2016 Facebook group really helped me in this part of the process as we were able to discuss answers to some of the questions. I think it saved Luke at Yummy Jobs being bombarded with emails asking the exact same questions!
Here’s where things start to get frustrating. The website gives you a unique log in number, and asks you to set a few security questions. I would advise writing these answers down if you don’t think you’ll be able to remember them, as you will need to use them to access your saved application. The form has numerous sections to fill out, and altogether probably took me over 2 hours to complete.
The most annoying thing about this form, is that it logs you out every 20 minutes or so. This gets even more irritating when you realise that you can’t actually save your answers online until you’ve entered something in every field on the form. So basically, if a page takes you more than 20 minutes to fill out, you’re doomed. I definitely had to complete a few pages more than once, which felt even more irritating when I knew I had mountains of uni work to be getting on with.
Once you’ve been asked tens of questions about yourself and asked to enter a multitude of details, you’re required to upload a photo of yourself. At this stage I had been completing the form bit by bit every day, and this was the final hurdle before submitting it. The website presents you with numerous specifications that the image has to meet, for instance it has to be a JPEG and your head has to fit within the circle provided.
This part took me FOREVER. Luckily the website allows you to take your own photos, so I didn’t need to go and get one done professionally, but I could not get it to accept my chosen selfies. I ended up taking what felt like hundreds. After trying for over and hour and getting pretty worked up, my housemate had to come and sort it out for me. So thanks to Emma for dealing with me through my anger and stress, I don’t think I could have lasted much longer before throwing my laptop out the window!
The embassy appointment actually requires you to book a day and time, and in my case head down to London. So again, I was able to pick a day where I wouldn’t be missing too much at uni. After you’ve entered your DS-160 number and SEVIS ID number, you’re allowed to view possible dates for the appointment. When going through this process myself, I had two dates available to me, and one was the day of an exam. This meant I had to choose the 19th of May. My tip for this stage is to keep checking back on the website. I booked onto the 19th but kept the tab open so that I could keep going back to look for other dates. Luckily, the website lets you reschedule as many times as you want, and lets you keep your original date if you don’t find another. I would also advise to check back at different times of the day, I made sure to check immediately after I woke up or before I went to bed. Using this process I was eventually able to reschedule my appointment to an earlier date, so it works!
The American Embassy Appointment
This stage is definitely not as stressful as some people think. There’s really no need to get worked up about the embassy appointment.
I changed my appointment to the 17th of May at 11am. I travelled down the day before to make sure that I’d get there on time, I definitely didn’t want to miss the appointment! In the end I got there with plenty of time to spare. I think I arrived outside the embassy at 10.22am and joined the queue to get inside.
When you first arrive, you’re asked to join the back of the first queue. Officials will then come along to check that you have the correct documents, and once you’re at the front of the first queue they sign your paperwork. I think they just check that everything is in order and that you’ve got the right time. You then have to join the back of the second queue. This leads to security. This is just a smaller style of airport security, so bags go through a scanner and you have to walk through an arch. You cannot bring laptops or large bags into the embassy, I only had a handbag with me and had had to leave my luggage at Paddington Station.
Once you’ve been through security, you walk round the edge of the building before going inside. I didn’t really know where I was going at this point, so had to follow someone else! Upon entering the building I went to the front desk, where I had my documents checked again and was given a sticker with a number on. You’re then asked to go up some stairs into a long room filled with seats. It reminded me of a departure lounge really. In here they have two huge screens, one showing a reel of ‘Visit America’ type photos and videos, the other flashing with numbers and window numbers. I probably had to wait around 8 minutes before my number was called and I was asked to go to window number 1. I then queued behind a yellow line for the guy in front of me to finish.
When I got to the window, I was asked to hand over all my documents and a visa style photo of myself. I would definitely recommend getting one of these done in a Photo Booth even though they’re a bit expensive. The official probably asked me two questions before scanning my fingerprints. I think I was asked where I was going and if this was my first J1 visa. Really simple stuff.
He then gave me back my documents and asked me to go round the corner for my actual interview. Here I had to queue in a line before being ushered to another window where I gave in my documents again. This time I wasn’t given them back. I was interviewed by an American lady, who again probably asked me three questions. I think she asked what my plans were when I returned to the UK, where I was working, and then asked me if I knew the Mickey Mouse song when she found out that I would be at Walt Disney World. She even sang it to me! After being at the window for probably 5 minutes, the interview was finished and I was allowed to leave the building. That was it, I was done! As I left the building I switched my phone back on to find out that I had actually managed to get everything done before the official start time of my appointment. I was leaving the building at 10.55 when I was scheduled for 11am! I paid to have my passport sent back to me, as I didn’t live close enough to any of the collection points. It took less than a week for it to arrive back in York, so everything was very efficient!
The embassy appointment was definitely not worth stressing over, I wasn’t really worried at all, and I recommend that others should stay calm about it too. Just make sure that you’re organised with your documents and time, and things will be absolutely fine!